Organized Life

Read This First Before Making A New Year’s Resolution You Won’t Keep

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Here’s a few shocking stats for you:

  • 62% of 319 million americans make some kind of new year’s resolution annually.
  • That means 198 million people set some kind of goal for the new year.
  • Out of those 198 million, only 8% achieve their goals.
  • That means 182 million people each year do not have their best year ever.
  • To be more specific, according to the top ten resolutions made for 2015, these 182 million remain: overweight, disorganized, financially indebted, too busy to enjoy life, sedentary, uneducated, addicted, uncharitable, loveless, and feeling disconnected from their families at the end of the year.

When the next New Year happens, what do we do then? We make the same resolution. We “rinse and repeat" for another four to five years until we finally feel too embarrassed to make the same resolutions again.

Stop the Insanity

Sound familiar? It sure does to me. It doesn’t have to be this way though.

I’m currently being inundated by emails and Facebook ads about how to get the most out of the upcoming New Year. These emails and ads are well-intended but I think many of their methods are flawed. They speak about creating better goals that are contagious, and more clearly defined. This is very important, but I believe it's putting the cart before the horse.

What I Learned About Goals In Graduate School

When I was in graduate school, I remember having a lot of information thrown at me class after class. Since my undergraduate studies were not in the same field as my graduate work , I did not have a proper frame for holding all the information. Needless to say, all that information went in one ear and out the other. I had no “place” or system for making sense of the information. I quickly purchased five or ten books to to create a frame as quickly as possible. I clearly remember the week when everything suddenly made sense, and I no longer had to work to make connections.

The Wrong Way To Approach Goals

Some great leaders are talking about “designing your life” this year. This is a great notion, but no amount of design is going to work unless you first have a frame. Like building a house, the interior design makes no sense unless the foundation and frame is clear.

One of the biggest reasons why New Year’s resolutions fail is because we get caught by the emotion of the tradition. The result is a failure to “count the cost” of making those changes. We forget to invest upfront, which would have paved a clearer and easier path for our declared goals.

What’s Your Frame

Creating clear, well defined goals is indispensable for a great year, but without a proper frame for them, what happens after we make them? We end up forcing our new goals into our existing habits which ends up feeling like hammering a square peg into a round hole. We either give up from exhaustion, or if we achieve anything, significant collateral damage occurs to other parts of our life.

This year can be different from previous years. We can be smarter about what we consider as goals for the New Year. We can pave a way of greater intentionality month after month, until we look back at the greatest year we have ever had. A year focused around what makes us thrive: self-care, relationships, and living from our own creative genius. If we do not do something significant, next year will be like every other year which is not the direction most of us want to go.

Let’s make this next year count! Join me in making this year your best year ever. You can do this in two quick and simple ways:

  1. If you haven’t already, click the button below to join my weekly newsletter (free gift in included). This alone will give you resources that can save you hundreds of hours of your life per year by showing you how to save energy and time by spending it on what matters most. You can then reallocate those reclaimed hours on that which matters most to you
  2. If you really want to hit the New Year running, in addition to signing up for my newsletter, comment on this post that you would be interested in participating in a step-by-step video course on how to make 2016 the most intentional, fulfilling, relational, and creative year of your life. This course will provide the proper framework to keep you focused on what matters most, and provide helpful tools to determine the RIGHT content for that frame. No more busying ourselves to death!

The world needs you to be at your best! Don’t let it down. Be intentional . . . live more than you ever have in your life, in the real.

FIVE STEPS TOWARD HAVING THE BEST MONTH OF YOUR LIFE

Free Time

When my wife and I got married, we had the unfortunate compilation of two educational loans, colliding to create an actual sum bigger than its parts. We knew we had to dress this head-on in our marriage.. Thankfully, I was already familiar with this guy named Dave Ramsey who was famous for his 7 baby steps to becoming debt free. We immediately purchased his online class which initiated our life of cash budgeting which we still practice five years later.

The greatest lesson we learned from Dave Ramsey was that if you want your dollar to have the greatest impact in your life, you need to assign every dollar to something intentional and concrete before it is spent.

