The Biggest Prioritizing Lesson I Learnt All Year

There are many schools of thought on the number of things you ought to have on your to-do list – some say six (the Ivy Lee Method), some say three, some say one, three and five.

There are also guides on how to rank your tasks using the Eisenhower Matrix. But I can say is you can have any amount of tasks on your to-do list as long as you know this one thing –

You have to focus on one main task for the day. The rest will work around it. I’ve learned this the hard way after trying the 3 Most Important Task method for the entire year.

 

What’s the difference? In having one thing on top vs 3 things on top? Wouldn’t the one with 3 things on their plate get more stuff done?

Here’s the difference:

One thing = focus

Having one thing on top becomes the thing you obsess and think about all day from wake to sleep. You think about it when you are eating, driving and so on.

All the other tasks (even no.2 or no.3) work around your #1 task. You will feel as though no. 2 and no. 3 are getting in the way of your no. 1. And more often than not, you will do an excellent job on the 1 thing (after all, its only one thing).

The funny thing about having your one thing is that even after you are done, you would have been on such a roll that you will continue to do more of it throughout the day.

Having one main thing to focus on simmers your brain to have fun at it since your mind has time to think about throughout the day instead of throwing it out the window once done.

You would overreach and overachieve just a little bit, getting even more done and feeling better about yourself in the process.

Too many things, too little focus

Having 3 things on top, on the other, disperses your needed focus on 3 things and place them on equal weight.

Feeling overwhelmed, you can’t wait to rush them and get them off your plate. It feels like a chore more than a task you want to do. You end up doing a mediocre job on all three.

Also, by the time you are done with the three, you cant wait but to enjoy yourself and reward yourself for all the hard work and as a result, you switch off early and play, all the while dreading another tomorrow.

Side note: Author Greg McKeown of the book Essentialism, observed that the word “priority” was singular since its invention in the 1400s. It wasn’t until the 1900s, five hundred years later, that it became plural.

I’ve come to realize that wanting to learn 3 skills (mine was copywriting, reading, meta-learning) in a month isn’t bad as long as you dedicate one skill to an entire day. Trying to do all 3 on a single day is bound to overwhelm you.

Have focus and do just one thing a day and let the others find their way around it.

The Year You Decided to Put Yourself First

Love and work, tenants that psychologist Sigmund Freud would argue was the meaning of life is crucial for your well being. You are the captain of your ship and so that means you better be in top shape. Hence, loving yourself and working for yourself makes you love the day that much more.

 

Loving yourself

1. Say I Love Myself

In the book Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends on It, the author Kamal Ravikant writes about the exercise he does every day where he says “I love myself”. Don’t think for a second if this sounds wacky. It works.

He writes: “Imagine the feeling of catching yourself loving yourself without even realizing you were doing it.” Do it even (and especially) if you don’t believe it. Because if you do it long enough, you will.

In the book, Kamal introduces 3 steps he uses to gently remind himself to return to self-love every day:

  1. Mental loop
  2. Meditation
  3. Question

Mental Loop

Repeat, “I love myself” over and over again and it will become automatic and become your reality like most mental loops/beliefs you already have. Lay the pathway for that loop to run again and again. Eventually, it will take hold whether you believe it or not.

You need to create a thought that is deeper than those unhappy and unhelpful thoughts you’ve solidified over the years.

Meditation

Each day, the author listens to a 7-minute piece of music that he likes and thinks, “I love myself.” Here’s his pattern: Inhale > Think “I love myself” > Exhale > Let out whatever thoughts you have.

Question

“If I love myself truly and deeply, would I let myself experience this?” The answer was always “no” for the author. This question gently shifts your focus from wherever you are to self-love.

 

2. Believe You Are Enough

This technique is provided by therapist Marisa Peer. I first came to discover this when I heard her talk at Mindvalley.

She would tell this story of a celebrity who had everything he ever wanted – cars, houses, women and yet he going through his third divorce and depressed. She assigned him a simple exercise, which is to write the words “I am enough” with lipstick on his mirror every day. He did this for a while. The result? It changed his life and now he is a lot more content and happy than before.

Other followers of her technique suggest setting a reminder twice a day at 8am and 8pm that says simply: “I am enough.”

In one of her blog posts she wrote:

“The repetition of that simple phrase over and over (both out loud and in your head) will eventually make it difficult for your mind to object to it. As the audience member said, even though she didn’t feel rich enough, smart enough, thin enough, or successful enough when she first programmed the words into her phone, slowly but surely she began to believe the powerful message itself.

