Categories
Personal Growth

Living a Prioritized Life: A Guide to Using Daily Questions

Earlier this month, I wrote a post called Re-Thinking Productivity to discuss some major issues I see with the way we view productivity today. Generally, and this includes myself, we’re very good at the “doing” part of productivity whether it be sending more emails, scheduling more meetings, making more money, etc. But we often spend the scantiest time and effort thinking about why we want to be more productive with “x”.

To me, this comes down to spending more time thinking about our priorities. What do we want out of life? What is most important to us now? Who around us do we want to impact positively? What is the legacy we want to leave? Big questions, yes, but the sooner that we start thinking about it and incorporating it into our lives, the more fulfilling our lives will be.

As part of my research around personal growth, I came across a book called Triggers: Creating Behavior That Lasts – Becoming the Person You Want to Be by Marshall Goldsmith. Goldsmith is a world-renowned leadership coach and has written numerous bestsellers on leadership, strategic thinking, and behaviour change. He’s been recognized by Forbes as one of the Five Most-Respected Executive Coaches. In Triggers, he shares a framework called The Daily Questions that has since become in integral part of my prioritization and behaviour-change process.

In a nutshell, the Daily Questions is a way to help clarify your priorities and track how you’re progressing towards them. The exercise helps create awareness on whether your daily actions reflect your priorities. Awareness is the keyword here as most of us depend on our well established habits and routines to make hundreds of decisions everyday.* Without the awareness, we risk continuing to run on autopilot and not being able to make the key behaviour changes we need to reach our goals and dreams.

So how do we go about setting priorities and, more importantly, find a way to keep us on track and accountable with them? I’ll take you through a step-by-step process on how the Daily Questions work.

Step 1: Make a list of your priorities

Make a list of 10 priorites you currently have in your life. The list might include something like this:

  • Be a better mother/father/spouse/partner
  • Build stronger relationships with my friends
  • Learn how to ______
  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Look into a side business to launch
  • Give back to my community
  • Meditate for 10 minutes
  • Find ways to increase my income by 20%

Step 2: Turn them into questions

Take the list of your priorities and turn them into a question by adding “Did I do my best to…” at the start and ending them with “…today?” Here’s what the above priorities will look like in question form.

  • Did I do my best to be a better mother/father/spouse/partner today?
  • Did I do my best to build stronger relationships with my friends today?
  • Did I do my best to learn how to ______ today?
  • Did I do my best to eat a healthy diet today?
  • Did I do my best to learn about a side business to launch today?
  • Did I do my best to give back to my community today?
  • Did I do my best to meditate for 10 minutes today?
  • Did I do my best to find ways to increase my income by 20% today?

I find that the questions typically break into two types: habitual and goal-oriented.

Habitual questions like “Did I do my best to be a better mother/father/etc. today?” or “Did I do my best to build stronger relationships with my friends today?” have no specific end date. They’re ongoing questions to help you stay consistent with the priority on a day-to-day basis.

Goal-oriented questions focus on something you want to achieve by a specific end date. “Did I do my best to learn how to ______ today?” or “Did I do my best to find ways to increase my income by 20% today?” are both goal-oriented. At some point in the future, you’ll be hitting an end-point and achieving these goals.

With goal-oriented questions try to break them down and start small. For example, the question “Did I do my best to find ways to increase my income by 20% today?” is probably not an achievable goal in one day. So you may want to break up that goal into smaller pieces. Perhaps it may be “Did I do my best to read a book on a profitable side business today?” or “Did I do my best to spend 15 minutes exploring alternative career opportunities today?” Breaking up your priority into sections can help generate momentum for you.

Step 3: Rate yourself daily

At the end of each day, rate the effort on a scale of 1 to 10 with 1 being no effort and 10 being a full, complete effort. I’m emphasizing “effort” here because the results are not important at this point. You’re trying to develop a daily habit to be aware of this priority and take actions towards achieving that question. With consistent daily effort you’re automatically going to be working towards your goal.

In terms of tracking the scores, you can do it however you’d like whether that’s a piece of paper, an Excel spreadsheet, or something else. I like using Google Sheets because it’s accessible via the cloud and fairly easy to navigate.

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You’re welcome to view a template version of my Daily Questions sheet here. To make your own copy, just go to File -> Make a Copy and safe it into your Google Drive. Alternatively, you can download the document as an Excel file by going to File -> Download as -> Microsoft Excel.

Whatever it is you’re using, make sure you’re recording it somewhere. Being able to compare the scores on a daily basis helps bring further clarity on how well you’re progressing with your scores.

