Daily Routine Improvement: How to Develop Stress-Free Habits and Achieve Any Goa








Daily Routine Improvement

[How to Develop Stress-Free Habits
and Achieve Any Goal]


Table of Contents

Daily Routine Improvement 1

[* Get another book of mine for free… 6*]

Introduction 7

[* Chapter 1: The Benefits of Daily Routines Throughout Your Life 9*]

In summary 11

[* Chapter 2: Daily Routines Boost Productivity and Help Us Reach Goals Faster 12*]

Task Selection Must Cater to You 16

In Summary 21

Chapter 3: Know Where You Want To Go 22

_ Align Goals with Your Mission and Purpose 28_

[_ Lessons from Sam Walton, Wal-Mart’s Founder 29_]

In Summary 31

[* Chapter 4: Implementing A New Routine That Sticks 32*]

[_ Begin with an Easy Habit and Re-Identifying Yourself & Your Habits 33_]

_ Use Little Improvements to Initiate a Habit 35_

Break a Big Habit into Small Parts 36

_ Correct Yourself Immediately After a Habit is Missed 38_

[_ End Procrastination & Perform Your Habit Daily 38_]

Set a Maintainable Habit 41

In Summary 41

[* Chapter 5: Setting Up a Daily Routine Plan for Work and Home 43*]

Data Gathering 43

Analyze Your Routines 44

_ Create a Timeline from Your Routine List 45_

In Summary 49

[* Chapter 6: Examples To Help You Get A Better Start and Focus On The Day 50*]

[_ Effective Morning Routines & Key Points to Remember 50_]

[_ Effective Evening Routines & Key Points to Remember 54_]

In Summary 57

Chapter 7: Conclusion 58

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Review Request 61



Copyright © 2017 Henry Harding

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Sign up for the author’s New Releases mailing list and get a free copy of Daily To-Do List: How to Write Effective and Actionable To-Do Lists.

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Do you often daydream of a future life where all your goals are achieved, but then you wake up finding yourself stuck in the same place unsure of how to create change? Do you sometimes feel overwhelmed by daily chores, and never find the time to focus on achieving your own dreams?

Making changes for the better is a matter of conscious choice. You can decide to maintain the status quo, or you may take the advice of Aristotle, the ancient Greek philosopher of the third century BCE:

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”

In his book, I will discuss daily routines, why they are important to you, how you can improve them, and how such an upgrade can put you on the fast track to accomplishing all of the dreams in your life. By simply understanding the power of minor adjustments to your daily routines, your dreams and lifetime goals does not have to feel elusive and out of reach.

Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary lists routines as “a regular course of procedure,” or “habitual or mechanical performance of an established procedure.” So, a routine is nothing more than a habit. And a habit is an act we perform so many times that it becomes automatic.

We all perform routines or habits throughout our lives. However, the daily habits you perform every day can have different impact on the trajectory of your life. Some habits are good and several habits are bad. The main focus of this book is to alter bad habits into good habits. It sounds easy, but it takes effort on your part. The fact that you’re reading this right now means you take enough interest in your life’s future to seek a renewed direction to your life.

Here is what you’ll learn in Daily Routine Improvement. In the first part of the book, we will review how daily routines help you to get through that phenomenon called life. Then, you’ll learn the ways that daily routines improve productivity and help you quickly reach your goals. We will take an in-depth look at setting goals, which make a difference in your life (including lifetime and smaller goals), and how to select routines that cater to only you.

In the second part of the book, it will highlight how to implement permanent routines, instead of whimsical and far-fetched New Year’s resolutions destined for disaster. You will learn how to set up a daily routine plan, including tips for morning and evening routines that give you a better start on the day and an enhanced focus for the next day. The rest is up to you. The welcome sign is on and you just turned the doorknob. Go ahead, open the door, and come on in to learn more, or as Aristotle says, work towards excellence with your habits.

Thanks again for downloading this book. I hope you enjoy it!


  • * Chapter 1: The Benefits of Daily Routines Throughout Your Life

As mentioned in the introduction, the main emphasis in this book is on daily routines because the habits that we use to get through each day provide us with huge benefits. When we rely on our daily routines, especially when these habits are correctly honed to our goals, we lead a more productive and happier life. How is that possible? Let’s investigate the rationale for using daily routines.

First, daily routines add an organizational element to each day. Since we perform our habits day-after-day, these daily routines are familiar to us, and their recurring arrangement makes us happy because it all makes sense to us. After establishing a good set of daily routines adapted to your unique goals, you get up in the morning feeling as though you’re really alive and in charge of your future.

A major benefit of enacting daily routines is that when you use them, figuring out every tiny detail of your daily schedule is considerably reduced. Your daily routines already provide you with a skeleton of a schedule, whereby you just need to fill in a few blanks of particular items you want to be accomplished for that specific day. With daily routines, you already set in motion certain activities that you do at specific times of the day, which means you’re not idly wondering what to do next.

The second benefit of daily routines is that by following them, especially after winnowing out bad habits and replacing them with good habits, you create beneficial behaviors that are a natural part of your daily life. Enthusiastically and deliberately following daily routines means you’re working toward enjoying activities that bring happiness and quality into your life. The very act of implementing daily routines means you’re turning an activity into a habit. When that habit is part of what you do every day, you’re more efficient at what you do. You don’t have to think about it.

Excitement reigns in a life full of daily routines and when your daily routines are the habits of each day, you don’t waste energy trying to inspire yourself with extra resolve. Every first of January, members of the human race dream up several points of resolve. One reason why most New Year’s resolutions aren’t actually accomplished is because they aren’t turned into daily routines.

Our smartphone world is increasingly a distractive environment. A Twitter or Facebook tone alarm provides an instant distraction to accomplishing our lifetime goals. Add daily routines to how you plow through the day and they assist in eliminate modern distractions.

Disturbances and their solutions are a time-honored tradition of the human race. Samuel Clemens, a.k.a., Mark Twain, didn’t allow his family to march through his study’s door. When they needed him, they had to blow a horn. Illustrator N.C. Wyeth would adhere cardboard to the sides of his glasses, constructing a crude set of blinders, in order to block out distractions while working. If you enact a daily routine of turning off your smartphone when performing important tasks, it’s similar to Wyeth’s step of halting distractions by taping on cardboard blinders, except your distraction blocker is easier—just a push of a button.

Daily routines involving exercise help relieve stress. Again, history is full of examples. Charles Darwin, the founder of the theory of evolution, always took a three-hour afternoon stroll on his English property, and used several of his nature observations while on such walks as examples in his writing. German music composer Ludwig van Beethoven would jot down inspirational thoughts while on long walks after lunch. When exercise, such as walking, is a daily routine, you’re more relaxed and better able to focus when it’s time to work.

A break in mental concentration is a key to thinking clearly and a daily routine of exercise helps. Studies show that taking breaks from mental tasks boosts inspiration and efficiency. Mind specialists equate mental concentration to a muscle in your body. To build stronger muscles, you work them and give them a break. The same practice applies to thinking. By detaching yourself from your work with a walk, you give your mind a mental recharge.

Self-accountability is another benefit daily routines add to your life. A historical review reveals examples. Author Ernest Hemingway made it a habit to record how many words he wrote each day so that he wouldn’t fool himself that he wrote more than his actual output. Victorian novelist Anthony Trollope delegated three hours daily to writing at a rate of 250 words for each quarter hour. When he finished a novel and his three hours weren’t up, he immediately started a new book. A daily routine means you perform functions on a regular basis, thereby accomplishing tasks. There’s satisfaction in meeting deadlines with time to spare and self-accountability gets you there.

Accountability also involves understanding the difference between spinning your wheels and actually accomplishing worthwhile tasks. Texting messages to friends, watching videos on the smartphone, or reviewing the latest memes posted on Facebook places a big, fat zero in your daily accomplishment column. By pushing daily routines involving important matters to top priority, you finish worthwhile tasks first, allowing time for some unimportant busywork.

A final attribute of daily routines is that they help us with our biological rhythms. A known scientific fact is that all animals operate on a natural clock. Decreasing autumnal daylight hours tells a chicken that cold temperatures are on the way, so they stop laying eggs for the winter, allowing their bodies to build fat reserves to keep warm. We are no different. When we wake, we are more alert and our stomach rumbles in preparation for breakfast. We tire and relax before bedtime. These are daily rhythms of life.

Daily routines need to include eating and sleeping schedules. We’ll discuss how important a daily sleep routine is to your wellbeing later in this book, but please understand that putting specific biological functions, such as eating and sleeping, on a regular schedule of daily routines vastly improves your life. By always eating lunch at noon, and dinner at 6 p.m., or always going to bed at 10 p.m., and awakening at 6 a.m., you nourish your body and brain while providing adequate rest, turning yourself into an invincible task-accomplishing machine.

[]*In summary*

Simply put, adopting daily routines into your life is a huge benefit because it makes it easier for you to do what you want to do. You’re happier following daily routines and you can concentrate on life’s most important aspects, while accomplishing important goals of your life. Next, let’s look at how daily routines enhance productivity and help you reach your goals faster.

  • * Chapter 2: Daily Routines Boost Productivity and Help Us Reach Goals Faster

I don’t know about you, but after I’ve performed a task several times, I get into a swing of doing it so well that I don’t have to think about it. Take running as an example. Long distance runners experience an almost Zen-like feeling, where the rhythm of the running shoe soles hitting the ground, the stride, the swinging of the arms, and even the moment when breaths are taken are all performed in a cadence with one another. For me, once I get into that rhythmic long-distance running trance, I jog along effortlessly for miles.

The benefits of implementing routines and habits in our lives are several:

1. Habits Require Less Impetus

In order to make a routine a success, you must do the routine enough times so that it becomes a habit. Once you’ve created a habit, thinking about your routine is not essential. Your actions take place and your mind enters the same unthinking sensation that comes to long-distance runners. When daily routines are so automatic that you do them without thinking, you enhance efficiency. Actions occur without you needing to tell yourself the steps involved with the process.

So, contrary to popular thought, success doesn’t reign in your future because you’re necessarily smart. It has more to do with forming good daily habits and possessing the discipline or grit to consistently follow these daily routines. In fact, smarts versus grit were actually put to a test through a college study.

Angela L. Duckworth, Ph.D., and Martin E.P. Seligman, Ph.D., with the University of Pennsylvania’s Psychology Department, performed a study^^1^^ with several eighth graders to measure the students’ intelligence quotient (IQ) and their self-discipline. In this 2004 study, their sense of self-discipline was queried to the students, their parents, and teachers. These two experts discovered that adolescent-aged students who had the strongest discipline outdid their more spontaneous counterparts with higher IQs in several ways, such as attendance, standardized tests, and report card grades.

Duckworth further tested^^2^^ the concept that grit is more of a determining factor of success than IQ with Ivy League college undergraduates, West Point cadets, and finalists in the Scripps National Spelling Bee. She found that grit, not brains, had a larger influence on achievement. She also found that determination and intelligence aren’t always connected. To be the best, Duckworth thinks that sticking with it, even when it’s difficult, is the key to success.

2. Habits Take Less Energy

The best way through tough times is to establish daily routines prior to getting into difficulty, so that thinking about what to do isn’t a struggle. Battling with difficult concepts takes energy, as does worrying about what to do each day. It’s simple, really. When you already enjoy habits directing your daily activities, the energy taken up by determining what to do each day is instead directed to other more important heady challenges. So, your daily routines help you think better.

3. Habits Make You an Expert

But, there’s more to it than allowing your brain to attack other problems. By performing daily routines enough times to form them into habits, you become an expert. The reason is you gain momentum, becoming faster at the things that you do, since repetition boosts speed. So, if you are an educator, you become a better teacher. If your occupation is management, you grow into a better manager. If you take photographs, you develop into a better photographer. The fact that you perform the daily routines of your profession enough times to make them habits, that you stick to it through hard times, puts you on top of your game regardless of whether you have the genius of Albert Einstein, or a brain the size of a pea.

4. Habits Save You Time

Finally, by habitually performing daily tasks, accomplishments pile up that save you time in the long run. For instance, a daily routine of washing all of the dishes prior to bedtime saves you the several-hour weekend cleanup campaign performed by your friend who lets dirty dishes pile up through the entire week.

