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Productivity

Getting back on the horse

What to do when you fail to hit your goals

As I sit down to write this post, we are already 43% through 2021. Back at the start of this year, I set myself a goal to write at least 1 post a month (and really – I wanted to aim at more than one a month – multiple if I could), and at the start I made some progress, for around a month. During the past year I’ve also written over 100 journal entries, meditated hundreds of times, gone through at least 1 dieting spell (I’d say “fad” diet, but in my opinion it actually works). Really though – what I’m saying here – is that despite all my will power and effort – I still failed to achieve my simple goal of just writing something.

So thats what I want to talk about today – what techniques can you use if you find yourself in a similar situation, and you need to find a new way to make yourself productive?

1. Get up early

Back after reading the The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod – I completely changed up my routine. I went from a sporadic, mostly evening person, to a full on morning person. Waking early I would run through his 6 steps, Scribe, Affirmation, Visualisation, Exercise, Reading, Silence, ticking them off once I had completed each one. I don’t remember how long I did this for, but as I write this, that moment was around 5 years ago.. so, a while.

This quiet time, for me between 5.20am and 6am, allowed me to move through these steps quickly, and most importantly, without guilt each morning. I knew that I still had enough time left in the rest of the day to get what I wanted done – and most often, the quiet in the morning would give my clarity to plan the rest of my day to make me more productive than if I’d slept in.

2. Have a routine

Secondly, I had a routine. As mentioned above, I would wake early and move through a series of steps prescribed by Hal (usually with my own little twist). To summarise – this are,

  • Scribe – initially I started by writing in the back of my trusty Leuchttrum1917 notepad – in an effort to improve my handwriting. Recently – I’ve switched to writing in a Notion journal, this time in an effort to improve my typing speed and accuracy. I’ve also added a few extra sections to this journal template also – such as a gratitude section – to think of offers, an intentions section to focus on my goals and a reflection section to reflect on the previous day.
  • Affirmation – The original Hal method prescribed 5 minutes to run through your affirmations daily. I could never get on with this (if felt like I was writing lines in detention!), instead I now just spend a little time thinking about others. I did find when I was practicing affirmation, although progress was slow, my self confidence would increase, so if this something you struggle with, I suggest giving it ago!
  • Visualisation – Again the Hal method puts this at 5 minutes of visualising your goals. Recently I’ve shortened this to simply however long it takes to go through my task list and create a realistic task list. I cannot give this simple task enough focus – do not skip this step, as Laura Vanderkam puts in her recent book The New Corner Office

A well-edited daily to-do list also has this distinct virtue for work-at-home sorts: It lets you know when your workday can be done.

By setting yourself up with a realistic todo list, you’ll know when you’re done for the day. Spending time visualising the day at the start helps me to think through each task – and if its realistic for that day. This one effort alone has stopped my working until late at night, exhausting myself early in the week. Now I have more energy and focus, and I get more done!

  • Exercise – This is an obvious one, and usually consisted of heading to the gym around 6.30am each morning. In more recent months, its meant hitting Zwift early, going for a run, or heading out into the garden to lift some weights for at least 30 minutes.
  • Reading – One the hardest to keep up, yet one of the most productive, I would aim to complete 20 pages of whatever book I was reading, or 5% of any Kindle book. In reality I now try and hit a lot more – but this minimum target gave me something to head for even on busy days.
  • Silence – Finally – I would spent at least 5 minutes in silence meditating. I’ve talked a lot in the past on the benefits of medicating, so I’m not going to cover it here, but I’ve subscribed to Headspace for the past 6 years – and still use it (mostly) daily today.

These steps have helped my maintain focus and kept me productive for the first few hours of each day for the past 5 years – and I recommend you take a few of them and adapt them for your morning also.

3. But occasionally reset

3 years ago (nearly to the day), I become a father, and everything changed. Gone were those moments I could quietly meditate. Time became something I had to reserve for my family, whether it was spending time with my new son, or helping my wife around the house (which I’d like to say I did before – but there is just so much more housework required with a little one around). I would still find time to get up in the morning and get through some of these steps, but where as before I would have spent 25-30 minutes, I was cutting these down to 15, then 10 – in total.

Then – along came our “new normal”, and all our routines changed. Where as previously I would have been up at 5.20am, and off to the office around 6.30am – now there was no office, nor gym. I found I was getting up later and later (something I hope to analyse in another post), and eventually – this routine stopped.

I would often find the only thing keeping me going was keeping my meditation “streak” in headspace. I would do anything to keep that number from dropping.

The thing is – thats not healthy (Andy from Headspace has actually written a post about this). Looking back on that time now, especially now I’ve had a recent reset, its important to occasionally stop and reset. To take a break from it all and reflect on what’s important. We can’t operate at 100% efficiency all of the time without taking a week or two for ourselves occasionally. So for that reason – I’ve learnt to ignore the streaks that many apps provide, instead the most important thing here is that you are seeing a positive outcome to your effort spent. If you are simply spending effort to keep up that number, and receiving no benefit, then why are you doing it?

I hope you’ve enjoyed this dive in to the depths of my morning routine, something I’ve written (and spoken) about multiple times before – however it truly is something that when adopted well, can be life changing.

If you’ve liked anything I’ve had to say here please say hello and follow me on twitter at @busbyjon where I’ll hope post new tips and links to blog posts in the coming months.

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