Step 4: Repeat and reflect

Try this for at least next 3 months. Over the course of 90 days, you’ll collect enough data to see which priorities you’re progressing on and which priorities may not be getting the attention they deserve. At this stage, you’re just trying to get a baseline for yourself. Just because you have a low score on a certain question doesn’t mean you’re a bad parent/friend/team member/employee/etc. It might just mean the question you’re asking yourself isn’t a priority at the moment.

The key here is to take a moment, reflect, and ask yourself “Is this really a priority for me right now?” If the answer is yes, it’s time to think about ways to put your thoughts/words into action. If the answer is no, it’s a good time to rearrange your priorities. It’s quite a relief to realize that something you’ve been thinking about doing isn’t really a priority for you.

If you’re having trouble crafting your list of priorities and questions, check out Goldsmith’s original list of Daily Questions. They’re broader and likely more useful as a starting point if you’re stuck with your priority list. After a year of recording my scores, I’m still using most of Goldsmith’s Daily Questions.

Goldsmith’s Daily Questions

  1. Did I do my best to set clear goals today?
  2. Did I do my best to make progress towards my goals today?
  3. Did I do my best to find meaning today?
  4. Did I do my best to be happy today?
  5. Did I do my best to build positive relationships today?
  6. Did I do my best to be fully engaged today?

The beauty of Goldsmith’s questions is that they can be highly applicable for both your personal and professional productivity goals. For more on Goldsmith’s Daily Questions, you can check out my previous posts – Part I and Part II of Seven Questions to Ask Yourself Everyday.

For additional support around crafting your goals and priorities, I highly recommend checking out Travis Hellstrom’s online course to Craft Your Purpose. It’s a fantastic program to help you clarify your values, key roles you play in your life, and ultimately be in control of your life. You’ll get a better idea of what your true priorities are by going through this program. Travis and I recorded a conversation that you can check out as well.

What would your daily questions be? Comment below or tweet me @peternakamura. Would love to hear what your priorities might look like.

—–

*According to this study, 40% of daily activities are habits and not deliberate decisions made by a person.

Categories
Planning & Review

My Quarterly Habits Review (Q2, 2016)

This year I’ve started a new tradition to take a look at the habits I’ve been developing on a quarterly basis. They cover four main areas in my life:

  1. Daily Hustle
  2. Daily Questions
  3. Mindset
  4. Health & Fitness

The data is collected on a daily basis through a variety of different tools. You can check out last quarter’s review here.

Daily Hustle

The Daily Hustle is inspired by the Jerry Seinfeld’s productivity method to work on one key habit on a daily basis. The goal is to keep the habit going by not breaking the chain of X’s on a calendar. It’s the ONE Thing that can help make your day a success and push you towards your goal.

My goal this year has been to spend 15-minutes working on my blog everyday. I use a Hustle Calendar to help me keep track of this keystone habit. Check out where my calendar is current at below and the stats from Q2.

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Success rate: 79% (-5% from Q1)

Posts published: 20 (+4 from Q1)

Observations:

Q2 saw my success rate dip 5% which is not a huge concern. Anything hovering around 80% is a respectable number for me. On the flipside, I did publish 20 posts (marked by the squared dates) compared to 16 in Q1. So from an output level I was techincally more productive this past quarter.

Daily Questions

The Daily Questions are inspired by an activity in Marshall Goldsmith’s book Triggers. It’s an activity that allows me to track my progress on key priorities and objectives. It’s a holistic view on how much effort I put into advancing towards my goals.

Here were the questions I asked this past quarter followed by the key stats and highlights:

  1. Did I do my best to set clear goals today?
  2. Did I do my best to make progress toward my goals today?
  3. Did I do my best to create meaning for myself or others today?
  4. Did I do my best to be happy today?
  5. Did I do my best to build positive relationships today?
  6. Did I do my best to be fully engaged today?
  7. Did I do my best to be physically and emotionally healthy today?
  8. Did I do my best to minimize the number of decisions I made today?
Screen Shot 2016-08-20 at 6.45.15 PM.png
My best month (July)

Monthly Averages:

April – 8.59

May – 8.61

June – 8.70

April’s Highest & Lowest Scores:

Did I do my best to set clear goals today? @ 9.28

Did I do my best to be physically and emotionally healthy today? @ 8.21

May’s Highest & Lowest Scores:

Did I do my best to set clear goals today? @ 9.72

Did I do my best to be happy today? @ 8.14

June’s Highest & Lowest Scores:

Did I do my best to set clear goals today? @ 9.41

Did I do my best to be physically and emotionally healthy today? @8.24

Observations:

There’s no doubt that I’ve hit my stride with the Did I do my best to set clear goals today? question. Using Momentum to help me set my main focus for the day has been a game changer. On the other hand, it’s clear that Did I do my best to be physically and emotionally healthy today? has lagged behind appearing two out of three months as the lowest score. I’ve been consistent with my 7-Minute Workout (as you’ll see below) but my consistency with going to capoeira class has hurt this score. It’s also a slightly ambiguous question as it melds in physical and emotional health together. Both are intertwined but perhaps it may be best to distinguish between the two for future months.

