Archive for the Personal Development Category

You’ve Quit Your Job, Now What? How To Build A Better Life

You’ve Quit Your Job, Now What? How To Build A Better Life

how to build a better lifeRight now, there are a lot of people quitting their job as part of what has been dubbed “The Great Resignation” following all that happened last year. People had time to reflect on their lives while staying at home, remote work has become a reality for many, and many have just said, “enough is enough.”

If you haven’t quit yet but are planning to, we’re going to first cover how to exit properly. And if you have quit, we’re also going to cover how to go about building a better life.

ryan tiny house and the tools he used to build itHi, I’m Ryan

I’m often asked how I went about building my own path in life. Having simplified things from the ground up; I now live in a tiny house, earn a living doing what I love, and focusing on what matters.  In the process I’ve learned a few things and I wanted to share some advice with you!

How To Quit Your Job / How To Resign

how to quit your job

If you’ve decided to quit your job but haven’t formally resigned, here is how. First off, while it’s tempting to leave with a dramatic exit, let’s do our future selves a solid and not burn any bridges. You may still want to use this employer as a reference, so let’s exit on the best terms possible.

Preparing To Quit Your Job

Preparing To Quit Your Job

First, I’d sit down and get serious about a budget, making sure you have a solid runway, reducing expenses where you can, and having a good handle on where you are financially. This will vary person to person and also depend on if you’re going to go looking for a new position right away or wait a while.

Next, where your employment contracts allow, document all the work you’ve done to build a portfolio for future interviews. I’d also slowly and quietly start taking home most of my stuff, removing my personal property so that when I do give notice, I could walk out right then if I needed to. Some employers have a policy that they end things right there and then and don’t even let you clear out your desk yourself. So why chance it? just have it all cleared out so you can shake hands and move on.

Lastly, I’d think about those who you’d like to stay in touch with and get their personal contact info if you can — subtlety — and don’t already. I’d also connect on LinkedIn.

Formally Resign From Your Job

Formally Resign From Your Job

Write a brief and to-the-point resignation letter. Don’t go into details and be sure to give proper notice based on what the company normally expects for a notice period. During this time, it may be a bit awkward, but if you’re able to stay professional, you maximize your chances of receiving a good reference, should you need it. Again, this is for our benefit, not theirs.

Where possible, give this letter printed and in person to your manager. They will most likely ask why you’re leaving, but I’d just leave it vague and brief. If you have another job lined up, share that you’ll be starting a new position. If you don’t have anything quite yet, I’d say something like, “I’ve decided that it’s time for me to move on.” You don’t owe them an explanation.

Finally, if your company has a formal exit interview, I’d just politely decline. There really isn’t any upside to consenting for you. I’d also decline any counter offers they make, because if they actually valued you, they would have paid you that amount in the first place.

Take A Break For Two Weeks – Weeks 1 & 2

Take A Break For Two Weeks

I think this is an important step because we want to create space where we sort through all our thoughts and feelings about our lives and what’s gone on so far up to this point. Life moves fast and we need to slow down enough to sit and reflect on things we haven’t given space to.

I consistently find that people are so busy, they don’t have enough time alone with their thoughts. The endless distractions of work, life, phones, and more mean we put off working on ourselves. Take this time to be alone with your thoughts, catch up on rest, veg out a bit, and do some self-care.

Remember This Isn’t Really A Vacation

Remember This Is Not Really A Vacation

I think it’s also important to put a time frame on this because it’s not just kicking back without a plan. I say take two weeks because most often it takes a few days to just wind down. Then a few more days to actually relax.

I also think two weeks is an ideal amount of time because most people barely take any paid time off so they’ve never had the chance to detach for a while. I think a week would just feel like a vacation, while two weeks makes the relaxation restorative.
This time is about getting you in the space mentally to do the work that needs to happen.

Take Time To Work On Yourself

take time to work on yourself

This step requires you to be totally alone with yourself and most importantly that means no phone, TV, computer, social media, or anything else. Normally, we don’t get time to unplug like this because we’re always going nonstop. Now that we’ve taken some time away from work, you have this time and that’s so important.

Additionally, you don’t have the dread of going back to work that is filled with everything that piled up while you were gone.
People are often very uncomfortable with being alone with just their thoughts. You’ll need to fight through this resistance and get comfortable with it.

How To Spend Time With Your Thoughts

how to spend time with your thoughts

For me, I take long walks in nature, and generally the more that’s going on in my life, the longer I need. Your process will be different, but it needs to be distraction-free.

I will sometimes bring a blank notepad and pen so that if there is something I want to Google or remember to check on later, I can write it down and my brain can let it go.

For me, nature is an important part of the process, but I also know some people don’t love the outdoors. You do you — the important part is to be alone with your thoughts.

My walks typically follow this mental pattern:

  1. Think through all the things that are going on in my life.
  2. Resolve most things down to the one or two things that I need to address.
  3. Think through and deal with the emotions of those things bothering me the most.
  4. Go round and round with them in my thoughts until they’re actually resolved.
  5. Realize I’m lying to myself and wrestle with my thoughts some more.
  6. My brain goes blank and I realize I’m being present in that moment.

It is only then that I realize I’m able to totally set aside the things that have been bothering me and be in the moment, which is where the real growth is going to happen. Sometimes steps one through six take only 30 minutes, sometimes it takes hours. For me, that sometimes means a very long hike, because only when you get to that final stage can the work begin.

For these hikes, I usually choose a pretty easy route so I can cover more distance without worrying too much about fatigue, and I bring lots of snacks and water. You can also find a good place to sit and chill out — you don’t need to be moving to be thinking. I’ve gone to a park and sat at a picnic table before. Other times I do this at a coffee shop, but I also allow myself to leave if I find I’m getting distracted.

What are you trying to figure out during this time?

It’s going to be different for everyone, below is a worksheet you can use to help.

defining the dream workbook

Catch Up On Things You Never Had Time To Do – Week 3

catch up on things

Catching up is a good way to help you build up some positive momentum without jumping back into the same life you used to live — we don’t want to fall back into old patterns. It also helps you further clear mental space because we all have a running list of unfinished to dos in the back of our minds. Whether we’re aware of it or not, it’s hanging out there, subtlety pulling for our attention and adding to our sense of stress.

