How you can make this an exceptional year (Part 2)

More strategies to create outstanding results

photo courtesy of Kat B.

photo courtesy of Kat.B

Continuing with our theme of specific strategies that may help you to create breakthrough results this year, here are the remaining 6.

Strategy #8: Get in shape

Like Strategy #7, this is another no-brainer so I don’t need to go into the details of the health benefits of slimming down and achieving a healthy level of fitness, not to mention the boost to self-esteem of a positive body image.

I’m also no health and nutrition expert, nor am I a medical doctor, so you should consult with experts and look into this yourself.

That said, however, I am a guy who was walking around weighing 240 lbs who, over the course of about a year (give or take), managed to lose those 40 unneeded pounds and get to a much healthier weight.

And with only moderate effort. No diets. No gimmicks. No craziness.

Two HUGE insights helped me to achieve this.

The first was reading Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit, a fascinating look at habits and something called the “habit loop”.

Turns out that every habit, good or bad, is nothing more than a loop or cycle composed of three parts: (1) The Cue (or trigger, as I call it) and (2) The Routine and (3) The Reward (or payoff).

With that insight I understood that I got fat at night. I ate reasonably all day but at night I turned into an unreasonable person.

The trigger was a moment in time: early evening when it was time to sit down with the family for dinner. I enjoyed time with those I loved and then proceeded to quickly and invariably stuff my face, only to conclude the payoff with a veg out session on the sofa while watching TV, usually with a plump dessert on my lap. The payoff was that wonderful feeling of stuffing oneself with delicious food in a family-oriented environment. I guess you could say that every evening was Thanksgiving for me, and not in a good way.

All I had to do was find a way to disrupt that habit loop then install another—healthier— habit loop. The hour of danger became 7:00 pm and the enemy was that darn sofa and TV!

I never actually set out to lose any weight, I only resolved to reduce the amount of time spent on that sofa after 7 pm. Instead of sitting and watching TV, I went for a leisurely walk around the neighborhood while listening to my audiobooks. I love moving and I love listening to books, so it didn’t feel like any sort of punishment. The reward was a feeling of accomplishment knowing I was burning off some of that dinner while stuffing my brain with wonderful information and stories, which is grist for the mill for someone like me.

The second insight came after reading The Four Disciplines of Execution by Chris McChesney and Sean Covey. In that book they argue that to achieve your goal you need to state it clearly, come up with an actionable way of measuring results and then keep a scoreboard for accountability.

I started doing this when I had lost only 10 lbs or so. This seemed to turbo charge the whole process because of the clarity of purpose it gives you. So on the whiteboard in my office I wrote something like: I will go from 230 lbs [today’s date] to 227 lbs by [a date 2 week’s off]. To that end, I tracked just 4 metrics: (1) Weight Today (2) Calories Consumed (3) Calories Expended and (4) Net Caloric Gain/Loss. I tracked those 4 numbers everyday pretty religiously. If one day I ate too much to track accurately, I just put “no data” on my board and plugged the numbers I did know.

Almost immediately, the weight just started melting off.

Like magic.

No mystery here. Understanding how habits can sometimes enslave you is freeing, and keeping a diary of your food consumption is among the best ways to lose weight because when you reach for that plump dessert you know later that day there’ll be a reckoning when you stand in front of your scoreboard to enter your results. Nudging yourself to look in the mirror helps keep you honest.

Now some people tell me I look too skinny, but it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks, you gotta do things for your own reasons. Now I’m using the same techniques to go to the gym and build strength and some muscle.

Try it. It works!

Strategy #9: Start and grow your Happy Monday Fund

No, having a lot of money doesn’t bring happiness, but having too little money often brings misery, fear, anxiety and a murderous level of stress, so do yourself a ginormous favor and save your money for a rainy day.

And as soon as you have that rainy day fund, start investing your money and putting the power of compound interest to work for you, not against you.

I call this Happy Monday Financial Planning. You know why? Because nothing kills your capacity for creativity, generosity and genius like an empty wallet and anemic bank account. And one of the worse ways to live is to stick with a job you don’t love—doing work that doesn’t tap into your unique brand of genius—just because you got huge debt and massive bills to pay, mostly for stuff you don’t need. I call that wage slavery and I’m dumbfounded by how many people are willing to accept and tolerate this in their lives. As long as you persist in this frame of mind you’ll be among the throngs of people that rejoice at week’s end (TGIF!?) but dread and curse Monday mornings.

No way to live I tell you.

There’s a better way.

Dave Ramsey has just about the best system I’ve seen for achieving the financial peace you need to live your best life.

Strategy #10: Read like a boss, lead like a boss

Leaders are Readers and don’t you ever forget it.

Why should anyone follow a person who’s not almost monomaniacally committed to their own growth and development? Or who think they know it all and don’t need to seek out new skills or the knowledge and wisdom of others. In this economy? In these times of revolutionary change and rapid flux?

That’s why you should be reading at least 2 books a month. At least. Ideally you’re reading 1 book per week. That’s a whole lot of exposure to ideas! If you don’t just read but actually work to apply just one big idea from each one of those books, I’m pretty sure you will transform your life and your organization for the better.

