Deep Work: Why you need it and how to get more of it (Part III)

Disclaimer: If you buy this book using this linked image, I get a small kickback. 

So far we’ve talked about what deep work is and rule #1 on how to get more of it. If you’re not familiar with deep work, why you need it, and what rule #1 is to get more deep work, you’ll want to read those posts first and then come back to this post.

With this post, I will wrap up how you can get more deep work in your life.

So, without further ado…

Rule #2: Embrace boredom

Our new mantra is: Be bored to concentrate better.

To go along with this idea, here’s a little quote from Clifford Nass, a Stanford Communications prof:

People who multitask all the time can’t filter out irrelevancy. They can’t manage a working memory. They’re chronically distracted. They initiate much larger parts of their brain that are irrelevant to the task at hand…they’re pretty much mental wrecks. – Clifford Nass

What does multitasking have to do with being bored? Well, if you fill every moment of boredom with your smart phone and “multitask”, then you have likely rewired your brain to be a “mental wreck”. Even if you practice deep work in your day-to-day, if you still whip out your phone any time you’re bored, you’re reinforcing your brain to act like a mental wreck.

So, knock it off. Be bored instead.

Here are some exercises to practice that concentration muscle.

Take breaks from focus

Instead of taking breaks from distraction, take breaks from focus. Schedule a break from concentration to give into distraction. To do this:

  1. Schedule your phone and Internet time in advance.
  2. Keep a notepad by your computer at work and note the next time you’ll use the Internet.
  3. Avoid it all together outside of that scheduled time.

If you have an office job that requires you to be connected all the time to email and chat, and you need to check in every 15 minutes. That’s fine. Schedule it. Keep track of it. And, don’t deviate from the plan. You’re still training your brain to concentrate and that’s what matters.

Keep your Internet-free times truly free of the Internet. If you’re working on a task that requires more Internet time, wait if you can. Do another offline activity until your next Internet window comes along.

If that won’t work and you have to do the task NOW, then reschedule your Internet time so that your block begins sooner, but you have to have at least a 5 minute gap until you can go online again. Otherwise, you’re reinforcing that bad behavior you’re trying to break.

This scheduling of Internet time is not only for when you’re at work. Do it when you’re at home, too.

Also, you can schedule large blocks of Internet time, so don’t feel that you can’t binge on Netflix anymore. You can. But you have to schedule it and you have to stick to the schedule.

Work like Teddy Roosevelt

Teddy Roosevelt would use concentrated bursts of studying to reduce the overall amount of time it took. Do what Newport calls the “Roosevelt Dash”:

  1. Estimate how long it will take you to do a high-priority, deep work task under normal conditions.
  2. Reduce the amount of time you’re allowed to get the work done dramatically.
  3. Announce the revised deadline publically or set a timer you can’t watch and get to work.

Since this requires a lot of concentration and you are likely new to deep work, only do this once week at first. After you get used to it, increase the frequency.

Meditate productively

When you’re doing a mindless physical task like walking, driving, or showering, use it to do practice deep work.

  1. Concentrate on a well-defined problem and review the relevant variables to solve the problem.
  2. Your mind will wander. Bring it back to the problem at hand.
  3. When your brain begins to “loop” (repeats what you already know) say to yourself, “I seem to be in a loop” and redirect your concentration back to the problem.
  4. When you solve the problem, review the answer and start on the next problem.

Newport says to try this 2-3 times a week to strengthen your concentration muscles.

Expect to see results from this activity after about 12 times (3 weeks) of doing this.

Memorize a deck of cards

Doing this task requires attentional control. It is a memory training task, but that leads to an improvement in your ability to concentrate. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Cement an image of you walking through 5 rooms in your home.
  2. Fix in your mind a collection of 10 things in each room. The larger the better because they’re easier to remember.
  3. Establish the order you look at each of these items in the room.
  4. Add 2 more items in another room or a place like your backyard to get to 52.
  5. Practice mentally walking through each of the rooms and looking at the 10 items in each room in their correct order.

Then, with a deck of cards:

  1. Associate a memorable person or thing with each of the 52 cards. For example, imagine Jim Carrey for the Ace of spades because he played the character Ace Ventura.
  2. Practice these associations until you can randomly pull a card from the deck and immediately recall the associated person or thing.

