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“The secret of your success is determined by your daily agenda.” – John C. Maxwell

Quote credit: Brainyquote

What do you do every day? What do you really do?

I went through a Dale Carnegie course on leadership about a decade ago. During one of our initial sessions, we were given a few sheets of paper with “:30” on every other line. We were instructed to fill out these sheets for 5 days, tracking what we did every 30 minutes. This is an eye-opening exercise.

When each of us returned to the class, we had to brief the group on our sheets. Almost every person who stood up to brief explained it took at least two days just to get in the habit of tracking their time accurately. It was the same for me. After I began tracking my time I was shocked at what I discovered. I was not working as hard as I thought I was. I was unfocused most of the day, flipping from doing actual work to non-work items almost every 30 minutes. This exercise motivated me to begin looking at not only how I spent my time, but what I wanted to focus on.

Success is different for all of us. We all define it differently. I think some people’s problem with success is that they are having their ideas of success defined for them. Success to me is being healthy, happy, setting, and achieving goals. That’s it. Your definition may be different. What is it?

Think about what you want out of life. Write down the things you want to do. Just write down as many things you can think of, whether it’s learning how to do something new, improving your relationships, improving your health, anything. Your list is your list. No one else’s. Then, once you have gotten your big list, go through the list and identify three things you want to focus on first. Once you have spent some time deciding what your focus will be, write down what you will need to do each day to get yourself closer to achieving these three things.

Here’s an example: Let’s say I want to read 48 books this year. I write down getting books. I also write down reading books. I have two sources for the books I read. The first is a service called Freebooksy. The second service I use is a subscription service called Scribd. Between these services I have no shortage of books to read. Other sources I could use if I needed to are my public library and a Barnes and Noble store. The next step I will take is actually reading the book. One of the things I schedule daily is reading one chapter of a book. That’s it.

Your agenda or daily to-do list should be composed of the things you want to focus on each day. Obviously, you have a job you go to each day. This will eat up 8 hours of your life. Then you have 8 hours of sleep. That leaves you 8 hours to pursue the things you want to. This where you have to make a decision about what it is you want to do and how much time you will dedicate to it. We all have busy lives. I would recommend putting 30 minutes into each of your three things each day. If you want to exercise every day, that’s 30 minutes. If you want to read every day, that’s another 30 minutes. If you want to write every day, that’s another 30 minutes.

Spend 1 hour and 30 minutes each day on the three things you want to work on right now. To get your 30 minutes, you can use a focus timer. I use an app called Focus Keeper. It is a simple Pomodoro timer that will track 25 minutes of focused effort on each of your top three.

Track your progress for 5 days. At the end of the 5 days, did you spend your 30 minutes daily on each of these top three tasks? If not, begin looking at what happened instead. Do the 5 day evaluation of your focus for another work week. Did you make it this time? You’ll find that you may have some work to do in the focus area, if you keep missing your 30 minute times for each of these tasks over a two-week period. You can continue this exercise until you have established the habit of doing your top three things every day.

Here’s another example of what your agenda may look like:

  • Read 30 minutes everyday
  • Exercise 30 minutes everyday
  • Write 30 minutes everyday

Let’s say you try out this exercise of monitoring your focus for 3 weeks and still struggle with putting in your 30 minutes on one or more of your top three tasks. That’s ok. Maybe that’s just too much. You can try the Mini Habits technique to help. With Mini Habits, you won’t be so focused on the time you spend, but rather a specific task that takes minimal effort to accomplish. Instead of reading for 30 minutes each day, you could opt to read 1 chapter every day or read 1-2 pages every day. Instead of exercising for 30 minutes, you could use an app like the 5MHW. Instead of writing for 30 minutes you could write 250 words each day. You see how flexible this can be? This hack is used to establish habits and help you move a little closer to your goals each day.

Try this out, folks. If you struggle with setting and achieving goals, find out what you really want to do, set aside some time for these things each day, and then do them, even if you start out only doing 5-10 minutes of work toward each one of your goals initially. Even this small time commitment will generate results.

Remember, success is what YOU decide it is. Your definition will change over time, but remember success is self-defined. Don’t try to make success what other people define success as, even your favorite self-help guru. Success is yours, no one else’s.

I hope each of you has a terrific Wednesday!

Until next time…

Dave