In the next few steps, we’re going to start to design our ideal life and we don’t want these unfinished to dos detracting from that deep work that needs to be done.

Start by making a list of all the things you’ve put off. This could be things like getting an oil change, fixing something around the house, changing a light bulb, going through your fridge and pantry, etc.

declutter challenge

Get it on your list and then work your way through that list it like it’s your job. Because right now, it kind of is your job; You’re taking this time for you, so take it seriously. The first two weeks were about relaxing, so now that you’re rested up, don’t laze about.

I’d also recommend taking the time to clean your house from top to bottom, declutter heavily, and organize things thoroughly. It’s rare that you’ll have free time to do this, so take advantage of it. This can take time, but it also further allows you to be totally focused on what comes next and not on the junk drawer, messy counter top, or overflowing closet that is a constant hassle.

If you need to take more time than a week to do this, then do so, but do it intentionally and work on it all day, every day until it’s done. Go all in here.

Refocus On Productive Activities That Spur Positive Feedback Loops – Week 4

refocus on productive activities

We all have things we’ve let slide over the years when life seemed to get in the way. Let’s take this time to refocus on some positive things we can do.

Taking a break like you’re doing now lets you get over the initial hump of setting a new habit in a positive feedback loop, allowing you to keep them going long term. Start these new positive habits around week four and continue with them as a new norm for you.

dopamine detox

Start Cooking Most Meals At Home

start cooking most meals at home

Start cooking at home for most of your meals. Try avoiding processed foods and cook from whole foods as best you can. If you can’t cook at all, make a sandwich, even if you do it badly. People get wrapped up in not being able to do this perfectly, but don’t let yourself. Don’t let perfection get in the way of good.

Consider subscribing to a meal-in-a-box service like Green Chef or Blue Apron for a few weeks. Watch YouTube cooking channels to learn how to cook some simple things. Don’t get fancy and don’t get overwhelmed — cooking is just a great way to save money, slow down, and share a meal with loved ones.

minimalist diet

If you cook your own foods from simple ingredients, it will pretty much guarantee you’re going to eat better. You’re putting higher quality inputs into your body and therefore getting a higher quality of output. This stacks the deck in your favor and, since you’re living the YOLO life, you’ve got the time.

Again, this doesn’t have to be complex, there are some really excellent recipes that are dead simple for a person who has never cooked a day in their life. Something I really like is sheet pan meals, where you throw all the ingredients on one sheet pan and toss it in the oven. Below are a few to get you started.

I’d also consider cutting out alcohol entirely for at least 30 days. Seriously.

Connect With Friends And Family

connect with family and friends

During these first few weeks or, at the latest, week four, take the time to reconnect with loved ones. Ideally one on one and in person where ever possible. Do your best to leave behind the phones, as they’re just going to get in the way. Choose people who activate you, who care for you, and who leave you feeling energized. If that list seems small or non-existent, take this time to think about how you can remedy that situation.

social media break

Evaluate And Set Boundaries

evaluate and set boundaries

It’s easy get lost in our lives: We throw ourselves into our work, we commit to our partner in a relationship — we are so busy taking care of others that we don’t make room for ourselves, which means we are trying to pour from an empty vase.

If we don’t take care of ourselves first, we can’t show up for the important people in our lives when they need us. Putting aside the guilt, you should extend the same kindness you extend to others to yourself as well.

If you’re someone who continually puts your own needs on the back burner for the benefit of others, you should spend some time establishing boundaries. These will help you make space that you need and also encourage others to help themselves when we you can’t be there all the time.

Do Something For You

do something for you

Find a hobby, a mini adventure, or a curiosity to nurture for a while and set aside a few hours a week to do only that. If you get into something that turns out to not be as interesting as you thought, just make the conscious decision to do something else. If not this, then what?

For me it’s hiking, reading, and various creative outlets. Whatever you decide to do, make it a priority and establish it during this time where you can reflect how it impacts your mood, your energy, and your interaction with family and friends.

Practice Good Sleep Hygiene

practice good sleep hygiene

Sleep is critical and boat loads of studies show that good sleep is a massive factor in good health.

Quick Tips For Good Sleep:

  • Don’t eat within 3 hours before bed
  • No phones, tablets, TV, or screens 60 mins before bed
  • Get in bed 30 minutes before you want to fall asleep with no phone
  • Sleep at least 7 hours
  • When you wake up, try to get outside in the morning light without sunglasses or shade for 45 minutes
  • Be consistent about your sleep routine and the points above

Start To Build A Vision For Your Life – Week 5 and Beyond

Start To Build A Vision For Your Life

Building a vision for our lives seems like a daunting task — in fact, there have been many times when I struggled to do this myself. What’s become clear to me is that there is no perfect solution, magic bullet, or secret that’s going to unlock a vision for my life or instantly help me “find my passion.” If some “guru” says they have a system, they’re lying.

So, let’s dispense with that right up front. There is no trick, no hack, no secret. But there is a way …

Some of you probably have a clear vision of what your ideal life would be. If that sounds like you, check yourself to make sure you haven’t just adopted someone else’s vision as your own.

For the rest of us, I believe there are a few main ingredients to this that should be customized for your purposes:

  • Don’t stand still, move in any direction
  • It’s not bliss, it’s about what you’re willing to give up
  • Treat this like an experiment
  • Be open and question everything

personal goal setting

Don’t Stand Still, Move In Any Direction

dont stand still

Here’s what I’ve found to be true for me: When I don’t know what I want to do, what my goals are, or what I should do next, I’ve learned that the worst thing to do is to stand still. Just start doing something — literally anything.

More likely than not, you’re not going to know what your purpose is until, one day, you stop what you’re doing and realize that you’re already doing it. What that means is we need to do several things in an intentional manner until we find what’s is right for us.

But realize that it’s not going “click” or come to you in some grand vision when you discover some secret or insight. It will slowly sneak up on you, consuming your whole life in a weird and unexpected way.

bias towards action

Choose A Starting Direction

choose a starting direction

Consider things that you’ve found interesting, curious, fun, or maybe even something that scares you. If that doesn’t work, start putting yourself in different environments that you’re not quite comfortable in, talk to people you’d never normally speak to, attend events that aren’t what you’d consider your thing, read a book that’s outside your normal pattern, or go to your favorite places at a totally different time.