Mindset

The mindset habit I’m developing is spending 10-15 minutes every day meditating. I’m currently using an application called Calm to help me with this.

IMG_0167
My best month (July)

Completion Rate: 87% (+12% from Q1)

Best Month: Tied – April and June @ 90% completion

Longest Streak: 42 days (from March to April)

Observations:

Q2 was a fantastic quarter for meditation. My completion rate jumped by 12% between Q1 and Q2 and I developed a very consistent meditation habit. This was despite a fairly travel heavy quarter for me. I’m proud of the way that I stayed disciplined in keeping my morning routine going. I was also much more consistent with my meditation journal which has become a key addition to my post-meditation routine. Putting down my thoughts from the meditation and assessing my focus has added another layer of awareness.

As I improve my ability to focus through my meditation and find a calm mindset faster, the next step for me is to deepen that focus and learn more about myself through this process. I’m excited about the learnings and challenges that’ll come from the next quarter.

Health & Fitness

Last but not least, the health habit I’m developing is completing a 7-Minute Workout everyday through the Seven app. The rule with the 7-Minute Workout is not to miss more than 2 workouts every month. The workouts are 7 minute high intensity interval trainining (HIIT) style so they get pretty intense.

IMG_0168
My best month (July)

Completion Rate: 92% (-1% from Q1)

Best Month: May @ 94% completion

Observations:

In Q2, I focused mainly on the Push-Up Pusher program which focused on a variety of push-up styles. It was (and still is) a challenging workout for me but I did see improvements specifically with my shoulders and my triceps. It’s one that I’m interested in continuing to work on and improve upon especially because my upper body is weaker than my lower body.

Conclusion

Q2 was a great continuation of the habits I began to develop in Q1. I’m really happy with my results overall and the steady development of habits. I’m also finding a lot of value in doing this review as I get a chance to look at areas of improvement and implement those for Q3 and Q4. It’s crazy how quickly time flies so taking a moment to reflect is really important. More to come next quarter!

Categories
Personal Growth

My Morning Routine

There’s been a lot written in the past few years on the benefits of having a morning routine. I’ve definitely hopped on this bandwagon over this period and experimented with a variety of routines. I’ve tried waking up at 5am, sleeping in until I naturally wakeup, and everything in between. Over the past year or so, I’ve refined my routine to a point where it’s gotten quite comfortable and productive.

While I’m sure the current structure will change over the course of time and through different seasons in my life, knowing that I have a firm foundation in my morning routine is really helpful. I don’t complete all 8 components to my routine every morning. For example, if I have to catch an early morning flight, I may only complete 1 or 2 components and try to make up parts of it throughout the rest of the day. I try to stay away from making it a rigid timesheet and more of a guideline.

Before I share with you the components of the routine, there are a few notable benefits to mention about a morning routine.

1. Minimizes decision-making early in the day

Willpower is a limited resource and making sure you don’t expend too much of it early on the day is crucial to your daily success. With a clearly defined routine to follow in the morning, you minimize the number of decisions to make yet still maintain productivity. No longer are you thinking “what shall I do this morning?” You’ve set a series of helpful activities in the morning that have become a habit. That’s a good thing.

2. Starts the day with quick wins

Have you heard the expression “eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day”? Having a morning ritual to take care of the quick wins at the start of the day can make the rest of the day feel like a win – even if it was a really shitty day. You’ve taken care of some important self-care activities so you can chalk down the rest of the day as a success.

3. Provides an opportunity for self improvement

I really enjoy using the morning for self-improvement activities including reading, meditation, and journaling. Personally, the morning is when my mind is most relaxed and rejuvenated so putting in time for self-improvement work is highly effective.

So without further ado, here’s my morning routine.

1. Make coffee or tea

2. Read

3. Meditate

4. Journal

5. Set a work and personal goal for the day

6. Admin work*

7. Blog/write

8. 7-Minute Workout

*Includes replying to personal emails, buffering social media articles, reviewing personal finances, etc.

