I’ve been in San Diego for only 72 hours but I have moved the ball down the court in a number of different areas. When I came out here I had some big ambitions; I always do when I travel. But with no kids in the trip it was a lot easier to get results. I had projects for work that could be done remotely and all that work feels great do do so far from home (although it was strange to work two hours behind everyone else in Madison).
But the real work was inside my notebook, reading a Great Work, and rethinking how I get work done. Specifically I’ve been organizing and processing files, workflows, and establishing editorial calendars and publishing guidelines. This work is good for my soul. I will return home in a better place and more equipped to succeed because of this time in San Diego.
I got some time with Todd Durkin this morning. He’s literally the only trainer in the country who I would make an effort to connect with and I’m so happy I could make it work. Of course that meant I had to spend a little more time this afternoon processing that meeting because I have a couple very specific take aways to apply.
Katie is done with her last meeting in a few minutes here and then we’re going out to find a beach and then go out for the evening. San Diego: huge success and a lot of fun.
At 293 pounds, he jumped 61 inches into the air. And landed it. Never satisfied, always hungry, dream big and work hard. They are all just phrases until you actually do the jump. I can’t jump 61 inches, but I’ve got my own goals. You?
If I were to drill down the best predictor of my clients’ success, it would be the quality of the habits they’ve formed. All of my clients have very specific goals. Success starts with goals but success makes progress with habits. How are you spending your time? What is a non-negotiable in your week? How often is that non-negotiable happening in any given week? When you have answered these questions, you can claim a habit as your own.
If you are anything like me, you have a few too many irons in the fire. Either way, a productive and efficient life will be defined by the habits you’re able to execute. I’m running the Monona 20k on May 2 – if running isn’t a habit, it will be a long day. Are you running a business? What habits make that happen? Are you trying to launch a business? What habits do you need to have to put in the work before you go live? Are you writing a book? Chapters don’t write themselves – you need to do the work and you need to write on a regular basis.
Think about your workflow. Think about your habits. Think about your distractions. Think about your goals and be realistic about what it will take to get there. Put together a game plan of habits and start stacking successful weeks on top of each other.
I am part of a book study through the mens ministry at church. We are reading a book called Simplify by Bill Hybels and this week was about identifying your life verse from the Bible. At first this seemed like kind of a cheesy thing to do, then I started to embrace the idea. But each guy in our discussion at Barriques concluded the same thing: one single life verse would be hard to identify; a verse for this “season” seems more applicable.
Along that same vein, I believe true professionals are constantly adjusting the tools they need for certain seasons, certain projects. I wear many hats throughout the week. Mostly I’m training clients. But I’m also writing, reading, conducting interviews, leading and attending meetings, creating marketing materials, and cranking through email. I am fascinated with how people work, especially the creative and successful ones. And while I could write about how I personally get all these things done, today I want to write about what tools I use for professional development, specifically reading.
I hoard books. My Kindle (app) is loaded with many books I haven’t read yet, but they’re on my list. I sort through tens of blogs each week. I have extensive Twitter lists that keep me in the loop with my areas of interest. All these things help me grow professionally, but every once in awhile a new book comes across my desk that is different. Last week, my friend John was quoting Steven Pressfield from his popular book, Turning Pro. This book has been on my wish list for years. I didn’t purchase it because of the afore mentioned hoarding of books. I convinced myself that I needed to finish a few more books before purchasing another to sit on my Kindle. But something clicked with one of John’s blog posts. I realized the work I was doing at Pinnacle was setting me up to dive into Turning Pro. I read further on John’s blog and learned that he was starting a digital book club around Turning Pro. And I was hooked.
Last week I purchased the book and I’ve had two nights to dig into it this week – it’s fantastic. It will be difficult for a handful of reasons, but I know this is a tool I need for this season of my life. I’m continually amazed when things in life are put on hold only until the “time is right” and things fall into place. I’m so excited to learn from this book and to “go Pro.”
How about you? Are you picking up some tools for this season of life?
In the middle of my workout this morning, I was deep into a squat-to-press and I felt my muscles respond in a new way. This was surprising because I’ve been doing this without twice per week for about six months. I’m getting really good at it, I’m significantly stronger. But today it’s almost like the exercise clicked for me. The exercise seemed to slow down, I had additional focus, and I felt the muscles working more acutely than ever before.
Why did I feel this new level of accomplishment?
Getting really good at something takes a really long time. I know, obvious. But do you need that reminder? I did. Are you expecting quick results? Are you putting in the time? Are you spinning your wheels? Are you being challenged? Things worth having take a lot time to develop. Do not be discouraged. In fact, take pride in the fact that we are always learning new things, achieving new levels of mastery in all our pursuits. Do the work. Earn the sweat equity.