First Step – Selecting Important Goals & the 80/20 Rule[
__]“It is not enough to be industrious; so are the ants. What are you industrious about?”

— [Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862)

An obviously vital job prior to establishing daily routines is to select the most important goals and then develop daily routines to help you attain your goals. Before attempting to perform this selection process, a review of the Pareto Principle, also known as the 80/20 Rule, is in order to review the routines you already have in your life. It goes by other names, such as the principle of factor sparsity, or the law of vital few.

The idea was conceived by Vilfredo Pareto, who as an Italian economist coined the term in his paper called Cours d’économie politique, which translates to Courses in Political Economy, a piece he wrote while at the University of Lausanne in Lausanne, Switzerland in 1896. Pareto’s concept was that 80 percent of Italy’s wealth was owned by 20 percent of the country’s population.

In a more general sense, Pareto’s Principle tells us that in most instances of life, things aren’t equal. Furthermore, it seems that the figures which show up the most are 80 and 20, so it’s also called the 80/20 Rule. It might apply to work for a group—80 percent of the job was performed by 20 percent of the marketing committee. The 80/20 Rule may be explained in business revenue—80 percent of the income is derived from 20 percent of the customers. It can even relate as an inverse to accidents—20 percent of all hazards turn into 80 percent of the accidents.

There are some misconceptions with the 80/20 Rule. One is that the numbers must equal 100. It might be an 80/30 situation or a 70/15 measure. The 80/20 Rule is just an approximate benchmark that unequal contributions result in a different yield. In other words, most efforts or rewards in life aren’t evenly balanced and in most cases, the results never equal the effort.

1. Example of the 80/20 Rule

So, how does the 80/20 Rule apply to daily routines? It pertains to an analysis of what you like and dislike in the everyday tasks that make you happy or unhappy. To give an example, I’ll relate a little about myself and a job that I used to perform.

I once was an editor of a small weekly newspaper. Tasks that I performed included pouring over press releases and throwing most of them away, but rewriting the appropriate ones to better fit the newspaper’s readership. I also interviewed people and wrote feature articles. I attended school board, county board, and city council meetings and wrote news articles about decisions made in these engagements. I went to high school football, volleyball, basketball, and hockey games, took photographs, and wrote articles on how the teams fared. I took photos of weird-looking garden vegetables and kids getting awards for reading books. These tasks ate up several hours of my life.

At the end of each week, I wrote an editorial, or an opinion piece, about some aspect of the community. It often was a pat on the back written about some unsung hero who did a small deed to make our lives better. Writing editorials gave me the most pleasure, yet it only accounted for a small amount of the writing that I created in one week. It’s my 80/20 Rule example, but in my case, it was more like I received 99 percent of my weekly writing pleasure out of two percent of my weekly writing output.

Consider your life and you’ll start to realize that 80/20 relations are recognized in several instances. An important key to selecting significant tasks that you wish to accomplish in your life is to work yourself away from activities that take a majority of your time and give you the least amount of pleasure in return. You need to quit the 80 percent tasks that result in 20 percent fun and spotlight activities that truly make you happy.

2. Passions, Not Possessions

An unfortunate fact for a majority of employed people is that they hate their employment, or their method of earning an income. This job hatred shows up in the form of popular songs throughout the decades. Country singer, Johnny Paycheck, hit the top of the country single charts for two weeks in January 1978 with Take This Job and Shove It. A punk rock band, the Dead Kennedys, released the song again in 1986. A version of the song called Shove This Jay-Oh-Bee was in a 1999 comedy movie Office Space. You might assume that hating work is a national pastime, making weekends so popular when working men and women really seek their passions.

This “hate my work” phenomenon is the result of keying in on possessions, instead of passions. You want that pretty house on the hill. You need to have that diamond necklace. That hot, red Maserati just needs to be sitting in your driveway. The reality is that none of these possessions give you happiness when you’re forcing yourself to work at a job that you hate. The true key to happiness is determining what makes you passionate—the one thing that keeps you awake at night just thinking about it. Don’t even think about items that you want to own. The more important question is what activity really makes you tick.

3. Outputs vs. Inputs

Another way to look at this is to consider the outputs and the inputs of your life. Those of us living in the western world are supreme at taking inputs, or buying consumer goods, such as the house, diamond necklace, and the sports car previously mentioned. Consuming inputs might include shopping, scanning social media websites on the smartphone, watching movies, going with friends to a nightclub, or eating at a fancy bistro. Even these activities involve consuming outputs sold to you by other people.

A real passion doesn’t involve consuming an output generated by someone else. That’s nothing more than using an input. You’re really getting somewhere when you identify a passion which produces an output enjoyed by others. When you think about it, the reason for this is simple—you want to become passionate about the way you earn an income. You want to spend more time earning a living that gives you 80 percent enjoyment, instead of 20 percent. You want to live the 80/20 way instead of being ruled by it.

4. Alter Goals to What You to Do

This is only possible when you fabricate outputs enjoyed by others who in turn pay you with their inputs in the form of a supportable income. When your passion earns you a living and gives others happiness, then you, too, become truly happy and content with your life. So, a key to your future success is to do something that others pay you for—to sell an output, instead of buying consumable items, or inputs.

Mark Twain sums it up with:

The two most important days of your life are the day you were born and the day you find out why.”

— [Mark Twain (1835-1910)

If your job is a bore that eats up 80 percent of your time so that you enjoy 20 percent of your time doing things you like to do, find a way to stop wasting your time at doing something that only pays for consumer goods (inputs), and allocate ways of spending more time producing something (outputs) that brings you passion. In other words, switch that 80/20 ratio. Alter your goals to allow you to do what you want to do and make your passion your income.

[] Task Selection Must Cater to You

In her book, Organizing from the Inside Out, Julie Morgenstern recommends not falling into a common pitfall of trying to change your life so drastically that the alteration runs counter to your character. “This doesn’t work,” writes Morgenstern. “It’s like fitting a square peg in a round hole.” She says that you must adjust routines to fit how you do things and to your own personality.

Successful people are better at reaching their aspirations than others. Why is this so? It has a great deal to do with selecting the right objectives that better fits the successful individual’s character in the first place.

In order to turn your own life into a success, your initial step is to pick life goals which best fit you and no one else. You are a specific and distinctive individual. Your goals should be as unique and different as you are distinctive and varied from everyone else around you. The vital point is to have goals corresponding to your values, your assets, and your passion for life. Having a clear understanding of these fundamentals is critical to your overall success and happiness.

When I was a child my mother said to me, ‘If you become a soldier, you’ll be a general. If you become a monk, you’ll be the pope.’ Instead, I became a painter and wound up as Picasso.”

— [Pablo Ruiz y Picasso (1881-1973)

Most people select goals like they’re picking through fruit in a food store. They like the appearance of what’s shiny and polished on the outside. They pick the gleaming apple in the center of the apple display, or they like the flamboyant lifestyle of a friend, who is an attorney, so their goal is to get a law degree and earn a living as a lawyer. Like taking that bright glossy apple home that you cut into and discover it’s bruised and damaged, you might be a shy introvert, whereas your attorney friend is outgoing and gregarious, a natural fit for being an attorney. Copying her goals is a mismatch for you and your personality. Selecting a career that enables more quiet reflection and individual study might be a more rewarding choice, like a job in academia or as a financial analyst.

1. Determine Your Values

Prior to setting goals, you must determine what your values are so that future goals match your values. Desires are secondary to values. For instance, I desire to make more money than I’m currently earning, but my common values preclude me from stealing ammonia fertilizer left in pressurized white tanks in rural farm fields, manufacturing the drug, methamphetamine, and selling it to people. This goes straight against my values. Knowing your values helps you determine goals to strive for with the use of daily routines.

Think about it for several minutes. What do you value most? Is it your spouse, or significant other, your children, creativity, kindness, prosperity, social welfare, fine arts, attractiveness, personal hygiene, or orderliness? This is only for you, so be honest with yourself. If you place how attractive you are as your highest value, it’s quite acceptable. Remember, you need to match up what’s unique to you and you only.

Identifying values important to you takes some deep soul searching and effort on your part. A starting point is to reflect on your life and determine what happened at important crossroads in your history when you made good decisions. The following six-part procedure might help you determine your values:

p<>{color:#000;}. Single Out Moments When You Were On Cloud Nine – You should draw from happy moments in both your professional and personal life. Jot down details of what you were doing at that time, who you were with, and anything else that helped in your pleasure.

p<>{color:#000;}. Pinpoint Instances When You Were Proud – Again, consider proud instances from both work and your private life. Write down what made you proud, if others shared in your pride, and any other reasons that helped generate these proud moments.

p<>{color:#000;}. Label Moments When You Were Fulfilled – Like before, consider personal and work-related examples. For each moment, consider the basic desire that was fulfilled, how this moment added to your life, and any other aspects that augmented your sense of fulfillment.

p<>{color:#000;}. Establish Values Contingent with Happiness, Pride, & Fulfillment – Review the list below of universal personal values and select roughly 10 of your most outstanding values related to your instances of feeling happy, being proud, or sense of fulfillment.

p<{color:#000;}. Vision
p<{color:#000;}. Usefulness


p<>{color:#000;}. Rank the Top 10 Values – The best way to do this is to write down two values in no particular order and then select which one of those two seems superior to you. Continue comparing two values at a time until you get a complete ranking of all 10 values.

p<>{color:#000;}. Confirm These Values – Once you have your top 10 values, check your list to ensure that they indeed speak for you and represent your individual uniqueness. Make sure your top three values are points that you’d reveal with pride, especially if you told them to people whom you admire. Also, determine if they are values you would advocate, even if they might make you unpopular with others.

2. Select Top Self Strengths

Consider areas where you’re strongest. And, in this consideration, disregard expertise learned while on the job. Job-related strengths are acquired skills that might change if you take a different aim in your life. Of greater concern are assets in your personal character that are inherently you.

What is it that makes you unique? Maybe you’re a natural at making others feel at ease, what your friends call “the life of the party.” Perhaps you’re excellent at coming up with solutions to difficult predicaments. Conceivably you possess intuition and you have a knack for reading others. Quite possibly, you’re broad-minded and good at bringing diverse people and ideas together into a compromise.

The important idea is to conjure up goals which adhere to your strengths. Deciding to drive yourself in a direction counter to your strong assets is a dead end street. By inventorying your strengths, you have a better idea of directions that best fit you. You will go a lot further and faster by working “downhill” through your strength, than working “uphill” through your weaknesses.

You can get an assessment of your strengths online at www.authentichappiness.org, which is a website handled by the University of Pennsylvania’s Positive Psychology Center. After visiting this website, create a username and password, then find the “Questionnaires” dropdown menu at the top of the website, and select the “Brief Strength Test” link. In approximately 10-15 minutes, you can determine how you rate compared to other categories of people involving 24 potential strengths. Just to be clear, I have no affiliation with the university or the service.

After you determine your top strengths, write them down. There will be overlaps between strengths and values and that’s just fine. With both concepts thoroughly investigated, you can better determine goals that work with you.

3. What Makes You Passionate?

I have no special interest. I am only passionately curious.”

— [Albert Einstein (1879-1955)

If your job is boring, conjuring up answers to the question of what makes you passionate might be difficult. Maybe a better idea is to ask yourself, “On instances when it seemed as though time zoomed by, what was I doing?” You’ve been there before; when you get so engrossed in an activity that time flies and you forget to eat or even sleep. It’s moments such as these when you’re occupied with an activity that makes you passionate.

Don’t just consider present times. Think back when you were in third or fourth grade of elementary school and try to remember what you did after school, when all your homework was done for the day. Reminiscing about your childhood might uncover lost passions that you’ve abandoned as an adult.

I was captivated by television accounts of Gemini and Apollo space flights. I took an old astronomy Golden Book outside and used an old toy ray gun that had a red light as my night light to look at the star charts while I learned the constellations. I even scavenged a large cardboard box from a downtown department store, cut a hole in the top and crawled inside to get away from town street lights so I could see stars better at night. Yes, I was slightly weird in my youth.