In my 25 years as a therapist, I’ve discovered that the root of so many modern problems—hoarding, excessive drinking, compulsive shopping, and over-eating—come right back to a need to fill the inner emptiness of not feeling “enough” with external things. The more you tell yourself you are enough, the more you’ll believe it. It sounds so utterly simple—and it is—and all you need is the commitment to do it and the belief that it will work.”

 

Working for yourself

1. Place your own personal tasks first before doing your work tasks

The biggest learning I’ve learned from morning routines after doing it for a year is that you have to get your most important tasks for you by you done first.

Everything, even your job has to wait for you to get to your stuff done.

Getting other people stuff done first may provide relief and assurance, but it won’t give you happiness and the feeling of “I’m winning at my life”

Examples of your tasks would be meditating, reading that book, writing your blog posts, promoting your own work or business.

What they said on the airplanes was correct – “Put your oxygen mask on first before helping others.” You can’t help others to the fullest until you help yourself. Without you taking care of you, who will?

 

In a nutshell

Telling yourself you love yourself, that you are enough and putting your own personal task before your professional tasks are just some of the 3 things you can start doing on your path to self-care. Love yourself and you will love life all the more.

Screw New Year Resolutions, Do This Instead

New Year Resolutions are a cliche. Why wait 365 days before doing a review on how your life is going? Clearly, there are smarter ways to go about this. Writing down your goals on a piece of paper and telling yourself “this time it’s for real” will probably yield the same result as before – nothing.

Did you know that gym memberships soar during the beginning of January every year? But guess how many follow through to February? Very few. So instead of teaching you what goals to write down with what type of ink on what type of paper. I will be showing you 3 methods that are way more powerful and way less boring than your conventional SMART goals.

 

1. The 3 Most Important Questions

 

 

This one was created by Mindvalley founder, Vishen Lakhiani and it is mighty powerful. Anyone who joins Mindvalley is required to do this exercise and display their answers on the company board. It creates a “blueprint for your soul”. Follow the exercise and you will see why.

 

2. Fund Your Bucket List

Ever watch that scene in the beginning of Up (warning: you will cry –guaranteed) where Carl and Ellie have a glass jar to finally see Paradise Falls? Now that’s something worth doing.

Take out a piece of paper and write down what is your bucket list. For many it would be to travel the world, but be slightly more specific – where do you want to go, how long, and when?

Maybe you want to do skydiving, find out where it can be done, schedule it and start your fund. I recommend glass jars over just depositing into a separate bank account because we get a heck of a lot more motivated when we see the money growing before our eyes like a piggy bank instead of digits on your bank balance (you will eventually bank it into your bank account, of course).

 

3. Build Game-changing Habits

The reason why millions of goals fail every year is that the person setting those goals don’t understand the mechanics of human behavior and psychology. How often do we say we will finally get to reading that book or record that song but only to realize 8 months have gone past and have nothing to show for it?

In recent years, the topic of habits have been everywhere in self-help literature and it has a reason for being there because it works. I will be explaining extensively on habits on another post but for today, I will give the fundamentals –

 

The habit loop which forms habits comprises of 3 parts:

Image source from DeanYeong.com


a) Trigger – a cue, external or internal that reminds you or initiates the routine

b) Routine – the desired act (working out, reading)

c) Reward – the end result (toner body, insight)

 

To really nail your new year resolution and get good for a long time, you need to form habits around the unfamiliar or hard-to-do things such as going to the gym, writing, reading more and meditating.

The part where most people fall flat is figuring out the trigger and reward. In most cases, these things have to be planned or manufactured as they are not organic or naturally show up in your surroundings. In other words, you have to create the triggers and the rewards.

 

Let’s use two examples – exercise and reading.

 

Exercise

Trigger : putting your gym clothes in front of your bed so its the first thing you see when you wake up / sleeping in your gym clothes (the point is to make it impossible not to miss the trigger as you go about your day to day)

Routine : find out what your low bar (the minimum you would do on the days you are ill) and your high bar (the maximum you would do on a perfect day). Start out on the low bar – which for exercising could be to walk 100m or 1 pushup. On the days you don’t feel like doing your habit, do a crappy job.

Reward : many times, people get this wrong and try to convince themselves that the act of finishing the exercise is the reward. A great rule of thumb is that rewards need to have 2 characteristics – they are to be enjoyed immediately after the routine and they are pleasurable.

For some, the feeling of accomplishment is enough. But for others, it is not the case. When feeling not compelled by the reward, look to “primitive rewards”- rewards that our ancestors would deem pleasurable (hence, proven to work) – things such as food, sex, play and socializing.

An example would be to reward yourself with a nice meal after your workouts.

 

Reading

Trigger : Install Pocket and Aldiko on your phone and place the icons on your homepage. Place a book on your desk, in your bathroom and in your bag. That way you can’t miss the sight of a book. (Note: also helps to not use your phone when you enter your bathroom in the morning, use your poo poo time to read a physical book instead.)

