It would be great if we all could just follow through on our better judgements. We would all be healthy, wealthy and happy.
Most people, however, don’t. They say they want to go to the gym after they get out of work, but they end up talking themselves out of it. They say they want to use their time off on the weekend to work on a startup, but they get distracted. Other times, they start out with the intentional to go all of the way but they stop half way. They lose all of their motivation and they’re back to square one…in no time.
Here are two tips that I personally use on a regular basis to stay on track:
1. Use Your Mornings Wisely
Schedule your most important task first thing in the morning, and make it a habit. If it’s going to the gym, then make sure that it’s the first thing you’re going to do. If it’s working on a startup, then allocate an hour or two in the morning and put your ideas together. If it’s a writing project, then write a first rough draft first thing in the morning. Don’t wait on your tasks until the afternoon, your willpower is (naturally) going to be much weaker by then…and you’re more likely to skip on your plans.
Also, the morning is a time where you are cognitively sharpest (for most people). In those hours, your brain can tolerate working on demanding tasks and make good progress. I take great advantage of my mornings. In fact, I start working on my most important task before I have breakfast. I usually spend about an hour or two on one task before I continue my day and eat my breakfast. That’s how it works for me.
Moreover, working on your tasks in the morning will remove the stress of seeing it on your to do list all day. Because the longer you leave it on there, the more likely you are to postpone working on it even more. So choose your first task wisely, and go for the kill.
2. Zoom in, Zoom out
Let’s face it.
You’re not going to follow through on all of your commitments all of the time. And that’s okay. Everyone slips. I slip every once in a while too. In fact, there was a time when I couldn’t make it to the gym as often as I would have liked. And I didn’t feel good about it. But I learned my lesson. And the reason why I used to get off track was this: I was juggling too many things at once. And if, like me, you’re doing too many things, then you need to fix that. You need to re-prioritize.
In order to re-prioritize, you first have zoom out. You need to see the forest. You need to see the bigger picture. I usually ask myself the following questions to get a better sense of where I stand.
- Am I working on tasks that have an immediate reward at the expense of working on my long-term (and more rewarding) goals?
- Am I saying “yes” to tasks that I am not aligned with?
- Am I saying “yes” to these tasks because of peer pressure?
Once you’ve answered these questions, zoom back in and decide where you should (1) de-prioritize, (2) delegate, or (3) completely eliminate certain tasks from your program of action. More often than not, you simply have to say “no”. From there, make a conscious effort to be more selective and refocus yourself on the tasks that will help you reach your long-term goals.
Finally, as cliche as this sounds, you should always think quality over quantity…it will help you stay on track.