Initially we thought this would make our life incredibly inflexible and rigid. Not only were we mistaken, the result was exactly the opposite. It immediately felt like we had received a fifteen percent raise. If that wasn't satisfying enough, we also felt an enormous amount of freedom knowing that all our financial responsibilities were being cared for through the month. We could spend our "recreation" money completely guilt free. If something came up, we could always renegotiate the budget in five minutes time.

What Dave Ramsey does for people financially, I do for people who are in debt to time. Nothing provokes more anxiety than seeing a laundry of things that must get done with no time to do them.

If we really want to have the best month of our life, it must start with creating a "time budget" where we become more intentional about how we spend our time.

I have often heard, "I don't like that kind of structure. I don't want to be held to a schedule. I want to be able to be free to do what I want to do." The irony is that those same people never end up doing anything they really want to do. In the same way that budgeting puts you in control of your money rather than money in control of you, by budgeting you now control your time rather than time being in control of you.

So, if you are tired of looking back month after month with regret, wondering if you did anything meaningful, then it is time to make a change. These five steps, I believe, will feel like you have earned a a fifteen percent raise in your time.

Step One: Allocate Time to The Important Stuff First

It is amazing how our calendars fill up with meetings and obligations before we even get to plan our our day. The best way to prevent this is to allocate time to the important things first, before a day is filled with the other less important things .

Before the month begins, assign dates and times to the important things of your life. Carve out time for exercise, prayer/meditation, reflection, reading, relationships, and recreation. Once inserted into your calendar, these events become immoveable barring real emergencies.

If you have a family, make sure this approach is shared by your spouse and children. In that way, your family will operate from the same basis. By the time you have finished your monthly overview, you should be excited because it includes plenty of time for yourself, family (i.e. date nights, family excursions), friends, and anything else in which you may want to invest your creative energies.

Step Two: Fill In Daily Blocks of Time for Your "One Thing”

While we haven't spoken about what your "one thing" is, don't worry. For now, just block out an uninterrupted time each day (or at least each workday) for doing some creative work. (Again, don't worry about the content of this yet.) We are reserving this time now so that no one or nothing else takes its place and priority. This block of time should be at least two hours with four hours being the ultimate goal. All the calendar event needs to say is "One Thing."

Step Three: Determine Three Outcomes for the Month

Now that our time for the month has been protected, let’s think about what we would like to get out of this month. What are three results you would like to see by the end of this month? The goal is to have only three per area of responsibility. Generally, try to keep areas of responsibility broad enough not to exceed three for this purpose (i.e. personal and work).

Step Four: Narrow the Lens with Three Outcomes for the Upcoming Week

Now that we have a frame for the month, let's look at JUST this upcoming week. In light of the three outcomes above, what are three outcomes for the week that you would like to see which help fulfill the outcomes for the month?

Step Five: Determine the One Thing for Tomorrow

It is always helpful to review your calendar for the next day the night before. In that way, you are not not blindsided by time specific obligations. This is a time too for setting setting any additional reminders for events to ensure smooth and stress-free meetings, and transitions between meetings. I write more about this habit in another post here.

In reviewing your calendar, this is also the time to review your tasks for the following day. In particular, this is a time to determine what your "one thing" is going to be. Find something that requires creativity and needs a block of time investment. Never use the "One Thing" time block for administrative work. This is all about investing in something great that you never have time for. You do now!

Alright, let's do a quick review:

  • Before the month begins, assign times and days to all the important things in your life (i.e. reflection, recreation, relationships, etc.). These are immoveable.
  • Assign general blocks of time for your daily "One Thing," not worrying about the content yet.
  • Determine three outcomes for the month.
  • Determine three outcomes for the week.
  • Review next day’s calendar and tasks, and assign the one thing for tomorrow.

With the holidays in our midst, now more than ever is the time to begin working on this life changing habit! I would love to hear feedback at the end December about how your month was different because of this.

Of course, if you have any questions don't hesitate to leave a comment. I would love to help to make this December the best month ever!!