Routine : Low bar – 1 paragraph, high bar – 20 pages.

Reward : If having knowledge floats your boat, you’re set! If not, look to primitive rewards and find out what motivates you – having a chat with friends or eating.

 

One more thing about habits, if you have to skip, skip just once. Skipping two days in a row is habit suicide. Research has shown skipping two consecutive days derails you and you have to start at square one.

Knowing how habits work and how to build them is a superpower. If you are looking for more information on habit, I suggest Improvement Pill’s Tamed Course on YouTube. It’s the best course out there on habit formation and it’s free!

 

As you can see, New Year Resolution goal setting is BS and ought to be phased out entirely. Use these 3 methods instead and crush it in 2018.

Morning Routines: 5 Things You Need to Know to Make Your Mornings Unstoppable

There have been huge talks about morning routines. Medium is saturated with it. Forbes and Inc are publishing article after article about it. Heck, even Tim Ferriss and other podcasters alike have been asking their interviewees what their morning routines are. There is some mysticism about the whole morning routine game, but rest assured –it works.

The name of the game when it comes to morning routines is to win by the hour and building the momentum of doing what you said you were gonna do, feeling good about your day and yourself and carrying that shit forward till bedtime.

 

The biggest learning I’ve learned from morning routines from doing it for a year is that you have to get your most important tasks for you by you done first.

Everything, even your job has to wait for you to get to your stuff done.

Getting other people stuff done first may provide relief and assurance, but it won’t give you happiness and the feeling of “I’m winning at my life”

Even on the days  I’ve felt I’ve crushed it when I was doing other people’s’ tasks, I didn’t feel as accomplished as when I worked on solving my own problems first.

 

Another huge learning about morning routines is that it’s all about momentum. Put another way, it’s all about having a winning streak. When you set out to do the things you set out to do, set a low bar (the minimum you would do on a day you are ill) and get that done. Repeat for the other tasks and you start to build an unstoppable steam engine throughout the day.

Sam Altman, president of Y Combinator said during Startup School, that if he had to only give one piece of advice it would be to keep the startup’s winning streak, no matter how small. Having winning momentum matters a lot – it makes or breaks the spirit of the team.

Similarly, when you have a winning streak, you don’t wanna relax just yet. You wanna go all the way.

 

***

Here are 3 more things you need to know about morning routines:

 

1. Set down your one main task for the day

 

Why one? Because by having to focus on one main task for the day. The rest will work around it. I’ve learned this the hard way after trying the 3 MIT method for the entire year.

Having one thing on top becomes the thing you obsess and think about all day from wake to sleep. You think about it when you are eating, driving and so on. All the other tasks (even #2 or #3) work around your #1 task. You will feel as though #2 and #3 are getting in the way of your #1. And more often than not, you will do an excellent job on the one thing (after all, it’s only one thing).

The funny thing about having your one thing is that even after you are done, you would have been on such a roll that you will continue to do more of it throughout the day.

Having one main thing to focus on simmers your brain to have fun at it since your mind has the luxury to think and come up with more creative ways to solve it, instead of having the feeling to throw it out the window once done.

You would overreach and overachieve just a little bit, getting even more done and feeling better about yourself in the process.

 

2. Prepare all the necessary materials the night before – lay them out on your desk / relevant places the night before

 

The point of this is to reduce friction. Why bother frantically searching for your sports shoes first thing in the morning? It starts the day off with a fart and not a bang.

[Side note: This especially applies to your one main task of the day. Mentally prepare the night before and you will get your morning off to a great start.]

 

3. Sleep 7-8 hours

 

Anyone who says sleep is for weak people could have been stronger had they slept more. I tried for the longest time to sleep at 10pm and wake up at 4am to take advantage of the early morning quiet. But looking back, I didn’t get much done. And even on the day I did, I wasn’t enjoying myself. I can’t smile back at the memory – it was drudgery. I was daydreaming about getting more sleep. I thought 6 hours was enough, given the fact that 5 hours was a guarantee of having too little sleep.

But on the Friday nights that I do sleep for 8+ hours, I could write much longer and have much higher quality too compared to the 6 hour days. Just fucking sleep more seriously. You will be on such a winning streak that will tire out perfectly come sleep time.

Go to bed exactly 8 hours prior to waking up, so it’s 10pm if you want to wake up at 6am. Reason being our sleep cycles are in 90-minute rounds. So it’s essentially 7.5 hours + 30 minutes to fall asleep.

Don’t forget to put off screen-time an hour before bedtime. In this case, it would be 9pm.

 

Put these 5 things in mind and you got yourself a rock solid morning routine that will set your day up for success.