Yesterday, I wrote about being “deliberately emergent.” In that post, I talked about the foundations and structure in my life that enable me to be “emergent” – to take advantage of opportunities as they arise.
As I reflected on what I tend to do each day and week, and what advice I give to others that ask me how I “get stuff done,” I discovered ten strategies and principles that I try to follow daily and weekly. (I say “try” because while I generally do a good job of sticking with these, like everyone, I fail at maintaining the discipline to apply these every day to every situation.) I’m sure there are more than ten – and these may not even be my top ten – they’re simply the ones that revealed themselves as I reviewed myself and my actions.
In the coming days and weeks, I’ll follow with a deeper description of each, and specific ideas on how you might to implement them.
Here’s the list, with links to detailed posts for each:
- Schedule Everything
- Make Time
- Work in “Sprints”
- Put Your Self First
- Find Your Routine
- Find Experts
- Mind, Body, Spirit
- The Journey is the Joy
1 – Schedule Everything: If you don’t plan your day, the world will do it for you. You can’t always be in control, so the more you own your day when you can be in control, the happier you’ll be.
I have one calendar for my life, and for convenience, it is housed in my work calendar because that’s where I have most of my obligations each week – calls, meetings, work with clients, work sprints, etc. I’m looking at that calendar several times daily, so it makes sense to make this the coordination hub of my activities.
I schedule EVERYTHING, including days that I’m having breakfast with my son and taking him to school, when I’m picking him up, lunch, holding time before and after key meetings to make sure I have time to prep and time allocated in case the meeting runs long, workouts and when others can schedule time to talk or meet.
The byproduct? Once you schedule EVERYTHING, you see how little time is left to get done what you want outside of your required obligations. This forces you to prioritize where you focus and what you do.
2 – Make Time: I am unapologetic about scheduling time to write and train. These are two things that bring me joy and help me maintain an even keel across my mind, body and spirit.
When’s the last time anyone asked you – “So Scott, are you getting enough time to do all the things you enjoy – reading, writing, training for endurance races, spending time with your family? Have you skied lately? When’s the last time you went on a 10-mile trail run?”
You’ve got to make time for what you want to do. Then schedule it…
3 – Put Your Self First: “Self” is the being in the mind that is happy or sad, stressed or relaxed, present or elsewhere, accepting or resisting, while controlling the physical body that others know as “you.” The most challenging aspect of “Self” is its responsibility for self-awareness – it exists in the mind as an entity while also responsible for acknowledging feelings and regulating behavior.
Don’t allow others to trespass upon and trample on your Self. Anxiety, distraction and committing to obligations for unappreciative others will bury you. Doing for others too often without doing for your Self will crush your mind, body and spirit.
You’re better than that. Care for your Self, because it is you deserve it, and no one else will do it for you.
4 – Work in Sprints: The completion of small tasks is required to accomplish bigger outcomes.
”Sprinting” is an idea taken from a style of work productivity called Scrum – popular in the software world – in which a team decides on the set of outcomes for a given 1-2 week work period. Within each week, individuals and smaller teams set aside “sprints” that break down these outcomes into smaller tasks.
When you Schedule Everything and Make Time, you can complete at least one 30-60 minute “sprint” every day or week without interruption on whatever outcome you want to achieve.
Say you want to do your first 50-mile ultra marathon this year… A good “sprint” would be spending an hour researching race calendars or training programs. Say you want to start blogging… Spend a “sprint” setting up an account on GoDaddy or BlueHost to buy a URL and set up WordPress.
Say you want to write a book… Block off an hour a day to write every day, even if it’s garbage that you throw away.
5 – Find Your Routine: Read this post from Maria Popova on BrainPickings: “Daily Routines of Great Writers.” Successful people have routines and stick to them no matter what.
The more disciplined and regimented you are throughout the day, the more room you have to be creative and productive. This is all about reducing the number of small decisions you need to make so that you brain has the time and space to create new ideas, and your body has the energy to take action.
6 – Find Experts: You can’t do it alone, and the glut of bad information requires you to find real experts in whatever endeavor you choose. Most experts are experts because they’ve made tons of mistakes. Learn from them because it’ll save you decades of time and anguish.
7 – Read: Stretch your brain.
I’m reading Stephen Pressfield’s “Gates of Fire” right now. I’ve never been interested in his novels, but I read his book about writing – “The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles.” (see: Find Experts) and I thought I’d give one of his novels a try. I’m glad I did.
Other recent reads include:
- “Siddhartha” by Herman Hesse (second time I’ve read this),
- “Ethics in the Real World: 82 Brief Essays on Things That Matter” by Peter Singer
- “Open,” Andre Agassi’s autobiography
- “Natural Born Heroes: Mastering the Lost Secrets of Strength and Endurance” by Christopher McDougall
- “Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why” by Laurence Gonzales
8 – Sleep: You need 7-8 hours a day, minimum. This is fact. You are not a superhero. You brain and body needs sleep.
Hint: Make time and schedule naps.
9 – Mind, Body, Spirit: To help myself detach, I look at these three components to see which is in tune and which is out of whack. I thought a lot about the “Mind, Body, Spirit” trifecta frequently during Uberman – a way to check in mentally (Mind), physically (Body) and psychologically (Spirit). Isolating each of these three helps me identify how, why and where I’m feeling “bad,” because “bad” is a general state just like “good.”
When I communicate with my wife and my Self about how, why and where I feel “bad,” there’s usually a root cause – one event, one interaction, one conversation, one pending outcome – that is causing the “badness.” From there, I can determine if there’s something I can do to repair the situation, or if I just need to accept and move on.
This is useful in your relationships. Everyone has a pebble in their shoe.
10 – The Journey is the Joy: Accept. Be Present. Walk The Path Of Happiness, not The Path To Happiness.
That’s my ten for now… More details on each in the coming days and weeks.
Which of these are most impactful for you?