Tag Archives: planning

Morning Routines of the Super Successful

I’ve never been a morning person. Or so I thought. Before I got married, my typical weekday schedule was waking up around 7:30 a.m. and dozing off around 11:15 p.m. as I watched Friends. My morning routine consisted of showering, dressing, and grabbing a breakfast Hot Pocket as I dashed out the door (don’t judge). On the weekends, I would go out with friends or binge watch movies until the wee hours of the morning and sleep until 11 or 12 the next day.

When I met my husband ten years ago, my comfortable schedule was interrupted. Rino typically gets up at 4:00 a.m. (that is not a typo). On the weekends, he would wake me up at 8:00 a.m. Before long, I was going to sleep by 10:00 and waking up at 7:00.

About two years ago, I was complaining that I didn’t have enough time to myself each day. Rino suggested I start getting up earlier to have some time in the morning. At the time, we had a newborn baby, and two other children under five. The thought of waking up early was not appealing to me, yet I craved some personal time in the day. I decided to experiment with getting up one hour earlier–at 6:00 a.m. That experiment two years ago has turned into a daily habit that has helped me to jumpstart my day and feel calm and productive.

I’ve been studying successful people for years, and over and over again, the morning routine turned up as a habit of the super successful.

Below are the most common elements in morning routines based on my research of highly successful people. The routines typically last anywhere from one to three hours (for those super early risers up at 4:00 a.m.!) and take place before they even get to the office.

  • Meditation: In his book, Tools of Titans, Tim Ferriss shared that 80% of the highly successful people he interviewed meditate at least once a day. In my research, meditation came up time and time again. Organizations like Aetna, Google, and Apple all offer meditation classes to their employees. Since I pretty much feel a sense of urgency almost every minute of the day, I never thought I would be able to meditate (or at least do it well). I started meditating a year and a half ago, and I have seen an improvement in my focus, patience, and calmness. I meditate most days for 20 minutes in the morning. The bottom line: those who meditate report that they are able to keep calmer and handle the stresses of life better.
  • Prayer or reflection: Taking time in the morning to be grateful, pray, or set an intention for the day is typical for those who are very successful. While this practice was individual to each person, most report that this practice keeps them centered. Personally, I set an intention for my day to go well, and I visualize everything on my schedule, whether a presentation, a workshop, or a meeting, going exactly as I want. I take a pause before each segment of my day and make an intention to be present and connected to the person or people I am with.
  • Planning: successful people are very deliberate about how they spend their time. They don’t rush into the day and let others overtake their schedule. Most successful people report spending some time in the morning planning their day. I recommend taking this a step further and planning your day the night before. This allows you to jump right into your most important priorities instead of wasting time looking at your long task list and feeling overwhelmed (and then procrastinating by going on Facebook, looking at your credit union account, etc.). Pick your top two priorities, and schedule them in your calendar. In the morning, review your priorities list and get into action.
  • Exercise: Many successful people exercise in the morning, reporting that getting it done in the beginning of the day gives them energy and ensures it’s a priority.
  • Check email: you may be surprised that about half of successful people report checking email first thing in the morning (or maybe you are not surprised since it’s the first thing most people do). Most report scanning through their email and not reading or responding to each one. Although most experts advise not checking email in the morning, I find that unrealistic. The point is to not get engrossed in emails and let it derail your day. Be intentional about your time.

Although they have common elements, the routines of highly successful people were not all the same, so the key is to create a routine that resonates with you. While these routines took place for most people in my research before getting to the office, you can set up a routine to start your day at work too. Whether it’s reviewing your priorities list, reading an inspirational quote, or making a cup of tea, taking a few minutes to breathe and center yourself in the morning can help you to be more intentional and mindful as you go through your day.

If you want some further reading on morning routines, below are recommended articles:

The Morning Routines of the Most Successful People

The Morning Routines of 12 Successful Women

I also recommend the book, The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod

I’d love to hear from you. Do you have a morning routine? What practices help you to set your day up for success?

A Framework for Leading Strategically

You’ve probably spent some time over the past few months creating your business plan to map out the actions necessary to achieve the organizational strategic plan. Planning is an important component of achieving organizational goals. You have to know where you want to go in order to make it happen. But many leaders struggle to put their plan into action and actually achieve the results identified in their business plans. So how do you dust off your well-crafted plan and actually put it into action?

Many leaders confuse being busy with being productive. They get so caught up in the day to day activities, and can’t seem to find time to focus on strategic initiatives and make any traction. The cycle continues, and they feel frustrated, overwhelmed, and unsure of how to get their team into action.

In order to achieve exceptional results, you need to create clarity for yourself and your team, and you need a framework for implementation.

One of the main reasons leaders don’t achieve their business plan objectives is a lack of clarity. They come up with the ideas, but fail to translate them into specific actions and delegate them appropriately. They may have created a solid business plan, but they struggle to get their staff to achieve the goals. Often this is because they haven’t taken the time to share the plan with their staff, and neglect to develop a system to ensure the objectives are accomplished throughout the year.

