I often ask the question “are you controlling your day or is it controlling you?” It’s an interesting concept to ponder as many of us get behind to start off the day and spend the rest of it vainly trying to catch up. For many, days like this string together into weeks or even months until we feel it is impossible to get ahead, our lives are out of balance and we feel out of control. It’s not a happy place to be.
In today’s technology driven world of the Internet, email, smartphones, tablets and the demands of social media it is easy to get caught up in and lost by the 24/7 interconnectedness. It is easy to blow valuable time on the web or Facebook, email and Twitter and have nothing to show for it but a serious gap in available hours to get the important stuff done. Technology can be a help or a hindrance depending on how you master it. Technology should be a tool that brings value and contributes to personal and professional goals and dreams.
As a continuous improvement guy, I am always looking for ways to improve my processes and tweak my routines so I can accomplish my goals. This year I changed my morning routine. But I didn’t wake up on New Year’s Day armed with an ill-conceived resolution. No, I started working on it about 7 months ago by reading up on the best practices and effective leadership traits that aligns one with one’s goals. Below are just a few of the things I read, listened to and did before altering my routine.
- What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast by Laura Vanderkam
- Getting Things Done by David Allen
- How to Think like Leonardo DaVinci by Michael J. Gelb (one of my top 5 books now)
- Entreleadership by Dave Ramsey
- The Advantage by Patrick Lencioni
- theSecretWeapon.Org Setup, which incorporates Evernote and Getting Things Done
- Setup my Ideal Week from Michael Hyatt’s Ideal Week Template
- Setup my Year at a Glance from Michael Hyatt’s Excel Template
I even hired a coach to help me with my faith habits. After all this, I concluded owning your day starts in the morning — but is decided the night before. A long time ago I read that you rarely win debates with yourself in the morning, so you must decide what you are going to do in advance. This means if you are going to get up and workout, you decide the night before, you put out your clothes, and when the alarm clock goes off, you just go do it!
My first step was downloading Michael Hyatt’s Ideal Week Excel Template. This allowed me to think through and land on my ideal week. I determined what time to get up, what time to go to bed, when to process emails, and when my most productive time is. It was an amazing exercise — one I feel everyone should do, as it sheds light on what you want to do versus what you are doing. It gets back to the Urgent and Important quadrant I blogged a few weeks ago on. We tend to stay busy on the urgent items, but not put a conscious effort on the important items.
So here’s my new schedule:
- 5:30AM – Quick prayer, quiet time, Bible verse or two
- 5:45AM – Write down important items I want to accomplish today
- 6:00AM – Workout, journal thoughts in log (weights during the week, cardio weekend)
- 7:30AM – Off to work
- 5:30PM – 3 days a week to keep my family balance with my wife and daughters
I compare the ideal week template against my actual calendar every few weeks to make sure I am not drifting off too far. Remember, the ideal week template is the target — nothing is perfect — but striving for the ideal is a great goal because you’ll always end up somewhere further and better than you would have otherwise.
One of my biggest personal surprises was how much email was disrupting my workday and effectiveness. Another thing I learned was that a true habit takes 66 days to stick; I always thought it was 21 days. Changing my morning routine helped me in life balance, work effectiveness, and my happy/Zen meter is continuously going up.
TAKE THESE ACTIONS NOW
- Download the Ideal Week
- Block process email – 2 to 3 times a day at specific times (and not before working out or planning your day)
- Resist checking email on your mobile device if not at the scheduled time
- Read some of the books listed above
- Definitely subscribe to the podcasts listed – listen to weekly
- Change your task prioritization routine – watch the free videos for how to configure Evernote at www.theSecretWeapon.Org
What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear from you!