Each component of my morning routine takes between 5 to 15 minutes to complete. In order to make sure I keep on track with my routine, I use a Pomodoro timer to alert me after 15 minutes. It’s a helpful way to keep the momentum going.

The process of developing this routine took me about 3 years to complete. It’s important to remember that a routine is a cumulation of habits you’ve built up. So if you’re new to morning routines, I would recommend starting small. Pick one habit you’d like to do every morning and after you feel like you’re in auto-pilot with that habit, add on another one. This way you’ll build confidence in yourself and the joy you find in completing the habit every morning will lead to a virtuous cycle.

Do you have a morning routine or are you working on developing one? Let me know what yours looks like in the comments below!

Categories
Weekly Learnings

Weekly Learnings Roundup (July 03, 2016)

Thanks for checking out the Weekly Learning Roundup. These bite-sized, weekly posts are designed to give you a quick hit of interesting learnings and articles I came across this week.

It’s a motley assortment of tips, resources, and links that will hopefully give you a bit of inspiration for the upcoming week. Enjoy!

What I’m reading —

To Create a Habit, Tell a Good Story by Leo Babauta

Leo nails it on the head with this piece. Starting a habit is easy. It’s the stories that we tell ourselves as we’re developing and maintaining that habit which is harder. Some great, practical advice on telling a better habit story.

TV show I’m enjoying (again) —

Survivor

I know… you might be thinking “Peter, are you stuck in the 2000’s still with your TV show recommendations?” Granted it’s a bit dated, but Survivor (which is now headed into its 33rd season) takes the cake for real, human drama. The show is based on a group of approximately 20 people who are castaway on an island and must rely on and compete with each other to become the sole survivor. Over the course of 39 days, they compete in challenges and form alliances to avoid being voted out. The show is a valuable look into the importance of building social capital, creating meaningful connections, and all the while executing on your strategy at the right time. While the game might seem unapplicable to our daily lives, the emotional challenges are still highly relatable in the real world. Any other Survivor fans out there?

A quote that’s inspiring me —

Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless – like water. Now you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup, you put water into a bottle, it becomes the bottle, you put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.

— Bruce Lee

Productivity tip of the week —

Use your email as a to-do list

If you’re like most people, you likely check our email multiple times a day. So why not use it for more than just sending and replying to messages? I’ve been using my email as a tool to keep track of tasks that I need to complete. Task-specific emails get the subject line “Task: … … …” then I fill in the specific task and email it to myself. When the task is complete, I archive it and it’s complete. If there’s a task that I want to snooze to a later time or date, I use followup.cc to have the task come back to me at a better time. This significantly reduces my energy output from having to switch to another to-do list type tool.

Product or service I’m loving —

MeUndies

Probably some of the most comfortable underwear I’ve ever worn. Period. Use this code (via Tim Ferriss) to get 20% off of your first order.

As always, thanks for checking out this Weekly Learnings Roundup. Be sure to follow me on Twitter – @peternakamura – to see the full list of interesting articles that I share on a daily basis.

Categories
Weekly Learnings

Weekly Learnings Roundup (May 23, 2016)

Thanks for checking out the Weekly Learning Roundup. These bite-sized, weekly posts are designed to give you a quick hit of interesting learnings and articles I came across this week.

This week we’ve got a great assortment of articles ranging from Sheryl Sandberg’s powerful commencement speech to the surprising impact climate change can have on earthquakes and volcanoes. Tim Ferriss’s latest podcast episode is a great one. Unlike his usual episodes where he interviews world-class performers, we get a look into his own personal habits and rituals.

Productivity tip of the week:

Count your decision making “hitpoints”

In recent years, a great deal has been made around willpower. You may have already heard of the term “decision fatigue” where every decision that you make takes away from the limited store of willpower you have available everyday. It’s one of the the reasons why Mark Zuckerberg always wears the same hoodie to work or why pilots use a pre-flight checklist. They have important decisions to make and they don’t want to be using unnecessary willpower deciding what clothes to wear or remember what needs to be checked off pre-flight.

Recently, I came across the concept of imaging your limited willpower as “hitpoints”. By hitpoints, I mean like the ones you would start with as an arcade fighting character. The first character lose all of her hitpoints loses. Imagine you’re like one of these characters. You have a fresh set of 100 hitpoints to start the day and throughout the day you’re going to be facing decisions that will diminish your hitpoints. How would you use them? Where would you focus your hitpoints on?