Yet with a simple framework, you can set yourself up to work smarter and more purposeful this year. The beginning of the year is a perfect time to align your team around the business objectives and create success. By following the practices below, you can develop a simple framework in under one hour that will ensure you stay focused on what’s important and lead your team to a successful year.

  • Schedule one strategic meeting a month. In his book, Death by Meeting, Patrick Lencioni suggests a framework for meetings: quarterly off-site, monthly strategic, weekly tactical, and daily check-in. This ensures your team has scheduled time for both strategic and operational discussions, and allows you to assess your progress often. Most leaders focus on tactical meetings and get bogged down in details and issues. A monthly strategic meeting will ensure you and your team are pulling back to see the bigger picture and keeping sight of the overall goals. This meeting is focused on discussing, analyzing, brainstorming and deciding on critical issues that affect long term success. Open your calendar now and schedule one monthly strategy meeting with your team through the end of the year.
  • Communicate the plan. It may sound obvious, but many leaders fail to communicate the business plan for their functional area with their managers or employees. Neglecting this step sends our staff into different directions with little clarity or understanding of what they should really be working on. It’s easy to just keep the status quo and continue to get mediocre results when your team isn’t crystal clear about how they should be spending their time. Start by scheduling a meeting to kick off the year with clarity and excitement as you share the vision, business goals, and projects with your managers and staff. Explain why you are focusing on these goals this year, and how it will benefit them and the organization.
  • Schedule important events and appointments now. Most leaders allow their days to be filled up by meetings, interruptions, emergencies, and distractions, and never seem to find time for the important areas of leadership like coaching employees, attending industry events, and personal development activities. Effective leaders make these important actions a priority, and schedule them in their calendar at the beginning of the year. In order for you to reach your business goals, you need to ensure you are supporting, coaching, and guiding your employees along the way. Don’t push coaching sessions aside because you don’t think you have time. Coaching and developing employees is important for them and important for you. Coaching increases productivity, engagement, and success for employees, which translates into leadership success for you. Schedule recurring sessions in your calendar now for the rest of the year with each of your direct reports before your schedule fills up. Other important events to schedule now include conferences, professional development workshops, and even vacations.
  • Create a delegation list. One of the most important skills of leadership is effective delegation. When you delegate, you free up your time to focus on more strategic projects and issues, and you empower your employee to take ownership of the project or process. You cannot possibly complete everything in your business plan by yourself. In order to achieve your business objectives, you need other people to support your efforts. Start by reviewing your annual business plan and making a list of each project or task you can delegate, who you will delegate it to, and the timeframe for completion. In your next coaching session with each employee, delegate the projects or tasks. Be sure to explain the “Why-What-When”, Why you need it (what strategic goal it ties to and the importance of that goal), What you need (providing any important instructions, parameters, and background information), and by When (the deadline). Establish the appropriate check-in process to ensure you are kept in the loop.

What is easy to do is also easy not to do. While these practices are simple, most leaders don’t take the time to be purposeful and end up managing at a tactical level, not leading at a strategic level. A small amount of effort can lead to much better results. If you want to be an exceptional leader and achieve your business goals this year, you need to operate at a strategic level. Take one hour to implement these four practices, and you will have a system in place to lead you to success.

I’d love to hear from you: What practices do you have in place to ensure your team achieves the business goals? Share your tips in the comments below.

8 Ways to Develop More Discipline

I once heard one of my mentors, Darren Hardy, say that at his core, he is a lazy person. Left to his own devices, he would watch golf and eat ice cream all day. Yet he is one of the most disciplined people on the planet. This guy gets more done in one week than most people do in a year.

Discipline isn’t the absence of temptations. There will always be something more enticing to do than the task at hand. I’d much rather have a leisurely lunch over wine every day than meet a deadline or exercise. Discipline is getting yourself to do something you don’t really feel like doing, so you can get the result you want.

Most people try to unsuccessfully fit important tasks into their already jam-packed day, and then leave the office feeling very little sense of accomplishment. One of the secrets to developing more discipline is to create structures that enable you to be more productive on important areas.