Sadly they is another side of the coin. While it is true that it takes a long time to build up a good thing, it takes a very short amount of time to destroy a prized possession. The reputation that is lost with one moral failure. The job site that has one mistake and now profits for the day are shot. One day of a short fuse with your children and they see Dad lose control. No back up of the family computer, it crashes and all your family photos are gone. A life time of health and fitness, a couple years off and now everything is more difficult and you’ve added 20 pounds. We work so hard and then it all can be lost so quickly.
Build, balance, adjust
It is essential to have a set of goals, both long term and short term. We need to use these goals as a compass for our lives. We need to build up strategic areas of our life and then keep them balanced and always maintained. It takes a lot of work. It’s not all going to move in the positive direction. There will be set backs. In fact if you aren’t failing a few times, you probably aren’t trying hard enough. But that’s where adjustments come in. Make your adjustment and recalibrate toe goals and your game plan.
Here’s the thing I’m feeling after my exercise advancement this morning. I’m wondering what’s next. I’m counting on that experience to spring me upwards and to the right, highly anticipating the next learning moment.
On day 4 of my blogging workshop, the instructions are simply to reflect. Kind of interesting because as I opened John’s post for the day, I was looking at my Desk app and the three blog posts I logged. They have the same name with different numbers (of course) at the end, so they looked bigger to me. They looked organized, part of a series, a project, a story. I had a feeling of purpose and direction which is a primary motivator for me as I take blogging to the next level. I need this consistency. I need challenge and this confidence.
Then interstingly enough as I sat in my chair for the fourth night in a row to write this blog, I thought about yesterday’s post and the importance of the physical space. I won’t always blog like this, but the idea that “it’s about 8:30pm, work is done and I need to check in with the workshop. I’ve got my glass of water and I’m ready to write…” That was kind of a cool feeling. Great writers show up to write, pretty much on a daily basis. It doens’t mean it will all get published. But the act of writing is a discipline. Boy, is it ever. I haven’t refined my discipline here yet. But that’s why I’m reflecting.
In this short closing reflection, I conclude that no matter what the rest of the workshop topics may be, I will write my tenth post having established a game plan for the year. I will have a direction, storyline, and monthly goals. I have goals for family, fitness, faith. I need to have goals for my writing. Reflection done.
I could not do my job without my watch. I’m pretty detailed with my workouts, I track everything, and I program everything accordingly. I don’t want clients doing an exercise for 20 seconds without a clearlly defined purpose. If they are doing something for a few minutes at a time, I don’t want to have to search for a clock. And even for rest periods, I keep that pretty tight also. Rest is a critical component of exercise sessions and I want to know how exactly much rest a client needs so we can push the envelope and train aggressively.
My watch is a tool of the trade. It’s also a reminder of my standards. I’ve been thinking a lot about personal training. Sadly it doesn’t take a lot for a person to study for a few months and earn a personal training certification. My resume, on the other hand, includes and undergraduate degree (and minor) in the field along with a masters degree in kinesiology. I’m not out to change the personal training industry, but I’m out to promote myself and how I’m different than many other trainers. Excercise is a science and an art. With my watch, I’m constantly reminded to keep my programs scientifice. Know the numbers. Be disciplined with your workouts. Have a plan and stick to it. Then take those results and keept the challenge high and appropriate. You cannot manage what you do not measure.
I’m leading a book study for guys on Wednesday mornings. We meet at Barriques in Fitchburg and we’re reading Four Pillar of a Man’s Heart. A couple weeks ago we were talking about discipline and one of the guys said he has a negative feeling with the word, with the concept. Of course I went right to a sports analogy to demonstrate that discipline is good. In the Bible discipline is a good thing, but we were discussing it in the context of spiritual disciplines and the difference between legalism and authentically following the commands and laws of the Lord.
Discipline is a fundamental component to my blog: “In pursuit of a healthy and disciplined lifestyle.” I think especially in the church we shy way from “discipline” because we don’t want to be labeled as a legalist. But the world works on discipline. Sports teams are successful when they are disciplined in their practice and their execution. Jim Collins, in his classic business book Good to Great, talks about ruthless discipline as a distinguishing characteristic between business that fail and those that succeed. I think discipline is an essential quality that should be pursued by anyone who whats to make a difference in this world. In business, in your family, or in social services, discipline means having a plan and sticking with it. Sure, you can make changes but that only comes after disciplined thought and planning takes place.
