I coach CEOs, executives, HR managers, doctors, lawyers, and tech consultants–all busy people, many of whom can’t stand planning. But you won’t find me brushing up on Japanese business philosophy or fiddling with century-old planning templates in order to help my clients out. I’ve found that daily planning from a weekly action list is all it takes to keep them on track for the long haul.
You’ve heard that goal-setting and planning are kind of like eating an elephant: you gotta do it one bite at a time. But most of us were never taught how to hack up the elephant and slice it down to digestible bites. So we approach our longterm goals a little different:
We spot the elephant, lick our chops, maybe even grab a bib; then we kamikaze attack the 6-ton mound of flesh with nothing but a fork and attempt to gormandize it in one sitting!
The simple habit of defining your top 5-8 daily goals each morning is the key to your greatest achievements and success. So, this site being about all things success, I’m going to teach you exactly how to start a life-changing daily planning habit. It’s the most important thing you’ll read here at Millennial Success.
If you stick with daily planning, you’ll automatically boost your confidence, erase your negative self-talk, and break out of the habits that have kept you in “little-me” mode. That’s my promise to you. Give it a month.
But first, a little introduction about how I transitioned from a couch-surfing millennial to a coach who makes his living teaching others how to plan.
The general anxiety and overwhelm of life used to plague me. I’d focus on improving one aspect of my life, like fitness or relationships; then I’d backslide in my career, or I’d forget to do what made me happy. I felt completely out of control.
But along my self-improvement journey, I picked up one indispensable habit that helped me become organized in my self improvement, and which continues to improve the lives of my clients and readers who adopt it.
Learn how to organize your life with a note-taking habit!
Decisions are the difference between the life you have and the life you want; they’re also the reason why most people are stuck in lives they wouldn’t plan for.
That was my case.
Three years ago I was your average millennial male. I mooched off my parents. I had zero direction, and I was no closer to a career than my 10 year-old, Sponge Bob-watching, Cheeto-fingered self. I knew I needed change. But I always hoped for a change of circumstance—like a new girlfriend.
After burning through so many girlfriends I found myself a quarter of a century old and with absolutely nothing to show for it. I couldn’t ignore the truth: my unhappiness and lack of success was my decision. So I radically altered my decision making process.
Three year later I’m (finally) independent in the career I love. I’m a millennial mentor and writing coach. I’m published on the best websites in the world. And by sticking to 5 key decisions, I’ve shed my failure identity.
If you have a feeling that you’re meant for something more, here are the 5 decisions that will help you achieve more:
1-Control your morning thoughts
Eternally sunny dispositions are the exceptions. For the rest of us, we have to work hard to choose useful thoughts. The most important time to do it is first thing in the morning.
You can regret the shit storm that is your life, or you can be grateful for all the opportunities you have to improve. You can feel oppressed by the things you know you have to do, or you can get stoked to do things that will make you rich and happy.
For every negative thought there is a positive spin waiting for your effort. So treat every morning as a challenge to shape your best thoughts; to weed out the negativity; to prepare for a sensational life. No one else will do it for you.
Don’t get out of bed until you’ve meditated on what you’re grateful for, on the cool shit you get to do, on the people you get to help, on the people who’ve helped you, on the towering goals you’re building towards, on your challenges, and on your accomplishments.
Think useful thoughts.
Think of the great coaches throughout history, like Phil Jackson and Pat Riley with the Bulls and Heat. These guys motivated their team’s championship efforts with kindness and encouragement, not whips and lashes. The best coaches look for and find the best in their players.
You are your own coach. Will you encourage yourself to succeed? Or will you bash yourself into defeat?
I made a habit of bashing myself: for the money I should’ve made, for the independence I hadn’t earned. But the bashing never got me anywhere. I just felt more and more ashamed. And as I saw others rising higher and higher, I felt more and more defeated.
When I made the effort to encourage myself no matter what, I finally found the support I needed to succeed. (It took me 27 years to figure this out. But, better late than never.)
So support yourself.
Do it by heading to the nearest mirror as soon as you spring out of bed. Describe all of the good things you see. Comment on the man or woman you know you can be, the accomplishments you know you’ll achieve, and the encouragement you promise to give yourself along the way.
Then anytime you start thinking negative thoughts during the day, fall back on your morning affirmations. If you don’t have your back, who will?
3-Do real work
Nothing happened in my writing career until I got disciplined with my time. But after a solid year of blocking out my morning for writing—and strictly limiting email and social media for 10 minutes in the afternoon—I built a body of work that my clients pay out the proverbial ass for.
From 8-12, dedicate your mornings to proaction. Ban all incoming information. Direct yourself—otherwise, you risk being directed by people who don’t care about your dreams. No email is going to kick ass for you, and neither will any number of facebook or twitter notifications. So do—real—work.