“But I don’t have time to read,” people often tell me.

Nonsense.

The average business book in my library has about 300 words per page and each is about 250 pages long. If so, that’s 75,000 words. Ergo, if you’re a somewhat slow reader of about 200 words per minute, you’ll need 6.25 hours to finish a good size book. So, if you spend just 30 minutes a day reading 6,000 words, you’ll go through a book in 12.5 days.

You can find 30 minutes a day to read, can’t you?

If the average American finds the time to watch between 3 and 5 hours per day of TV (depending on which study you cite) plus another 40 minutes surfing Facebook, then you can surely find 30 minutes to devote to reading for succeeding.

Right?

But wait! Let’s assume that you are actually and factually NOT on Facebook or binging on Netflix and that you’re so crazy busy that you have zero discretionary time for leisure. Does this mean you’re off the hook, right?

No!

That’s because you spend time on planes, trains and automobiles getting from one place to the other. And if the average commute to and from work is a total of 60 minutes, and you use that time to listen to audio books, then you can go through 1 book per week, which would be about 52 books in a year, which would be awesome!

So get with the program. Read to lead. There’s really no excuse not to.

Strategy #11: Set clear boundaries in every aspect of your life

Setting boundaries brings peace and order to your world and you should strive to set boundaries wherever it is appropriate to do this.

Some obvious examples are:

Boundaries around your values
I talk about values all the time and I try to share and model them openly so that people understand what is truly important and meaningful to me. There’s no reason for confusion here and it helps people understand what I stand for and what I choose not to tolerate. This replies to people and work. Like I stated earlier, your values are your great non-negotiables, and it’s helpful to set clear boundaries around them.

Relationship boundaries
Relationships are crucial but you don’t have to tolerate exposure to destructive, negative, or fearful individuals who seek to project their negative feelings or fears upon you.

Set a boundary, tell them honestly and humbly (1) How you feel (2) What you need from them and (3) what the consequences are if they can’t respect your needs. The final step, and probably the hardest, is to stick to your guns. Let people know you mean serious business and seek to surround yourself with people who support and challenge you in productive ways.

Work Boundaries
Set clear boundaries around your time and projects. Don’t let your time be consumed with putting out fires. Work to get ahead of problems and spend your time proactively instead. Create blocks of time on your calendar so that you know what you should be working on at any particular time of the day. This creates structure, rhythm and focus.

For example, I set a certain time of the day every day to work on this blog proactively, otherwise it would become another fire to manage when the day to post approaches and I’m not ready with fresh content.

Another example is my commitment to get to the gym at 5:30 each morning, this requires the setting of a boundary to get ready for bed at around 9:30 pm each night.

Setting boundaries is simply about taking back control and not being taken for a ride. Saying “NO” is a perfectly good option, though it may not be a word we use with ease or comfort. But look, you say NO to one thing so you can say YES to something else—something that really matters to you. In this way, boundaries aren’t limiting, they free you!

Check out Dr. Henry Cloud, he has some excellent resources to help you set boundaries in your personal and professional life. His books Boundaries, Boundaries for Leaders and Necessary Endings are must reads.

Strategy #12: Provoke healthy debate and conflict in your teams

Do you know how to provoke healthy conflict at work? Do you know how to attack ideas but not people? Do you know how to communicate difficult things with empathy? Do you know how to confront a boss or co-worker in an assertive but unthreatening manner?

If you struggle with these issues, the Crucial Conversations framework will help you acquire these valuable skills. Just in time too, because the last thing we need is more groupthink, pussyfooting, disingenuousness, or ignoring the elephant in the room.

But when I work on, or with, teams I find that they tend to migrate to two extremes, if not managed correctly: (1) team members stay quiet, nodding in approval without challenging any of the ideas presented—they exit the meeting with little intention or incentive to honor any commitments or (2) they enter into outright feuding, blaming, and largely absolving themselves of responsibility while making precious few distinctions about the difference between attacking ideas and attacking people.

We can do better.

Encouraging and provoking healthy conflict and contrasting points of view helps us be more effective.

And it can be done with empathy and humility by heeding Stephen R. Covey’s timeless 5th Habit: “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”

Strategy #13: Stop spending time on insignificant things

Rory’s absolutely right. A “self-discipline” strategist, he teaches his clients to look at all the time pressures in their lives and eliminate, automate and delegate tasks as appropriate in order to multiply the impact of their time.

  • Watching TV — Eliminate
  • Paying bills — Automate
  • Necessary household chores or
    administrative tasks — Delegate

It’s a simple approach that helps you to stay focused on living your best life, not washing and ironing your clothes.

I truly believe that if you gave yourself the “permission”, as Rory calls it, to apply this methodology you would multiply your time, skyrocket your productivity, stop being “busy” and focus on things that will help you achieve what you truly want, today and in the near and distant future.

That’s a win-win. Your present and future self will thank you.


So there you have it, 13 strategies I intend to work on in 2016 because I believe they are extremely powerful and effective. I hope you’ll work on them too. Apply any single strategy and you will see improvement. Apply a couple of them and you may be shocked at the results you’re able to produce.

Here’s to you and a year of exceptional productivity and happiness.