The title of this post is so simple, and yet so few of people I know live by this principle. Which is sad as it makes so much difference in life. If we lived liked that, we’d be a lot closer to achieving ALL our goals.
I heard this sentence recently, mentioned in Episode 81 of the Jocko Podcast (link), and it made me think a lot about Chapter 5 of Office Of Cards, in which I talk about habits, and how shaping them (instead of accepting them) helps us be more productive and effective and increase exponentially the number of things we learn and get done each day.
Which in turn can help us achieve our goals and give us happiness and satisfaction.
The beauty of this is the simplicity of the trick: plan what you do, do what you planned. EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.
No deviations are allowed: no unplanned 2 hours on Facebook; no 25 videos of funny cats on YouTube, no 30 minutes reading gossip magazines. You need to have discipline over the things that you think are harmless but really are not.
Which means more than just remove all the sources of time wastage in your day: no eating bad things, no sleeping till 10am, no snoozing the alarm 25 times… and so on. Every bad habit you have is fair game for this hunt for improvement.
This is where most people fail: the intention is often good, but in the execution phase we slip. We allow inertia, laziness, bad habits, our instinct… to kick in and then we lose the grip. Life inevitably offers “temptation” and we fall for it. That level of Candy Crush surely must be the last one I play, right? Just one more level and then back to work. Just 5 more minutes mum… As Master Yoda says: “Do, or do not”.
How do we fight this inertia? How do we build systems to avoid falling into the trap? Because that is the key: it’s not about actively choosing the better option every time… having to make the choice is bad because the willpower needed to choose well all the time is a lot, and the risk of choosing poorly is high. So we need a system, we need to remove the bad choice from the table so that only the good one is left for us to pick.
One approach that I found particularly effective is writing down the list of things I want to accomplish in the next day.
Think about this: it’s the end of the day, you are unwinding and preparing to go to bed, and you spend 5 minutes writing down your to-do list for tomorrow. Would you write down something like this?
* Set alarm at 8am
* Snooze it till 9
* Jump out of bed, wash, dress, run to the office because of the 10am meeting to which you arrive 10’ late and totally soaked in rain and sweat. Meeting goes bad, you don’t get the resources you needed so your project is stalled
* Eat a double cheeseburger with fries for lunch, which amounts to almost 2k calories and is full of unhealthy ingredients
* Feel sleepy and tired all afternoon, so work unproductively and spend most of the time checking sports websites and Facebook…
You get the gist 🙂
What about this list:
* Set alarm at 6am, Wake up immediately
* Go for a run or the gym for a 30’ workout, be back home, shower and get dressed, by 7am
* Write your blog, or read USEFUL news (not gossip or other stuff that does not teach you anything you can use to achieve your goals) while having a healthy breakfast (tip: want to eat healthy? Stop buying bad stuff at the supermarket so it’s not in your house!!!)
* Prepare milk for your daughter, feed the pets, walk the dog
* Leave home at 8 and get in the office by 8.30am, check emails and manage urgencies till 9 peacefully and effectively as there are not many people around this early
* As they start coming in, speak to the team, resolve issues, prep the meetings of the day
* Meeting at 10am, which will be great because you prepared for it
* Healthy lunch which will keep you going for the rest of the day, no post-lunch energy dip
And you get the gist 🙂
Which of the above two options do you have the courage to write?
I was living on a version similar to the first one for several years, but when I tried writing that down I felt embarrassed and ashamed… how could I be so weak? How could I waste so much time and do things that are penalising me? How snoozing the alarm for over 20 minutes was helping me?
So I wrote the second down on March 26th 2018, and on March 27th I started executing on it, with no exceptions (on weekends I wake up at 7am, the rest is the same with a few tweaks to reduce some inefficiencies I found).
Think about it: in scenario 2 I had AN ENTIRE HALF DAY OF ADVANTAGE vs scenario 1, and that is before 10am! #FillTheGap Not to mention the quality of that time (it’s not just doing useful stuff, but the peace of doing it when everyone else is sleeping… it feels so good)! This is why, in the book, I refer to this as Time Travelling: you can effectively live more lives that the average person by adding time to your day, in a smart way.
* Do I feel more tired because I wake up early? Not until 10pm, at which point it’s time to go to bed anyway (and I sleep so deep that no sound can wake me up).
* Is it hard to wake up at 6am? Absolutely, but the benefits of waking up early and working out as first step of the day are overwhelmingly superior to the effort.
* Wouldn’t it be the same if you worked out or do productive stuff between 10pm and midnight instead of waking up earlier? For some people, maybe, but not for most people. First of all, late at night you are tired and it’s more difficult to CHOOSE WORK over relaxation. Second, temptation is a lot higher in the evening, you may get invited to a dinner, you may switch on the TV and find a movie (try that at 6.30am and see what you find), you may actually feel already tired and choose the bed vs the desk. Also, working out in the morning wakes you up better than coffee (and it takes a lot for a coffee-lover like me to admit it) and even reading and learning come a bit easier when the brain is fresh.
* When I wake up I don’t always feel like working out. Well, first of all I prepare my gear the night before, and I place it tactically in a place where it’s the first thing I see when I leave the bedroom. It’s there, it stares at me, I have time… there are no plausible excuses for me not to workout (sometimes not finding your shoes is an excuse to your sleepy brain). The simple preparation of clothes helps me work out more, but still sometimes I fail to do it, and in that case I have a plan B prepared: READ. I read things, trying to learn something I can use. I read about companies, markets, real estate, maybe it’s useful information for an investment. I read about things related to my work, maybe I can use them to make bigger impact. I read about leadership, maybe I can be a better manager. I read a recipe, maybe I can cook a new dish. See, not everything is work related, it doesn’t have to be. But everything is GROWTH related.
I don’t believe knowing that some Kardashian has broken up with her boyfriend will help me in any way.
Action item for you
Think about what you should do to you achieve your goals, plan accordingly (in writing) and execute the plan. It’s not easy, but it’s this simple 🙂
Trick: don’t question the plan, just execute it (unless, of course, your priorities change – in which case: new plan and then execution!).
Apple recently introduced a feature called Screen Time in iOS12, it shows you (and allows to control and limit) how much time you spend on the phone each day/week).
This is the summary of the last 7 days for me
Did you try this feature? Do you have the courage to BLOCK distractions from your phone? If you do, you are one step closer to success; if you don’t, then don’t complain about your life because it’s the result of your choices, not bad luck or other external factors.
Last point: did you start trying this approach and fell off the path? After a few days of productivity you were tired and snoozed the alarm 20 times?
Don’t worry, falling off the path is ok. What matters is to go right back on it the next day, learning why you fell off and building systems to avoid falling off again.
It’s 7.42am now, time to start my “feeding” routine, Max is looking at me begging for food 🙂
As always, thanks for reading and spreading the word. Any questions or comments, please hit me on Twitter or Facebook!