Imagining your willpower as hitpoints is a really helpful way to focus your limited resources on the important decisions you need to make during the day. With this schema, how would you spend time conserving your hit points? Will you decide on your clothing choice in the morning or the night before? Will you decide how to spend your morning or will you have a routine in place so you’re not deciding what to do? Will you cook a meal the night before or will you choose a place to go for lunch?

There are a lot of areas that you can save your willpower. Yes, it takes a bit of pre-work or practice building your habits, but this can be a game changer. Imagine having your full willpower to face a tough challenge at work or a making a difficult decision? That could make or break your day.

A quote that’s making me think:

Anyone can become angry- that is easy. But to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose, and in the right way- this is not easy. – Aristotle

Favourite links from the week:

These Millennials Have Become The Top Decision Makers At IBM (Fast Company)

How to Optimize Creative Output — Jarvis versus Ferriss (Tim Ferriss)

“You are not born with a fixed amount of resilience”: Sheryl Sandberg’s powerful commencement speech (Quartz)

Global warming won’t just change the weather—it could trigger massive earthquakes and volcanoes (Quartz)

Book review: Grit is a tool in the toolbox, not the silver bullet (SharpBrains)

This scientist can hack your dreams (TED)

Trying to Pin Down the Mosaic of Millennial Tastes (The New York Times)

Audio that I’m enjoying:

Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History

Dan Carlin might be one of the best storytellers I’ve ever listened to. And his Hardcore History has won over thousands of fans both history buffs or novices alike. It’s amazing how he’s able to paint the picture and pull you into his stories whether its the Mongolian conquest of the 12th century or the midst of the 1930s and 40s of World War II. Warning: If you have an addictive personality like I have, you may become obsessed for hours listening to his audio-episodes. Each episode goes for about $2 to $3 USD but they’re well worth it.

As always, thank you to those that liked, re-tweeted, or commented on my Tweets. See you on next week’s round up!

Categories
Weekly Learnings

Weekly Learnings Roundup (May 17, 2016)

Thanks for checking out the Weekly Learning Roundup. These bite-sized, weekly posts are designed to give you a quick hit of interesting learnings and articles I came across this week.

This week, I really appreciated reading through Charles Duhigg’s post on What daily habits can someone adopt to lead a more productive life? via Quora. He doesn’t provide any specific habits that will make you productive, but he does recommend we all develop a “contemplation routine”. From Duhigg’s perspective, having a routine to regularly connect ourselves with the bigger picture – our priorities – is an important habit to develop.

This activity can take many forms whether it’s meditation, journaling, going for a walk, etc. and the intention is to take a moment to contemplate how the work we do that day, week, or month connects to the bigger picture. I think this is great advice and highly valuable. If you haven’t read Duhigg’s first book, The Power of Habit, it’s well worth the read and may help you with the implementation of this type of routine.

Productivity tip of the week:

Weekly Big Rocks

To complement Duhigg’s recommendation for a contemplation routine, something I do every Sunday is setup my Weekly Big Rocks. You may be familiar with this phrase from Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. The idea behind it is simple: set your priorities (your big rocks) first. When you spend time planning out the important tasks for the week, you focus on what’s most important rather than just diving into the minutia. Here’s a quick video of what that looks like.

Every week I look at the major roles I play in my life such as being a team leader at my organization, a friend, a boyfriend, a blogger, etc. and setup 1 or 2 big rocks to accomplish in that role for the week. It helps me look ahead at the week and schedule in the time to make sure I accomplish those goals. While not every week will be one where I have a major priority for every role, having the awareness that I’m skipping a major priority for that role that week helps me loop back at it the following week. I hope to write more about this in a longer post.

A quote that’s inspiring me:

I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times. – Bruce Lee

Product or service I’m loving:

humangear GoToob

When you’re traveling and need a reliable container for your liquids, this is the best container I’ve found yet. The tubes are really easy to fill and the liquids you put in pour out very consistently. I travel with MCT oil when I travel and I put them in these tubes. I’ve never had a spill or leakage thanks to these guys. They’re a bit more expensive than your typical container but well worth it considering they’re BPA free too.

Favourite links from the week:

Employee Engagement

Four Myths Most Bosses Believe About Employee Engagement (Fast Company)

What Enterprise IT Leaders Can Learn From the NBA About Employee Engagement (Samsung)

Health & Well Being

Why The Biggest Loser is Everything Wrong with Weight Loss (Bulletproof)

VIDEO: What really matters at the end of life (TED)

A Bank of England analyst wants people to use mindfulness to be happier with less (Quartz)

What daily habits can someone adopt to lead a more productive life? (Quora)

The Secrets of Gymnastic Strength Training (Tim Ferriss)

Millennials

How millennials earn success with struggle (CNN)

This new ETF demonstrates Wall Street’s unbridled hunger for millennial money (MarketWatch)

What Millennials Want from a New Job (Harvard Business Review)

 

As always, thank you to those that liked, re-tweeted, or commented on my Tweets. See you on next week’s round up!