Combine the two:

  1. Begin your walkthrough of your house. For each item, look at the next card in the shuffled deck and imagine the corresponding memorable person or thing doing something memorable near that item.
  2. Once you finish a room, walk through it in your mind a few times in a row to lock in the imagery.
  3. Go carefully through the rooms, associating the proper mental images with objects in the proper order.

Voila! You memorized a deck of cards and your concentration is increasing by the second!

Rule #3: Quit social media

Eek! Do what now?!

Don’t worry, you can do a trial run of this. You don’t have to quit until you’re ready. And, if you’re never ready, that’s ok, too. Here’s the spiel…

We all know that these services are made to be addictive and are meant to take as much as your focus as possible. They’re made so that you keep scrolling.

We also know that we often spend more time than we had intended on them. For example, it’s a common scenario that I open my phone to add an item to my grocery list, get distracted by the red badge notification that we know and love, and my list item is completely forgotten while I “check Facebook real quick”. 15 minutes later, there’s no item on my grocery list, but I’ve learned that so-and-so had a nice looking lunch and smiled at a pic of a cute puppy. …WTF am I doing?

Deep work is a hell of a lot harder with social media. Hell, focus of any kind is a lot harder with social media. So get real clear on what you get from social media. What benefits do you get from social media? Why do you use it? What might you miss out on if you don’t use it?

The craftsman approach to tool selection

Look at the core factors that determine your success and happiness. Use a tool only if its positive impacts on those factors substantially outweigh its negative impacts.

Apply the law of the vital few

  1. Define your high-level goals in your work and in personal life.
  2. List the 2-3 most important activities you need to reach those goals. Be specific enough that you can clearly picture doing them, but general enough to not be tied to a one-time outcome.
  3. Look at your social media tools. Ask if each tool has a substantially positive impact, negative impact, or little impact on the activities you listed for your goals.
  4. Only use the tool if it has substantial positive impacts that outweigh the negative.

Try this: 30 day ban

For 30 days, ban yourself from social media. All of them. Rules:

  1. Don’t deactivate your accounts.
  2. Don’t announce you’re leaving.
  3. Stop using them cold turkey.

When your 30 days are up, ask:

  1. Would my 30 days have been notably better if I had used them?
  2. Did people care I wasn’t using them?

If your answer is no to those questions, then quit the service permanently. If your answer is yes, then schedule that social media time and and stick to that schedule.

Don’t use the Internet to entertain yourself

I, for one, love the Buzzfeed articles that show me how to cheaply decorate my home. Do I ever do anything with that information? Nope. I fantasize about doing all these cute DIYs, but I never do them. Never write them down as goals. Never make action plans with them. Just fantasize about doing them.

There are many of these entertainment services that pose themselves as light “news” or helpful information, but with their snappy headlines, big promises, and easily consumable content, they are just another focus-sucking machine. Huffington Post, Buzzfeed, TMZ, Business Insider, Reddit, and I’ll add, Netflix…all time sucks. They are a crutch to eliminate boredom and they kill your ability to do deep work.

But how do I relax?

When I read this in Deep Work, it was a real eye-opener. I had realized it on some level, but it never fully registered until now…

Did you know that your brain can handle continuous hard activity? It doesn’t get tired like the rest of your body. It was made to think and analyze. Your brain still needs rest, and it gets it when you sleep, but other than that, your brain is like, “Let’s do this!”. All. The. Time.

The mental faculties are capable of continuous hard activity; they do not tire like an arm or leg. All they want is change – not rest, except in sleep. – Arnold Bennett

If you give your mind something meaningful to do throughout all your waking hours, you’ll end the day more fulfilled, and begin the next one more relaxed, than if you instead allow your mind to bathe for hours in semi-conscious and unstructured Web surfing. – Cal Newport

Experience what it means to live, and not just exist. – Cal Newport

Bottom line, our “Netflix and chill” need after a long hard day is really just a ruse. If we didn’t veg out on the interwebs, we may actually be more rested for tomorrow.

Say what?? I know, right? Doesn’t seem right at first, until you do it and begin to see the difference.

(Also, this doesn’t mean you have to give those things up, but you should plan them and schedule them and then stick to the schedule.)

Rule #4: Drain the shallows

This rule is all about minimizing and controlling your shallow work. You can’t eliminate it completely because not all of your work can be deep. And, shallow work is only problematic when it crowds out your deep work. So what to do with shallow work?

Schedule every minute of your day

We’re horrible at knowing where our time goes. We underestimate how much sleep we get and overestimate how much we think we work. So, bottom line is that you really don’t know where your time is spent until you track your time.