Go into those things curious and open.

In many cases, I think it’s not so much that you’ll “find” something while doing these things, but by doing these things you’re not comfortable with, you are forcing yourself to be more open. You are literally strongarming your mindset into a place that is more receptive to new thoughts. This allows you to see opportunities that are sitting right in front of you.

What To Do When You Can’t Find Direction, Purpose, Or Passion

what to do when you cant find a direction

I’ve been here before and know how tough it is. I was making a real, concerted effort at progress, but despite a thoughtful approach and a lot of work, I came up with nothing. I was desperate and knew that if I couldn’t figure it out, I was cruising to a state of real depression.

Here’s what I did at that point: improve myself.

what to do when you cant find your directionI had no idea what I wanted, but I made the decision that until I figured it out, I would work on being the best that I could be. At least then when I figured out whatever my life’s purpose was, I’d be in a good place to seize it!

The reason this works is because by making a decision, subconsciously you’re saying to yourself, “I’m betting on myself. I am worth it.” In that seemingly simple decision, you’re also setting aside the excuses, which is so key to your mental game here.

This is also just a really positive way to trick yourself into motion. Remember earlier when I said pick a direction and start moving? This has the added benefit of improving your body and mind to boot.

So set about the task of working on your mind and your body. Eat better, exercise, be serious about getting better sleep, go to a therapist even if you think you don’t need one, put down the devices, and take a break from social media, the news, and alcohol.

Ask Yourself: What Do I Want More/Less Of?

what do you want more or less of

A good practice I’ve found is when you can’t paint a picture of what you want your life to be, then at least make a fuzzy image of it.

Remember those picture books where there were numbered dots on a page and you’d draw lines between them and suddenly a picture became clear? That’s what we want to do. We want to put lots of independent data points down on the proverbial page so we can start to connect them and draw a picture. The more dots, the clearer the picture. How do we do that?

Ask yourself these questions

What do I want more of in my life?

What do I want less of in my life?

I’ve found people may not always know what they want in life, but they can list 100 things they don’t want in their life with ease. The important part here is not to be vague — be really specific about these things.

Here’s the trick …

Take what you don’t want in your life and then ask, what’s the oppositive of that?

Do you hate having a micro manager who doesn’t trust you to deliver without them butting in? Flip it! I want a manager who empowers me to deliver my work independently. Frustrated with how disorganized and chaotic your home always is? You want to strive for a well-organized and tidy lifestyle.

It’s Not Bliss, It’s About What You’re Willing To Give Up

its about what youre willing to give up

Now that I’m on the other side of this having found what my passion is, most people expect fulfillment to be a blissful state with no problems and only happy times. That’s absolutely incorrect. What it’s really about is finding something that you enjoy doing so much that all the stuff that normally drags you down, the boring stuff and the difficult challenges, literally doesn’t matter because you see it as the price you pay to do what you love to do.

There is a lot of talk about finding your passion on the internet. The online conversation typically sounds like “living your best life,” “doing what you love,” and so on. Honestly, most of these people are faking it, but for those who have found it, it’s hard to talk about it without sounding very positive because it’s a blissful state.

The truth is that when I think about a goal, a passion, or an ideal life, it comes down to being honest about what I have to give up in service to that. This isn’t a negative mindset or a scarcity thing and often doesn’t have to be about money at all.

no spend challenge

It’s about what hard work I have to do and the uncomfortable truths about myself I need to square with. It’s having perseverance when life throws me down a flight of stairs to get back up.

And the uncomfortable truth is after life does that, you’re going have to climb back to the top of those same stairs and throw yourself down them again, over and over. Why? Because you’ve decided that the life you love comes at a cost and it’s a price you’re happy to pay every day.

Do Hard Things

do hard things

Humans are really lazy creatures; we seek comfort and our lives are pretty good. This is actually rooted deep in our DNA because it allowed our ancestors to be very efficient when they were fighting for survival every day.

Basically, our ancestors had to be lazy to preserve energy or they would have run out of calories and starved to death. So, in a weird way, we are the evolutionary survivors of the laziest people ever. Cosmic joke right there.

do the hard workThings started to go wrong once we progressed into modern life. It’s hard to keep the perspective that life as we now know it is only a hundred or so years old!

Most of us don’t have to worry about starving, we are pretty healthy compared to our ancestors, and we have amazing climate-controlled boxes we call houses instead of a patch of ground around a fire we stoke to stay warm and ward off predators that want to eat us. Where our ancestors would have keeled over from the flu, we take a $3 pill that cures it.

We have it really good. If you ever doubt that, take a trip to a less fortunate country and stare into the faces of those who live in absolute poverty. If you’re reading this on a laptop, you’ve been afforded a life of such luxury and opportunity that it is unapparelled through human history.

This is where the true “first-world problem” exists. When you’re not fighting for survival every day, you suddenly need to create something to struggle for and through. The only way to do that is to consciously do difficult things that challenge you to grow.
I’ve found a good way to kick start this is with the 75 Hard Challenge, which I outline here:

75 hard challenge

Treat This Like An Experiment

treat this like an experiment

I can’t guarantee much through this process, but the one thing I can is that you’re going to get a lot wrong. As you start to move in some directions, you’re going to get it wrong. The trick here is to not beat yourself up for it.

You’re going to pick a direction and then constantly course correct along the way. As you course correct, you’re going to be able to make decisions faster and at a higher level of accuracy because you’re gaining experience from doing it wrong. Doing it wrong is kind of the whole point.

My best advice is not to say you’re going to do ___ and worry about failure, but instead to say, “I’m exploring this right now.” Think of it as a series of mini experiments.

why not tryIf you have a gut feeling or curiosity about something, make a mini hypothesis about it, then test it out. After you complete the “experiment,” stop, reassess, and design the next experiment.

The key thing here is to remember that it’s not a failure, it’s just a result of the experiment. You just ran the test and observed results, no big deal.

People also have a tendency to bail at the first sign of trouble or difficulty. Remember, you need to be willing to give up things like your ego, your negative self-talk, and your preconceived notions in service of this new life you want to build.