FOUR REASONS WHY YOU AREN'T GETTING CRAP DONE AND HOW TO CHANGE THAT

stressed out

As my wife and I prepare for baby number two (Irish Twins, pray for us!), I have been noticing a particular todo being relegated to the backburner each week. Even though I clearly know the importance of this task as we prepare for a larger family, that knowledge seems to have no impact on the priority. As I stopped to think why, I discovered four ways in which we often get stuck with getting things done:

Home Field Advantage

"One of these tasks is not like the other," is what I noticed when comparing the lingering todo with all the other tasks I was hammering away at day-after-day. In the end, home field advantage goes to the task with the greatest simplicity and specificity. The reason why I was delaying an important todo was not because I was procrastinating, but rather because of the task's lack of clarity and specificity. All the surrounding tasks were vying for my attention with their clarity of direction. If I'm rushing through my list and I see one task suggesting to "Mow the lawn," and the other one suggesting to "Build a Dog Run," I'm no soothsayer, but I'm sure I'll be picking "mow lawn."

If we want to be most effective with our day, we need to ensure that we do our best not to create favoritism between tasks. To do this we must regularly examine our todos, giving serious attention to the lingering ones. Generally, the reason why we get to some tasks and not others is because the unattended tasks weren't tasks to begin with, but rather projects. The golden rule is that if the task takes more than one step to complete, then it ought to be converted to a project. When I did this with my hanging task, I immediately began seeing progress. Rather than "Clean Basement," tasks like "clean out desk drawer," or "label bins on shelf" became much more appealing, and were thus quickly flagged for that day's list.

Absence Makes the Heart Grow Founder

Sometimes our initial passion for a task quickly wanes. If that is the case, it is no longer necessary to keep these tasks in the foreground, taking up mental real estate. The best way to remove these tasks from sight is to either defer them out to a later date, or to send them to a maybe/someday list which is reviewed much less often.

Task Hoarder Anonymous

People ascribe more value to things simply because they own them. This has become such a well known reality that it has its own label: The Endowment Effect. This "endowment effect" can also make a mess out of todo lists. As soon as we write down a todo, we "own it." Now that we own it, we ascribe unprecedented value to it. Eventually some of these tasks become old and outdated. Rather than deleting them, we keep them lingering around just in case, never really having an idea of what the case might be for needing them. My two rules are these: If that task did not exist today, would you add it to your list knowing what you know now? If not, delete it. In addition, if the added/created date is a year old, seriously consider deleting it unless it is an active recurring item. Some people will include ideas in their task lists. I'm strongly against using any task management system for anything other than actions. All ideas, thoughts, inquiries, notes, and resources should be stored someplace else. Keep things clean, keep things tidy, keep things going.

S#*@ or Get Off the Pot

Sometimes the task is specific, clear, important, timely and relevant, yet we still are not making room in our day to get it down. When this is the case, we are left with two options:

  1. Is this something that can be delegated? If so, delegate it and document the delegation accordingly in your task management system for regular check-ins.
  2. If the task cannot be delegated, yet it needs to be done, then it is time to take more drastic measures. Get out your calendar, and find a block of uninterrupted time that you can formally designate for this task. Block it out, and make sufficient notes in your event to ensure that there is no question what this block of time is meant to be used for. Now, GET-IT-DONE.

Reading this was the easy part. It's your turn now. Open up your task list and take a serious look at those lingering tasks. Now increase clarity and specificity, defer them, delete them, delegate them, or do them. Good luck!

Your FREE Technological Guide to Freedom From the Life of Busy

Technological Guide to Freedom From the Life of Busy

Have you every attempted to use technology to simplify your life only to make it more complicated? I’ve been there! This FREE guide is meant to help give you a foundational introduction on how technology can truly simplify, order, and organize your life.

This guide also recognizes that organization is not enough. Organization without purpose and focus is a life busying ourselves to death. I want to help you break out of the busy cycle, paving a way for the freedom to pursue a more intentional and purposeful path. I’m convinced that technology can become your greatest advocate in this pursuit.

Stop The Insanity

The definition of insanity is often expressed as doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results. I encourage you to get off the fence, and begin taking those needed steps for a more fulfilling life. Technology will never save, but it can help you build the necessary habits that can save. Start now by downloading this FREE guide here.