Track every minute:

  1. Divide the hours of your workday into blocks of at least 30 minutes per block.
  2. Assign activities to those blocks.
  3. Batch similar tasks to more generic task blocks. He suggests drawing a line from a generic task block to a list of individual tasks to be done during that block.
  4. Schedule every minute of your day.
  5. Use the schedule to guide you.


  • As new, unplanned tasks crop up, reschedule your day.
  • Use “conditional” blocks to allow for tasks that you’re not sure how long they will last. Basically, mark the block for two tasks knowing that if you finish the first task early, you will work on the next task for that block. And, if you don’t finish early, you’ll keep working on that first task instead.

Quantify the depth of every activity

If you don’t know if a task you’re about to do is shallow work, ask yourself:

  • How long would it take (in months) for me to train a smart, recent graduate with no specialized training in my field to do this task?
    • If it’s many months, then it’s a deep work task.
    • If it’s not long at all, then you’re looking at shallow work.

And, as always, try to spend more time on deep work.

Ask your boss for a shallow work budget

If you ask your boss how much time they want you to spend on shallow work, you then also have permission to timebox yourself from doing more shallow work than allotted. This is also a good time to have a discussion with your boss about how responsive and connected you need to be to IM and email, if you haven’t already.

Cal notes that about 30-50% of your time is the typical budget for shallow work.

Finish your work by 5:30pm

This is a case of timeboxing, essentially. With the 5:30pm deadline, you not only get a better work-life balance, but you also have the push to finish your work in that timeframe. It’s kind of like a daily “Roosevelt Dash” motivator. It helps you turn down shallow work.

Shallow work seems harmless in isolation, but when you have less time to get your real work done, it really becomes clear how low-priority it is compared to your deep work.

Become hard to reach

Here are 3 tips from Cal to make yourself hard to reach:

Tip 1: Make people that send you email do more work.

Ask them to filter themselves before emailing you. “If you need XYZ, contact PQR.”

Set the expectation that you won’t respond unless <insert reason>.

Tip 2: Do more work when you send emails.

Ask yourself, “What project is represented by this email?” and, “What is the most efficient process (in terms of emails generated) for bringing this project to a successful conclusion?” before you write the email. It will help you put in more information than you may have originally, cutting down on the number of emails you end up sending overall.

Tip 3: Don’t respond if any of the following applies:

  • It’s ambiguous or makes it hard for you to generate a reasonable response.
  • It’s not a question or a proposal that interests you.
  • Nothing really good will happen if you respond and nothing really bad will happen if you don’t.

Develop the habit of letting small bad things happen. If you don’t, you’ll never find time for the life-changing big things. – Tim Ferriss

The End

That concludes everything that I learned from Deep Work. I hope my notes help you out in some way. If they have, let me know in the comments. It’ll keep my momentum going to know that somebody is getting something out of this weird propulsion I have to write all this stuff down in a blog.

Also, share it with your friends, if they will find it useful.

In my next post on Deep Work, I’ll show you how I’m implementing these practices in my own life and how I track it all in my bullet journal.

Thanks for sticking with me to the end. Now go do some deep work.

Accountability systems: A few fresh ideas

You got this

Photo by sydney Rae on Unsplash

This is the last post in a 5-part series on goal setting just in time for the new year.

So far we’ve talked about your goal-setting personality, how to find goals to cover all aspects of your life, and how to reverse engineer those goals so that you know what it takes to get them done. Today, we talk about some accountability systems that you can use to keep you on track with your goals and hopefully some of them are new to you.

1 – Hire accountability

Since I’ve left college I’ve tried to have accountability partners in my workout escapades and it hasn’t worked out. Not once.

I’m not saying it won’t work for you, but it just hasn’t worked for me. Reasons? Nobody wants to workout when I do (at the crack of freaking dawn for some damn reason?), I can’t keep up with them and feel like an out-of-shape lardy around them, or we don’t want to do the same workouts.

I’ve tried using my hubs for this and that doesn’t work either because I just get mad at him for pointing out that I missed my workout. (I am THE BEST spouse ever, BTW.)

According to Gretchen Rubin, in her book The Four Tendencies, she says that having a family member be your accountability partner often doesn’t work because you don’t see them as “external”. You see them as a part of you. Which is probably why I got mad at hubs for calling me on my shit. I knew I missed a workout and I didn’t need my “other self” pointing it out. (Like I said. BEST spouse EVER.)