If you don’t want to go back to your old life, remember what drove you insane to the point that you quit your job. When you fall flat on your face, when it gets really hard, you’re going to have to say “F#@$ it, I’m not going back.”

Push through and push hard. The old you would have given up, but you’re not that person any more.

Be Open And Question Everything

be open and question everything

While you’re exploring things and running your experiments, you also want to build in some natural stopping points where you take a step back and question everything. If you adopt my experimentation method, you’ll have a hypothesis that you test, then you can stop after running that experiment and reflect on it and ask yourself some questions.

  • Should you continue?
  • How would you continue differently?
  • What did this experience teach you about what the next step might be?
  • If this wasn’t it, why wasn’t it, and what’s the opposite of that thing?

bullet journal challenge

Build The Life You Want

how to build the life you want

If you come into this with a plan, be smart about it, and question each step along the way, you’ll eventually find a home in the perfect life for you. Set aside the negative self-talk. Forget the social pressures of society and focus on you. Realize that you’re going to have failures and that’s part of the process.

Also realize that there isn’t a magic bullet, a process that works for everyone, or a secret to success.

The General Path I’d Suggest Trying Is This:

  1. Relax and create space.
  2. Take time to do housekeeping in your home, in your life, and in your mind.
  3. Start to outline what you want your life to look like.
  4. Determine a direction to experiment and start moving.
  5. When in doubt, improve yourself — mind and body.
  6. Do difficult things and push through failures and self-doubt.
  7. Take time to stop and evaluate, and question everything.
  8. Rinse and repeat.

The way forward is frankly through doing the difficult work, failing forward, and not bailing when things get tough.

The good stuff is on the other side of those things that you think are so hard they might break you.

Your Turn!

  • What advice do you have to share for others?
  • What tips have you found to find the right path?

Personal Goal Setting: Powerful Strategies to Achieve More in Life

Personal Goal Setting: Powerful Strategies to Achieve More in Life

personal goal settingPersonal goal setting is one of those things that we all know we probably should do, but just never really get around to doing. It can be easy to go with the flow (sometimes that’s a good thing) but lack of direction often is the difference between living a mediocre life or living your best life. I, for one, want to set personal goals to make sure I live in the way that’s best for me. Here’s how to make the most out of life by setting personal goals.

Why Personal Goal Setting Is Important

Why Personal Goal Setting Is Important

Let’s be honest with ourselves, building the life we dream of doesn’t happen by accident. By the same token, it’s surprising how adding even a little intention to our lives can have such a huge impact on our happiness and success. What’s more, if we don’t set priorities in our lives, there are plenty of other people and companies that are happy to set them for us, only to their benefit, not ours.

personal goal settingI’ve found that setting goals does two main things for us: it gives us something to aim for and it gives us a guide to weigh decisions in order to keep moving forward. These two things are vitally important to a life worth living because they provide a purpose for our lives; purpose is what gets us up in the morning and it’s what carries us when times get tough.

When I think about the best times in my life, I consider them to be so great because I had purpose. The darker times in life were characterized by an aimless state of wandering. Leveraging goal setting, I was able to claw my way out of those dark spots to a brighter place.

That’s why personal goal setting is important: it gives you aim, it gives you guidance and it gives you a purpose that carries you through the good and bad times.

How To Set Personal Goals

How To Set Personal Goals

There are three parts to setting personal goals: identifying what you want to achieve, building a system to attain that goal, and finally, articulating what you’re willing to sacrifice or endure in order to achieve it. Despite the nuances within each part, I’ll be honest here and say the biggest challenge is you getting out of your own way.

When you’re setting new goals and executing them, you’re building new habits, which is incredibly difficult to do. I’ve written a good bit about this topic, so make sure you check out this post.

tools for building good habits




Identifying What You Want Out Of Life

Identifying What You Want Out Of Life

Obviously, the first step is to know where we are going, which can be easier said than done sometimes. There have been times when I knew exactly what I was going to do next, then other times I struggled for years to figure out my next step. I wanted to take some time here to dig in, because I’ve found advice out there to be thin when it comes to not knowing what you should do.

indentifying what you want out of lifeThe trick with a goal is finding that sweet spot between something that is difficult to achieve and something that lights a fire within you. The key component to a satisfying victory is proportionate to the amount of struggle: the more struggle, the greater the feeling of satisfaction. Too much struggle and your goal will take forever to achieve or it isn’t realistic.

Without struggle, wins around goals can feel cheap and hollow. If I map the greatest things I have done in life, they correlate heavily with the amount of struggle that occurred with it. I don’t believe this is by accident.

Along with the perfect amount of struggle, the goal needs to stir something inside you. I’ve had goals like earn six figures, live in another country, be featured in the NY Times, but they all left me feeling blasé. I was able to get hired pretty easily for that six figures, bought a ticket to Croatia with money I already had and realized being in the NYT didn’t change my life.

Compare that to my goal of writing a book and seeing it published on the shelf in a Barnes & Noble. After writing a blog for 7 years, I attracted a publisher who offered me a contract. I then spent 6 months writing every day, and editing the manuscript for 3 months after that. The feeling when I walked into my local Barnes & Nobles and saw my book on the shelf for sale was one of the top moments of my life.

When it comes to determining our goals, we fall into three main buckets:

When We Think We Know What Our Goal Should Be

When We Think We Know What Our Goal Should Be

When I was young, I was very money driven. I thought a large income, a big house, nice clothes and fancy things would lead me to happiness. When the 2009 recession hit, I realized through prolonged introspection that what I thought I wanted, was actually a narrative I adopted out of default.

american dream houseGo to school, get a good job, land a successful career, find a wife, settle down in a nice house and drive a red car. Some call it the American Dream, but I never stopped to think if it was right for me.

When you think you have landed on a larger life goal, spend some time picking it apart. Play devil’s advocate, think about what the daily realities would be like and maybe see if you could test out what it would be like in some way.

Me defaulting to the normal path of life was bought and sold to me by society at large. For some, a perfectly fine path, but one that I never stopped and asked: “is this what I want?” When I finally did get around to asking that question. I soon realized this clear-cut route really meant in a day to day reality, and it was not for me. I thought I knew what I wanted; boy was I wrong.