What was your childhood passion? Were you fascinated by horses, or did you take a particular interest in insects? Perhaps you built tree houses or dug out forts from snowbanks. There might be a hidden passion from your childhood days that you could resurrect today.

4. Consider Your Perfect Day

A great day for you might be getting up before the birds are singing outside and catching your limit of fish as the sun rises over a sparkling lake. If that’s the case, working as a hotel’s night auditor, when others are sleeping, is not for you. And, if your ideal day involves peace and quiet anywhere but near children, working in a kids’ daycare center is not a job you should try to get.

Goals for your future must match up with the type of lifestyle that best fits your personality. After considering what a perfect day would be for you, think about circumstances involving the end result of your goals. Does that match your vision of a perfect day? If not, probably your goals need revamping.

If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”

— [Ben Franklin (1706-1790)

[]*In Summary*

The direction in your life is constructed using a foundation built from values you hold dear, your strengths, endeavors that make you feel passionate, and daily routines that fit your psyche. Reviewing these factors helps you determine goals that best fit you. If you haven’t yet determined your values, strengths, and passions, I encourage to go back to each section of this chapter and do that now.

Next, let’s investigate ideas for determining just where you want to go in your life.

[] Chapter 3: Know Where You Want To Go

Daily routines might simply be bad habits pointing your life into an aimless spiral of boredom and disillusion unless you have a keen understanding of where you want to go in your life. Setting goals are an important first step. Once you take yourself through a goal-setting procedure, you gain a better picture of areas in your future where extra effort is required and by implementing a new routine can help you reach your goal faster. A commanding attention to goals also helps to keep you away from distractions that inadvertently lead you away from your objectives.

There are several advantages to setting goals. By setting goals, you allow yourself to keep an enduring concept of where you want to be in your future. Goals also drive short-term incentives, several of which add up to your long-term objective. Goals often focus educational efforts. If you want to be an animal veterinarian, you first need to obtain a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree, then gain a Doctor of Veterinary Science degree, and gain hands-on training before you get to start your own vet practice. Goal setting also assists you in establishing daily routines, which help structure your time in the best manner to allow you to obtain your life’s objectives.

The key is to establish well-defined goals, which allow you to measure accomplishments while giving you gratification in reaching major elements toward your intentions. It’s much easier to slog through dreary times of a daily grind when you dangle that carrot of an ultimate goal in your mind. Your confidence goes up as goals are achieved. You feel like a winner because you set yourself up as a champion by establishing a goal and gaining it.

Correctly setting goals requires a multi-step process. Initially, you need to determine a big-picture outlook. Lifetime goals should be established first. Next, goals must be broken down into smaller objectives. Lastly, you need to set daily routines that align with your lifetime and small goals, so you can progress toward obtaining your ambitions. In this chapter, we’ll address setting lifetime goals and small goals, along with some goal-setting tips and key reasons for establishing goals.

1. Set Lifetime Goals

I always wanted to be something, but now I see I should have been more specific.”

Lily Tomlin, American comedian, actor, singer, writer and producer

Your initial phase in setting goals is to allocate lifetime goals. You might, and probably will, change and set additional goals for your lifetime, so lifetime goals might deal with aspirations reached in just a few years, 10, or even 20 years from now. The point is you’re trying to establish some long-range thoughts of where you want to be in the future.

There are a number of categories where lifetime goals might be applicable. Here are several lifetime goal categories to ponder:

p<>{color:#000;}. Public Service – Perhaps you have a strong desire to improve the world. Military service, a political career, time in the Peace Corps, or maybe even a goal of serving as a religious leader in your place of worship might fit into your lifelong desire.

p<>{color:#000;}. Creativity – Maybe the creative side of you sparkles, where lifelong goals might include writing books, creating music, becoming a sculptor or painter, crafting items from wood, making quilts, stitching needlework pieces, taking photographic imagery, or becoming a hair stylist, a fashion designer, or an interior designer.

p<>{color:#000;}. Pleasure – Not everything is about work. If travel is your passion, possibly you set a lifelong goal of setting foot on every major continent of the world. Are you a bird watcher? Treat yourself to a trip to Alaska’s Pribilof Islands, home to 240 bird species and two million nesting seabirds.

p<>{color:#000;}. Domestic Life – Most of us are involved in some way with our family. Lifetime goals may include getting married, having children, teaching certain values and thoughts to your kids or grandchildren, improving existence for the love of your life, or simply cherishing important moments with members of your family.

p<>{color:#000;}. Personal Health – You might set out lifetime goals of toning up muscles, losing weight, maintaining your health, or working with a life-threatening disease, such as diabetes or AIDS.

p<>{color:#000;}. Learning – Lifetime education goals might include schooling, such as gaining a college degree in a field of interest. Your educational lifetime goals might also include ideas such as learning to fly an airplane, studying how to carve a duck decoy out of wood, or simply continuing to learn new ideas as you grow older.

p<>{color:#000;}. Frame of Mind – Maybe there is something about your psychological makeup that you’d like to change. James Earl Jones, the deep resonating voice of Darth Vader in the Star Wars movie series, of Mufasa in The Lion King film, and the CNN tagline, “This is CNN,” stuttered so badly as a child that he lived a life of a mute from the day he entered grade school until he was in high school. With the help of his high school English teacher, Jones pursued his goal to speak well. Setting a lifetime goal of changing your mindset and altering your behavior might introduce new advancement opportunities you never dreamed possible.

p<>{color:#000;}. Economic Potential – We all like the idea of making money…or do we? It could be that your lifetime goal is to reach a six-figure income by a certain age. It’s also possible you want to show the world how to live frugally and enjoy matters other than money. Either way, both of these ideas are monetary lifetime goals. Perhaps you want to own a multi-million dollar corporation by a certain age in your life. What financial lifetime goals are up your sleeve?

p<>{color:#000;}. Profession – Do you want to be an educator, a manager, or an auctioneer? Perchance your customer service career is at a dead end and you want to shift gears and become a ski instructor in Vail, Colorado. Lifetime goals often involve career choices or even complete 180-degree professional changes.

Select one or more ideas from the above categories that touch you as potential lifetime goal material and perform an individual brainstorming session. Don’t decide to select all categories. To be effective, you need to work on two or three ideas at the most. One category is best.

Keys to performing an individual brainstorming session include:

Turn Off Distractions – Place yourself in a quiet environment. Turn off the electronics—your smartphone, that laptop with the dings every moment a new email arrives—and let phone calls go to voice mail.

Feed Your Brain – Get plenty of sleep the night before and make sure your body is fully nourished with adequate food. Drink plenty of water.

Use Mind Maps – This involves a method of using shapes and words to break ideas down into visual components. A mind map allows you to visualize relationships within your idea and conceptualize new ways of thinking. Start by drawing a circle around a brief title of your main subject. Draw lines from this circle and write major divisions of the main theme on these lines. Off from these lines are branches from each line with further related subdivisions of facts. You end up with a main topic and topic lines radiating out from the main theme’s circle. In the end, you have a visual map of an idea and all of its related parts, along with their connective associations. A good source for free online templates of mind maps is biggerplate.com/mindmap-library.

2. Set Smaller Goals

It’s the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen.”

John Wooden (1910-2010), UCLA men’s basketball coach, 1948-1975

Lifetime goals are just words about dreams you may never reach unless you break your aspirations down into smaller goals. The smaller goals are the details which bring you to the ultimate long-range objective. An initial step after coming up with a lifetime goal is to establish a five-year plan. Within this short-range plan are smaller steps required to help you reach your ultimate lifetime goal.

The process doesn’t end with a five-year plan. You also should implement a month-long plan and even a daily plan. Each plan is derived from the preceding plan with the longer timeline. Your daily plan needs to be a to-do list of items to accomplish today which marches you forward to eventually accomplishing your lifetime goal.

To-do lists sound simple, but there’s a bit of a science involved with creating effective to-do lists. Here are a couple of details:

p<>{color:#000;}. List Tasks – Jot down on separate lines on a sheet of paper all of the tasks required to be done. Large undertakings should be broken down into individual action steps.

p<>{color:#000;}. Prioritize the List – Go back through your list of tasks and after each task, grade it. In other words, if it’s a high-priority task, give it an A. When you find a task that has absolutely no priority, put an F after it. To effectively prioritize a list, all of the tasks cannot be emergency, high-priority tasks. If you have too many tasks followed by an A, go back through and demote several of the tasks to the B category. After you’ve graded your tasks, rewrite your list based on your assigned priorities.

An extremely important aspect of determining a priority of tasks in a to-do list is adhering to something that Dwight D. Eisenhower, the 34th President of the United States (U.S.) between 1953 and 1961, learned. He discovered the difference between urgent and important tasks while he was the Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Forces in Europe during World War II. In 1954^^3^^, President Eisenhower quoted Northwestern University President Dr. J. Roscoe Miller in a speech by saying, “I have two kinds of problems: the urgent and the important. The urgent are not important, and the important are not urgent.”

To translate what Eisenhower means, it boils down to the fact that important undertakings help us accomplish goals, whereas urgent tasks are frequently required for someone else to achieve their goals, not our ambitions. When you separate important and urgent goals, you don’t waste all of your time on urgent activities, which are based on someone else’s agenda, and allocate more time to important tasks that help you achieve your own goals.

3. Goal Setting Tips

There are several ideas to consider when setting goals. Here is a rundown:

Set Pragmatic Goals – Setting goals that are unrealistic for you to reach means you’re wasting your time in this entire process. When considering lifetime, short-term, and even daily goals, always put a realistic twist in your logic. You’re not going to write a novel in one day. You probably won’t win a million-dollar lottery overnight. So, don’t set goals which are unachievable. Also, put the brakes on goals established by others, such as those expected as a societal norm, from a peer group, your friends, your family, or your place of employment, which won’t work for you. Only you can decide whether a goal is realistic for your achievement, or ridiculously unrealistic.

Make Sure Each Goal is Within Your Power to Attain – You should shy away from outcome goals, or goals decided by attributes outside of your control. Disappointment is paramount when you fail to achieve your goal due to other external forces. Maybe inclement weather, poor health, a mistake in judgment, a change in a law, or a regional and national financial depression might adversely influence an outcome goal. Stick with selecting performance goals, because throughout the achievement of these types of objectives, you retain control over elements to realize the ultimate prize.

Small Goals are Better than Large Goals – Take excessively big goals and break them down into smaller goals. By achieving small goals, you gain satisfaction in knowing you’re moving closer to your larger lifetime goal. When your goal is too great, you feel like you’re never getting anywhere in realizing your ultimate purpose. By holding goals to a more incremental proportion, you provide yourself with more occasions for rewards.

Always Record Your Goals – Don’t make the mistake of conjuring up goals in your mind and not writing them down. By placing your goals in black and white, you manifest them into a compelling purpose and place a greater emphasis on your goal’s importance.

Rank Lists of Goals – When you establish a list of smaller goals in a five-year, monthly, or daily timeline, establish a priority for each goal within that list. The problem with viewing too many goals is you can feel snowed under by the volume of so many things to accomplish and not enough time to get it all done. By ranking your list of goals, you put your attention to the most important objective, first, and relieve yourself of pressure to try to do the entire list of goals immediately.

Set Specific Goals – Instead of establishing a goal that you want to learn how to play the guitar someday, set a precise goal that you want to be able to read any piece of music and play it on the guitar by New Year’s Day, two years from now. Goals must be specified with amounts, times, and dates, all measurable statistics which tell you and the rest of the world precisely what will be achieved by a date and a time the goal will be accomplished. When you set specific goals, you gain the ultimate satisfaction of completing your ambition.

Keep an Optimistic Tone for All Your Goals – A goal need not include the words “I will not make this dumb slip-up again.” Instead, express your goals in a positive manner, such as “fulfill this skill completely.”

4. Making a Success of Goals

It’s no use saying, ‘We are doing our best.’ You have got to succeed in doing what is necessary.”

