March 20, 2017
“I will form good habits and become their slave” — Og Mandino
Do you often feel overwhelmed by everything on your plate? Does it seem that you have more things to accomplish than available time?
This is a common phenomenon. Fortunately, there are time-tested techniques you can follow to unlock personal success. These will not only help you more effectively reach your daily goals, but will also elevate your overall performance. They have been assembled from countless articles, books, and the stories of the world’s most accomplished people. The secret is to practice these with diligence and dedication. You cannot selectively choose which days to employ them — the impact is greatest when these turn into habits.
Focus — the main reason why we often do not fulfill our objectives is a lack of focus. In the digital age, there are an infinite number of things competing for our time. The number of hours in the day hasn’t changed, but the quality of our time certainly has. Each hour is now more precious because we must allocate the same amount of time between social media, illuminated screens, and the incessant worries that distract us from the task at hand. In this case, focus means identifying the top two or three things that you have to accomplish each day. Set goals for yourself. Each evening, you should write down your main priorities for the following day. In the morning, review these and clear your mind so as to channel your focus and attention to them. Meditation can play a key role in focusing on what is most important. Spend the first ten minutes after waking on clearing your mind and priming it for the day ahead. The mental clarity that results will help you move forward with purpose.
Experiment — a fear of failure has changed how we tackle challenges. Rather than taking small steps toward a solution, we often make one attempt and stop if it does not work. Life should be full of small and methodical experiments. Whatever your personal challenge is, try to think of multiple ways to solve it. Rarely is there only one solution to a given problem. The key is to prototype. Devise small experiments to try out different techniques to see what works best. If you are building a business, this approach is instrumental in testing hypotheses and shifting quickly between different approaches.
Learn — personal growth is one of the most gratifying and powerful things we can aspire to. This cannot be emphasized enough. Challenge yourself to step outside your comfort zone and try something new. Don’t let fear get in the way: if it is not life-threatening, what is the worst that can happen? The upside is usually far greater than the risks. Read at least one new book every month. The knowledge captured between book bindings (or with e-ink) is invaluable and contains years of wisdom, experience, and life lessons that you can can access instantaneously. If you don’t already, start listening to podcasts. There are thousands that focus on everything from relationships and life improvement to starting a side business. Learn from those around you. Be intentional about meeting one new person every week and truly getting to know them. Take an interest in their work and their life story.
Reflect — we go through life on autopilot. How often do we pause to look back? Much of our social conditioning tells us to keep moving forward and to not dwell on the past. The key is not to dwell, but to focus on understanding why things happened and to take away lessons. Much of what transpired can teach us what to anticipate tomorrow, next month, or next year. Take the time to really understand your previous actions and decisions. What motivated them? What was the outcome? Could anything have done differently? Asking these questions as part of a sincerely introspective process will help you better understand what transpired, how you behaved in the moment, and why it matters for your future. The past often contains clues and insights that you can apply going forward.
Don’t wait — you can start practicing these actions today. The key is make them second nature and to be conscientious about applying them to your life. The only thing in your way is you, but that is also the biggest source of your growth.