When We Don’t Know What We Want

When We Don’t Know What We Want

There have been a few times in my life when I just didn’t know what to do. I was floating along, “successful” by most people’s standards, but I wasn’t particularly happy. I spent a lot of energy trying to figure out what I wanted, but any idea that came to me kept falling flat. I struggled with it immensely in my early 30’s and the lack of purpose was a major negative force in my life.

I spent a solid year doing thought experiments, brainstorming ideas, testing a few of them, and reading a lot of advice, only to come up empty. Sometimes people say they don’t know what to do because they haven’t honestly put effort into it, but this was not the case. I spent a sizeable amount of time making concerted efforts.

I was so clueless about what I wanted. So, in a mild act of desperation, I decided to set aside my goals and focused on making myself better. I had no reason to think this would solve anything. My rationale for all of this was telling myself that I might as well work on myself, so by the time I do figure out what I want, I’ll be at my best to do whatever it is.

75 hard challenge




I started with my diet, losing 90 pounds. I worked in some moderate exercise and started walking each day, then running a few times a week. Finally, I spent time alone with my thoughts on long walks through the woods, sorting through feelings and my mental state.

I’m not necessarily saying to do this exact thing if you don’t know what you want to do in life. Instead, think about what the proxy would be for you and pursue that. It is quite possible that what I did will work for you too.

I think the big part is to just do something that is going to make your life better in any dimension. It’s a mix of improving your life and gaining forward momentum. Basically, you’ll get out of your rut and since you’re focusing on yourself, it’s a way forward. I think the motion in any direction is important.

The beauty of this approach is if it doesn’t work for you, the worst outcome that can happen is that you’re better than you were. If nothing else, you’ll be wiser, healthier, and most importantly, moving in a direction.

After about a year and a half of focusing on my diet and health I also found I slept better, got dates easier, my neck pain went away and my mood lifted. In the end it was all worth it if for nothing else than that!

are you living a level 10 life

Then something funny happened, I started having clearer thoughts around what I wanted for my future. I saw possibilities and was excited by them. I could tell I was onto something. I didn’t know exactly what it was, but it was like following a rope and knowing you were getting to the end where the prize was.

Then one day clarity hit me like a lightning bolt, I knew where I was going.

When You Know Your Goals

When You Know Your Goals

Having an aim in life is super important, to my earlier point, having a purpose is what breeds a good life filled with happiness, contentment and interest. The only thing you want to be cautious of is false positives, meaning when you think you know what you want, but realize later you pursued the wrong goal.

Take time to really think through the life you want to build, what are the realities of living like that? Too often we idealize things. Make sure you’re willing to put up with the downsides, because every way of life has them.

when you know your goalsAn important step to this is we often think about how it will feel when things go right: the sun is shining, money in the bank, the car works, we’re healthy and we don’t have a worry in the world. But also think through what the worst day of that new life would be like: you lost your job, the economy dipped, you break up with your significant other, you’ve been sick for a week and the chores are piling up. What would those days feel like? Would you still want that life?

Another important thing to do is to understand how you arrived at this goal in the first place. Analyze the sources where the motivations or ideas for these goals come from. Was it a nostalgic memory from your past, was it something you coveted in your neighbors or friends, or was it a status symbol that might end up empty for us?

Understanding the drive behind a goal is important to make sure it comes from a good place. Always be cautious, examine your own thoughts around your goals, and check to make sure they’re right for you.

Building Systems To Achieve Goals

Building Systems To Achieve Goals

A key component to goal setting is not only figuring out what you want to set as your personal goal, but what you’re actually going to do daily in order to reach that goal. Training yourself to think this way is critical and will get you far in life because there are many goals that are complex, very ambitious and can take years to reach.

A system is a consistent set of actions that you perform daily, which will eventually accumulate in a way that reaches your goal. Examples would be:

  • Your goal is to write a book: your system is to write 500 words each day
  • Your goal is to lose 30 pounds: your system is to track calories for all your meals
  • Your goal is no debt: your system is to reduce spending and pay down your debt

This does a few things for you. First, it breaks down a goal into smaller parts so you can just focus on what is right in front of you: what do you need to do today?

build systemsIt also helps motivate you on long-term goals where the finish line may be very far off. You can draw satisfaction from a job well done today and the knowledge that it’s building towards something.

Finally, a system is repeatable, which means you can get more efficient with it. When you do something over and over again, day in and day out, you naturally get better at it. This means you might discover ways to achieve the same thing in less time, cutting down the time to achieve that goal.

You may realize that some things you were doing each day were bringing the impact you thought they would so you can adapt to having more meaningful results. If all else fails, you’ll get really good at what you do each day and you can “brute force” your way to a goal.

Systems are powerful and I’ve learned they are what separates successful people from less successful people. Successful people have a system or process for achieving their goals and they seek them relentlessly.

Below are some details about building systems that can help make sure you hone in on the right steps to achieve your goals through daily system actions.

Question Everything

Question Everything

I have talked about how just through some simple questions I was able to free up half of my time in a new job, which equates to about 30 hours a week. In challenging my assumptions around email, I took my email inbox that received 700 emails a day of real and actionable emails, not spam/newsletters, down to 40 emails a week! It also allowed me to question my housing, where I replaced my rent of $1,500 down to $15 (not a typo) a month.

simple office and work life

This willingness has proven very valuable. The ability to take a step back and question things objectively has saved me a ton of time, money and stress. In short, we need to question everything and challenge our assumptions.

Build A List Of Options

Build A List Of Options

Start by making a list of five distinctly different ways you could achieve this goal. The first option you write down will most likely be your personal favorite, your second option will be a good alternative. When you get to your last three options, you’ll have to start getting creative. You want these to be totally different from your other options, not just a slight variation.

bullet journaling




Don’t be afraid to ask other people how they would achieve the same goal. Don’t be afraid to press them for alternative options as well. It’s options four and five that often reveal some insights, opening you up to a better way or new way of thinking about your challenge ahead.

This process does a few things. First it allows you to potentially come up with a better path forward, forcing creative solutions sometimes gets you to think outside the box. It also provides fall back options if your first approach fails, saving you valuable time after a possible failure.

