What is Your ONE Thing?

In all likelihood, you’re trying to be good at too many things. Trimming down your list of priorities can make you more effective. Focus your attention on the tasks that bring the most results.

What is the one thing that will move the needle in your life to reach your goals? Have you even thought about it? The one thing that matters is often challenging or unenjoyable, but you might have more free time if you did that one thing instead of the three other things you’ve been doing instead.

Focus on your one thing:

1. Everyone has 24 hours each day. Everyone has 24 hours, but how you spend them is up to you. Some people manage to build huge companies with their 24 hours. Others struggle to pay the rent. Some people create great health and happiness with their 24 hours. Others are out of shape and miserable. How do you spend your 24 hours each day?

2. Focus on what you should do, not what you could do. Most of us that have a daily list of tasks have both on our list. It’s important to figure out the things that are so important and impactful that they must be accomplished TODAY. All the rest move down to the bottom of the list.

3. Prioritize until you’re down to just one task. Prioritize even further. What is the number one thing you need to do today that will make the biggest difference? When you complete that task, what is the next most important thing. Keep going until you run out of time.

4. Have one thing you’re known for. What are you known for? Playing the piano? Installing windows? Your intelligence? Figure out your one thing and ensure the world knows about it.

5. Eliminate distractions. Distractions get in the way of focusing on your one thing. Be relentless in eliminating distractions.

6. Apply this process to all areas of your life.

  • What is the one thing you can do for the next month to most improve your health? There’s one thing you can do in your current situation to improve your health the most. It will probably help more than the next five things on your list combined.
  • What is the one thing you can practice on the piano to improve your playing the most over the next week? Or your golf swing. Or your reading speed?
  • What is the one thing you can consistently do at work to increase your value as an employee? What can you do that would help your company and career the most?

7. Be tough. The most important thing is often the least enjoyable. Squats are far less enjoyable than leg extensions, but far more effective. Joining Toastmasters is far less appealing than practicing your speeches by yourself at home. The one thing is often easy to identify but challenging to do.

What is the one thing for you? What is the one thing for each area of your life that will make the biggest difference? What is the one thing you need to do TODAY? What about this week?

Find your ONE thing, and you’ll see that little else matters.

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A Few Productivity Articles Worth Skimming

Note: I will continue to add to this blog post whenever I come across an article I believe is worth sharing. Feel free to keep checking back regularly for updates! 🙂

Here’s a blog post that gives practical, actionable information, such as when to do your laundry. The writer of this post also happens to be my friend and fellow entrepreneur! Check out these 5 habits here:

5 Habits That Will Make Your Life Easier

One revelation I’ve had recently is that being productive does not equate to good time management. Here’s a New York Times article by Adam Grant that helps shed some light on what productivity actually means:

Productivity Isn’t About Time Management. It’s About Attention Management.

Here’s one article (4 minute read) that caught my attention, since I’m very much into aesthetics combined with functionality:

Your Productivity Hinges on How You Arrange Your Desk

Become an Early Bird: How to Get Up Early and Feel Great

If you’re like most people, you hit the snooze button several times before you finally get up. Then, getting to work on time means everything has to go perfectly. If you require an extra minute to find your shoes or your car won’t start, you’ll probably be late. The entire morning is stressful from the moment your feet hit the floor.

With a little extra time in the morning, your whole day will be better. Have you ever noticed that if you have a good morning, the rest of the day is usually pretty good, too?

Follow this process to change your morning and have a great day: 

1. The easiest way is to change your wake-up time gradually. Our bodies become very accustomed to getting up at the same time every day. 

  • Every 3 days, set your alarm another 15 minutes earlier. That schedule might seem a little slow, but it works.
  • If you try to get up an hour earlier immediately, the odds of maintaining that schedule are pretty bleak.

2. Follow these three steps each morning to actually get up. Maybe you made it several days and you’re now getting up 45 minutes earlier. That’s awesome! But you might find that you’re starting to hit snooze again and wasting the extra time you’ve created.

  • Step #1: Get really excited the night before. Before getting into bed each night, think of one thing to do when you get up that really appeals to you. Maybe there’s something you’d like to read or maybe you’d like to take a walk each morning.
  • Step #2: Put your alarm on the other side of the room. When the alarm is buzzing, it’s much harder to sleep. You also can’t hit the snooze button without getting up. If you ignore the alarm, your partner and children will probably let you know about it in no uncertain terms.
  • Step #3: Jump out of bed immediately and go to the bathroom. Wash your face and brush your teeth. You’ll be much less likely to return to bed after hitting the bathroom and starting your routine.  
  • The key is to take control of your thoughts. If you think to yourself, “I’m getting up now,” you’ll be surprised to find yourself really getting up. If you think, “Just 5 more minutes,” you know what will happen.