Winston Churchill (1874-1965), Prime Minister of the UK, 1940-1945, 1951-1955

Goals by themselves cannot bring about success. In order to accomplish your goals, they need to contain the following qualities:

p<>{color:#000;}. You Must be Enthused by Your Goals – Any goal that you set needs to be important to you. You must ask yourself, “What significance will this goal bring to my life?” If you see no value in a goal, its success is surely lost. Goals involving the highest priorities of your future are those which make you the most enthused. Accomplishing goals takes hard work and motivation, so you must feel good about the goal you’re trying to meet. To ensure you possess high motivation for any goal, jot down reasons why you think the goal is important to you. Consider points you’d tell friends in order to convince them of the goal’s worthwhile nature. From this exercise, important points surface as to why you’re enthusiastic about the goal.

p<>{color:#000;}. Determine a Course of Action – As discussed earlier, divide your goal into smaller actionable goals. By completing smaller steps toward your ultimate goal, you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment.

p<>{color:#000;}. Persevere – Once you establish a goal and allocate a plan, try not to vary much. Stick with your plan. Build routines to develop habits which automatically direct you to your ultimate goal.

[] Align Goals with Your Mission and Purpose

So far in this chapter, we’ve discussed the idea of setting goals, but there’s really a bigger idea involving your life, and that’s its purpose. Business corporations often describe their reason for existence in a mission statement. This is also a worthwhile exercise for individuals—to develop a mission or purpose statement. When you define the purpose of your life, you simplify the reason for your goals.

1. Creating a Personal Mission Statement

By defining a personal mission statement, you put down in writing what the purpose of your life is and some details of what you want to accomplish in your future. This cannot be a vague statement. A personal mission statement states in a quantifiable and exact way where you plan on being later in your life.

To create a personal mission statement, do the following:

p<>{color:#000;}. Define Your Strengths – We reviewed how to determine your strengths in Chapter 2, under “Task Selection Must Cater to You,” and “2. Select Top Self Strengths.” From that exercise, you can determine your top strengths. Record these strengths on paper.

p<>{color:#000;}. Determine Elements of Success Related to You – Think about successful moments of your past life. Write down the factors about those high points that gave you a meaningful feeling. Ultimately, you need defining terms that you can use to measure your future evolvement toward lifetime goals.

p<>{color:#000;}. Pinpoint Future Goals – Ascertaining goals you want to achieve is discussed in the prior section of this chapter. Determine one, two, or three lifetime goals and then split them down into smaller goals.

p<>{color:#000;}. Prioritize into a Top Goal – Consider the first three bullet points listed above. After weighing your strengths, what you consider to be elements of success, and your list of goals, prioritize your goals list and select one goal from that list as your number one goal. This becomes the nucleus of your mission statement.

p<>{color:#000;}. Edit & Re-Edit – Write some words to reflect your top goal. Edit that statement. Re-edit the same statement. Let it sit overnight and polish it up, again. Take a week and each day, work on the wording with additional edits and re-edits. Always give yourself 24-hour breaks in-between your edits. This allows your thoughts to collect, mature, and gel into better wording. Try for succinct wording that best describes your thinking. After several edits and re-edits, you should have a quality mission statement.

There’s a direct relationship between your mission statement and your goals, since the top item of your goal list is formulated into the mission statement. One works off the other. The point is that once you write a concrete set of goals and a mission statement, you have a firm direction in your mind of where you want to go with your life and smaller goals to help drive you toward that target.

[] Lessons from Sam Walton, Wal-Mart’s Founder

Sam Walton, who created Wal-Mart, short for Walton Mart, and turned his retail discount chain into the largest retailer in the world, started his career as a Des Moines, Iowa J.C. Penney sales clerk trainee in 1940. He hated all of the paperwork involved with the job, preferring to give his customers speedy checkout service. Consequently, Walton’s sales records were such a disaster that his boss threatened to fire him, but amazing sales numbers saved him from that fate.

Like so many his age, Walton served a stint in the U.S. Army during World War II. He then bought a Ben Franklin store in Newport, Arkansas. Early on, Walton set a goal of charging the lowest price compared to his rival retail stores and in five years his store led sales of all Ben Franklin stores within six states. When his landlord refused to renew his store’s lease so that the landlord’s son could run the store, Walton found a new place to set up shop in Bentonville, Arkansas, and this time he signed a 99-year lease.

By 1962, Walton and his brother, James, owned 15 Ben Franklin stores and founded his original Wal-Mart store in Rogers, Arkansas. He realigned his goal to drastically cut prices in his stores in order to beat competitor’s pricing and made up the difference in reduced prices by promoting high sales volumes. Customers swamped Wal-Mart stores, and in 1970, Walton’s company became a public corporation. Wal-Mart expansion continued, and in 1980, 276 stores existed. Walton started Sam’s Wholesale Clubs in 1983 and two years later, Forbes magazine named Sam Walton as America’s richest businessman. In 1991, Wal-Mart advanced to become the largest U.S. retailer.

Throughout the Wal-Mart expansion era, Walton set a goal to reach the top of the nation’s retail world. He believed strongly in setting high personal goals. Walton decided on a number of values to base his goals on. His three main values were:

p<>{color:#000;}. Service to the customer.

p<>{color:#000;}. Strive for excellence.

p<>{color:#000;}. Respect for the individual.

From these core values, Walton developed a smaller goal of putting a high regard into the employees who worked in his stores. He didn’t call them clerks or sales people. Instead, Walton referred to his workers as associates. He decided that if his associates are treated well, earnestly listened to, and commended for high results, they in turn, would treat his store as if it was their store; consequently, his business would prosper.

He also set a small goal of not talking about his values, but instead reverberated the message through his own actions. He started work at 4:30 every morning, so he could review yesterday’s sales numbers and get ready to improve on them for the upcoming day.

In seeking his primary goal of becoming the top retailer in the country, Walton saw an opportunity not noticed by other retailers who fought for selling space in large cities. He sought expansion into rural communities and made it Wal-Mart’s goal to serve small towns. Professional lenders thought Walton was crazy, but he believed his low discount message resonated better with thrifty-minded small-town America than with high-income urban residents and stuck to his objective of expanding into smaller communities.

Keeping the customer happy was another small goal that Walton thought important in order to get to the ultimate goal of becoming the top national retailer. With that in mind, Walton stressed that Wal-Mart customers are always right. He also placed a high priority on always keeping shelves stocked.

As Wal-Mart expansion developed, Walton tried to ensure that every new store was within a one-day driving distance from any company warehouse. With regional warehouses, Walton bought name brands in large quantities, which meant he paid low prices. By providing his own supply trucks, he saved money, and passed on the savings in discount prices to his customers, who always saw a continuously stocked shelf in a Wal-Mart store.

By the way, in 1969, the 18th Wal-Mart store opened in Newport, Arkansas, the community where Sam Walton lost his successful Ben Franklin store to a landowner who wouldn’t renew the store’s lease and whose son took over the business. Eventually, that very business where Walton first started his retail store ownership closed its doors. Walton’s new store soaked up all of the town’s customers.

[] In Summary

We took a diversion from daily routines, but an important one. Your lifetime and smaller goals, values, and a mission statement all guide you the right way to determining the routines that you establish as habits in order to successfully gain your objectives in life. Failing to define a clear goal and mission, will leave your outcome from new habits at random.

In the next chapter, we will investigate specifics on how to apply new routines that actually work.

[] Chapter 4: Implementing A New Routine That Sticks

Humans are creatures of habit. Behavioral scientists estimate that between 40 and 45 percent of the activities we perform in a day are derived from habits, and up to 90 percent of our thoughts are the same as the day before. So, whether you are as fit as a fiddle, waddle around as an overweight bison, or possess a physique somewhere in-between, the appearance you portray to the rest of the world is a result of your habits.

Likewise, whether you earn a nice salary from your career, or you live a hobo’s life involving begging for your food, again it’s the result of habits in your life. In other words, the daily routines that you’ve unknowingly build into your life go a long way towards determining how you think, the way you look, and the successes or failures in your life.

With these thoughts in mind, it only makes sense to decide to ditch bad habits and replace them with quality routines in order to improve your lot in life. “Yes,” you say, “I do that every New Year’s Day and it doesn’t work.” There are several good reasons for the fact that New Year’s resolutions fail and they are:

p<>{color:#000;}. Too Much Too Soon Syndrome – Some routines are so ingrained in our brain and we’ve been doing a habit for so long that it’s too much to expect an instant success with a quick major change.

p<>{color:#000;}. Too Big of a Change – Other routines involve several little habits, making them a big part of our lives. Attempting to alter a big routine often fails, because it makes up such a large part of who we are.

p<>{color:#000;}. Changing a Result, Instead of a Behavior – Millions of people swear that they’re going to lose weight, but continue to eat potato chips and ice cream while watching hours of television. They’re concentrating on an outcome, instead of considering the actions which lead to excessive weight.

p<>{color:#000;}. Fail to Alter the Environment – A common mistake in attempting to change a habit is not paying attention to the environment which leads to bad habits that we’re attempting to change. A stressful working environment might be the cause of overeating, for instance.

p<>{color:#000;}. No Awareness of the Power of Small Changes – Most people misunderstand that big changes are best brought about with incremental alterations. Instead, we yearn to instantly alter a big habit and it usually doesn’t happen.

* _ [[*Begin with an Easy Habit and Re-Identifying Yourself & Your Habits]_]

Your net worth to the world is usually determined by what remains after your bad habits are subtracted from your good ones.”

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790)[

From the list of routine failures in changing habits which are listed above, one might surmise that an easy way to start your success in changing a habit is to alter a small habit. It sounds easy, but as you’ve probably already discovered, even changing a tiny habit is hard. Sometimes making a new habit stick involves just a matter of placing a new identity on yourself. Let me explain by using an example of a habit I once possessed of spelling poorly.

Through elementary, high school, and well into my college years, I was a poor to average speller. Some other classmate always won the grade school spelling bee. School papers that I wrote were always returned to me filled with red corrections. I knew I was a poor speller. The proof was in the results I got back from my school work. I didn’t worry about the fact that I couldn’t spell very well, because I received good grades.

Pride in how well I did in the classroom was part of the reason that my spelling improved. The other part involved a college professor with an iron will. During the first day of his class, he announced his grading structure. He said that since we all were students in a senior-level class, we all should know how to spell correctly, so for each misspelled word in a paper or on a test, he would subtract one complete letter grade. Students who received an A, but who had four misspelled words in a paper, would get an F on the work.

I was sweating bullets. He was teaching a course required for graduation and I literally stunk at spelling. How would I ever graduate? I relayed my anxiety to my professor since he was also my advisor, and I knew him on a first-name basis. He suggested to all of the class to investigate every word in a paper or on a test prior to turning it in and look up any word in the dictionary in which there was a remote questionability in spelling. I took his advice and even stopped 20 minutes before a test was due to give myself enough time for checking spelling.

Through this process, I discovered that I was a good speller. Once I looked up a word, I remembered its spelling. A former belief that I was a poor speller was inaccurate. Instead, I was a lazy speller—too lazy to pay enough attention to correct my poor spelling.

There’s another point of realization and that was I changed how I perceived myself. No longer did I use the excuse that I was a poor speller. Instead, I took pride that I was an above-average speller. I altered my identity. I believed that I was a good speller, and therefore I became a good speller.

When you want to alter an old bad habit to a new good habit, you first must change your identity. In other words, you have to believe in the fact that you already are the person that you intend to be once the new habit is ensconced into your daily routines. By first altering your own perception in your abilities, you give yourself a better chance of succeeding in making the new habit a permanent routine.

You also must use specifics to effectively alter a bad habit. Again, using my case, simply stating, “I’m going to be a good speller,” wasn’t enough. I didn’t know it at the time, but my instructor gave me the specifics for altering my bad spelling habit and that was simply to look up every questionable word. I was smarter than I thought I was and recognized misspelled words after paying attention to correctly spelling them.

The whole point here is that once you change your identity and then analyze specific steps you must take to alter a bad habit, you’re well on your way to changing the bad habit into a good one and making it a daily routine in your life. Another way to put this is once you’ve decided you want to alter a bad habit, resolve that you are the type of person you want to be based on the better, new habit, and then verify that you are indeed that person with minor victories through your game plan.

Believe that you can and you’re halfway there.” 

Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919), 26th U.S. President

For a real-life scenario, let’s review the ultimate in New Year’s resolutions, which is losing weight. What is a common trait of overweight people? One characteristic is that an obese person moves slowly. So, if you want to lose weight, decide to alter your identity by becoming a fast-moving person who walks more than others. Your minor victories might include morning or evening walks. The very first walk is a distance of only 500 feet. Double your distance on the second day and add 500 additional feet per day to your walk. By your tenth day, you’ll be up to 5,000 feet. The day after that, your walks are over one mile, since there are 5,280 feet in a mile. Through several days of minor victories, you eventually lose weight because you initially changed your self-identity and made several small changes that gave you a daily victory.

[] Use Little Improvements to Initiate a Habit

The last example uses an idea dreamed up by Sir David Brailsford, who was the performance director of Great Britain’s pro cycling team, also known as Team Sky. He calls his concept the aggregate of minimal returns and it’s a phenomenon that’s been implemented by a number of United Kingdom (UK) business professionals. Brailsford’s concept involves improving an endeavor by just one percent and the addition of these little improvements eventually equals a huge enhancement.

Prior to when Brailsford led the British Team Sky cycling group in 2002, Britain only won a single gold medal in its entire existence. During the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, and in the 2012 Olympics in London, Team Sky won gold seven times, out of 10 track cycling events. The team also won three of four Tour de France victories under Brailsford’s guidance.

Brailsford, who holds a Master’s of Business Administration (MBA) degree, explained to the Harvard Business Review^^4^^ that instead of aiming for Olympic gold, he gave his athletes a different goal. He asked them to center on slow development. Brailsford suggested compounding small daily improvements.

A key to Brailsford as a cycling coach was finding tiny improvements in areas that were never investigated by other cycling teams. For instance, this coach realized certain pillows and mattresses gave his cyclists a better night’s sleep, so Team Sky packed their own pillows and mattresses to use in hotels while traveling. He discovered that dust on the floor of the truck used to move bicycles hindered their performance, so the truck’s floor was painted white, revealing dust that was then meticulously removed. He even got his cycling team to use specific hygiene to avoid sickness while on the road. Brailsford says all of these small ideas added up to give Team Sky a huge advantage over their competitors.

The point that many people completely disregard in their own lives is that the sum of tiny improvements contributes to huge overall gains. Instead of finding and improving upon the insignificant areas of life, we think that in order to get somewhere, a huge change is necessary. When we cannot succeed at an alteration that is too large to accomplish overnight, we wilt and crawl back to our former habits, several of which are bad.

When you think about it, small changes actually occur to get you into bad habits, which is Brailsford’s concept of an aggregate of minimal returns in reverse. For instance, you’re tired from a long day at work. You turn on the television and watch a mindless program. Maybe you fall asleep but wake occasionally to flip between channels to find another mindless piece of video to vegetate on. After several hours of gluing yourself to a video screen, you go to bed late, get up tired, become even more worn out at your next day at work, only to spend another evening in front of the tube. A perpetual television habit starts innocently enough, but turns into a bad habit that makes you an exhausted human.

The tiny effort of turning on the TV points you in a downward spiral. An equally tiny effort of not turning on that television might direct you into a better habit, like reading a book for 30 minutes and then preparing for bed. It probably takes an equal effort to perform a one percent bad decision as it takes to accomplish a decision that took one percent to go toward a positive goal. The important detail is that after adding up several constructive tiny efforts, you eventually gain a big goal.

Brailsford says there’s an added bonus to making small improvements that add up to attaining a bigger goal over time. He calls it contagious enthusiasm. Once you start finding tiny improvements, you seek more. Brailsford claims it’s similar to a scavenger hunt and the more success you have with little improvements, the more a positive atmosphere erupts.

A major problem that most people acquire is conceptualizing success as just one event. It’s not. Everlasting accomplishments are never single episodes, but rather a total of many instances when we improve our performance by a mere one percent. So, when you want to create a good habit and you want it to stay with you, first try breaking it down into small increments that you can adopt a little at a time until the whole habit is as natural to you as walking.

[] Break a Big Habit into Small Parts

__]“Perseverance is not a long race; it is many short races one after the other.”

Walter Elliot (1842-1928), U.S. author & Catholic priest

Tackling the implementation of a new habit with the idea of the aggregate of minimal returns as described above is best done by assuming some simple rules. These rules are:

p<>{color:#000;}. Select Easy – Assess your new habit and pick a portion of it that’s the easiest to accomplish. You need something that is impossible to reject as a difficult task, or a process which is quick and easy for you to do.

p<>{color:#000;}. Multiply in Small Increments – When performing your new habit, add repetitions of the habit to your daily life only in small numbers.

p<>{color:#000;}. Boost Repetitions in Easy Amounts – As you increase the number of times you perform the new habit, always make it an easy outcome. If it gets hard, reduce repetitions down to a manageable and easy number.

In a real life scenario, consider adopting a new habit of maintaining a cleaner house. There are dirty dishes in the kitchen sink, skeletons of snack containers, such as boxes and bags, are in the living room, and clothes are strewn across the bedroom floor. You’re tired of living in a continual mess, so your first thought is to perform a mass cleaning, even if it takes several hours. This decision ultimately teaches you how to lead a boom and bust cycle of living through long periods of chaos, followed by brief flashes of cleanliness.

Adopting the rules outlined earlier, an easier solution might involve washing the dishes in the kitchen sink on day one, followed by committing yourself to wash dishes immediately after all meals in the future. The following day, add cleaning up items left in the living room to your daily house-tidying chores. On day three, commit to folding clean clothes found in the bedroom each day and throwing soiled clothes in the dirty clothes hamper.

After a week of performing these three daily tasks, assess your remaining house cleaning chores and add another housekeeping duty to your daily list. Wait another week to include another daily duty. If too many items make it impossible to carry out all daily chores, delegate a job to less frequency, such as sweeping and vacuuming floors only once a week, instead of daily. Eventually, the whole house is cleaned either on a daily, weekly, or monthly routine. You’ve replaced a bad habit of living in filth with a good habit of living in a clean house.

This process followed the rules for successfully adopting a new habit. From the start, an easy task of washing dishes was initiated into the routine. The focus is on just turning dirty dishes to clean ones, and putting them away. Another simple task is then added on the second day—picking up the living room—which takes only seconds to finish. Task number one and two are easy to accomplish and the cleaning habit is successful. By adding a third task and waiting a week to add any more tasks, housecleaning isn’t a burden and it’s becoming a good daily routine. Additional tasks are weighed so that the new habit isn’t too overwhelming to be scorned and forgotten.

[] Correct Yourself Immediately After a Habit is Missed

__]“Only I can change my life. No one can do it for me.”

Carol Burnett, American comedian

None of us are perfect. Despite good intentions, there are moments when our habits are disrupted. A neighbor’s unexpected visit lasts all day. Your father gives you baskets of produce from his garden, which requires your immediate attention. Or, your new puppy piddles on the clean living room carpet. So, what do you do when you don’t accomplish a newly set habit due to unforeseen circumstances?

A wise rule of thumb is to decide that if a habit is missed, you will never miss accomplishing that routine a second time. So, in our earlier housecleaning example, when the dishes are left in the sink after a meal, make sure every dish is cleaned and put away immediately after the second meal. Never miss accomplishing your new habit two times in a row and make a firm commitment to that rule.

There’s no problem missing a new habit that you’re trying to make into a daily routine. To be slightly imperfect is only human. But, when you routinely fail in accomplishing your new habit, you also take a nosedive in reaching your ultimate goal. Highly successful people are those who quickly put themselves back on their daily routine when they are broken loose from the track.

[] End Procrastination & Perform Your Habit Daily

“Somebody should tell us, right at the start of our lives, that we are dying. Then we might live life to the limit, every minute of every day. Do it! I say. Whatever you want to do, do it now! There are only so many tomorrows.”]

Michael Landon (1936-1991), American actor

Procrastination is a nasty, bad habit that we all get into eventually. Certainly, you’ve been there. You need to get something accomplished, but instead of buckling down to get the job done, you find something else to do, usually a task of pitiful importance. You dust the books on your desk, check for messages on the phone, pour yourself another cup of coffee, drive to the store to buy a snack to go with your coffee, do anything but the important task that you need to do.

How do you beat that nasty procrastination bug? This vehement virus, I’m very familiar with him. Oh, yes, I know procrastination extremely well. You see, I’m a writer, and like all creative artists, procrastination occasionally sets in like a long winter storm. I like to review techniques famous writers used to outwit that wily and nasty procrastination germ.

Here is what I found:

George Orwell – An English novelist whose actual name was Eric Arthur Blair (1903-1950), Orwell is most famous for writing Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four. At the age of 31, he worked as an assistant at a second-hand bookstore called Booklovers’ Corner. He developed a daily routine of getting up at 7 a.m., opening the bookstore at 8:45 a.m., and working there for one hour. He was free from 9:45 a.m. until 2 p.m., when he returned to the bookstore and worked until it closed at 6:30 p.m. Orwell’s writing occurred in the middle of the day, during a daily routine time when he was most alert.

Charles Dickens –] Another English writer and social critic, Dickens (1812-1870) was famous for writing A Christmas Carol, Oliver Twist, Great Expectations, and A Tale of Two Cities. He required complete silence and insisted on installing an extra door where ever he wrote, to block out noise. Dickens found he needed certain items at his desk in order to write, such as his dueling toads and man covered with puppies bronze statuettes, his paper knife, a small vase of fresh flowers, blue ink, and goose-quill pens, all on a writing desk in front of a window. Once everything was in place, words flowed effortlessly from Dickens.

Leo Tolstoy –] This Russian writer’s actual name was Count Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy (1828-1910). His best known writings are War and Peace and Anna Karenina. Tolstoy employed a very purposeful daily writing routine. He wrote in his diary on a faithful daily basis not so much to sharpen his writing skills, but to make sure he followed a daily routine of always writing. Like Dickens, Tolstoy required a closed door to the room where he wrote. Tolstoy’s son, Sergei, noted that his father always asked that doors into adjoining rooms be closed and locked, so that no one could enter his room and disturb him while he was writing.

Franz Kafka – A citizen of Prague (now in the Czech Republic, but in his time within the Kingdom of Bohemia, part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire), Kafka (1883-1924) was famous for The Metamorphosis, The Trial, and The Castle. Trained as a lawyer, he worked at a Prague insurance company, and he lived in a cramped apartment with his family. Due to his work and his living conditions, Kafka followed a strict timetable to accomplish his writing. Between 10:30 p.m. and 11:30 p.m., he started writing, finishing between 1 a.m. to 3 a.m.

Stephen King – The American king of horror novels, King is famous for a number of novels that were turned into movies, including Carrie, The Shining, and Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption. King has a daily routine of writing every single day of the year, even on holidays. He doesn’t stop writing in any given day until he’s generated 2,000 words of copy. Writing begins for King at 8 a.m. and he sometimes hits his 2,000-word quota by 11 a.m., but he usually finishes at 1:30 p.m.

Mark Twain – Samuel Clemens (1835-1910), who used the riverboat pen name of Mark Twain, followed an arduous daily writing routine when he penned some of his famous works such as The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. After eating a large breakfast, Clemens entered his study and wrote continuously until 5 p.m. No one was to enter while he wrote and if his family required his attention, they blew a horn. After he ate dinner, Clemens read his day’s writing to his family. Sunday was the only day when he didn’t write.

Victor Hugo – A French novelist and poet, Hugo (1802-1885), who was famous for writing Les Misérables and The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, employed a unique daily writing routine. After waking at dawn from a gunshot fired from a fort near his residence, he drank coffee while reading a letter written each morning by his mistress, Juliette Drouet. Hugo then gulped down two raw eggs, went to a lookout room, and wrote until 11 a.m. while standing at a tiny desk located in front of a mirror. Even with this routine, Hugo wasn’t immune to procrastination. In order to finish writing assignments nearing deadlines, Hugo took off his clothes and told his valet not to return them until he wrote a certain number of pages.

Other than some oddities, such as nudity, horn blowing, and goofy bronze statuettes, a common thread weaves through most of these authors on a technique for beating procrastination and that is instilling a daily routine into their lives. From Orwell and Tolstoy to King and Twain, they all worked out a routine which ensured that their work of writing was employed daily. When you make your work a daily habit, procrastination goes out the window like so much bad air.