Take the time to write these down and brainstorm ideas, don’t be afraid to get really crazy.

Break Down Your Goals

Break Down Your Goals

Many goals are multi-faceted, complex or require many actions. It can be daunting at times to keep going or to know where to even start. The best way I’ve found to deal with this is to break down the goal into smaller steps.

You can approach this in two different ways: break goals down to what you need to do today or break down goals to a point that it seems easily achievable.

My preference is to break down goals into a daily to do list. Sometimes it’s easy, for example, “I want to earn an extra $5,000 this year.” You take $5,000 and divide by 365. What’s nice about this is instead of feeling overwhelmed by the thought of earning an extra five grand, you can set that feeling aside and realize today you only have to figure out how to earn only $15.

break down your goalsOther goals are a bit more complicated: For example, building my tiny house. To do this, I outlined all the steps I needed to do in order to build the house: determine a design, draw the plans, purchase the trailer, learn to use tools, etc. I then grouped them into what seemed like easy to do chunks.

If there is a section that is still too big, I looked for ways to break it down further: instead of “buy a trailer” I’ll first make a list of people I want to call to get prices. After that, I’ll call those people, compare prices, go see the trailer, make a decision, then finally purchase. That one item was broken down into six smaller steps that seemed easier on their own.

The other way for you to break down ambitious goals that seem daunting, is to break them down into approachable portions. The key here is to figure out the actions that are so simple, small or easy that you think you can manage it. For some people these actions may be bigger or smaller, the point is you figure out the thing you can manage to do.

Break it down into small pieces and then set a plan to get you from where you are today to where you want to be, one small step at a time.

Own The Pain Of Achievement

Own The Pain Of Achievement

Most guidance fails because it doesn’t include what you’re willing to endure in order to make the dream a reality. l Goal setting advice focuses on making SMART goals, dream boards, motivation etc. but doesn’t spend any time recognizing the pain required to achieve a goal.

We need to define what we are willing to undergo in order to achieve our goal. Inherent in our pursuit of our goal, we are going to have to give certain things up, say no to a few things, get up when we just want to be lazy, and keep pushing when everything seems to be against us.

Goal Setting is Easy, Achieving Goals is Painful

The space between where we are today and where we want to be in the future is filled with hard work and sacrifice. It’s going to be painful in some manner, so let’s adopt a mindset now that will set the stage for the daily actions of our systems.

Define The Pain We Are Willing To Endure

Define The Pain We Are Willing To Endure

Understanding what pain we are willing to go through is critical to this process. There are certain things we understand are more valuable in reaching our goals. Therefore, we are more willing to ride out the disadvantages because we realize they are necessary for success. Contrary to this, there are some things we come to recognize we are not willing to do.

This saves us time, but also attributes the lack of change to the proper source: ourselves. It allows the proper internal dialogue of “I want this in my life, but if I’m not willing to take the actions to make it happen, then I won’t have earned it.” It’s a hard pill to swallow and sometimes, just maybe, it’s this realization that makes us stubborn enough to preserve through those sacrifices.

Make sure you are setting your goals, but then make sure you outline exactly what you’re willing to sacrifice in order to make it happen.

Prepare For Failure

Prepare For Failure

There are times when we miss the mark and the critical part of failure is training ourselves to have the right response. Failure is an opportunity to start again wiser, but we should also own our faults and mistakes no matter the circumstances.

Another key to success is what is called failing forward. While we want to make sure we don’t have any catastrophic failures, learning to embrace small failures and learn from them is a valuable skill.

go for it

Be The One

Who Goes For It!

In my time working as an entrepreneur, I’ve found that failing provides useful data. I’ve often found I needed to fail in small ways (numerous times) so I could figure out what will work. Realizing this, the trick has been to reduce the time and cost between failures. By shortening the intervals between failures, I can get to a successful place more quickly.

In my personal life, I’ve found that failures often taught me more about myself than any other time. You go through a rough breakup; you learn a lot about what you do and don’t want in your next partner. You made a poor money decision, you are smarter the next time round. You let your house get really messy, spending hours cleaning it, so you start to clean a little each day instead.

“Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.” — Henry Ford

Failure is traditionally seen as a bad thing and there are times when the shame and pain of such failure is necessary to reinforce good behaviors. In my opinion, failure also needs to be seen as a place of growth and learning.

Putting It All Together

Putting It All Together

Now that we’ve figured out what we want, it’s time to build a system to achieve our goals and get clear on what we’re willing to withstand.

Take time to get clear on what you truly want and examine the motivation behind it. Understand that you need to put in the work to make this happen. Finally, break your goals down into small daily actions that will allow you to make progress towards each day.

Your Turn!

  • What tips do you have for setting goals?
  • What goals are you going to work on this year?


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Building good habits guide
how to stop procrastination
how to prioritize guide
how to get stuff done

How To Stop Procrastination – Advice From An Expert Procrastinator Who Figured It Out

How To Stop Procrastination – Advice From An Expert Procrastinator Who Figured It Out

how to stop procrastinationI have to admit, there are times when I’ve been a procrastination pro in my life, but I’ve come around and learned how to stop putting things off before it got out of hand. So, I figured who better to share a few tips on how to stop procrastination than from a person who was once a huge procrastinator himself.

What Is Procrastination?

what is procrastination

At its core, procrastination is delaying a task for later in the future because we don’t feel compelled enough to do it right now. A good way to look at it is realizing there are two selves: a present self and a future self. Procrastination is when our present self pushes off the pain of doing something to our future self.

How To Stop Procrastinating For Good

how to stop procrastination

Understanding that there is a current self and a future self, we have a decision to make. Are we going to set up our future self for success or failure? To help drive this point home, I even go as far as visualizing a scenario where my future self could come back and say “what the hell man!” about a decision to shirk off something.

Why Do We Procrastinate?

why do we procrastinate

After many years of putting things off, I sat down and asked why I don’t get things done. It was then that I realized that procrastination is a state where not doing something has less pain than the pain you’ll incur by doing the task.

An example is if you’re just a little hungry but have no food in your house, you’ll put off getting up to drive to the store. Later, when you’re really hungry, the “pain” of hunger is larger than the pain of going to the store. So, you get up and drive to get food.