And this is where the rubber meets the road for me right now. I’ve found that is critical for me to leave margin in my week, even in each day, to process my obligations, my contracts, my goals. I need room to work, I can’t jam-pack my schedule and still be agile enough to make these adjustments. I need to constantly challenge the process and reconsider what I’m doing and why. This disciplined thought is the only way for me to operate my family and my work – and I don’t always do this well. This isn’t the best post I’ve ever written but remember, sometimes I write this stuff more for me than for you (wink, wink). I’m writing this today to remind myself that discipline is important, we’re all in different places, but we all are looking for ways to move the ball down the field. I’m trying to simplify my week and only schedule the things I want to get done. And it’s been a successful exercise. I’ve thought of three other posts that can work off this one, and the whole thing has cleared my mind and empowered me to start the week off right. How about you? Are you disciplined? If you became more disciplined in one area of life, how could you move the ball down the field?
Wednesday mornings I’m usually the third person at Barriques on Monroe street. I love my Wednesday mornings. One of the guys is about 70 years old, he usually wears an old tweed sport jacket, he’s on a Mac with headphones, doing some kind of audio work. It fascinates me but I don’t know his story… yet. But today I’m writing about the second guy. He’s younger than the first, probably about 55 with a grey goatee, nice rimless glasses and usually wears a blazer also. I prefer the window seat early in the morning to get this writing done, so I walk the length of the coffee shop and I notice his Mac also (funny how coffee shop people usually are on Mac). But he’s got three or four orange Post-It notes on this keyboard. It strikes me as odd, how someone can pay that much for a computer, have access to great apps, probably has an iPhone also, but he’s keeping important reminders on a Post It note.
Let’s clear the air: I’m not judging, and here’s how I can prove it. I give the guy huge props for doing what works for him. Yes, I think Reminders on Mac would be much better than Post-It Notes. But chances are Post-It Notes are what work best for him. He has a system. It’s a system he trusts. As he opens his notebook and starts to type, there’s the paper stuck to his keyboard, screaming at him to take action on these few items. It’s not how I would do it, but my wife does the same thing. It works for her. Would it work for you?
As I get busier, as projects seem to hold more weight, as more people rely on me personally and professionally, I find myself fine-tuning my systems of productivity. I’m trying to perfect my Getting Things Done methodology, of which one of the principles is to have a trusted system of taking in information and processing it in a timely and efficient manner.
One of my systems is to get some personal writing done Wednesday mornings after I teach my class. With a 5:45am workout under my belt, my mind is clear and primed for creative thinking. Another system is how I track my work log and project notes in Evernote. I know that if I worked on it, it’s in there and I can easily search any date or description and find my material within a couple seconds.
I am not a productivity expert. I probably even sound more organized and thoughtful than I really am. I know many of you have bigger responsibilities and systems than I do. But I think I can add a lot of value talking about these systems and thinking about our thinking. Do you agree?
What system have you put in place that allows your day to be more productive?
If you use Post-It Notes or a digital system of some kind, use the links below and share this post on your favorite social network.
Disclaimer: I’m a morning guy. I love mornings alone, I love being disciplined and getting up early to read, write, and pray. In the summer I like those early morning runs. But it’s been a long winter and (a) I can’t imagine early morning runs and (b) my workouts in general are significantly behind where they usually are at this time of year. Which is why Wednesday mornings have me completely jazzed.
You see I’ve been teaching these TRX-kettlebell fusion classes. One of them is at 5:45am on Wednesdays. I need my coffee and light reading each morning, small breakfast for the road, travel from McFarland is about 18 minutes, I have to set up for my largest class, so it requires a wake-up time of 4:30am to make it happen. Yes, since I’m teaching I have a back-up alarm just in case (haven’t needed it yet).
The class is going great but it’s 7:05 that really makes my day. By 7:05am, I’ve taught, worked out, showered, and made my way to Barriques on Monroe street bright-eyed and full of energy. Yes, I’m a morning person but I guarantee that non-morning people would do this for two weeks and feel the same energy for the morning as I do. The science backs me up here. That workout improves blood flow which makes the mind significantly more alert. The stress on the muscles from 5:45-6:30 transitions to relaxation and recovery soon afterwards. Maybe I’m more in tuned with my body that others. Or maybe you should just try it and see if I’m wrong (spoiler: I’m not).
Mornings aren’t for everyone, I get that. But I do a lot of reading on exercise and productivity and business stuff. There’s a lot out there on habits of successful people and morning workouts often find there way into people’s schedules. Of course that’s not true – they don’t find their way in, they’re intentionally put there by the people who want to succeed and are willing to set their alarm for 4:30 and 4:35 to start the day off right. I only do this one day per week. Maybe you could do it more, maybe you start with one like me.