If you want to accomplish your goals and become more successful, here are seven ways to develop more discipline:

  1. Understand your “why”. Whether you have a goal to lose weight, or to finish a project at work, understanding why you want the result will help you muster more energy and enthusiasm when you don’t feel like being disciplined. A few months ago, my husband and I completed a 21-day health detox. Eliminating sweets (my vice) for three weeks felt like torture at first. But I kept reminding myself why I was doing the detox in the first place. I want more energy, I want to fit into my smaller size jeans, and I want to look and feel great. It wasn’t easy, but it got easier as time went on because I was connected to my why.
  1. Plan your day the night before. A little bit of planning can make a huge impact on how your day goes. Have you ever tried to start a diet when you weren’t prepared? If you don’t have the right foods in the house (or the wrong foods out of the house), it makes it much harder to follow through. The same goes for setting up our days. Taking ten minutes each night to plan how you will spend the next day will set up the conditions for getting more done. At the end of each night, I choose my top two important goals for the next day, and schedule focused time for each in my calendar. Not every day is the same, but I use this structure for any time I am not facilitating leadership programs, working with clients, or in meetings.
  1. Schedule focus time. There is one habit I implemented a few years ago that has made a huge impact on my discipline and getting things done: productivity sprints. Productivity sprints are blocks of focused time to work on a project or task. They are a structure of discipline that provides the environment to actually get something done. I am writing this blog during a two hour productivity sprint I scheduled on a Monday morning. I will not take a break, check email, or do anything else until I have completed my two hour productivity sprint. Your productivity sprint can be as little as 15 minutes, but the point is to schedule time without distractions where you can focus and get into the state of flow. And you will feel so accomplished when you complete that important task!
  1. Remove distractions. If you are trying to lose weight, nutritionists recommend removing all junk food from your house so you are not tempted to cheat. Makes sense, right? The same is true for your work environment. You probably struggle with discipline because there are too many distractions begging for your attention like email, your phone, Facebook, or your coworkers. I’m sure on more than one occasion you’ve wasted an hour or more surfing online with no specific intention (I know I have) and then wondered where the day went. Remove all things that tempt you so you can get down to work!
  1. Give yourself constraints. Work tends to fill the time we allot to finish it. If you have a month to finish a report, you probably take a month. if you have a week, you take a week. Deadlines can be a great discipline tool. When I plan my week, I assign deadlines to each of my tasks, even if they don’t involve a deliverable for someone else. For example, I gave myself a deadline of finishing this blog today. It’s not due to anyone but myself, but I create these deadlines to keep myself on track. If I gave myself all week to finish it, I’d probably start it on Friday afternoon. When you have a task or project, assign yourself a specific day that it needs to be completed by that will spur you into action.
  1. Get Started. Most people procrastinate because they don’t “feel” like doing it. Ninety percent of the time, you probably won’t feel like doing what you need to do. People who are more disciplined work through the discomfort even though they would rather be doing something else. And once you get started, most times you will build up some momentum and get on a roll.
  1. Find an accountability partner. Let’s say you have an important project you need to work on but it’s not due for a few weeks. Find someone who can help hold you accountable to getting into action. Set up rewards or punishments that motivate you to get it done. For example, don’t allow yourself to go to lunch with your co-worker unless you finish your report first. Or reward yourself with a half hour break if you complete the project plan you’ve been putting off. I have an accountability partner who I text every morning and night. We each send our top five goals for the day (for me, it’s typically my top two work goals, and then some personal goals like exercising or reading a chapter in a book). At the end of the day, we text each other to report what we have (or have not) done. I often push myself to finish that one last goal because I don’t want my accountability partner to think I’m slacking!
  1. Forgive Yourself. One of the most important things to remember is to forgive yourself for not being perfect. There will be times when you don’t take action like you should, and you need to be able to forgive yourself so you don’t get stuck in negative thinking or beat yourself up. Being human means you will at times fail. Learn from your mistakes and start to notice your own patterns that trip you up so you can get back on track faster.

Left to my own devices, I would eat chocolate ice cream and watch When Harry Met Sally every day (I could never see that movie enough).

Discipline is a pursuit. It’s not something you master and forget about, it’s a daily practice  that takes effort. The rewards are the achievement of your important goals that lead you to success.

I’d love to hear from you. How do you create more discipline in your life to reach your goals? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Working on Vacation

Greetings from North Carolina! I’m enjoying a nice vacation with my family in the beautiful southern state. I love vacations not only for the family time and relaxation, but also because it gives me the reflection and planning time I need for my business.

A few days ago, my husband said that every time he looked over at me, I was on my phone or my iPad. I wasn’t really enjoying my time away because I was too preoccupied. I know many experts say you should completely disconnect when you’re on vacation, but I find that unrealistic. I would feel stressed the entire vacation if I didn’t fit in some work. However, after my husband’s comment, I knew I needed to set some boundaries.

I decided I would only work during the two hours when the kids are (hopefully) napping. The rest of the time I would be completely present with my family and really enjoy our time together. I already have some of these boundaries set up back home, and they’ve worked really well to ensure I’m not overdoing it at work. For example, I don’t work or check emails after 8 p.m. on weekdays, and at all on Sundays.

One practice I will be implementing when I get home is to reserve two work days per month with no appointments or meetings. These two days will be my time for planning and thinking. Rather than overload my schedule, I will make it a priority to have some downtime to generate ideas.

I’d love to hear from you. Do you find it hard to disconnect on vacation? What are some of the things you do to set boundaries?

Naptime is almost over, so I’ve got to go!