3. Have a plan for what you’re going to do when you get up. Avoid wasting time by flopping in front of the TV or getting online. There are many more productive options.

  • Everyone is dehydrated first thing in the morning, so get a nice, tall glass of water. You’ll feel so much better after rehydrating. 
  • If you exercise, even for 10 minutes, it will help you wake up and feel better.
  • Have a cup of tea or coffee before you leave for work. You can even take it to go!

4. Go to bed earlier. It only makes sense that if you’re getting up earlier, you need to either go to bed earlier or take a nap each day. Try to get at least 7 hours of sleep each night.

That’s it! It might take a few weeks before it’s second nature, but you can definitely do it. You’ll find that the extra time in the morning really reduces your stress. You’ll also find it’s easier to get up because you’re getting up to do something that you enjoy.

A Timely Guide to Planning Your Week

Most of us attack the week one day at a time. If you work in corporate, you get to the office on Monday, track down a cup of coffee, and then try to figure out what all is going on.

Consider how things could work out better if you have a weekly plan for your life before you wake up on Monday morning. And don’t just plan your work-related items, plan everything else too. Figure out what needs to be done and prioritize those items.

For your best results, avoid living life as it unfolds. By taking control, you’ll increase your confidence, stay ahead of your work, and actually find more free time to do whatever you like. Give it a try for a month and see if you enjoy the benefits.

Follow these steps to create a plan for the week:

1. Have a weekly planning session. Sunday is the logical choice. You’ve decompressed from the previous week, but it’s still fresh in your mind. The workweek starts in just one day.

Make a list of tasks for each area of your life. The areas might include work, personal items, and family. Your items will vary with your unique life.

An example: WORK

– complete marketing project with George
– interview applicants for marketing supervisor position
– contact packaging vendor to discuss printing issues – find contractor to repair floor on production area

2. Assign priorities to all of the tasks. Assume that you can’t get it all done. Which items must be done and which can slide until the following week?

Assign one of three levels of priority to each task. You might use 1, 2, 3, or A, B, C, or Red, Yellow, Green.

Start with your number 1 priorities and complete all of them before moving on to the number 2 and 3 priorities.

3. Schedule these tasks into your calendar. Begin this process no later than Sunday evening. You should know how you’re going to spend your Monday morning. Don’t wait until your alarm clock wakes you up.

Avoid over-scheduling. I cannot stress this enough. Once you fall behind, it becomes impossible to catch up. Leave room for the inevitable emergencies and requests from the boss. Schedule 50% of your time and leave the rest available.

Using a planner will allow you to move all these obligations out of your head. Put them down on paper as soon as possible.

4. Get busy as soon as you can on Monday morning. If you can work ahead, great! Keep your plans fluid. What you’ve put in your planner is your best guess, but you have to start somewhere. Things will change as the week progresses.

5. Review each evening. Spend just a few minutes each night making necessary adjustments. As tasks are completed, you’ll have the flexibility to move things around. Perfect your new plan of attack each night. Make this a habit. You can do it before leaving the office or do it in the comfort of your living room. Just ensure it gets done.

6. Have a weekly review. What did you do well? What could have been better? How well did your weekly plan work? What improvements can you make to the process?

Reviewing your week and making adjustments is one of the most powerful ways to improve. Address your mistakes and recognize your successes.

By planning and prioritizing, you can hit the ground running. You’re also assured of getting the most important things accomplished. Start next week by making a plan and following it religiously. Your life will change for the better.

What To Do When You Have More Than You Can Handle

Life is a series of challenges to be managed. In between challenges, life can seem easy, but the next challenge is always on the way. When faced with too many challenges at once, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and to believe that you have more going on in your life than you can handle.

Regardless of the size or the number of challenges you may face, the solution is the same: Ignore those things you can’t influence and spend your time and energy implementing solutions for those things you can influence.

A level head, a solid plan, persistence, and assistance can overcome any challenge life may bring.

Try these strategies to lighten your load:

1. Acknowledge that you’re feeling overwhelmed. There’s nothing to be gained by ignoring your situation. You’ll be in a better position to deal effectively with your life when you acknowledge the reality of the situation. When you recognize that something is wrong, you can begin to do something about it.

2. Take a time out. If you’re at work, slip away for a quick walk. If you have the freedom to do so, try taking a weekend trip. A change of scenery can make the challenges in your life seem more manageable.

