Wednesday, January 07, 2009

How To Structure Your Day So You Become Unstoppable

If you want to learn a LOT about someone quickly, just ask that person to take you through her daily routine.

Nothing is more revealing.

GREAT EXAMPLE: During a recent coaching call, my client explained that her biggest challenge as an entrepreneur was translating her overflowing passion, energy and ideas into tangible things.

In short: Taking Action.

“Heidi, can you take me through a typical day for you?” I asked.

“Uh, I don’t really have one,” she said.

Well, there’s your first problem, I thought.

“I mean, I DO get up early so I can exercise and meditate before work,” she said.

“Fantastic. What else?”

“Well, after work I usually have dinner with my friends, then relax and do some reading before going to bed.”

“Cool. OK, now, tell me more about what you do in between those two things.”

“I don’t know ... uh, I only have a few clients, and I work with them sort of whenever they need me. But most of the time I just play around on the Internet all day.”


I’m not going to finish that story, as you can imagine what I said to her next. You can also imagine what I wanted to say to her next, which I didn’t.

Instead, let’s extract the key lesson from this example...

How you spend your day – literally, hour by hour – will determine how much money you make, how happy you are, how healthy you are and how successful you become.

I’d always believed in this philosophy, ever since starting my company in 2002. But it was cemented into my head when I started reading John Maxwell, namely Today Matters and Make Today Count. To quote from the latter:

“The secret of your success is determined by your daily agenda. What you become is a result of what yo do today.”

That’s why I’m constantly shocked when my fellow writers and entrepreneurs – ESPECIALLY the ones who work from home – don’t have an immediate answer to the question, “What’s your daily routine?”

See, when you don’t have a REAL job, you almost have to force yourself to create a typical day. Otherwise you’ll go bat shite. Otherwise you’ll accomplish NOTHING. Otherwise your time will manage YOU.

Now, that’s not to say you should regiment and choreograph your every waking hour. The challenge is designing a typical day FOR YOU, which enforces (some) structure and predictability, while still leaving room for spontaneity and playfulness.

Let’s examine five “Daily Doses” that you can customize to best fit your personal and professional style. Each of these examples is a practice I’ve been incorporating into my daily routine for years, so I share them with you for one simple reason: THEY WORK.

1. Assess your daily needs. If you plan to implement a daily routine, make sure it revolves around your values, priorities and goals. Not around what all your colleagues are doing. Not around what some ten-year old book on Time Management told you to do. Around YOU. Take some time this week to list your answers to the following questions:

o When is your peak creative time?
o What motivates you to take action?
o What are your personal non-negotiables?
o What are your professional non-negotiables?
o What do you have to do a little of every day to get to your goal?
o If you only had two hours to work each day, what would you do?
o What is the maximum number of hours you can work in one day before you go crazy and your family is ready to kill you?
o What is the minimum number of hours you can work in one day that will (still) allow you to earn enough money to eat food that doesn’t begin with Mc?

THE DAILY DOSE: Not only are you the most important person in the world, you’re also the ONLY person in the world who values your time. How are you rededicating yourself to personal excellence daily?

2. Begin with practice. How much energy are you putting into your basic training? How long did you practice yesterday? Answer: Not enough. Practice isn’t something you just do for twenty minutes a day. Practice is EVERYTHING. It’s a noun, a verb and an adjective. It’s about the process, not the product. It’s about the journey, not the destination. It’s about deepening and enhancing, not achieving and bettering. So, regardless of when your prime creative time is, always start your day practicing. For example:

o If you’re a writer, honor those first waking thoughts. Get them down in your journal without judgment or evaluation.
o If you’re a consultant, start your day by preparing yourself to listen. Wake your ears up so they’re ready to receive your clients.
o If you’re a musician, buy a decent alarm clock that lets you wake up to a playlist on your own Ipod. Let the music penetrate your soul right away.

THE DAILY DOSE: Practice doesn’t make perfect; it makes PROFIT. What are you practicing?