And, even when I do find an accountability partner, as soon as they quit working out, I’m done. I might hang in there and give the ole college try for a few more workouts, but without somebody expecting me to do my stuff, it doesn’t happen. Cough. Obliger. Cough.

So, if you want a solid accountability partner and you haven’t had much luck finding one, I suggest hiring somebody to do it.

Craigslist: I read Onward The Absolute No B.S. Raw Ridiculous Sour-Stirring Truth About Training for Your First Marathon by Brook Kreder a 5 years ago and in there she talks about how when she was training, she put an ad out on Craigslist for somebody to be her trail aid: somebody to have water for her at various stops and take care of her on these long runs. She was amazed at how easy it was to find somebody to do this job for her and how cheap it was. (You can checkout my super short review of that book on Goodreads.)

So, you could go on Craigslist and hire an accountability partner. Just lay out what you expect from them and how much you’ll pay. Probably run a background check on them before you hire them, just in case.

Go Pro: Craigslist creep you out? Another option: Hire a personal trainer or accountability coach. This is not necessarily a cheap investment, so make sure they know that you need them to check in on you. Get a plan in place. Don’t assume that by hiring them they will automatically keep you in check. If this seems like something you’re interested in, you might like I haven’t tried it yet, but seems like a viable place to start.

2 – Find a group

A group of people to hold you accountable is far more likely to succeed than a single person – no single-point of failure! If a group doesn’t already exist that meets your needs, create one.

I have done this in my past and it has worked well for me and most other members of the group. Unfortunately, I had set the group up in such a way that it was more overhead for me than what I had bargained for and I grew tired. But, now I’ve discovered an easier way to do it:

Create a Facebook group: You’re already on Facebook, so why not use it for something useful rather than just scrolling through your feed? You can create a private group in Facebook where you and your remote pals get together for the sole purpose of keeping each other on track. No more annoying all your friends with your workout posts. Do it in your group and be guilt free.

Here are the instructions on how to do it.

Put some ground rules down though. If your friends join the group, make sure they know that they are supposed to comment on at least n updates a day (where n depends on the size of your group and how active you want it to be). Don’t let folks hide in the shadows. Help them be active members and help move themselves and everybody else forward. Afterall, how will your accountability group work if you’re the only one cheering folks on?

Join my Facebook group: If you prefer to just join a group, you can join my group. We don’t need to be Facebook friends, but you do need to be a subscriber of this blog to get in. You can also join at any time. Just go the the group page and request to join.

Incidentally, when I created that group this morning, I also created a Facebook page for this blog, so be sure to check that out if you’re interested.

Disclaimer: I just set this group up this morning, so don’t be shocked if it’s just you and I in there for now. O_o

Check Meetup: Check for local meetups about a goal you’re working on. For example, if your goal is to write more, check to see if there is a writing meetup in your area. These are free to join.

Join Better: If you dig Gretchen Rubin and buy into the idea of her four tendencies (we talked about these here), be sure to check out her new app Better.

In Better there are many groups for you to join for your particular tendency so that you can have the most success. I’ve been using it for about a week now and it seems to be a truly supportive group. Keep in mind that you get what you put into it. If you join and just lurk, you’re not going to be impressed. So, if you go this route, be an active member. Post comments and suggestions and check in with your groups that you join. Own it.

You can also create a private group on Better. I haven’t done this yet, but I know it’s an option.

3 – Use a habit tracker

Homemade habit tracker: I’m a bullet journaler and am very familiar with the idea of a habit tracker in a notebook. Here are a bunch of images of this.

I’ve used habit trackers in my bujo before and they can be effective as long as you check in everyday. It can be very satisfying to check those boxes or fill them in. However, if you only access that tracker on weekdays or just weekends, that habit tracker may not be so effective. So, if you decide to go this route, be sure to keep it handy.

You can also use a wall calendar for this and use Seinfeld’s streak method. Not only is this a very visual way to see where you’re showing up, but if you hang it in a spot you see every day, you can’t avoid it. #winning

Use a habit tracker app: There are many habit tracker apps and some apps have habit trackers built into them. For example, if you use Headspace or Calm for meditation, they have a “streak” measurement built in for you so that you can see those days tick up or that calendar get marked each time you meditate.

But, there are also apps for tracking any habit you’re working on. Lifehacker has pulled together a nice list of options.