Once you’ve read this guide, continue to return to this site for step-by-step online classes on how to achieve what I propose in this guide. What took me over seven years to figure out, you can have under your belt in a matter of weeks.

Curiosity Killed The…

Your time is valuable, and I want to make sure every second counts. I want to give you the space you deserve to sit back, breath, and realize that the world is bigger than it seems. Busyness destroys curiosity, and curiosity destroys creativity. Without creativity, we sacrifice all happiness, drive, and capacity for genuine relationship.

May this guide be the first step in transforming a “life is busy” to a “life is beautiful”!

Eight Tips For A Day Worthy of Being Called Good

Do you know for certain that what you are doing today is the best use of your time? If not, here are eight tips to ensure every day is a day worthy of being called good.

  1. Don’t Look At Your List — You read that right. A todo-list worth doing is a todo-list worth deferring. Let your first hour of the morning be todo-list free. This time is exclusively reserved for establishing the proper foundation to approach the day. Consider spending time in meditation and/or prayer, journaling, and exercising. Every morning is an opportunity to embrace the gift of life anew. Life is not about getting stuff done, but rather about leaving the world better off from when it began that morning. What is the one thing you can do this morning that will leave someone you will encounter feeling as if they are better off for having spent time with you?

  2. Clarity is Key — Ready, Set, …. Wait, What am I suppose to do? If your todo-list is full of vague cryptic todos, you’re starting out on the wrong foot. Your todo-list should present clear and concrete steps to success. Begin each task with a verb like, “Pay medical bill,” or “Research Audi A4 on Consumer Reports.” Tasks like, “medical bill,” or “Audi A4” give no direction, and without direction the mind will naturally gravitate toward skipping it. The clearer you are with your todos, more likely it will be for you to do them.

  3. Simple is Super — If you had two tasks on your list, one being to take out the trash, and the other to do your taxes, which one would you most likely choose? While tax evasion is pretty scary, taking out the trash seems more appealing. The reason why we avoid doing things is because the defined action is not concrete enough. Home field advantage is always to the task that requires the least amount of deciphering. To give every task equal weight, ensure every todo is a single step action, relegating multitask todos to projects. Instead of “do taxes,” a better action might be to “Scan all receipts to QuickBooks.” Now this task competes nicely with “Take out the trash.” Heck, I might even do both!

  4. Ready the Resources — If the task needs any additional resources to be completed, add them to the task itself. If you have to call someone, add the number to the notes section of the todo. If the todo refers to a document, either add the document directly to the note section as an attachment, or give the precise location of the document. Research has shown that if we have to search for anything to finish the task, we will naturally skip it for a less complicated one. By placing all todos on an equal playing field, we have the freedom to choose the best one rather than the simplest one.

  5. Overcoming Optical Overload — Preparing for your day by looking at a list of 150 todos is like finding inspiration through meditating on your educational loan. It just won’t happen! Simplify your list by filtering it. Defer what can be responsibly deferred to a future date, delegate what you can, delete any old irrelevant tasks, move wish-list todos to a “maybe/someday” list, and group the rest according to contexts. Have an “Office Only” list and “Home Only” list of todos. Consider having a separate list for errands, calls/texts, communications, et cetera. The goal is to break things down into bight-sized pieces to make your list more manageable. After all, what is the point of seeing what I need to do at home when I’m at work? All that does is reduce my focus, making me think of things that are outside of my control. Stay focused, stay clear, stay happy!

  6. Start — You have a clear, concrete and filtered list. Now what? Start! Rather than aimlessly checking off todos, block off a period of time each day to work on that which is most important to you. Ask the question, “What is the one thing I could do today that would make everything else in my life easier, or unnecessary, and make me happier?” Do not stop until this question is answered concretely with a single action step. Now start! Everything else can wait until later.

  7. Breath and Be Better For It — Amidst all of this, remember to breath. Take a 15-20 minute break every 50-90 minutes of your work day to remain focused and creative. Get outside and take a short walk if the weather is nice. Connect with co-workers, friends, and family. Meditate, pray, journal. Set an alarm and make sure to stick to these breaks, and know what you are going to do before the break. Do this and you will have greater creativity, more focus, but most importantly you will embrace your humanity. Times of solitude are life-giving but isolation is life-draining. Connect with others regularly, and you will be more connected with yourself.