Categories
Personal Growth

Three Principles for Developing Resilient Habits

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence is therefore not an act but a habit.” – Aristotle

Ever heard of the phrase “it takes 21 days to build a habit”?  The saying comes from the observations of Dr. Maxwell Maltz, a plastic surgeon in the 1950s, who noticed that his patients took about 21 days to get used to seeing their new faces. This was observed even among amputees who felt like they still had a phantom limb until about 21 days.

In this great blog post by James Clear, he explains how we missed a key point in Dr. Maltz’s observations. When Maltz wrote about his experiences, he explained that, “These, and many other commonly observed phenomena tend to show that it requires a minimum of about 21 days for an old mental image to dissolve and a new one to jell.”

Note the minimum of about 21 days. According to further research cited in Clear’s article, the true number of days it takes to establish a habit is between 18 days to 254 days. A much wider range than the 21 days. Depending on the complexity of the new habit and how adept we are at incorporating it into our lives, it could be as short as 3 weeks or up to almost 9 months to establish a new habit.

In order to build habits that hold up even during the busiest times of our lives, the implementation of the habit development must be given proper thought and attention. Here are three principles I have around building resilient habits based on some of the successful habit development that I’ve achieved.

1. Expend minimal energy

The key to making habits stick is to make it as easy as possible to start. If the initial hurdle to start the habit is too high, you’ll be stopped in your tracks before you can even begin. So how do you go about making it easier to start? Here are a few examples from my life.

Every morning I do a 7-Minute workout. The workout is usually a high-intensity workout composed of a variety of 30-second exercises. In my bedroom, I have a yoga mat setup and ready to go. In order to expend minimal energy to get started, I don’t put the mat and towel away after the workout. I just keep it there. So when it’s time every morning for me to workout, I don’t need to pull out the yoga mat and drape a towel over it. It’s there and I can get started. No excuses or added energy to pull out the mat and towel.

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Yoga mat setup and ready to go.

Here’s another example. I’ve recently started to add a dash of pink Himalayan salt into a glass of water to support my adrenals in the morning. Instead of having to remember that I need to do this everyday, I just put out the salt and a glass out on the stove top the night before so I see it first thing in the morning. No need to use my memory or my willpower. It’s there and ready to go. Lowering the bar again for better adoption.

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A glass and pink Himalyan salt setup as I walk into the kitchen.

There are many ways that you can lower the bar for your specific habit. If you’re planning on going to the gym every morning, put your workout clothes out on your dresser the night before. If you want to stop drinking sugary drinks, throw out any that you might have in your fridge and replace them with sparkling water. Make it as easy as possible for you to start your habit. More than likely, once you start the first step of the habit, you’ll will yourself to continue the momentum.

Once the habit is ingrained in your routine you don’t necessarily have to keep the bar lowered. At some point you want the habit to be automatic – which is the whole point with habits! But exercise caution with eliminating the cues too early – it’s too easy for the brain to go back to the laziest route if the habit isn’t ingrained yet.

2. Visualize your daily progress

One of the most important ways to keep yourself motivated to develop your habit is to visualize your progress. Visualizing your progress provides motivation everyday to complete the habit and build momentum. Visualization can be done by printing out a blank calendar of the month and putting an “X” on every day you complete the habit. My favourite tool to visualize my progress is the Hustle Calendar which makes it easy to see the entire year with one look.

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The Hustle Calendar helps me keep track of my daily goal to blog for 15-minutes.

Everyday that I complete my daily habit I get the pleasure of marking a big red “X” on the day. The calendar helps keep me motivated to keep the streak alive and build upon my successful habit. It also draws out some trends I see with my habit. For example, I tend to notice my success rate takes a dip when I’m on the road. This helps me strategize on how I can incorporate my habit even on the road. The more data that you collect on your behaviour, the better you’ll be able to take action to improve upon it.

3. Opt for baby steps

This might be the simplest yet most important advice I have around developing a habit. We often get excited about starting a habit – going to the gym three times a week or meditating for 20 minutes everyday – that we forget to remember it’s a marathon and not a sprint.

The typical scenario is that we show great consistency over the course of the first few weeks of the new habit and then life happens. Something happens at work or family that throws you off your new rhythm. By the time you go back to the habit, it feels a lot harder to get back the momentum and eventually you get down on yourself for not being able to stick to it. It’s something I’ve had to deal with many times and it’s highly discouraging.