4 – Play a game

Try Mindbloom: Mindbloom is an online app that kind of works like those Giga Pets from about 2 decades ago. But instead of having a “pet” die when you didn’t press buttons on the keyfob, in Mindbloom you do the thing you said you were going to do and your plant flourishes. You don’t, your plant gets sad and dies.

If you’re an Obliger and are motivated by other things depending on you to complete your habits, this may be a fun way to do it.

Join Nerd Fitness: Nerd Fitness is an online game geared towards nerds that want to get fit. It’s quite brilliant: you workout, level up, and progress through the fitness adventure. Check it out if you resonate with that crowd. It costs money, but once you sign up, you’re in for life.

It looks like they have a newer program now called Rising Heroes in addition to the standard Nerd Fitness that looks interesting.

Try Fitocracy: Fitocracy is another free gaming system you can use to help you stay consistent. You earn points, level up, get badges, do challenges, and go on quests when you workout. There’s an online community and groups you can join to stay accountable. I am a Fitocrat so we can connect up if you want (my Fitocrat name is PattyM, just send me a message to let me know you found me via my blog so I know who you are). If you join up, use my promo code and get $20 towards their coaching program. (Full disclosure, I also get $20 towards coaching when you use my link).


Those are my favorite ways to stay accountable right now. Let me know in the comments if you have other ways. I’m always looking for more tools to add to my toolbelt.

This sums up the goal setting series. You can catch earlier posts on my new Recent posts page that you’ll find in the left nav or you can use this handy list right here:

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Reverse engineering goals to make them actionable. For real.


Photo by Elliott Stallion on Unsplash

Hey, Curiosity Club! We’re talking goals again in this post to gear up for 2018.

For those of you that are REALLY not into this goal stuff, hang in there! One more post to go and then I’ll cover other topics.

For those of you thinking I’m going to talk about SMART goals…Ha! You’re wrong! That is too elementary for this crowd, my dear Watson.

This is the 4th post in a series of 5 about goals for 2018. So far we’ve covered your goal-setting personality and a method for picking your goals. Up on deck for today, we are reverse engineering your goals so that you can crush them in 2018. And I mean CRUSH. So let’s get started!

Reverse engineering…ooh, fun!

Now that you have your goals picked out, you need to figure out what it’s going to take to get them done. I’m going to show you a way to find a path to success, regardless of the size of the goal you have, so stick with me.

Step 1: Mindmap

I don’t know about you, but when I’m planning anything, if I sit down and try to write down all the steps necessary I always miss something. But this helps catch it all: the one and only mindmap, baby!

I don’t know why this tool is so magical, but it is. It helps me see the relationships between things better and whenever I have to start a big project and am feeling overwhelmed, this is where I turn. Every. Time.

  1. Grab a blank piece of paper (you’ll need one for each goal).
    P.S. You can do this electronically if you want, but I find paper and pen is the fastest and most effective way for me to do this.
  2. In the center of the page, put the goal.
  3. Now, draw bubbles off the center goal for all the major pieces of that goal. For example, if your goal is to be able to do a pullup by the end of the year (or 20 because you’re badass), what are the major things that need to be done to make that happen?
    • Do you need a gym membership or do you have a home gym you can do this with?
    • Do you need a trainer?
    • Do you know what exercises you need to do to build up the strength you need to do a pullup?
    • Do you need some workout clothes?
    • Do you need a workout partner?
    • Got the tunes you need to power through picked out?
  4. Go until your brain is numb and nothing more will come out. Seriously.

Step 2: Build a timeline


Photo by Jazmin Quaynor on Unsplash

This is where I usually fall down with my goals. I never put my tasks on a timeline and then I quit because I’m overwhelmed or I forget to write down what needs to be done to reach my goals and it all goes to shit. So don’t skip this step because it’s where the magic happens. (LOTS of magic in this post today I see.) 😀

What we’re shooting for with this is to not have EVERY little task of what needs to happen to be mapped out, but we want a timeline to shoot for so that we can honestly say whether we’re off the rails or not.  Right now, you’ve got a mind map of things you need to do for each goal. We need to figure out when those things need to be done so that you can plan accordingly.