  8. The Prepare Protocol — To ensure the mornings remain a time of todo free mental and spiritual renewal, plan your tomorrow tonight. Take 15-20 minutes each evening to look over your calendar and todo-list. This is a time to confirm appointments, select the one thing you will work on during your designated block of time, and to simplify your list to a more management size. Your tomorrow is now ready to work for you rather than you having to work for it!

Good luck and here’s to a day worthy of being called “good.”

Triggering Timeliness: The Art of Being Present to Yourself and Others Through Time Commitments

Are you an adrenaline junkie? If so, this post may not be for you. If you are anything like me, the “rush” of suddenly realizing I agreed to be somewhere ten minutes ago is NOT . . . is NOT the kind of rush for which I’m searching. The amount of energy I spend stressing, fretting, worrying, and assuming feelings of guilt zaps me of any mental capacity for the rest of my day. Combine the mental stress with the physical stress of running all out, trying to reset the clock by showering at lightening speed, does not help create proper conditions for full engagement at an appointment. How on earth could anyone live like this on a consistent basis?

Yet, we do. I’ve learned a lot these past eight years on how best to use a calendar to create one incredible week after another—even in the midst of chaos. By committing to the following five best practices, you will not only avoid being late, but you will leverage your week to work for you rather than you working for your week.

The Unschedule

We seem never to have enough time to do the things we want to do. Part of the problem arises from wasting time on trivial matters, and, therefore, reducing the time available for important work We rarely schedule the important things in our life first, allowing the unimportant “obligations” to use up our available time. The best solution I have found for both these problems is called the “unschedule.”

With the unschedule, the important things are scheduled first. In other words, before the week begins with a blank calendar in view, I begin adding those things that are truly important first: working out, time with friends, prayer, meditation, date nights, family nights, get aways, vacations, and blocking out time for creative work. Once these are set in place, I then fill up the remainder of my time with the extra stuff: meetings, appointments, errands, chores, etc. This way I gain control of my week, allowing it to work for me rather than me working for it.

One caveat is that I often have to schedule “unimportant” meetings and appointments weeks in advance. To get over this hurdle, I don’t just plan my next week, but try to advance the calendar each week for the next four to six week period.. In this way I’m nearly always ahead of the “unimportant obligation curve.” My wife and I incorporated this into our weekly routine by planning two weeks in advance each Sunday. It has been a liberating experience. Previously we struggled with finding time to do enjoyable things, because we always felt burdened to stay in and “get things done.” Once we scheduled the important stuff first, we worked extra hard to ensure those scheduled events were kept firm.

I also highly recommend scheduling the each day’s most important thing. Each evening I choose one thing for the next day to work on which for me is most important. I have a general block in my calendar in the morning that says “One Thing.” This is a sacred time for investing my best daily energy in something that is creative and gives me life. I do this in both my personal and professional life. After the time of working on my “one thing” is over, I then move along to the more trivial matters of the day. I believe that if you want to take control of your week, incorporating the unschedule and the one thing into your routine is absolutely critical.

  • If you started your “one thing” tomorrow, what would you choose to work on?

Record Every Event! Seriously, Record It!

This requires little explanation. If we are hap-hazard about what we add—or fail to add to our calendars, they become useless for all practical purposes. We need to have one calendar system in which every event has a set time and day. It may not sound romantic to schedule “date nights,” but the truth is that whatever is on the calendar is a reflection of what we view as important—so why not date nights?

Depend on Lots of Reminders

Every event recorded in your calendar needs to have multiple reminders set. When each event is recorded, think about where you might be before this event. If you will be home and the event is thirty minutes away, set a reminder for 35 minutes before the event, reminding you it is time to go. If you think you’ll need to get ready for the event and it takes you 30 minutes to get ready, set an additional reminder for about 80 minutes before the event, letting you know it is time to transition into getting ready.

For office meetings, I will often set two reminders: one for 15 minutes out, gently reminding me to begin closing up the conversation if I’m already in a meeting, or, if not, to begin last minute preparations for the upcoming meeting. I then set a second reminder for 5 minutes out for travel time to walk over, or to settle in my office. In this way, I am generally stress free when a meeting begins.