Developing good habits isn’t easy and being patient with the process and gentle with yourself is extremely important. Imagine planting a seed. You don’t want to overwhelm the seed initially with too much water. You want to let it grow at its own pace. You also can’t see the progress until the plant has emerged from the soil. Habit development is the same way. Be gentle to start, set a lower bar, make it easier for you to continue to build the habit. The reward will be a more well-established habit that is more resilient when “life happens”.

“Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.” – Vincent Van Gogh

According to Charles Duhigg and his book, The Power of Habit, about 40-45% of our daily decisions aren’t actually decisions they’re habits. Fourty to fourty-five percent! If we don’t take control of our daily habits, we’re essentially letting half of our day run in autopilot rather than consciously doing what’s most beneficial to us. So if you’re working on incorporating a new habit into your life (and ideally just try to work on one at a time) make sure you’re reviewing the three tips:

  1. Expend minimal energy
  2. Visualize your daily progress
  3. Opt for baby steps

There are a ton more things that I would add to building better, more resilient habits but I’ll stop here for now. If you have any other suggestions or ideas to build habits, please post them below. I’d love to hear what your thoughts are and experiences have been.

Categories
Planning & Review

Peter’s Quarterly Review – Q1 2016

Recently, I read a post on Leo Babauta’s Zen Habits blog about Monthly Reviews. At the beginning of every month, Leo asks himself a set of questions to reflect on the month before. I think it’s a great idea which inspired me to start doing a quarterly review (baby steps, right?)

I’ve been spending a lot of time over the past several months quantifying my life. I have a calendar that tracks my daily goals, an app that tracks my meditation, a spreadsheet that tracks my daily behaviour, and so on. Having the data is a great starting point because it’s an objective look at where you stand. As Peter Drucker once famously said, “What gets measured gets managed.” I’m hoping to bring a bit of measurement into my life through this process.

Here’s what I want to review with this first attempt:

Daily Goal

Daily Questions

Mindset

Health & Fitness

So this might be a little messy as it’s my first attempt but let’s try to breakdown how my quarter went. The objective here is to break down my tracking tools and see if I can create a template to use moving forward.

Daily Goal

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Above is my 2016 Hustle Calendar. The days marked as “X” are days that I completed my 2016 goal – spend 15 minutes working on my blog everyday. I’m hoping that a small contribution everyday to my blog will result in big results by the end of 365 days.

My blog is not intended to make money or sell people stuff; it’s simply a platform to share my knowledge and I don’t have any specific monetary goals or anything. The focus is to add value to people’s lives while I learn/research things that matter.

You’ll see most days are marked and some are not. I also put a black box around the days that I published a new post. Days with lines running through them are days that I was traveling. It’s quite helpful to see how I was able to maintain (or not maintain) my habits while on the road.

According to my Hustle Calendar (up to March 31st), I hit 76 out of 91 days of the month meaning a 84% success rate. Pretty good for my first quarter building out this habit. Below are some of the stats.

Total days: 91

Completed days: 76

Incomplete days: 15

Success rate: 84%

Longest streak: 15 days

Days travelled: 15

Success rate while traveling: 47% (7 out of 15)

Posts published: 16

Out of the metrics listed above (and I’m sure I can slice and dice this further) the ones I can benchmark myself on moving forward are Success Rate, Longest Streak, and Posts Published. Basically my goal for next month can be to improve upon my Success Rate, put together a streak longer than 15 days, and publish more than 16 posts.

That said, I’m not too concerned about how many posts I published this quarter. As I build up this habit, I’m more concerned about the success rate and the quality of time that I put in for every 15 minute session. The posts and the quality will rise as I do a better job managing my 15 minutes and refining that process.

I also noticed that traveling put a big dent into my stats. I was only successful 47% of the time while on the road meaning I need to re-evaluate how I complete my morning routine during travels to include the 15 minutes of blogging or try to limit the time I spend on the road.

Daily Questions

I’ve written in the past about the 7 Questions to Ask Yourself Everyday. It’s a powerful tool for habit development and improving self awareness. I’ve been asking myself 7 questions every day over the past 3 months and rating myself on a scale of 1 to 10 for each of the questions. It’s given me some insight into which questions I’m doing well with and which ones I still need to work on. This metric is another great point of reference as I look back on the progress that I’ve made so far.