That means procrastination is a function of pain. It was then I realized that if we can manipulate the level of pain, we can push ourselves forward to get things done.

Adding Pain To The Process

adding pain to the process

Realizing that pain was the key variable here, I had to figure out a way to control the level of pain in the equation. It was this hack that I learned a long time ago when I wanted to stop drinking sodas. It seems odd at first, making things even harder, but stick with me here…

I knew it would be challenging to stop drinking sodas. At first, I said I could drink sodas with one caveat. I could drink soda; I just couldn’t buy a pack of soda for the house. What I could do though, was get in my car and drive to the gas station down the road and buy one bottle of soda to drink.

Why did this work? I wasn’t denying myself the soda, I just added the pain of having to get in my car and driving to get it. Each time I wanted a soda, I had to weigh the hassle vs. how much I wanted it.

Taking this lesson and applying it to things we are procrastinating on we can see how pain will come into play. This little trick lets us overcome procrastination by making the pain for the present self higher than the pain of doing the task. Adding pain makes a huge difference.

Visualizing Failure

visualizing failure

Another way to add pain to the process is to envision yourself not fixing your bad habits. Visualize how it could spiral out of control later in life, what is the inevitable result if we don’t fix this now? We want to take this to the most realistic extreme.

If you want to stop drinking so much, imagine what it would be like if you didn’t make the change. Imagine you drink a little more each day leading you to sleep through your alarm a few too many times. Your boss notices and fires you, which leads you to drink more, and eventually your spouse leaves you. You drive drunk back from the bar and end up killing an innocent person. You end up in jail for manslaughter.

This may seem a bit dramatic, but Let your mind go wild here and sit with that dread, angst, and self-loathing. This vision of the future may never happen, but you could use that pain to pile on your current state in order to push you forward.

How To Use Accountability

how to use accountability

Much like my methods before, accountability is another way to layer on pain, just from a different source. At its core, accountability is about adding in social and peer pressure to a positive outcome.

I have found this effective when doing my work through a mastermind group, which for the uninitiated, is a business accountability group. Each week I had to show up and layout what I actually got done, they’d compare that to what I said I’d do the week previous. This meant I added the pain of the social pressure by having to answer for my failings.

tools for building good habits




The social pressure of an accountability partner is a great technique if you can find the right people for it. I’ve found it hard to find people who could call me out on my own excuses because those types of people are also sympathetic to your circumstances.

It is easy for people that care to go easy on you. In a funny way, they too are trying to avoid the pain of social discomfort today, even though they know you’d be better for it if they went through the pain now.

Understand That Every Decision Has A Price

understand that every decision has a price

Understand that life is really a series of choices and it can be easy to think that the small little decisions – read: compromises – we make add up to major currents in our lives. It can seem trivial to choose water at dinner over a diet soda, both have no calories, right? But the cumulative effect of these can pile up fast.

The best illustration I’ve had to this effect comes from a conversation I had with a multi-metal Olympian. He said every decision he makes, he thought of it like building himself a castle, stone by stone. Each choice he made, he’d literally visualize himself laying a new stone to build his castle. If he made a bad choice, he would visualize himself walking up to the wall and pushing over a section of it.

Another approach and a technique I’ve used to good effect is when I’m faced with a decision, I ask “is this getting me closer or further from my goal?” This let me put my decisions into context and make good decisions time after time.

Understand that every choice has a price. The question is are you willing to pay the bill for your bad decisions when it comes due?

setting personal goals




Do The Work

do the work

At the end of it all, we will have the life we build for ourselves. There is no magic bullet, short cut or trick to make it happen other than to do the work. We need to ask ourselves what is the life we want for ourselves and what pain we are willing to endure to make it happen.

Be the person that sets aside excuses. Be the person that gets things done. Be the person who does the things which will get you to where you want to be. The space between where you are today and where you want to be in the future is filled with hard work. Stop procrastinating and get on with it!

Your Turn!

  • What tricks do you use to stop procrastinating?
  • What are some ways you can overcome your favorite excuse?


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Building good habits guide
How to set personal goals guide
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How To Use A Prioritization Matrix – The Genius Method Behind Eisenhower’s Success

How To Use A Prioritization Matrix – The Genius Method Behind Eisenhower’s Success

how to use a prioritization matrixA while ago, I stumbled upon a little nugget of US history — a little tool that President Eisenhower used to great success in securing victory in WWII. With it, I’ve been able to control the chaos, keep me focused on what’s important, and keep my stress levels way down. What simple tool lead the US to victory in WWII and can help you get things done in everyday life? A prioritization matrix.

To-do lists can seem endless, and there are only so many hours in the day. It’s not uncommon to see people around us losing their minds trying to keep up with increasing demands of life and work; It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking this chaos is normal, that our own lives should be in an equally manic state. But with a few tricks, we can wrangle all the demands of everyday life that leave us stressed out for good.

The prioritization matrix is a simple concept with dramatic results, helping us understand what needs to be done first, what things can wait for later and what things we shouldn’t do at all. Eisenhower and many people today use this 2×2 matrix to figure out what their priorities are with great success.

What Is A Prioritization Matrix?

What Is A Prioritization Matrix

It’s a simple framework that is used to group tasks into four main categories: Do now, do next, do last, and do never. These are often shown in a 2×2 grid, where one side is how important something is and the other is how urgent something is. It makes more sense when you see it drawn like this:

eisenhower matrix

The most important items on your list are at the top and the least important items are on the bottom. You then also consider how urgent these things are, with high urgency on the left and low urgency on the right.

When we think about this, we want to do things that are very important and very urgent first. Conversely, we want tasks that are least important and low urgency to be at the very bottom of our list, or maybe even removed entirely. That’s where the genius of this simple little matrix comes into play, it helps us quickly decide where things need to fall in our prioritization.

Do First: High Importance, High Urgency

High Importance High Urgency

Things that are both important and urgent will fall in your top left quadrant, meaning they’re the things that you should do first before anything else. Remember that even within this box, you’ll need to rank the importance of each item.

