Map Your Battle Plan III: Starting the Journey Right
This is the third in a five part series. To read the other articles go here.
The Reset Retreat – Week Two
In mapping your plan to do battle with the year, or any span of time, a few elements must be addressed that are rarely if ever even mentioned. Usually one of the elements is treated as a keystone, holding it all together. This may seem to be the case for some people, and even for you. However, there isn’t a single keystone, they all four are keystones. Each is as important as the other, and if one is missing, it negatively effects the others. If two are missing, your chance of success are next to nil. Three missing, you have no chance of success.
GOALS Obviously you need goals, and they are by far the most talked about aspect of this process. That is in large part why we have talked so little about them.
MINDSET You have to want to change, and to carry through with the effort. The number of people who set goals what are adverse to change is staggeringly high.
HABITS The secret weapon of success. Habits and routines is what makes it all work.
ENVIRONMENT Just as your mind and attitude must be prepared for success, so must you environment and life. You will never change to a healthy died, for example, if your cupboards are full of junk food.
We touched on mindset in the part I. The second week of the Reset Retreat focuses most on Habits and Environment. It’s often here that everything falls, so I take extra care with them.
For the average person they ring in the New Year, make a resolution or two, and go right back to work and their life the next day. Nothing has changed, there’s been no time to change, and it should be no surprise nothing changes and the resolution fails. It’s the goal of lose weight/get fit that sends the masses out to get a new gym membership each year. Gyms count on this – for some it’s the only real profitable time of the year. And they are banking on you showing up rarely, if at all, and continuing to pay for your membership for months. The reason someone needs to lose weight or get fit has nothing to do with if they have a membership to a gym.
During week two I go offline. I have notifications for very few people. All other online activity is cut off. Also during this time I am not working, not even on side hustles. Instead, I spend the time developing the habits to reach my goals and preparing my environment for it. It’s not uncommon for me to re-arrange my office or another room in the house in the process.
The Habit Keystone
Habits and routines are what will make you succeed in your new plan, or fail at it. If you have to consciously think about something and decide to do it every time, you will quickly grow tired of doing it. The way to win is to build a new habit, and put it into a routine.
For many of you, I just said a dirty word. There’s an odd aversion these days to the idea of having a routine. And it’s a particularly strange one for two reasons: 1) there is no successful person out there that doesn’t use routines. None. 2) You already have routines. Seriously, you have a morning routine, and evening routine, a routine to get to work, a routine when you get home. You have several routines already. Don’t believe me? Take a moment – It’s a Tuesday morning. The alarm just went off, you have work today. What do you do next? And after that? You can tick off the entire morning sitting here up until you get to work, can’t you? That’s a routine. It’s just one you’ve never been intentional about, so it doesn’t serve you. Now, ask yourself this – how many people in your life can recite your routine to you? You have a standard pattern to most things you repeatedly do. What’s the route you take home? How long does it take? What’s your process each night when you go to bed? Deciding it’s time and falling into bed is a routine, just a crappy one.
The stories we tell ourselves define the world we think we live in. You have routines, several of them. Sleep in on the weekends? That’s part of your weekend routine. This all goes to mindset. An old dog can only learn new tricks if it wants to learn. Your routine is built on habits. You get in the car to go to work and each day you find your way to Starbucks for your morning coffee on autopilot. That’s a habit in your routine. It’s so built in, you don’t even think about it.
Routines and habits are natural, and you can utilize them purposefully to work for you, to make all that work in week one happen. We already know what we want to accomplish, we even have some habits we already know we need. Now we take a little time to put them into our routines and adjust. We’re going to utilize a process we refer to as the Daily Grind. You may find after a day or two the process isn’t working, this is fine. You have time to work it out. That’s what this week is all about. Take the time to determine the habits and routines, and put them in place without the world demanding all your attention. Toward the end of the week we start to bring the rest of the world back into our lives. We’ll take a look at work (just looking, not starting yet), we’ll get back out into society. And, the very last thing we integrate, we bring back the internet.
Consider, if you always do what the average person does, you will never be more than average. Spend the time you need to plan, and plan to succeed.
Now, utilize the power of habit.
The Daily Grind
The Daily Grind is a somewhat unique method to tackling certain types of goals with little effort. It’s inspired by John Maxwell and his Daily 5, and the core concept is the same. Say you want to cut down a large tree in the back yard. You get your axe, make sure it’s sharpened, and you go out and start chopping away. You probably started out strong, but as the task drags on you start to wear down and falter. Eventually most people give up, “for now”, set the axe down and tell themselves they’ll return and finish later. Later rarely comes, and the axe sits out there, rusting and rotting away, a sign of your failure as the tree continues to grow. This is a great metaphor for many people and their goals. They start out strong, burn out, and then say they’ll come back to it later and sulk in their failure. These are the people that tell you they don’t set goals, because goals don’t work. All evidence to the contrary. Goals work, their approach failed, and was destined to fail before they started.