4-Set daily goals
If you don’t plan out action steps, you’ll be battling against the world to accomplish anything.
Think of it like this: you have a billion different people all over the world vying for your attention over social media, TV, advertisements, and the interwebs. How will you compete with them for the life you want to live?
If you don’t have big-ass, juicy, self-directed goals that get you off your butt, you simply can’t compete.
So set goals for learning. Set goals for work accomplishments. Set goals for relaxing. Set goals for fitness and fun. Set goals for your hobbies. Set goals for anything that will benefit your life as a balanced human being, no matter how big or small.
When you get into the habit of checking off the things you want and need to do, you’ll be living the life of your design. Success is only a matter of time.
5-Journal at the end of every day
Your life is built on your thoughts. If you change your thoughts, you change your life. Journaling is the best way to do it.
Every thought you have influences your behavior, even the ones you don’t know you have. Those niggling subconscious thoughts are the reasons why most people don’t live the lives they want. But when you reflect and write down your thoughts at the end of each day, you make the subconscious conscious. Then you’re in full control of what thoughts you reproduce the next day.
If you can’t accept a certain limiting thought, you’re free to choose a better thought to take its place—but only after you become aware of it.
So, every night, take 15-30 minutes to look back on the thoughts and actions that made your day. Jot them down. You’ll end up seeing all the invisible things that held you back. Making your thoughts concrete will give you confidence in your ability to change them; you’ll automatically come up with solutions for a better tomorrow*.
(That’s been my experience at least. It’s like having a spider in your house: if you see the spider, you’ll squash it. If not…it’ll have thousands of babies that come to feast on your flesh in the middle of the night. Well, maybe not that dramatic. But still bad.)
Your life is the sum of your decisions. So take control of them. Take charge of your day from the start with positive thinking and affirmations. Take ownership of your direction by setting daily goals and sticking with them. Limit your distractions. And reclaim your subconscious by changing your thoughts with a journal.
It’s hard, but who said life was easy? If the no-job, no-hope millennial who lived on his parents couch could do it, so can you.
This article originally appeared on Elite Daily
Entrepreneurship is a lifestyle, and the lifestyle doesn’t magically disappear to accommodate the holidays. You’ve got a business to run and a brand to expand.
But at the same time, you’re human. You need to spend quality time with friends and family, to let loose, to relax. That doesn’t mean you have to halt your hustle though. If you can balance a work day with play — like you should — you can balance a holiday with a little work that will keep your spark alive so that, by the end of the celebrations, you won’t have to kill yourself to regain momentum.
Here’s a winning strategy to keep your hustle alive over the holidays:
1. Set boundaries
A funny thing happens when you gather with the family. You have a tendency of blending in; of going with the flow. That’s sort of the point of holiday gatherings, but your business isn’t part of the family flow. So you’ve got to set boundaries.
Block off “you time” from 8:00 a.m to 10:00, or whichever morning hours you prefer. Use this time for your standard success routines, like exercise, journaling, meditation, etc. Just because it’s a holiday doesn’t mean you have to break your standards. If you keep up with your standards, you’ll have more energy and cheer to share with family and friends.
After self care, use your last hour for creative pursuits. Work on your blog;-draft a pitch; brainstorm new markets, and new spins for your product and services: exercise your higher functions.
Most entrepreneurs have a little evil genius in them, so consider this your lab time. Politely ask your family not to intrude.
2. Assign yourself reading goals
Holidays recharge our spiritual and emotional batteries (…ideally). But if you get out of the habit of learning and applying, learning and applying, the holiday season can drain your entrepreneurial creatitivity. We don’t want that. So keep your idea factory humming with a challenging book — the kind you have to take notes on. I recommend “How to Pitch Anything,” by Oren Klaff. But any book by an expert in your field will do. Designate the hour before bed as reading time.
Also, block out 15 minutes or so for entrepreneurial articles. This boosts your creativity with fresh ideas, keeps you in touch with your motivation, and helps you stay goal oriented. As the holidays wind down you’ll have just as much focus as you did before the festivities.
3. Set up an elite coaching session
If you have the tendency to backslide during the holidays, give yourself an early Christmas gift. Hire a coach. Choose someone who has reached the next couple levels in your field and pay them to work with you on a reasonable plan; one that enables you to enjoy the time with family and friends while keeping your forward momentum.
If coaching isn’t in your budget, set realistic goals that you can achieve in your two hours of “me time” while with family. The main idea is to stay goal-oriented as you enjoy the season with loved ones. If your daily planner normally has 20 objectives, pare it down to 3-5 of your top priorities. Handle the little things you’ve put on the back burner.
About the author:
Dan Dowling is the founder of MillennialSuccess.io, where he shares action steps and inspiration for millennials and their employers. You can find more of his work on Fast Company, Entrepreneur.com, MindBodyGreen, and Fitbit.com.
Article originally appeared on entrepreneur.com
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