3. Make a plan. When you’re feeling overwhelmed, it’s easy to spend too much time focusing on the challenges in your life. While this is a natural response, it leads to feeling even worse! Rather than focusing on your issues, try focusing on solutions.

Imagine your friend was facing the same challenges, what advice would you give to them?

Make a plan to move beyond your current situation. What solutions can you find? How will you implement them?

A simple change of focus can alter your perspective and your mood. Do you think you’ll feel better focusing on your problems or the solutions?

4. Distract yourself for a few hours. Read a good book or take a friend to the movies or a cute cafe. Now is the perfect time to do all the things you usually do to avoid working!

5. Talk to someone. You could speak to a coworker, a friend, family member, or a mental health professional. Who would you call on in your life to talk you down off a ledge? Pick up the phone and include someone else in your current situation.

6. List the good things in your life. Things might be rough at the moment, but there are plenty of things in your life that you can be grateful for. Make a list of them and reflect on the many blessings in your life.

7. Laugh. Few things feel better than laughing. What makes you laugh? Watch a funny video or spend time with someone who always has a way to make you laugh. Who is the funniest person in your life?

8. Get some help. More heads and pairs of hands can get a lot more accomplished than you can all by your lonesome self. Most people are pretty bored and would jump at the chance to help you deal with your drama. Get some help.

You have plenty of options when you think you have more to deal with than you can handle.

Life isn’t always sunshine and rainbows. When life becomes especially challenging, feeling overwhelmed can dampen your spirit and hide the best solutions from you.

Admit to yourself that you’re struggling (that’s the first step) and begin looking for solutions. Allow yourself a few distractions when you need them. Reach out to others and avoid trying to solve everything on your own. Soon, you’ll be back on a more enjoyable path.

Reading More Books in 2019

I decided that right now, I’m going to sit in front of my MacBook Pro and type whatever comes up in my mind. I do this because I know how debilitating perfectionism can be and therefore, allowing myself to just write freely without trying to perfect the structure and flow of the entire post is quite freeing. It’s also good because that way I can actually get stuff DONE.

I’m sitting in my grandparents’ guest bedroom in Northern California, with my phone face up next to my right arm on the desk, Instagram opened. Today’s IGTV video is 74% loaded, after many many attempts to upload the video. The app kept saying “Upload Failed,” to which I responded by tapping “Try Again” – and this happened probably twenty times, if not more.

You would think that this kind of situation would make a person extremely frustrated and upset, but for some reason I was completely fine (not usually like this when it comes to technological issues).

But this evening as I was tapping “Try Again” for what felt like the thousandth time, I was fine, and even quite upbeat and happy. I think the reason for this is that the rest of my day today was what I’d call a “successful” day.

What defines a successful day? Probably depends on the person. But for me, a successful day generally means that I started my day early with a lovely and refreshing morning routine, completed important tasks throughout the day, gave myself enough time to relax and rest in the afternoon (like a 30 minute nap or so), and spending adequate time planning, evaluating, and adjusting my schedule, my short and long term goals, and just my whole life in general.

It also means that I did things that I consider my lifeline: prayer (30 minutes is ideal), meditating (and really just doing nothing), Bible reading, and reading other spiritual and self-help books.

I just started reading High Performance Habits by Brendon Burchard (I recently discovered the amount of value he brings to the world and now trust pretty much every word he says). IT’S SO GOOD.

I’ve never considered myself an avid reader, especially since I can actually count with one hand the books (or series of books) I read growing up: Harry Potter (but I never got around to reading the 7th book..), A Series of Unfortunate Events… and I recall reading some Nancy Drew books every so often.

But that was mostly in elementary school, and maybe some of middle school. Once high school hit though, I don’t recall ever reading a book for leisure. I do remember reading enough books for all my high school English classes.

Anyway, my point is that when I say a book is good, it’s usually a pretty big deal. But then again ever since I became obsessed with all things personal development, pretty much every self help book turned into a good book.

Here are some enlightening quotes that struck a chord in me today from High Performance Habits:

“Who are these people, and what’s their secret? They are high performers, and their secret is their habits…With the right training and habits, anyone can become a high performer…”

“What you need is a reliable set of practices for unleashing your greatest abilities. Study high performers and you will see that they have systems built into their days that drive their success. Systems are what separate the pro from the novice…Without systems, you cannot… repeatedly deliver exceptional results. In personal and professional development, these systems and procedures are, ultimately habits.”

“High performance is not achieved by a specific kind of person, but rather by a specific set of practices, which I call high performance habits.”

Anyway, just a few things that stood out to me and gave me renewed hope, all within the first twelve pages of High Performance Habits. I’m suuper stoked to finish the rest of the book!