This quarter’s numbers are a little bit off since I was working on the scoring system a little bit and creating some consistency. But here they are anyways:

January

Monthly average = 8.65/10

Highest average scored question (tied):

Did I do my best to make progress towards my goals today? (8.74/10)

Did I do my best to be fully engaged today? (8.74/10)

Lowest average scored question:

Did I do my best to create meaning for myself or others today? (8.53/10)

February

Monthly average = 7.79/10

Highest average scored question:

Did I do my best to set clear goals today? (8.03/10)

Lowest average scored question:

Did I do my best to be physically and emotionally healthy today? (7.52/10)

March

Monthly average = 8.31/10

Highest average scored question:

Did I do my best to set clear goals today? (9.11/10)

Lowest average scored question:

Did I do my best to create meaning for myself or others today? (8.04/10)

There’s a lot of ways that I can look at this data but the one big thing that stuck out to me that I became a lot better at setting clear goals each day. Both February and March were months where that question scored highest. March was incredible with a 9.11 average!

This is due in large part to the 5 minutes I’ve started spending every morning setting my focus for the day. I use an app called Momentum that gives you space to write down your top focus in a new tab. Every time you open a new tab, the Momentum tab shows you what your main focus is until you complete it and cross it off the main page.

Screen Shot 2016-03-29 at 9.03.51 AM

Sometimes my focus is a little bit abstract like the one above but on other days it’s very specific (e.g. “Spend 15 minutes working on my tax return” or “Go to my capoeira class this evening.”) I also set a separate focus of the day for my job which helps keep things separate. Suffice to say, I’ve really enjoyed this morning goal-setting habit and I plan on keeping it up in Q2.

I also noticed a big dip in the February average but I’m going to chalk that up to a shift in my scoring methodology. In January, I was okay with including decimal points in my score but I changed that to no decimal points so I wouldn’t sit on the fence between an 8 or 9 with an 8.5, for example. That adjustment in scoring is what is partially reflecting the scoring.

Mindset

For me, having a good mindset for the day starts with spending 10 minutes meditating every morning. And I’ve been using an app called Calm to help me with this process. One of the aspects that I love about Calm is how it helps you track and view your meditation over the course of a month.

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As you can see above, it shows you your current streak at the top and the days that you meditated are highlighted by a green circle. It even gives you additional stats below and an option at the bottom to add a meditation session manually in case you didn’t use the app for it.

The data from the entire quarter is a little incomplete as I was meditating without using the Calm app in January but here are the stats:

January

31 days

17 days complete

14 days incomplete

55% success

February

29 days

23 days complete

6 days incomplete

79% success

March

31 days

28 days complete

3 days incomplete

90% success

Going from a 55% success rate in January to a 90% success rate was a huge improvement. I’d be happy to hit a 90% success rate any month so the key will be to maintain my progress so far. I’ve noticed that adding a habit to journal a little bit after my meditation has helped make the experience more fulfilling and exciting to come back to. I have a feeling that contributed to a successful March and continued interest in me to meditate everyday.

Health and fitness

The tool I’m using for this is called the 7 Minute Workout. Hands down, it is the best health app I have used to date. The workouts are great and the motion graphics make it easy to understand the workout technique. It also has a built-in “7 Month Challenge” where you try to do a 7-Minute Workout everyday over 7 months without missing 3 workouts in a month. If you miss 3 workouts, then the streak ends and you have to start over.

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I started my 7-Month Challenge back in October and above is a screenshot after Day #171. There were a couple of close calls but I’ve pushed my way through to over 80% completion. Maintaining this streak to 7 months and beyond is an important goal for me. At the moment, I’m working on my upper body with a workout called “Pushup Pusher”. I’ve been pleased with the progress I’ve made with muscle development so far as I’ve been keeping track by taking a weekly snapshot of my upper body.

Conclusion

As you can see above, my quarterly review really consists of how I’m performing with my daily habits. Small changes can make a big difference over time and that’s what I’m counting on here. I’ve been really pleased with my 84% success rate with my daily goal, a 9.11 score for my goal setting habit, 90% meditation success rate in March, and keeping my 7-Month Challenge streak alive.

What I’d like to do for the next quarter is to continue collecting the data and keep my eyes peeled for trends and areas of improvement. This quarter’s review is a good start but I’d like to refine this process further. I’d also like to include another review section for “Progress with Projects” so I can keep track of progress for projects that live outside the scope of my daily habits. Further to that, it would be good to set clear benchmarks for success rates, muscle/weight gain (for my health goals), and new subscribers to my blog so I have specific measurements to strive towards.

Please feel free to add below your thoughts and perhaps your experience with review processes like this. I’d love to continue to improve this and eventually develop a template for you to run through a quarterly review.