Your Goals Don’t Care About Your Feelings
Formulate discipline by writing out what you are going to and how you are going to do it. Be as detailed as possible. Discipline is when you do something because it moves you closer to your goals and not because you want to. Examples are going for the morning run even though you hate running and didn’t sleep well. Suck it up! Your goals don’t care that you’re tired.
Discipline breeds mental toughness. Don’t quit when it gets hard. As my CEO says, “don’t quit, refocus”. Josh Waitzkin, chess grandmaster and brilliant thinker, uses the phrase “go around” in his book “Art of Learning” when working with his son on problem solving. Sometimes the best solution is to pause think through your problem rather than giving up or plowing ahead doing the same exact thing that has failed before.
Do One Thing At A Time
Avoid multi-tasking. This can be as minute as removing background noise when reading. Background noise can be TV, office chatter, etc. The only time I stray from no background noise is when writing. Playing an upbeat, electronic song with little vocals on repeat helps me fall into a trance while writing. (This does not work for me when reading.)
The key to creating a successful routine is giving it a fair shot, iterating as you go. Do not create a routine and abandon within the first week. Tweak the routine as you go but stick with the base of the routine for at least 30-days then make the final decision.
- Wake – 5:00am (you’ll be tired – embrace the suck)
- Exercise – 5:00-5:30am
- Read – 5:30-6:30am
- Write – 6:30-7:30am
- Communications – 8-9am
- Deep Work (single task) – 9-11am
- Small Tasks – 11-1pm
- Deep work (single task) – 1-2pm
- Lunch – 2-2:30pm
- Reading – 2:30-3pm
- Deep Work (single task) – 3-5pm
- Dinner – 5-6pm
- Fill – 6-7pm
- Side-project Work – 7-8pm (sometimes extended through the Fill sections if my wife is working)
- Fill – 8-10pm
- Read – 10-11pm
- Tomorrow’s schedule – 11pm
- Sleep – 11:30/12pm
Decision Fatigue Will Kill Your Creativity
Reduce decisions by creating a routine. Making decisions should be reserved to things that move you toward your professional and personal goals. You should not waste mental energy on what you’ll have for breakfast. Make it automatic.
Identify work that is important, schedule it in your calendar and focusing on it intently, without distraction. Don’t put it off. It’s too easy to say you’ll get to it tomorrow. Schedule it and hold yourself accountable.
Learn From Your Past
Jocko Willink talks about explaining the why to his team before they left on a mission in his book “Extreme Ownership” (co-authored by Leif Babin). You must do the same thing to yourself. You need to sit down and write out why it is valuable to you before you spend precious hours and resources completing it. Be honest with yourself. Keep these in a folder or document called a Decision Journal. Many investors do this for their investments (read pre-mortem). Why shouldn’t you.
Answer these questions:
- Why are you working on this problem?
- What does completion look like? Is there ever a ‘done’?
- Does this move you closer to your main goal?
You must schedule these tasks in your calendar. If you don’t, you will never reap the benefits. What is not scheduled, is never done.
There is that famous saying “history doesn’t repeat itself but it rhymes”. The same can be applied to your work. Does last year look a lot like the year before. You set goals but are in the same spot. Maybe you’re doing the wrong thing. You’ll never know until you catalog what you’re doing and your why (or hypothesis).
This is a living document. You can add my Standard Operating Procedures to your Google Drive account or make a copy for yourself here.
Do you have edits / suggestions? Shoot me an email, I’d love to work through my thoughts with you.