Instead, consider a different approach. You take up your axe and go out to the tree. With feet braced and your muscles primed you take five chops at the tree. Just five. Then you set the axe down and go about your day. The next day you go out and take five more chops at it. And the third day. And the forth. On the fifth day you may be a bit impatient and feeling a bit spry and want to go ten, even fifteen chops. Don’t, just five. Every day, just five. It will take a while, but if you take five good whacks at the tree every day, it will fall. This is Maxwell’s daily five. Once you figure out your five things, you do them every day. Every day he does five specific tasks (reads, thinks, files, asks questions, and writes). The Daily Grind comes from this premise. It’s really a simple construct, but hugely effective. Take five chops every day, the tree will fall, and you put in only a little effort to do it.
Seems simple, I know. You might even think it’s too simple to work. Consider this, if you’re the average male you’ve already done it. The average person is over-weight. They didn’t get there because they ate one too many slices of pizza last week. They got there slowly, methodically, by eating too much every day and moving too little. Little by little, their tree fell, in this case it’s the expanding waist line. It works, and does so relentlessly. You can be a victim of it, or utilize it and make it your bitch.
The Daily Grind is best used on those goals that take a long time, but little effort once started. For example, setting a goal of “reading one or more books a month”. Simple goal, just requires time. So it goes into the Grind. Every day you will grind away on this task until it is done. Now, you may at this point notice that the goal isn’t a S.M.A.R.T. goal. It has no timeframe, its open ended. It is so by choice. There are many goals that can be put into your Daily Grind that are open ended, and that’s fine. Even welcomed, if the nature of the goal fits it. I’ll explain more in a bit.
Take your goal, and add others to it until you have a block of goals. The urge will be to have five, because that’s the number that Maxwell uses and it’s been in this articles multiple times. Do only as many as you need, no more. If you find you have a list around ten or more, you may need to rethink your goals and move others to the 5/25 or Wheel of Life methods (see Part V of the series). Otherwise you’ll be spending half your day grinding.
Once you have your goals, your grinders, you need to determine when to do them. Sit down with a calendar or day planner and find a time – every day – that works. I strongly recommend the morning. And I strongly recommend you do all your Daily Grind at the same time. Not two items in the morning, one in the afternoon, and two at night. The likelihood your will fail to complete them increases every time you break the grind up. Keep the goals simple and short. When you are going strong with this new process and know it (and yourself) better, then you can move things around.
Let’s use a common goal as an example – “getting fit”. While there can be an end to this goal, it’s really one that should be open ended. Once you get fit, you need to maintain it. You can set this as an open ended goal in your grind, or you can do it as a series of goals with endings. Either is fine, but I can tell you, as a Daily Grind goal, it almost takes care of itself. So we have our Daily Grind goal. We would then sit down and figure out just what needs to be done to achieve it. In this case, exercise. Your first thought is going to be to go to the gym, but it can be done just as easily at home. And the expense to you in time and money is much less of a barrier if done at home. We’d sit down and work out how often to exercise, in this case every day, and that can inform us on what we’ll do while exercising. After all, every day isn’t leg day, and if you are doing this daily, probably don’t want or need to workout for an hour each time. In this case, I recommend 10-20 minutes. Yes, doing the right exercises the right way daily can produce the same results as an hour in the gym three times a week. In fact, if done right, better results. Now you have your grind, we’ll say 15 minutes of exercise every day. Our grind time is the morning, so it’s out of the way and done when you’re ready to dive into your day.
Of course, you’re not going to do the same exercises every day for the rest of your life. We deal with reviewing, adjusting, and changing the Grind in the next article. For now, just get started.
That is the essence of the Daily Grind. I do my own Grind every day. Currently, every day, I make the bed (yes, seriously, it’ part of my grind), read, exercise, meditate, and write. Every day. My grind takes two hours, by choice, every morning. I do have an evening Grind, too, that I do before bed every night.
So, why the morning? Surely I know you like to sleep then. Most people get up every morning, rush to get dressed, fed, and out the door to work. The question I put to you is, why? Why start your day off already stressed? Why set yourself up for failure before you even get out of bed? Because, that’s what everyone else does. But, you are not them. And at some point it will dawn on you that you are the one who decides when you sleep, and when you get up. So, why not get up earlier? Get up an hour or two before you normally would, clear off your Grind first thing, start with an easy win when you have the mental and physical ability to do it. You’ve now done more for yourself and your future than most people will do all week. If you wait until later in the day, after work, the likelihood someone else will lay claim to your time, or that you’ll be too worn down from the day to bother with it. Set yourself up to win, not fail. The power is in your hands.
Once you’ve set your goals and implemented your Daily Grind, do not be afraid to make adjustments. It may take you a while to work it all out, and that’s fine. Move things around and settle it all in until it works for you. From here, with your larger goals and your Daily Grind, you begin the part of the journey that many overlook, the signposts on the journey.