One of my goals for 2019 is to READ MORE. So please send me your book recommendations and I’ll put it on my To-Read list!

I really really believe that 2019 will be the best year yet, and something just tells me that my life will be drastically different by the end of the year. Maybe it’s just a feeling, but anyway, these motivational people like Brendon Burchard give me much hope and expectation for amazing things to come this year!!

Following Your Anxiety to Beat Procrastination

In my last post I claimed that I had finally “figured out” how to schedule my time, and yes, that was true at the time (about a month ago). But I think I was a little too quick to make that kind of a claim.

Yes, I really did feel like I had my life under control just a month ago, and it felt great. I was productive, waking up early in the mornings, exercising, starting each day intentionally..

But that kind of “ideal” lifestyle gradually evolved into a less ideal one as the days and weeks went by. Hence the lack of new blog posts for a whole month.

The good thing is that I finally told myself tonight that I cannot go to bed until I’ve finished writing a new blog post. So here I am.

It’s actually very late at night, past midnight, but I knew that if I didn’t take action ASAP it’d be difficult for me to make progress on my big life goals. I believe that it’s worth making certain sacrifices (in this case, the amount of sleep I’ll get tonight) if you know you will not regret the results you’ll get from sacrificing some of your comfort. I just wouldn’t do it every day.

Just before I started typing up this blog post, I read a bunch of articles online that talked about time management, productivity, habits, and related topics.

But first, just a sidebar before I talk about what I just read…

It’s actually really frustrating for me right now as I’m typing these words because my thoughts aren’t flowing and it’s like my brain is stuck. It’s like some form of writer’s block, where my sentences are choppy and I wonder how I used to be able to write so much so often and my range of vocabulary words seems so elementary now.

That being said, I will still finish up typing this post because I want to respect myself and my already-made decision to finish this before going to bed. Actually I’m technically already in bed, using a lap desk, leaning against my pillow against the wall, looking forward to finally resting from the long day. (Note – I fell asleep right about here after I wrote this paragraph, so I actually finished writing this the next day.)

Anyway, one thing I thought was insightful and helpful from one of the articles I read was that if you find yourself procrastinating on something and you sense resistance or anxiety about the thing you’re procrastinating on, that’s a good indication that that is the very thing you should do first.

This makes sense to me because if you think about it, who in their right mind would “procrastinate” when it comes to watching their favorite shows? Netflix and YouTube have never struck me as anxiety-inducing, but rather, they have a way of helping us numb away the scary “real” things that we should actually be working on. 

But after that numbingly wonderful Miranda Sings video is finished, you’re back to square one: overwhelming huge mountain of intimidating task giving you anxiety and way more stress than you need (not that you ever “need” stress).

Let’s look at it from the other side: you’re about to procrastinate by doing something that seems productive such as wiping down your kitchen counters (why not), or taking some papers out to the recycling bin to help you “declutter” and “organize.”

So you proceed to “take care” of these good, productive tasks, when deep down you know you will still have to face that looming project you’ve been avoiding. Despite all the little tasks you get done, your stress level rises, you’re less happy, you’re more irritable, and any ounce of motivation that was in you leaks out.

Then you continue to look for petty (but oh so productive) tasks. Maybe you even plan out an ambitious schedule for yourself for the next week to complete that project of yours. And then maybe you don’t even follow the well though-out, ambitious, color-coded schedule that you labored so diligently on.

Meanwhile, you’re MORE stressed, MORE unhappy, MORE irritable, and EVEN MORE unmotivated. And this vicious cycle repeats itself over and over again.

Does this sound familiar????

My point is, if you find yourself feeling overwhelmed about something that you’ve been putting off doing, that’s probably an indication that it is a very important task or project that needs your undivided attention right away.

So if you’re feeling anxious right now about something you know you have to eventually do, my suggestion is to “follow” your anxiety right to its source and face it head-on. Make that a priority and just start.

In most cases, starting is the hardest part, but once you’re fifteen minutes (i.e. the time it takes to get into the “flow” – I read that somewhere) into it, you’re in the zone, you finally make some progress (however little it may be), and you experience a decrease in stress and irritability, and an increase in happiness and motivation.

Try it out and let me know how it goes. 🙂


How to Prioritize When Making a Schedule

 

After a long while of inconsistently posting on this blog, I’m finally writing a post and expect to be considerably more consistent about posting in the near future. Why is that? Well, it’s probably because I’ve pretty much figured out a weekly schedule that works for me.

But this definitely didn’t happen overnight at all. It’s been a lot of experimenting with different ways to block out certain amounts of times in the day/week, keeping in mind the level of importance of things. In other words, I’ve found that if you want to make a schedule that works for you, you have to be clear about what your priorities are.