3. Get a hangout. The smartest thing I ever did in my first two years as a home-based entrepreneur (by which I mean “my PARENT’S home”), was force myself to be at the coffee shop every morning at 7:00. This routine made me get dressed, helped me feel like I had somewhere to go, and enabled me to (slowly) build a foundation of discipline. I call this practice “The Hangout Factor.” And if you’re the kind of person who can only sit in your living room in your pajamas for so long, here are six steps to incorporate this element into your daily routine:

o Identify. Where do businesspeople “meet for coffee” in your neighborhood? Go there. Be seen there.

o Plan. What’s your best hangout time? Could be morning, could be lunchtime or could be afternoon. Take your pick.

o Attitude. What do your hangout behaviors broadcast about your attitude? Don’t telegraph neediness. Don’t be a shameless self-promoter. Just be cool.

o Availability. How many relationship opportunities are you missing by wearing headphones? Be busy, but be approachable. You never know.

o Preparation. Are you ready to pitch at a moment’s notice? Have networking tools ready to go at your hangout.

o Regularity. How many people know where you always hang out? Become known for hanging out there. Be easy to find there.

THE DAILY DOSE: Your daily routine needs to involve activities that increase visibility, foster social interaction and reinforce discipline and accountability. What’s your hangout?

4. Meet up. Because you don’t have any coworkers, you almost have to go out of your way to have face-to-face contact with others. That’s why the Hangout Factor is so cool. And beyond that, lunches, networking events, coffee meetings and mastermind groups are also perfect venues to satisfy your craving for human interaction. What’s more, knowing that you’re going to meet your friend and fellow entrepreneur, Stacy, every Monday at 10:00 AM at Starbucks, for example, is an excellent measure of accountability. Just remember these two caveats:

o Set healthy boundaries. As a recovering lunch whore, I’ve learned firsthand the danger of saying yes to every random invite. You must train yourself to become welcoming, but choosey. Before accepting, always ask yourself: Is this an opportunity, or an opportunity to be used? If it starts to become a problem, you could always charge a fee for your brain. That’s what I do.

o Activity isn’t results. Too many entrepreneurs trap themselves an unproductive routine of pointless meetings and lunches that do nothing but enable procrastination. So, before accepting, always ask yourself: Is what I’m doing right now consistent with my #1 goal?

THE DAILY DOSE: Don’t eat lunch at the desk in your living room. Seek out people who share your self-employed pain and meet with them regularly. Just not too much. Who are you scheduled to meet for lunch this week?

5. Mix structure with spontaneity. Routine is healthy. Routine prevents insanity. Routine curtails procrastination. On the other hand: Spontaneity is necessary. Spontaneity sparks creativity. Spontaneity releases stress. Your challenge is to discover a healthy dose of both elements, aligning them with your values, priorities and passions. For a daily routine that keeps you on point with your goals, yet doesn’t inhibit your inner child from playing joyfully, consider these two practices:

o Ritualize your routine. Rituals are centering practices that tell your unconscious to get to work. They also heighten the feeling of importance in your work. So, let’s say that every morning, your practice begins when you sit down at your desk at 6:45 to write. Cool. Before plunging into the page, consider taking five minutes for a few breathing exercises, a short incantation or invoking of The Muse.

o Take Mini-Vacations. At random points during the day, take anywhere from fifteen minutes to two hours to just play. No work. No nothing. Play your guitar, read a non-business book, walk your dog or meditate. Then, return with strength and freshness. #1 Best Lesson I Learned in 2008.

THE DAILY DOSE: Balance is bunk. Alignment is awesome. What kind of structure can you place around yourself to make sure you remember to do that consistently?

OK, fellow Spare Room Tycoons, let’s recap…

1. Assess your daily needs. How are you rededicating yourself to personal excellence daily?
2. Begin with practice. What are you practicing?
3. Get a hangout. Where can people usually find you?
4. Meet up. Who are you scheduled to meet for lunch this week?
5. Mix structure with spontaneity. What kind of structure can you place around yourself to make sure you remember to do that consistently?

REMEMBER: How you spend your day – literally, hour by hour – will determine how much money you make, how happy you are, how healthy you are and how successful you become.

So, stop playing on YouTube and go DO something!

How could you structure your day so you become unstoppable?

For the list called, "66 Questions to Prevent Your Time from Managing YOU,," send an email to me, and I'll send you the list for free!

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Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag
Author, Speaker, Coach, Entrepreneur

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