[] Set a Maintainable Habit

Too often, we hobble ourselves with lofty goals, which are impossible to accomplish. We say we’re going to lose 100 pounds, or that we’re going to learn to play the cello as well as Yo-Yo Ma. When that goal isn’t reached, the old habits return and the future looks dim.

A better idea is to start any habit with an extremely easy outer limit that gives you an achievable method of starting your daily routine. After you hit that limit day after day and successfully create a habit, you can boost the limit to another level.

To determine this initial level, consider what level equates to a lazy person’s amount of work. Also, contemplate how much work in your new habit puts you into a burnout phase. Once you have identified those two extremes, establish a maintainable level that you can easily accomplish in a day.

Since I’m experienced with writing, I envy Mark Twain’s routine of writing from morning straight through until 5 p.m., but I know it would give me a one-day end-of-career burnout. A Stephen King routine of writing 2,000 words, starting at 8 a.m. and ending at 1:30 is more to my tastes. However, a beginning writer ought to commence with something easier to maintain, such as a 9 a.m. daily start and an initial goal of writing 500 words, then upping that amount 100 words a week until the 2,000-word count is accomplished on a daily basis.

[] In Summary

Before you initiate a new daily routine to your life, follow Teddy Roosevelt’s suggestion and believe that you can do it—re-identify yourself in a positive aspect of the new routine. Then, use the aggregate of minimum returns to slowly inch towards the ultimate adoption of your daily routine.

When you miss your routine, make sure you never miss it two times in a row. Smash out procrastination with a wrecking ball of a continuous routine. Finally, set up a habit with maintainable tasks, adjusting them to greater levels as your routine becomes more entrenched. Now that we’ve reviewed methods of making a new routine actually stick, our next investigation is into actually setting up a daily routine.


  • * Chapter 5: Setting Up a Daily Routine Plan for Work and Home

Launching a daily routine is more than writing down some words on a sheet of paper and following the directives of your written statement. First, you must formulate a daily routine that works best for you. Remember utilizing your strengths that you identified in chapter 2. Don’t blindly follow a routine established by a friend or a colleague at work because they might have other goals than you. Your routine is only for you because you know best what you want to achieve.

You’re next step is two-fold—to decide what you need to do for a new routine, and to determine specific times for your daily routines.

[] Data Gathering

Based on your earlier defined lifetime and short-term goals, your first step is to identify all of the tasks in an improved daily routine. Previous to gathering information, you must realize that you are not planning. This isn’t a to-do list. You aren’t structured in any way. You simply want to dump information down on paper, or in the notepad on your computer, laptop, tablet, or smartphone. Don’t be particular. Your goal is to simply toss out ideas and list them. Organization comes later.

Another point to realize is that when you’re amassing ideas of the parts of your daily routine, rather than sitting down at a long, time-consuming personal powwow, jot down ideas as they come to you while you’re going through your day. You can use a list in your phone, or simply a pen and a pocket notepad. It really doesn’t matter whether you use a technical or non-technical manner of transcribing your information, as long as you always have something with you to record thoughts as they come to mind.

As you move through the day, think about elements of your current daily routines, which are already part of your life. Write down tasks that you currently do on a daily basis, especially those tasks that you don’t want to change, since they already accomplish goals necessary to your current life. If you think of new tasks that are better than old tasks you currently perform, write them down in a separate column. Get every tiny task, whether it’s a current one or a new idea, written down in your pocket notebook or thumb-texted into your smartphone.

Here are some questions to contemplate, which might help you to remember all of your tasks:

p<>{color:#000;}. House Maintenance – What daily tasks are required to maintain my place of residence? Consider new tasks that might help you live in a more organized abode.

p<>{color:#000;}. Health – What daily tasks are required to keep me in good health? Include items such as good hygiene, and exercise.

p<>{color:#000;}. Daily Chores – What daily errands must I accomplish? Include tasks like picking up the mail, grabbing the newspaper, picking up and dropping off the kids at school, or walking the dog.

p<>{color:#000;}. Meals – What daily chores are required for you to eat? Consider buying, preparing, and eating food, along with cleaning up dishes after meals are eaten. If you eat produce out of your own garden, then gardening is a part of this category.

p<>{color:#000;}. Getting Ready for Work – What do you do every day to go to work? Think of everything, like showers, applying mascara for women, or shaving for men.

p<>{color:#000;}. Employment – What tasks do you do as you go through your work day? Consider jobs you have no control over, such as incoming telephone calls, and tasks in which you have complete control.

Remember, no task is too small for your list. If you want to add petting the kitty to your list, put it down. This is a brain dump. You can remove unwanted items later.

[] Analyze Your Routines

Chances are good that you already started analyzing your routines since a suggestion was made earlier to separately list new tasks which might improve your current routines. Analyze both current routines from new routines. Consider what you do every day. Is there a better way? If there is, place the new task in the new routines column.

While you’re analyzing your daily routines and considering new routines, there are a couple of ideas to remember. Consider ways to make your mornings quicker. If you spend too much time wondering what clothes to wear each morning, set your next day’s clothes out the night before. Then, there’s no thinking involved when you’re groggy and getting dressed each morning. Likewise, preplan breakfasts the night before, enabling fast preparation and eating times.

Always set aside time for contemplation and going over what you need to accomplish in a given day. Sometimes, you never know when a thought will strike you. When you think of something at an inopportune moment, such as when you’re on your daily commute to work, make sure you have a method of recording your thoughts, whether it’s a recording on a smartphone, or notes in a pocket notebook.

Always include time for doing cleanup routines. Instead of living or working in squalor, you need to schedule routines for tidying up your work space and your residence. Cleanup might not be daily, but rather a weekly or even a monthly habit. Schedule what works best for you, but always include some way of turning the mess that you might have left behind into an environment which is cleaned up for the next time you sit down or walk into the place. Concentration is extremely hard when your setting is chaos and a mess.

[] Create a Timeline from Your Routine List

“Don’t duck the most difficult problems. That just ensures that the hardest part will be left when you are most tired. Get the big one done – it’s downhill from then on.”]

Norman Vincent Peale (1898-1993), author, most notably of [The Power of Positive Thinking

You now have a list of daily routines or tasks that you do each day. You also have some ideas of new daily routines you might add to your current daily habits. Your next step involves crafting a timeline specifically designed for you and you alone.

As outlined earlier, most people are brightest and get more done earlier in the day. You may or may not be like most people. Are you an early bird, who jumps out of bed on a full run, ready to attack the day? Or, are you a night owl, who gets so engrossed in an activity that you work well into the wee hours of the early morning when most people are sleeping? You know best what hours are your premium hours of the day.

Most employment involves getting to the workplace somewhere between 8 a.m. or 9 a.m., taking a noon lunch break at work, and then working until around 5 p.m. or 6 p.m. So, whether you’re an early bird or a night owl, employment requires you to adapt to when most people work, which is in the middle of the daylight hours. So, both early birds and night owls must converge into midday people.

To make a timeline of your daily routines:

p<>{color:#000;}. Separate Home & Work Tasks – Separate home tasks from work tasks. Make two different lists.

p<>{color:#000;}. Reserve Tough Jobs for Initial Work – Look through your tasks and find your toughest jobs. Schedule the tough ones for early in the day. Most people accomplish their greatest feats earlier, rather than later in the day. Does your daily routine place you into mundane chores at a time when you’re extremely alert? If so, you need to reschedule your routine. Jump on the important matters, first. If your employment includes tough decisions, attack those first. If you’ve got heady matters to consider, get on with those tasks immediately.

p<>{color:#000;}. Schedule Mundane Tasks at Mid-Day – During working hours, when is your mind dead in the water? For most people, it’s right after eating lunch. Your stomach is digesting food. That caffeine high from the morning coffee is long gone. Thinking about tough decisions is far from perfect at this time of the day. Instead, schedule those mundane tasks, such as viewing emails, deciding work schedules, or running errands like getting the mail, or visiting the bank.

p<>{color:#000;}. Place Planning Tasks at Day’s End – Don’t schedule difficult routines for your final hours of work, or your evening hours when you’re home. Instead, use end-of-the-day time to plan for tomorrow’s activities. This is the time for anticipating your future. Review your goals and direct tasks for tomorrow that better align with your future. On a more humdrum level, tidy up your home, lay out tomorrow’s clothes, or pack tomorrow’s sack lunch during evening hours.

p<>{color:#000;}. Add Extra Time to Accommodate Changes – Stuff happens. Another s-word is often placed in this two-word sentence, but you get the point. If your schedule is too stringent, it won’t work when unforeseen events blast a hole in your schedule. While drawing up a schedule of daily routines, give yourself additional time, so you have built-in wiggle room to adjust to the diversions which are apt to occur in any given day.

When scheduling daily routines, always consider the following:

Schedule Definite Time to End the Work Day – A common trend in today’s American workplace is to put in extra work hours after the end of the normal working day. You want to succeed at your job, so you become a workaholic by working at the office after everyone else goes home. The problem with living like this is that there’s no fun in your life. A better idea is to get more done through the working day so you can enjoy your free time away from work.

Schedule your planning time at the end of the work day, then set an alarm and hit the dusty trail once that alarm rings. Alarms are perfect if you’re the type of person who becomes entranced with your job so much that you forget what time it is. Another idea is to schedule something exciting that you always do right after work, which makes you eager to jump out the door at closing time. Finally, don’t be afraid to say the word, “no,” to work colleagues who start long-winded conversations or major projects near closing time.

Include a Daily Exercise Routine – Exercise is a very important part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle, especially if your daily work involves sitting at a desk. Never allocate exercise into a daily “to-do” list unless you also schedule it for a specific time. Perhaps you walk a mile in the morning before breakfast, go jogging in the park after work, or go to the gym two days of the week. Whatever type of exercise works for you, always place a top priority on scheduling it into your daily routines. When you think about it, exercise deserves top billing in your life, because there is really nothing more important to you than your well-being and your health and exercise strengthens both your body and your mind.

Daily Home & Office Cleanup Routine – Yes, this was mentioned a couple of times, earlier, but it’s very important to actually schedule time for straightening up your home and office. If you’re like me, you’ll leave things messy when you’re tired and walking out the door. Don’t do it that way. Instead, schedule time when you’ll pick up your mess. That way, when you walk into your home in the evening, or your office in the morning, you enter with a fresh start and not with a reminder of the mess of an earlier time. Besides, when you allocate a few minutes of cleanup time, you don’t waste a weekend day cleaning your office or home at a time when you should be enjoying some other worthwhile activity.

A few minutes really means just that—a small amount of time. Dedicate just 10 minutes daily to wiping down kitchen or bathroom counter tops. Do it while you’re waiting for your morning coffee to finish brewing. Consider performing your 10-minute cleanup on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday in the kitchen and Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday in the bathroom. At the office, after you’re done planning tomorrow, spend 10 minutes putting books and pens away and giving your office desk a quick cleanup. A scheduled cleanup routine perpetually puts you in a happier state of mind.

Mail, Trash, Weekly Chores, & Monthly Budget Routines – Several mundane chores are necessary, such as picking up your mail or taking out the trash. Leave incoming envelopes in a mailbox for too long and the U.S. Postal Service will refuse service and discontinue mail delivery. Failing to take out the garbage means that you live like a pig. Actually, any hog farmer will tell you that a pig is a very clean animal, so that isn’t even a good analogy. Always include the monotonous chores into your schedule of daily routines. If you have to, set an automatic alarm on your smartphone, tablet, or computer, which reminds you to check for mail or take out the trash.

There are other chores, such as planning what you’ll cook for meals, washing clothes, paying monthly bills, or drawing up a monthly or quarterly budget, that requires scheduling. Even if a job isn’t performed daily, don’t forget to add it into your schedule so that it isn’t forgotten. These tasks aren’t going to determine your lifelong destiny, yet they’re important to your wellbeing. Forget to wash your clothes and you won’t have to worry about a social life. Skip paying monthly bills and perhaps essentials, such as water and electricity, will no longer be available in your house.

