Your Morning Routine is Your Secret Weapon

Control Your Day or It Will Control You...

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.   Below are just a few of the things I read, listened to and did before altering my routine.

Audio Books:



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!

Do You and Your Spouse Have the Same Priorities?

A Simple Tool To Help...

Priorities are a funny thing, especially when it comes to your spouse and family. I must admit; I didn’t have it right for many years and still get wrong occasionally. This week is a quick “tech tip” my wife and I have been using to keep us aligned on to do lists, shopping lists, home improvement lists, etc.

We have been using a little free app called wunderlist that has made a huge difference in our life. It started when our 3 daughters were living at home and they would ask my wife to add things to the shopping list. The requests could come from all types of sources – texts, email, sticky notes and so on. That got a little frustrating for my wife.

I saw this frustration and came up with a solution which was a shared shopping list in wunderlist. It is really cool and allows you to share many lists with many people. In this case, it worked perfect. I created a list called shopping list and shared it with our family so all they had to do is add it to the list, make notes and even take a picture of the label if needed. This took a lot of stress out of our life. I like to share this little tip with as many people as I can and they always come back and let me know they love it.

I took it to the next level after I taught a retreat on Getting Things Done. The premise behind the method is to make sure you have things in the right priority bucket and in a safe place. I did this with our home improvement to do lists because I didn’t want to be working on something that we weren’t in agreement on. This could waste time, cause friction, and just not be a positive thing

Are You Waiting for the Right Time?

Do you consider yourself one of those people that wait for the right time? Are you working off of a hard timeline you set for yourself? I used to be one of those people that set hard timelines by week, month, quarter and year. I even had 5 thru 25 year ideas that I would like to accomplish.

I’m not saying that’s a bad thing because most people don’t plan enough. I have stated a quote more than I care to count or my family cares to hear “you don’t plan to fail; you fail to plan”. As my wife can confirm, I have adjusted my thinking a bit from a planning standpoint. I still plan, I still have things I would like to accomplish, I still have timelines of goals. What is different is I am ok with adjusting the plans along the way.

I know my core values, I know what I want to be from a person, husband, dad, and friend standpoint which provides me my foundation. With that understanding, it allows me to be intentional with the direction I am headed, and peace when things change. Understanding the journey is as important as the destination  which was a huge enlightenment for me.

Have You Really Defined Success?

Have you defined what success means to you? For many people it’s money. In my early years like most people money was my definition of success and like most people I didn’t have any and believed it would make me happy. Money certainly doesn’t hurt but happiness, having fun, and being financially stable should be a big part of your success equation.

It was mom’s weekend at Indiana University a few weekends ago where two of our daughters are pursuing their degrees. My wife and I went down for the weekend and our oldest daughter that lives in Nashville, TN was able to come up for a few nights. Being able to spend the weekend with all of our daughters was quite special for my wife and me.

There were a few of “those” moments that I was able to step back and appreciate seeing our daughters on their next chapter of life and what great young ladies they are becoming. My wife and I talked about what a successful family looks like early on in life. I actually have to give her the credit which I am grateful for because she was solid on this and had a solid vision for our daughters and our family. I always thought I was the visionary, but she definitely was the leader and visionary for our family.

How Do You Respond in Heated Situations?

Are You a Thermostat or Thermometer...

When you are in heated situations, you have many choices of how you respond. I have told my daughters a few times you have one pail of water in one hand and one pail of gas in the other. It is you’re your choice which one you are going to throw on the situation. I always like that visual because it boils down to choosing to respond and not reacting. As leaders of households, businesses, community circles, we have need to think of ourselves as a thermostat or a thermometer.

When in a position of influence – mom, dad, friend, manager, boss, you have the option to be a thermostat or a thermometer.

A thermometer reflects the temperature of the environment. It simply reacts to what’s happening around it. If the temperature is hot, it tells you so. If it’s cold, the thermometer reflects that reality as well. It’s a dumb instrument in the sense it doesn’t contain intelligent, multipurpose functionality. It has one purpose and one purpose only. A thermostat, on the other hand, regulates the environment. It sets the desired temperature of the room/household and actively works to maintain it within a given range. If the temperature rises above the goal, the thermostat signals the air conditioner to crank up and cool the room down. If the temperature falls below the goal, the thermostat causes the heater to turn on in order to warm the room up. The thermostat is intelligent in the sense it’s always monitoring the environment, and if the temperature gets too hot or cold, it decides what to do to correct the situation.