For some people, having multiple reminders is not enough. In this case, where reminders would normally serve well, add an actual event. For instance, instead of setting the reminder for 80 minutes before the event, serving as a reminder to get ready, add an actual event called "Get Ready." Then, set a "Get Ready" reminder for 15 minutes before the "get ready event" begins, providing transition time. Now, instead of seeing a reminder for the actual event 80 minutes before, you will see the words "Get Ready" which will serve as greater motivation to do just that.

Check Tomorrow’s Calendar the Night Before

The “rush” of suddenly waking up already late for a meeting is a “rush” better avoided. To prevent this, it is useful to spend five minutes (or less) the prior evening looking at the next day’s calendar events, mentally preparing for the day. This review is also the time that reminders can be quickly confirmed or changed if necessary. If time permits, sending confirmation emails to people involved in a forthcoming meeting prevents travel to a potential meeting at which no one is present.

Create A Calendar Per Area of Responsibility

One of the many advantages of having a digital calendar is being able to create multiple calendars within one calendar system. While not necessary, I have found it very helpful to have my calendars broken up into general areas of responsibility: Work and Personal life. In addition, I have created a shared “Family” calendar that contains all family functions, and a shared “Chores” calendar that distributes household chores within the family. If you are in school, create an “education” calendar to record separately all your classes, quizzes, projects, and exams.

Take the first step of gaining more control of your life by taking control of your time through a consistent use of a calendar, and prioritizing the important over the unimportant things. Next week, I will share with you how I maintain laser-like focus when bombarded with hundreds of tasks. This week we mastered our time; next week we master our tasks. See you then!

  • What is one thing you can do this week that will reduce the stress of rushing and/or being late? What’s one thing you can add to your calendar for next week that you’ve always wanted to do but simply haven’t had time?

Why You Are Not Where You Want To Be and How to Get There

I Have A Confession To Make

I have a confession to make. I love shiny new objects. When it comes to organization, their is a real temptation to spend the majority of time looking for new tools to streamline work rather than working. The lesson here is that being organized is not the goal. The time wasted in learning system upon system is a practical result of viewing organization as an end rather than a means. If you have a system that works for you, then great. Don’t change it!

The suggestions here are for those who feel as if their current system is not keeping up with current obligations and desires. If the management of life is causing stress, then it is time to reevaluate the methods used. What’s that saying again? The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results. Yes, that’s it. If, over the past year or two, significant progress has not been made in the most important areas of life, then it’s time to reevaluate. After all, you want to move forward, don’t you? I’m confident you do!

Two Words That Can Save

Two words sum up the well organized life: triggers and focus. Research has shown that the human brain can only maintain four to eight “things” in active memory at once. To make matters worse, the average home contains 300,000 items. We would be fooling ourselves to think the myriad of material possessions do not make claim to our lives, both in mental and physical energy. The modern man or woman requires a simple yet robust system to externalize all necessary triggers, reminding us of actions needing our attention. Moreover, getting things done is not the goal of a life lived in the real. Real living necessitates a system that offers laser-like focus. If I have checked off a dozen things off my list, but have not done anything meaningful, the day is all but wasted. In the end, a system is needed that provides exceptional focus while triggering less important responsibilities at the proper time. This way focus comes with ease, relying on the system to work for the person rather than the person becoming a slave to the system.

Triggering Your Life Back

Over the next four weeks we are going to look at the four main areas of responsibilities through the lens of triggers: Triggering Timeliness (events), Triggering Focus (actions), Triggering Thoughtfulness (resources), and Triggering Responsibility (email management). Each post will offer techniques that will not only save exceptional time, but will help achieve extraordinary focus. Above all, though, these posts will simplify life by placing you back in the driver seat of life.

Join me next week as we discuss triggering timeliness; the art of being present to yourself and others through time commitments. This post is too important to miss! Why? Because I’m going to share with you the most critically important habit that could quite literally give you your life back. See you next Wednesday, and sign up below to ensure you receive this post.

Question: What seems to be your achilles-heel when it comes to managing all life’s responsibilities?