Allow Daily Meal Times – Life requires certain essentials. Eating is one of the essential ingredients of the living. If you want to be an effective working and living human, you must eat. Furthermore, to be at the top of your game, you must eat right. That means laying off the candies, mid-morning and mid-afternoon snacks, and consuming healthy fruits and vegetables for lunch, instead of burgers and fries.

More importantly, you cannot skip breakfast, then skip lunch, eat a huge anaconda-like evening supper, and expect your mind to be at a tiptop performance level. Similar to scheduling an end to your work day, an alarm is a great way to signal an end to your morning work and the moment to get up, walk out of your office and go eat lunch. Never skip lunch.

Personal Hygiene – Always add chores such as showering, shaving, and other personal hygiene duties to your daily routine list, so that they’re never missed. Your health is supremely important, so it’s paramount that these tasks aren’t missed.

Sleep, Your Most Important Task – Sleep is so important that Amnesty International registers sleep deprivation as a type of torture. Even missing one hour of sleep per night ruins your health by significantly altering brain functions. Studies performed by the National Sleep Foundation^^5^^ indicate that adults between ages 18 and 64 require seven to nine hours of sleep and those over 65 years old need seven to eight hours of sleep. The best way to afford yourself enough sleep is to make bedtime a daily routine and to stick to it. Again, since you set an alarm for waking up, why not also set an alarm as a reminder to go to bed?

[] In Summary

The first step in setting up daily routines is amassing lists of all tasks you need to perform in a day. As you put together these lists, consider routines which are in line with your newly set goals from chapter 2, and/or goals which might improve your lifestyle. Analyze present routines and replace bad tasks with better ones. Next, schedule daily tasks with tough tasks at the beginning of your day, mundane tasks after lunch, planning at the end of your day, and a definitive ending time for your work, meals, and for going to sleep. Remember to schedule daily exercise and a cleanup routine.

Establishing all of these points into your daily routine and then placing them into a schedule makes it easier for you to accomplish life’s important tasks, and will vastly accelerate your path to achieving your goals.

  • * Chapter 6: Examples To Help You Get A Better Start and Focus On The Day

Only you can best formulate your own daily routine. It needs to fit your lifestyle and work for your personality. There are tricks used by successful people which you can adopt to help you along on your quest to enjoy a better and more fulfilling life. The day’s start sets the tone for the remainder of your day, so we’ll focus on this time segment of the day. Since tasks that you perform at the end of the day often help you at the beginning of your next day, we’ll also key in on effective evening routines. Remember that these are only examples. You have to take or leave ideas explained here to develop daily routines that work best for you.

* _ [[*Effective Morning Routines & Key Points to Remember]_]

“I never knew a man come to greatness or eminence who lay abed late in the morning.”]

Jonathan Swift (1667-1745), Satirist and author of Gulliver’s Travels, [A Modest Proposal

Some of us are early birds, who rise before the break of dawn and hit the ground running hard. Others are night owls, who are late getting up, because we peak in the evening and stay up late at night. Interestingly, both night owls and early birds get about the same amount of sleep, but there are significant differences between these two groups of people physically.

Brain scans taken by German scientists^^6^^ show that those people who are up late and then sleep in have fewer white matter or the brain cells which accelerate communication between parts of the brain. These types of people are more apt to feel depressed, or suffer from other mental impairments.

Other scientific studies conclude that early-risers earn better grades in school, are more engaged in accomplishing their goals, seem more apt to predict and prevent problems, and are better at getting things done in a day. Even an analysis of the successful business leaders shows an early bird trend. It might be difficult at first, but moving toward starting your day earlier with an effective morning routine might help you achieve more goals in your life. Here are some ideas to consider.

1. Morning Alarm Means Get Up

How many times do you hit the “snooze” button on the alarm clock prior to getting out of bed in the morning? Sleep experts say that a third of all American adults touch the snooze button on their alarm clocks each morning and they usually hit it three times before getting up. The worst culprits are adults between the ages of 25 and 34. A whole 57 percent of these sleepy heads smack on the snooze button daily. Adults over age 65 enjoy jumping out of bed, because only 10 percent of this age group uses a snooze alarm.

The problem mentioned by sleep experts is that by attempting to snooze after the alarm goes off, we don’t help our body. Your body alternates between light and deep sleep throughout the night. Roughly an hour prior to opening our eyes, our brains push hormones through the body, our body temperatures go up, and our sleep becomes lighter. When you smack that snooze button, instead of getting out of bed, the extra sleep time is even lighter than before and the end result is that you become an even groggier morning person than normal.

There’s an easy solution and that’s to get to bed earlier so you obtain more sleep. As mentioned in an earlier chapter, most adults require seven to nine hours of sleep each night. If you’re getting less than seven hours of sleep, it’s not enough. Change your evening routine and set an alarm telling you to get to bed earlier.

Another trick to getting out of bed when the alarm rings is to use an automatic coffee maker, setting it to start brewing coffee 15 minutes prior to your morning alarm going off. The enticing aroma of coffee in the air just might help you drag your body out of bed. It’s worth a try.

The best way to stop the snooze button syndrome is to place the alarm across the room from your bed. When the alarm goes off, get up, walk across the room, shut it off, and then start dressing for the day ahead. Don’t walk back and flop into your bed. The bottom line is this: the morning alarm means getting up, not snoozing a little longer. That extra 10 minutes of snooze time doesn’t help you. It actually hurts you. So, set the alarm clock, get up, and get out of bed every morning—period!

2. Include Important Biological Tasks

Once you’re up and starting your day, don’t just grab a cup of coffee and vegetate in front of a television set. Immediately after waking up, walk into the bathroom, wet down a washcloth and wash your face with some warm water. Even if a shower is part of your morning routine, applying warm water to your face quickly takes the grogginess out of getting up.

Of course, taking an immediate shower upon getting up is another excellent way of thoroughly waking up the body. Also, include an important morning constitutional, or as your mother used to say, “Go to the bathroom.” Other body clean-up tasks should be included in a good morning routine, such as shaving, brushing teeth, and applying mascara. Tasks will vary, of course, but the main point is to include important biological tasks in your morning routine.

3. Movement Awakens the Body

Physical movement tells your body it’s alive and your day has begun. As soon as possible in the morning, get your body moving. Exercise is a common solution. Owning a dog as a pet provides you with an instant answer. Put your dog on a leash, go outside, and walk your dog. Both you and your pet get the best exercise available to all animals, which is walking.

An important aspect of modern life is that on the whole, we don’t exercise enough. Yet, giving your body adequate physical activity helps in so many ways. The U.S. Center for Disease Control claims^^7^^ that exercise not only helps in lowering body weight, it reduces the chances of cardiovascular disease, lessens the onslaught of diabetes, slows the chances of some types of cancer, and improves the muscles and bones within your body. It doesn’t take much exercise to do the trick. Just a few minutes of exercise helps immensely.

Exercise adds other benefits to your life. Regular exercise means you require fewer hours of sleep, which gives you more time to accomplish your goals or enjoy life. It forces your body into a better night of sleep, a recuperative property. Daily exercise sharpens your brain, allowing you to make better judgments. It also steadies your moods. Exercise helps build your immune system, which means you’re healthier. Finally, it energizes your body, so you aren’t as weary while marching through your day.

Some people like to perform some simple morning stretching routines and follow it up with a few pushups. Yet, others might execute a session of yoga positions, in order to stretch muscles and make them more flexible. Perhaps you’d rather go for a morning jog, or take a couple of laps in the swimming pool. A brisk walk is another great idea. What you do isn’t as important as getting your body moving as soon as possible after getting out of bed.

4. Breakfast Invigorates the Mind

You don’t expect your car to start and move you from place to place without adding fuel. Yet, many people start their day without adding energy to their own bodies. If you regularly miss breakfast in the morning, you’re not alone. According to Time^8^, 15 percent of Americans don’t eat breakfast.

An interesting side effect of missing breakfast is eating more food later in the day. Scientific research proves^^9^^ that any animal that is denied food has a tendency to eat more when it finally gets food. Since you are human, and since humans are animals, it makes sense that missing breakfast leads to supersized lunches and dinners, resulting also in a supersized body. Those who don’t eat breakfast aren’t hungry in the morning, but they experience hunger pains earlier in the day, when compared to breakfast eaters. The result is that non-breakfast eaters hit the snacks high in sugars and fat, which are both great ingredients for leading to extra body fat.

Obesity is one thing, but a more important aspect associated with not eating breakfast is you deprive your body and mind of fuel. According to a 2013 University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing study, children who ate a daily breakfast scored much higher on IQ examinations than those who skipped breakfast.

All of us prefer to register a sharp mind. Do what your mother always told you and eat your breakfast. An egg biscuit sandwich from the corner fast food vendor isn’t the answer, either. It’s full of those dreaded sugars and fat. Instead, fix yourself a good home-cooked breakfast. Add a helping of fruit and include protein. Think of it as fuel for your mind.

5. Mindfulness or Meditation

A growing number of experts are encouraging meditation as a method of readying yourself for the day. Studies indicate that those who meditate on a daily basis are more focused in their endeavors, because their mindfulness practice renovates the brain. Besides assisting the brain to focus, meditation teaches patience, calmness, clarity, and perspective. Meditation is a great help if your livelihood features a creative aspect.

6. Review Today’s Timeline

Reviewing the upcoming day’s timeline should begin with a larger perspective. What are your lifetime goals? Review those major goals that you want to achieve in your life. If you write them down and forget them, you might forget what you ultimately want to accomplish. The next step is to ask yourself what you can do today to move you along the road of your long range goals. This shouldn’t take up a great deal of time. At the maximum, this can be just a five-minute thinking session.

If you haven’t planned your day the evening before, create a plan for today. We’ll talk about it later, but to get a better jump on the day, do your planning the evening before. Then, at this time, you’re just reviewing your plan. You might adjust it after evaluating your long range goals.

7. Attack Hard Tasks First

Tackle the difficult things first in the morning; make changes in the way you network. Treat everyone with respect and dignity. This stops you from cynicism and negativity. End your day with that same attitude you started. Renew your contract with a day well completed.”

Rick Patino, University of Louisville head basketball coach

We’ve already discussed this, but it’s a concept that is very important and worth repeating. Start your day with your most difficult task. Don’t start by looking at Facebook and Twitter. Ignore the emails. Keep that smartphone out of sight. Jumping into voice messages and emails first thing in the morning only puts you on a schedule dictated by someone else.

From your planning for the day, you should have some top priorities of items you want to accomplish in the day. Get that number one item accomplished first thing in the morning. After it’s done, then you can check the voicemails and the emails.

So here is an example of a morning routine:

p<>{color:#000;}. Up and out of bed with alarm clock and get dressed…5 minutes.

p<>{color:#000;}. A walk outside with the dog…10 minutes.

p<>{color:#000;}. Shower and shave…15 minutes.

p<>{color:#000;}. Fix breakfast and eat it…30 minutes.

p<>{color:#000;}. Meditate…15 minutes.

p<>{color:#000;}. Review long range goals…5 minutes.

p<>{color:#000;}. Review today’s plan or plan today…10 minutes.

p<>{color:#000;}. Start your day with your toughest task.

This morning routine example takes 90 minutes to accomplish. Your routine might be shorter or longer depending on variations you might add or subtract. The important concept is to refine a daily morning routine and stick to it. Such a routine simplifies your life and gets your day off to a stellar start.

* _ [[*Effective Evening Routines & Key Points to Remember]_]

“I brush my teeth, I wash my hands. Why would anybody wash their hands before they go to bed? I don’t know. And the pillows are supposed to be pointed a certain way. The open side of the pillowcase is supposed to be pointed in toward the other side of the bed. I don’t know why.”]

Stephen King, American author

Some evening routines make no sense. If they work for you, they don’t have to make sense. We’re now going to discuss evening routines that make a great deal of sense.

Just as important as morning routines are evening routines. By bookending your day with routines, you ensure that specific tasks are accomplished, making life simpler. Furthermore, evening routines that put you in a good mood affect how well you sleep and how you feel the next morning. When an evening routine includes planning, mornings begin with a good kick-start, giving you an extra boost knowing what you plan to accomplish. Here are some evening routine pointers to consider.