Knowing what’s most important to me has been a game changer. I didn’t have to sit down to brainstorm and write down what my priorities are. You can do that if you want, but personally I think the process of creating your weekly schedule itself is sufficient.

If making a schedule right away is overwhelming, then I’d suggest getting a notebook or blank piece of paper, or even a post-it, and writing down a list of things that you know are important (studying should be a no-brainer if your current occupation is “student”) or that you’d like to spend more time on (maybe learning a new language or some other hobby).

It’s likely that you’ll write a number of things down, but you really shouldn’t have more than three priorities, lest you fall into the trap of focusing on so many things that nothing gets done properly, adequately, or thoroughly enough. So after spending about 5 to 10 minutes of writing down your potential priorities, take a look at your list and begin crossing things off. There will always be at least one thing that is easy to cross off, but it may take a few extra minutes to narrow it down to three.

To give you an idea of what I’ve deemed important…

My current top 3 priorities are:

 

  1. Health

    This is number one for me, because when looking back on my life over the years, I’ve realized that one thing that has often kept me from performing at my best is health. It’s not that I had any major illnesses or medical conditions, because I didn’t, but the fact that I didn’t pay attention much (if at all) to diet and exercise resulted in considerable sluggishness and fatigue that prevented me from doing my best in school and at work.

    Lack of proper diet and exercise also greatly affected the condition of my spiritual life, which is huge for me. The only reason why my spiritual life is not #1 on this list is because without a healthy body, you can’t really do or enjoy anything that much, spiritual or nonspiritual. So, it’s important that I keep myself alive first before I even consider my other priorities.

  2. Spiritual life

    This would have been number one for me but because of the reasons I just gave, my spiritual life now comes in a close second. If you’re reading this and you’re turned off by anything “spiritual” or “religious,” that’s completely fine because I’m not trying to convert anyone or change anyone’s personal beliefs or values. As a rule of thumb I think having three different priorities, as I have here, works well, regardless of what those priorities entail.

    My spiritual life includes Bible reading, ministry reading, personal prayer, and church meetings. My faith is my (non-physical) lifeline, gives my life meaning and purpose, and keeps me grounded in a very positive sense. I owe my life to God, and believe that He is the one who has brought me through everything so that I can be where I am today.

  3. Blog-related things

    You can call this my “hobby,” though it’s more of a “side hustle” which is a term commonly used in the entrepreneurial world. Everything related to my blog (and turning it into my own business down the line) is the main thing outside of my actual job that I’m actively trying to work on. It’s one of my top priorities not just because I want to make money, but because I actually enjoy working on it and it honestly makes me so happy.

    I don’t have very much to say about my blog right now, except that I clearly haven’t posted much on here for a while. Guess why? Yup, I didn’t prioritize it, so it didn’t end up on my calendar, which means not much got accomplished in recent months. I really hope and expect that the effectiveness of my new schedule will be reflected in my blog posts and updates in the near future.

Putting it down on calendar

Whether you use a physical or electronic planner or calendar depends on your preference, but personally I’ve found that I work best with iCal which I can access from both my MacBook Pro and iPhone 8.

I used to use physical planners all the time, and have gone through multiple Moleskine planners which I loved, but after I started going digital, there was no going back. I actually tried to go back to paper and even bought a really beautiful planner with a well thought out template/layout, but I somehow still ended up reverting back to my digital calendar.

When it comes to making your actual schedule with your top priorities in view, it honestly isn’t rocket science. I just color-code each of the three priorities when putting them into my weekly schedule on Sunday evenings. I use magenta (or whatever that color is) for health things (gym, personal training, pilates), green for spiritual things, and yellow for blog things. And then I use different colors for other things, such as purple for work and orange for special events.

Anyway, that is a general overview on prioritization when making a schedule, and I encourage you to take out a piece of paper or notebook, or pull up a new Word document or Google doc, and figure out what you want to make your top three priorities in your daily life. Let me know how it goes and anything you have questions or comments on, or if you want me to elaborate more on a particular topic from this post.

For more tips like these that are not posted on my blog but are only sent via email, send me a DM (and follow!) on Instagram @justamyllennial or email me at amy@justamyllennial.com to personally request to be added to my email newsletter list, since my newsletter sign up form is unfortunately not working at the moment. Thankfully my blog is now a priority so I’ll have more time to work on some of this technical stuff, like making certain things on this site less “buggy.”

11/22/18 Update: Newsletter form is up and running again!! Unless I messed something up again… (if that’s the case, please let me know).