Here we go…

  1. Take another piece of paper and put the numbers 1-12 on it. Or, if you want to write words, write each month of the year on there.
  2. Look at your bubbles and find the things that need to be done first. Put those items under the “1” or “January” section of your page.
    • Sticking with that pullup list, you probably need to figure out the gym situation and the exercises first because without those, you ain’t doing squat. (Ha! See what I did there? So clevah!) So put those items in the January spot.
  3. What has to be done next and when does it need to be done? Put it on the calendar.
    • Let’s say you want to find a workout partner by the end of February.
    • Workout clothes, well those can come in your birthday month and can serve as a reward if you stick with this for a couple months, so let’s plot that in March.
    • Get a trainer…let’s throw that in May, so that they can teach you new tricks after you get the basics down.
  4. Now that you have your bubbles on there, let’s add the milestones to work toward.
    • Maybe you need to be able to carry 80-lb weights in a farmer walk by March so that your hand strength is up to snuff.
    • Maybe you need to be able to lift half your body weight in an assisted pullup by June.
    • And of course, you need to put the deadline of the pullup (or 20) at the end of the year on there.
  5. Do a gut check.
    • How’s that looking? Still feeling doable? If so, great! If not, rework either the goal or the milestones until it’s doable.
    • Did you get all the milestones you can think of on there? Add as many as possible because not only do they give you a goal to work toward, but they also let you know when you’re falling behind plan or if you’re ahead of schedule. Boom!

Step 3: Figure out your check-in cadence

Depending on your goal-setting personality and the goal itself, how often you do a review of your progress or a “checkin” will vary. If you are an Obliger and need a lot of accountability, you may want to do these reviews daily. If you’re an Upholder, maybe once a month is enough for you. It depends on what sounds reasonable and not suffocating to you. Suggestions to consider:

  • Daily
  • Weekly
  • Bi-weekly
  • Monthly

I wouldn’t go longer than a month without checking progress against my goal. I think anything longer than a month would make that goal just to easy to forget about. However, I’m not your boss, so do whatever you think would be best.

Step 4: Create your check-in checklist


Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash

Think about your checkin or self review. What is that going to consist of?

  • I’m guessing that whether or not you’re on track is a question you’ll want to ask.
  • Maybe you’ll want to note if you’re getting all your workouts in (to continue with this pullup example) or if you missed some.
  • If you missed some, ask why and what you’re going to do about it to prevent it in the future.

You need to be really honest with yourself in these checkins. You need to know where you are showing up for your goals and where you’re not.

Make a list of all the questions you need to ask yourself and be ready to make copies of it. You will no doubt forget a key question in your checkin, so write it down. You can’t keep all this stuff in your head!

Your checklist might change throughout the year as you find more things to measure and account for and that is perfectly fine, but have it written down.

Step 5: Plan your days

You know what you want and what it will take to get there. Now you need to get there. This is where planning your days comes into play.

You can do this a multitude of ways, but here are a couple of the most effective options I’ve come across. You can do either or both of these depending on your personality, or you can figure out another way to do it.

Most-Important Tasks

Each day write down the 3 things you need to do to move closer to your goals. At the end of each day, see if you were able to do those 3 things. If you were, sweet. What’s next for tomorrow? If not, what happened and how can you get them done tomorrow?

Note: This is NOT a standard to-do list. No “do the laundry” allowed here. No work tasks either unless your goal involves your work.

This is all about what you need to do to move YOUR agenda forward. The other stuff will get done like it always does. But these 3 things are ONLY goal related.

The beauty of this is that it will get you into the minutia of what it takes to move the peg on your goals.

Should you have all your tasks planned out?

In my opinion, it’s ok if you don’t have these tasks all lined up right now because creating this daily list will make you figure those tasks out. Things shift as you get into the real work, so even if you did write all the tasks down now, they’ll likely not be what you want to work on in 3 months.

However, I tend to follow my intuition a little too much for most folks comfort level, so if not writing down all the tasks is freaking you out a bit, then go ahead and do so. Do you!

If you have more than 3 goals, how do you pick your 3 tasks?

Remember those dominos from last time? That may be a daily task for you. Or, if you’ve been working really hard on one goal and ignoring another, maybe give the ignored one some sunlight. You gotta juggle some plates here, but as long as everything is moving in the right direction, you’re solid.

If juggling stresses you out, then try having “seasons” for each goal where the “in-season” goal gets more focus than the others. Or, maybe you drop some less important goals until you have the others under control. Do what you need.


If you have studied David Allen’s GTD system in your quest for ultimate productivity and have drank that Kool-Aid, you will likely cringe at this idea, but I’m going to put it out there anyway.