1. Put an End to Work

We’ve discussed this already. Don’t live the life of a workaholic. Arrange a time to stop working and end your work day at that specific time. Working late fills your mind with the wrong kinds of thoughts conducive to a good night’s sleep. If you must work late, make sure that you give yourself at least two hours of downtime prior to going to bed.

2. Review Goals & Finalize Tomorrow’s Schedule Today

Take a quick look at your goals, whether they’re long term, for the year, or monthly goals. Review how today went. Did you accomplish everything you planned for the day? By assessing goals and how today’s accomplishments went, some of tomorrow’s tasks easily pop into your mind. This is a time to analyze activities where improvement is necessary.

This self-assessment varies. Benjamin Franklin wrote in his autobiography that before he went to bed each night, he asked himself if he had accomplished anything good for the day. Franklin was a stickler for measuring his own route to being a better person.

After some self-assessment, write down a list of tomorrow’s activities and assign your list to a schedule. By figuring tomorrow’s schedule today, you hit the ground running in the morning, because you have a firm idea of the tasks you need to accomplish. Also, do this planning task early in your evening routine. That way you get your mind off heavy-thinking tasks and let yourself unwind prior to bedtime.

3. Disconnect from Electronics: Television, Phones, Tablets, & Computers

As explained by Harvard University^^10^^, scientists determined that the blue spectrum of light is horrible for our bodies, especially when we’re trying to go to sleep. The sun is full of blue light waves and they help us by enhancing our attention, boosting our reaction time, and giving us a happy mood. That same blue light emitted from high-efficiency Compact Fluorescent Light (CFL) bulbs, Light Emitting Diode (LED) bulbs, and any electronic devices with screens, such as smartphones, tablets, and laptops, suppresses the release of melatonin, a hormone which helps you fall asleep.

Worse yet, all of the blue light the human race is receiving after dark by looking at our electronic gizmos is leading to higher rates of obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and even cancer. The main reason is blue light messes with our circadian rhythm, or nature’s way of telling us we’re sleepy. Scientists recommend that you avoid viewing electronic screens up to two or three hours before closing your eyes for bedtime. If you must look at your tablet or phone, activate the night mode so the screen stops to emit the blue wavelength of light. Apps by the names of F.lux and Twilight can also be uploaded to reduce blue light.

Successful professionals simply turn the electronics off in the evening. Arianna Huffington, a co-founder and until August 2016, editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post, is a strong proponent of getting enough sleep. She endorses forbidding any electronic screen from entering a bedroom and says reading an old-fashioned book with printed pages is much more conducive to sleep.

4. Clean Dishes, Counters to Gain a Clean Start Tomorrow

Living in a messy environment brings on stress. So, as part of your evening routine, wash any dirty dishes, clean kitchen counters, and clean up the living room. Clean living quarters presents you with a nice start the following morning.

While you’re cleaning up, refrain from dipping into the cookie jar, or grabbing a handful of potato chips for at least two hours prior to bedtime. Adding food to your digestive system actually keeps you awake longer.

5. Relax 1 Hour Before Bed, Consider Mindfulness Exercises

Spending an hour unwinding prior to going to bed is a great way to prepare yourself for a good night of restful sleep. A perfect relaxation method is reading, not from a tablet, but from a real book. Bill Gates, who became a billionaire after founding Microsoft, claims that reading for an hour is part of his routine for falling asleep. Even when he comes home late at night, he religiously spends one full hour reading prior to bedtime.

Reading relaxes the mind. It’s why many mothers read books out loud to their children just before tucking them into bed for a good night’s sleep. Read a book of fiction and quite possibly your mind will travel far, far away from the day’s troubles and concerns.

Another relaxing possibility before bedtime is to participate in mindfulness exercises. Detailed explanations of mindfulness^^11^^ are available, but for a quick synopsis, it involves exercises such as concentrating on your breathing, or concentrating on specific parts of your body, in order to relieve your mind of racing thoughts about the day’s events. Sometimes, mindfulness exercises combine breathing with muscle relaxation.

6. Alarm to Go to Bed

You set an alarm to get up. It only makes sense to also set an alarm to tell you to go to bed. Getting a proper amount of sleep is important to your health and how well you operate through the day. But, when you’re enjoying that book, or having fun discussing happy times with your significant other, it’s sometimes hard to remember when the bewitching bedtime hour approaches.

Take care of that issue. Set an evening alarm. When it rings, pack up and go to bed. It’s as simple as that.

So here is an example of an evening routine:

p<>{color:#000;}. End work by a specific time. Use an alarm, if necessary.

p<>{color:#000;}. Review long range goals and finalize tomorrow’s schedule…15 minutes.

p<>{color:#000;}. Disconnect electronic screens 2-3 hours prior to bed…a few seconds.

p<>{color:#000;}. Wash dishes, clean kitchen counters, and tidy the living room…30 minutes.

p<>{color:#000;}. Relax by reading or doing mindfulness exercises…60 minutes.

p<>{color:#000;}. Go to bed at a specific time. Use an alarm, if necessary.

This evening routine involves an hour and 45 minutes. Again, your routine might be shorter or longer. When you turn an evening routine, such as this one, into a habit, you promote cleanliness, relaxation, and a good night’s rest. Moreover, you ready yourself for a better morning and a sharper mind in tomorrow’s endeavors.

[] In Summary

Daily morning and evening routines put nice bookends at the beginning and end of your day. One routine compliments the other routine. More importantly, your morning routine kicks you off to an optimum start, while your evening routine gets you ready for the next day, puts your mind at ease, relaxes your body, and gets you in bed for the sleep you require for success. With well-established good routines, your lifelong goals are more attainable.

[] Chapter 7: Conclusion

Enacting effective daily routines simplifies your life, allowing you to perform several activities habitually and letting you concentrate on loftier long-term goals. This sounds smart, but when you adopt good daily routines, you actually show discipline, or a gritty, stick-to-it characteristic, which goes further into determining success than pure intelligence.

An introspective analysis of your life might reveal several examples of the 80/20 Rule, where 80 percent of your activities are boring and only 20 percent are fun and exciting. Your job is to alter these occurrences in your life. One way is to define one of your passions, turn it into an outcome that other people pay money for, giving you a new source of income. Do this by determining your values, your top strengths, and your passions—found in the second half of Chapter 2.

Once you know what you’re passionate about, you can set your lifetime goals (Chapter 3). Break life goals down into manageable smaller goals, including a five-year plan and a month plan. To help you in drawing up goals which fit you, draw up a personal mission statement. Make sure your values and goals match well.

Now, you have a framework for setting up daily routines. Just remember from what we learned in Chapter 4 not to force such a sudden change in your daily routine that it sets you up for failure. Start with an easy change in your daily routines. Make tiny changes to gradually build up to major alterations. When you digress, always make sure you never do it twice in a row. End procrastination by building the habit of a daily routine into your life.

To actually set up a daily routine, first record everything that you currently do in a day. Assess it and replace poor activities with better ones, as we discovered in Chapter 5. Schedule tough tasks first, easier tasks for midday, and planning for the end of the day. Don’t forget to include exercise, clean-up activities, mundane chores, meals, personal hygiene, and most importantly, sleep.

Attempt to transition yourself into a morning person, since as we learned in Chapter 6, early birds are most successful at achieving their goals. Always get up when your morning alarm rings, get moving with morning exercise, eat your breakfast, add meditation to your morning routine, review your day’s timeline, and then tackle your hardest tasks first.

To start your evening daily routine, always end your work at a specific time, but before you’re finished with work, review your goals and schedule the next day’s activities. Turn off all electronics two to three hours prior to bedtime. Do some cleanup. Relax with a good book for an hour or enjoy some mindfulness exercises. Then, get to bed by a specific time.

By enacting daily routines involving ideas reviewed here, you not only make your life easier, but you’re happier. Why are you happier? The answer is because you have a plan and a familiar schedule to move you toward the goals that you value.

The next step is yours. Reread earlier chapters if you have to. Then, jot down some ideas. Start ticking off some goals. Write down daily routines that fit you. And start enjoying the new direction of your life.

I wish you all the best!

Henry Harding

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Having a good to-do list with you can mean the difference between accomplishing the most important items in your life, or simply reacting to the next task you see, whether it’s important to your goals or not.

In Daily To-Do Lists: How to Write Effective and Actionable To-Do Lists, you will learn all about the benefits and tricks for starting and maintaining several kinds of to-do lists that will help you get the most out of your day, every day.

In this book you will learn:

p<>{color:#1C1C1C;}. How to tie the tasks on your to-do list to your personal goals

p<>{color:#1C1C1C;}. Different kinds of to-do lists, and the benefits of each

p<>{color:#1C1C1C;}. How to structure your to-do list to simplify your day and keep you focused

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1 Angela L. Duckworth, Martin Seligman. Self-Discipline Outdoes IQ in Predicting Academic Performance of Adolescents. Psychological Science, Vol. 16, No. 12, 2004

2 Angela L. Duckworth. Grit: It’s what separates the best from the merely good. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol. 92, No. 6, 20017

3 http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=9991

4 https://hbr.org/2015/10/how-1-performance-improvements-led-to-olympic-gold

5 https://www.sleepfoundation.org/

6 http://www.inspiringleadershipnow.com/the-power-of-the-early-morning-ritual-why-science-believes-it-makes-for-a-high-achieving-leader/

7 https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/

8 http://time.com/3705987/skipping-breakfast-cereal-kellogg/

9 Yunsheng Ma, et al. Association between Eating Patterns and Obesity in a Free-living US Adult Population. The American Journal of Epidemiology. 2003

10 http://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/blue-light-has-a-dark-side

11 http://www.nosleeplessnights.com/mindfulness-exercises/

Daily Routine Improvement: How to Develop Stress-Free Habits and Achieve Any Goa

Do you often daydream of a future life where all your goals are achieved, but then you wake up finding yourself stuck in the same place unsure of how to create change? Do you sometimes feel overwhelmed by daily chores and stress, and never find the time to focus on achieving your own dreams? The difference between achievers and daydreamers has more to do with their daily routines than intelligence. By having a clear understanding of which repeated actions help your move towards your big dreams and goals, a daily routine will not only simplify your life but also make you more disciplined and actually reduce the time it takes to achieve the desired result. A daily routine is an effective, time-tested “structure” that when used wisely, can successfully guide your life in direction of success. However, failing to do so will leave you feeling stuck, unhappy and unmotivated. All humans are creatures of habits. Science shows that 40 to 45 percent of daily activities are the same from one day to another. This means that which routines you have implemented in your life will ultimately determine how your life turns out. If you fill your life with good habits that support your overall goals, your will feel fulfilled and experience meaning from what you do. If you have too many poor habits, you will feel stuck and unsatisfied. The good news is that your daily routines can be changed at any time at your own will. All it requires is some guidance and an understanding of how to make the adjustments stick long enough for you to see changes happening. This book explains principles and gives concrete advice on how utilizing the power of daily routines can help improve your life for the better. By making incremental changes to your habits today will over time create a stronger and stronger momentum towards your dreams. It does not matter if you want to achieve big lifetime goals, or just want the feeling of more control in one area of your life, the process is the same. The contents of this book will help you to identify which goals are important for you, how to make the appropriate adjustments and how you can make them stick longer than an average new year’s resolution. In this book you will learn: - How to evaluate which of your current daily routines supports you towards your dreams and which you should eliminate - How to create a detailed plan that is aligned with your values, strengths, and passions, so that you actually know where you want to go and how to achieve it - Once you know where you want to go, understand how daily routines will simplify your daily tasks, giving you more energy to achieve your goals faster - Setting up a daily system of both work and home relates routines so that you feel more in control of your life and where you are headed Taking action to change the direction of your life is one of the most valuable and gratifying decisions you can make for yourself. Transform your day from aimless chores and chaos towards leading a life of direction and meaningful achievement. A rewarding life is at your footsteps. What are you waiting for? Scroll up and download your free copy to get started!

  • Author: Henry Harding
  • Published: 2017-02-16 20:05:19
  • Words: 21126
Daily Routine Improvement: How to Develop Stress-Free Habits and Achieve Any Goa Daily Routine Improvement: How to Develop Stress-Free Habits and Achieve Any Goa