Have You Lost Sight of What You Really Enjoy?

Have You Lost Sight of What You Really Enjoy? Do you know what makes you tick or get up every morning? A year ago my wife and I traveled to Boulder Colorado to get our LifePlan Certification. This is one of those purposeful, but comfort zone stretchers for both of us. It is aligned with our individual life plans, so we held each other hands through the process and are enjoying the next chapter of us.

Fast forward to this month, we worked over the weekend prepping our clients for their 2-day full immersion life plan. It was fulfilling in many ways, the biggest  being clear about our purpose and mission in life.

As we were prepared for our meetings, there was a section of the study about our traits that I thought might be good for everyone to know. We are passionate about helping people know their strengths, know their why, and live on purpose. Below are some classifications of traits that may help you identify where you will be the happiest in life.

  • Passion – passion is what makes work play. It is what you love to do.
  • Needs – this is beyond the basic needs of life. It is about you being you.
  • Drives – these are compulsions, not passions. It is why you do what you do.
  • Obsessions – these are what you feel you have to do. It is what you can’t help but think about.
  • Characteristics – these are what others see in you both internal and external. It is how you describe yourself.
  • Qualities – these are characteristics of what you have become. It is your inner core.
  • Yearnings – these are deep desires. It is what you long for.
  • Hopes – these are your expected future. It is who you hope to be.
  • Achievements – these are your accomplishments. It is what you are proud of.

How Productive Are You?

Are Your Digitally Distracted...

I was sitting in a meeting this week and all I saw and heard was iPhone lights flashing, phone alerts vibrating the table, and people responding to emails when they should have been focused on the subject being discussed. Some may say they can multi-task, but that simply is not true. We must stop and start a bunch of times which decreases our productivity significantly when we don’t focus on one tasks.

Understandably we all don’t have the luxury of focusing on one task at a time, but we certainly can get a lot better. This year I taught Getting Things Done (GTD) by David Allen at an Executive Forums retreat with a friend and it is amazing what changes you can make to be more productive. A couple key items that you can change are:

  1. Block Check Email – depending on your position of course, only check email 2 to 3 times a day.
  2. Only put things on your calendar that you are going to do or get done. Not wish lists or tasks items.
  3. Turn off all alerts in outlook or whatever email system you are using.
  4. Turn off phone alerts and flashes.

Do You Own Your Day?

Or Does It Own You....

Owning your Day starts with habits before breakfast which make a huge difference on how your day and life will end up. quandrant-ccsv2 I was talking to a friend this week about time management and how he seemingly is always chasing his day. It reminded me of a blog I wrote a year ago on owning your day and what the most successful people do before breakfast. Since I read the book I incorporated a lot of the habits and they really work. How about you?

Do you feel like you are chasing your day from the start or do you own your mornings?

The book was really interesting and was documentation of actual successful people and what they really did before breakfast.

Here is the quick run down:

How Sharp Are Your Leadership Skills?

What are you doing to sharpen your leadership skills? Have you taken inventory of your leadership skills and assessed how you rank? One of my annual goals that has been really consistent in my life and is one of more core values is Forever Learner. This has evolved over the years from technical learning, to management learning and the big jump to leadership learning. Once you hit a maturity level with the combination of experience is usually when the “light bulb” of leadership turns on.

I love learning and was “sharpening my saw” as Stephen Covey calls it in his book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and ran across this YouTube video on Jim Collins’s Top 10 Rules for Success. I highly recommend watching it and then evaluate which of the 10 rules you are applying – both at home and at work. I have read 3 of Jim Collins books and they are a must read if you are in any position of leadership.

Action Items

Good Luck and keep learning – readers lead and leaders read.

Do You Have Vulnerability-Based Trust?

Do you have vulnerability-based trust in your life?  Do you know what this means? I have heard a lot on this topic lately and think it is critical if you want to grow as a person, in a relationship, in your family, or at work.

I learned a lot about this from Patick Lencioni in his book Five Dysfunctions of a Team and I feel it applies in life equally to business. He focuses on business but the life and business integrated world we live in, we need to apply his concepts across all of our life domains. Lencioni walks through five areas of team dynamics with Trust being the foundation and results at the top.

1. Trust—Teams with trust are completely open honest and vulnerable with one another. They’re comfortable letting their guard down and being themselves around one another.