Put the time that you’re going to work on your goal on your calendar. Make it recurring if that helps. Add your checkins to your calendar, too!

Are these GTD-quality calendar events? No. It’s a task in most cases. *GASP!* Will it help you anyway? Probably, so take that GTD baggage elsewhere. Sincerely, a GTD junkie.

Here’s the deal. If you make time for this work in your calendar, it’s more likely to happen. But here’s the key: You have to do the work when you schedule it.

Don’t “snooze” and “dismiss” your way to disappointment. Schedule it. Do it. Done.

Next time…

I have one more post in this series and it is on accountability systems.

If you haven’t figured out my goal-setting personality yet, I am an Obliger. So this is an area that I need to work on, as do many people since it’s a more common tendency.

Good news: I have some ideas on some accountability systems that might be the answer to your goal-setting needs. Also, hint: That checkin, checklist, and planning your day bit are also accountability systems. (Sneaking them in early!)

So, make sure you don’t miss the next post by SUBSCRIBING! 🙂 You knew that was coming, right? Also, please share this blog post with any of your friends that might find it helpful. Share the love, man! 😀

Also, my comments section has been absolutely barren since I kicked this thing off and that makes me sad, so don’t be shy! Speak up and let me know if this stuff helps you or not or if you want to see something on another topic.

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Picking goals to set yourself up for success

dream catcher2018 is almost here! Did you get done in 2017 what you had hoped? If not, will you get it done in 2018?

I am one of those people. Those damn resolution goal setters. And, I, like most of my New Year’s junkies, also have the problem of getting those goals done, but I digress.

Man, do I love setting goals! Dreaming of the future is my sweet spot. I set goals almost every week of the year because they’re fun and invigorating, but New Year’s makes this hobby a little more special. 🙂

Let’s get to it!

Areas of life to consider

When you’re goal setting, there are many facets of your life you can focus on. In The Miracle Morning, Hal Elrod talks about having a “Level 10 Life” where you work to achieve a high score of 10 in 10 different facets of your life.

Although his tool involves more than just goal setting, I think these 10 areas of life are handy to consider when you’re brainstorming what you want to accomplish. The 10 areas are:

  1. Family and friends
  2. Personal development
  3. Spirituality
  4. Finances
  5. Career and business
  6. Marriage
  7. Fun and recreation
  8. Giving and contribution
  9. Physical environment
  10. Health and fitness

5 Steps for goal planning

  1. Take each of those areas of life listed above and start thinking about how you could improve each of them in the next year.   
    • Maybe you’ve got 5, 8, and 10 good to go, but really need to work on the others. If that’s the case, then focus in on those areas that need work and brainstorm what you would like to get done in the next year to improve those areas.
    • For those areas that you are doing well in, you can still create goals for those areas (they still need love), but just don’t prioritize them as high as these other areas you want to work on.
  2. Take those big goals and break them down into 4 smaller milestones.
    • This will get you to 4 90-day chunks that you can use to gauge how attainable your goals are.
  3. Do a gut check.
    • How are those 90-day milestones looking? Are they doable?
    • Do they strike a little jolt of excitement in you or do you feel completely overwhelmed?
    • If you’re feeling a little scared, perfect! You nailed it!
    • If you’re feeling downright panicky about it and you know there’s no way that this will be fun, then look again at your milestones. Is one of your milestones a more attainable goal for the next year than the one you originally picked? Then make that milestone your goal for 2018, and repeat steps 2 & 3 until you feel excited and not freaked out.
  4. Look for the domino. (This is a concoction I’m blending up from Chalene Johnson’s idea of a “push goal” and Charles Duhigg’s idea of a “keystone habit”).
    • Now that you have your goals and milestones all figured out, take a look and see if you can find a goal that will make 2 or more of your goals easier to achieve. (This is Chalene’s idea of a “push” goal.)
    • For example, say I have a goal to write 80 blog posts next year, read 45 books, and meditate for 10 minutes a day, but I’m a mom and work full time, so I’m going to do this…when? Then my push goal may be to get up earlier in the morning to make sure that I set aside time each day for these goals.
    • But, I’m not a morning person. Getting up early is a great goal and all, but now I need a keystone habit to pull me through. So what keystone habit can I use to help me get out of bed in the morning? Perhaps my new keystone habit is to set my alarm on my phone and put my phone in my bathroom before bed each night so that I have to get up to get that alarm before my husband hates me.
    • If that’s the case, then my domino is to instill that keystone habit into my nightly routine so that I can get up early and crush my goals before my regular day starts.
  5. Include the systems you need to meet these goals based on your tendency in your goal setting. If you don’t know what I mean by that, check out my last post on your goal-setting personality. For example:
    • Upholders – you probably don’t need much for this other than to know what you expect yourself to get done and what the “rules” are. Look for ways to add your goals to your daily routines.
    • Questioners – make sure you have your data on your goals and know why it’s important for you to get these goals done. Create systems to help you get these things done. Be aware of analysis-paralysis; maybe try time-boxing your research time.
    • Obligers – you HAVE to create an external accountability system for your goals. If possible, find a human to hold you accountable and probably not a family member since you can view them as “yourself” instead of external people. Look for groups, gadgets, trackers, and coaches to check in on you so that you get your stuff done. If that won’t work, try to couch your goals in such a way that they’re necessary for you to do so that you can help another person.
    • Rebels – If you get motivated by somebody telling you you can’t get something done, then maybe have somebody do that. Give yourself some options so that you still have freedom of choice. Know the information about your goals, the consequences of what will happen if you don’t do them, and that you always have a choice to make. Want to work out daily? Make it your choice of when to work out each day and what activity you will do as long as you get it done. Identify with the person you want to become: be that person. Remember that you don’t have to do any of your goals – it’s always your choice.

Prioritizing goals

Now that you have your goals, milestones, and domino figured out, you might have 11 (or more) goals for the year. For some of you, that will make you feel excited to get started. For others, it might be freaking you the hell out to see that long list of things to do.

Time to prioritize.

Why? Because regardless of how much of an Upholder you are (or aren’t), there are going to be days when you can’t or don’t want to get it all done, but you still want to feel like you worked toward your goals and accomplished something on your agenda that mattered to you. Or, if you’re kind of bugging about the long list of things to do, then you may feel some relief if you know which goals take priority over others.

If you were able to identify your domino, you may want to make that your top priority out of all your other goals because with that one, you’ll make progress towards getting 2 or more of your goals closer to the finish line.

However, if that domino doesn’t have big impact on those areas of your life that you may need the most work, then maybe you want to prioritize those goals instead.

Next time

That’s all for this time. Next time we’ll talk about how to distill the actions out of those big goals. Reverse engineering…always a blast. 😉

Talk to me!

Let me know in the comments how this part goes for you. Also, let me know…does that domino idea work for you or am I really making a stretch? Speak to me!

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2018 is coming. What will you become?

I know Christmas is right around the corner, but as usual, I’m already thinking about the new year. The new year represents a new leaf for me and as a perpetual dreamer of the things I could do if I “only” put my mind to it, that new leaf is pretty damn appealing.


Yes, I am one of those people: the resolution lovers. GAH!!

I am a fantastic goal setter. One of the best I know. Nothing gets me ready to take on the world like a  new, exciting goal.

But, achieving those goals and having the consistency and dedication it takes to reach them? …mmmm….yeah…I kind of suck at that. OK, I really suck at it. I’m good for a few days, maybe even a few weeks and then it all falls apart and my self-esteem crumbles right along with it.

I could give you a million excuses as to why I’m better at setting goals than achieving them, but it’s pretty likely you know the excuses as well as I do because most of us struggle with this.

Trust me, it’s not just me and it’s not just you.

We all could use a little help with not only setting goals, but also achieving them. I am determined to figure this out this year and hopefully help you figure it out, too.

We have 14 days get your goals (and mine) shined up for the new year so that we can kick some major a** in 2018!

Here’s what I plan to cover in my next 4 posts before the end of the year:

Those bullets…yeah, nothing new there for you fellow resolutioners, I’m sure. We’ve all read it all before! We know WHAT to do, it’s just the DOING that we give up on.

However, I think I have an accountability system that will help us stick with it. So hang in there with me, especially for that last post! I have an idea for us to try. 😀

And with that, we should be set up pretty nicely for the new year, right? We just need to follow through! Piece of cake. …mmm…cake. 😛

I’m scared, too. But, I’m also tired of failing. So, you ready to achieve some goals with me in 2018?

Start thinking about what you want to accomplish in 2018. Next time we’ll figure out what kind of goal setter personality you have.

See you next time!

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Look out, 2018! Here we come!

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