Do Next: High Importance, Low Urgency

High Importance Low UrgencyThings that are important to you but have some flexibility in when they need to be done should be kept in your top right box. These things are important, but we have some breathing room. This is a critical distinction from the above because these things are not time dependent, which allows us to open up bandwidth to those things that are important but cannot wait.

This was a big shift in my thinking when I started using this. Separating the important things across an urgency scale meant I had space to focus on critical things.

Do Last: Low Importance, High Urgency

Low Importance High Urgency

Next come things that aren’t that important, but have a timeline attached to them. Placing these in the bottom left quadrant means if there wasn’t a deadline where we would miss out on them, these things could potentially be pushed off indefinitely. Items that land in this box are good candidates for delegation.

Since they’re of low importance, we are making a judgment call that if time permits, we’ll do them, but if more important and urgent items are still being worked on, we’d sacrifice these. Realize that things can shift in importance as time goes on and how each item ranks relative to others on the list. After checking some big items off your list, an item here might become the new most important thing.

Do Never: Low Importance, Low Urgency

Low Importance Low Urgency

These things reside in our bottom right section of the matrix, meaning that they’re at the very bottom of our to-do list. These are things that you should consider taking off your list entirely. In my post about the simple office, I talk about how certain things should be eliminated first, outsourced second, and as a last resort, delegated to someone else.

These are things that you want off your list as quickly as possible through elimination. In some cases, I put these kinds of items in my “parking lot” list, which is a catch-all list of things that I want to keep track of for some later date. This parking lot is a document on my computer that isn’t consulted often but allows me to have a place for things without a place, setting them aside to deal with later.

Why Is A Prioritization Matrix Useful?

Why Is A Prioritization Matrix Useful

Whether you’re fighting the world’s largest global conflict like Eisenhower was or just trying to get your errands done with a little more sanity, understanding what’s important and what’s not, is key. Life can get very busy and if we don’t get a handle on our to-do list, we’re just going to run in circles. We all have a lot on our plates, and not managing it will leave us stressed, tired, and unproductive.

What’s worse is we could be spending what little time we have on things that don’t matter. That’s time we could be spending with our family and loved ones, doing something we love, or just relaxing. Life is too short to waste on things that don’t matter. While we all have responsibilities and things we don’t want to do, that doesn’t mean we have to spend all day doing them.

The matrix can be put to good use in a business context or for better project planning. Using this simple concept, I’ve been able to outperform almost everyone I’ve worked with and outpace my competition all while working less and cutting down stress in a big way.

Prioritization Matrix Example

Prioritization Matrix Example

Let’s say you have four tasks to complete, but you’re not sure exactly what order to do them in. Consider each task individually. Start by hovering you pen over the center of the grid; If the item is pretty important, move your pen to be over the top row, and if it isn’t super important, hover over the bottom row. Then ask yourself if it’s urgent, meaning does it have to be done now or later? If it needs to be done soon, move your pen to the left column and add it there. If it can be done later, move it to the right column and add it there.

The temptation here is thinking that everything needs to be done right now, but ask yourself: Is that really true?

Consider the following:

  • Does this item align closely with my goals?
  • What would happen if I did it later?
  • Do any of these require the other tasks to happen first?
  • If I could only do one of these, which would I choose?
  • How does this compare to the other tasks in this quadrant?

Things that don’t closely align with your goals should not have high importance on your list.
If you feel that this is not the case, you either need to reconsider your goals or realize this item isn’t as important as you thought.

setting personal goals




Some things can actually be done a little later without any real issue, so urgency is lower. Realize that if one task relies on something else to be done first, it’s inherently less urgent because you can’t do it without doing the other thing first.

You also can make judgements on the task relative to others by asking yourself the last two questions above. I like to do a reality check with thought experiments like, “If I could only do one of these, which would I choose?” Thinking like this will force you to see how things stack up relative to other things.

Prioritizing Your To-Do List

Prioritizing Your To-Do List

Having worked with a lot of entrepreneurs, clients, and even a few CEOs, there is a major tendency to think everything is “very important”. It’s a common hang-up and mindset of many people to have to overcome before they can master their to-do lists. I’ve had people state bluntly that “everything is a priority,” and while many people may not say it, they treat their task list as such.

So let’s get this out of the way: not everything is as important as everything else. It just isn’t.

The other element of this we must realize is that certain tasks take a certain amount of time, and we have a limited amount of time in the day. We can be more efficient in how we go about doing theses actions, but the fact remains that things take time to do and we only have so much time to get them done.

A simple way to work

With that in mind, we realize that we can’t do everything right now. People will fight me on this, saying “but we’ve got to get ___ done!” This is very common and takes a shift in how we think to understand that we can do it all, just not right now. This forces us to do the most important things first, the next important thing after that, and keep moving from there. You can do everything on your list, it will just take time.

This is a really important shift in how we think because so many people get stressed out about all the things they’re not doing, the weight of undone items looming over them. With this new viewpoint, we alleviate a lot of this stress because it helps us see that we’re doing the most important things first. It gives us room to deal with what comes later when we have the bandwidth.

The most interesting part is studies have shown people who focus on a fewer priority first and move to lower tasks after that actually get way more done. The nature of multitasking has proven to be very inefficient and actually hurts our progress. In the end, focusing on a few things actually gets us there faster.

Different Use Cases For A Decision Matrix

Different Use Cases For A Decision Matrix

In its simplicity, this decision matrix allows you to put a framework to use in many different needs and contexts. While the original matrix focused on importance and urgency, you can adapt it for different needs. In many cases, importance and urgency are the key performance indicators (KPIs), but not always. Sometimes costs, value created, amount of effort, feasibility, complexity and other variables need to be considered instead.

Evaluating A Tough Decision – Pugh Decision Matrix

Pugh Decision Matrix

In your personal life or at work, there are times when you need to make some tough decisions. A decision matrix adds a little more complexity to the matrix to help you consider different options across a few variables. For example, in buying a new car, you may have narrowed your list down to two options. You could then compare those two cars across a few different measures like: cost, average maintenance, MPG, and practicality.

evaluation a tough decision matrix

The options will be along the Y axis as your rows and the different criteria you’re evaluating them on will be your columns along the X axis. You can compare any number of options and evaluate them on multiple criteria. The easiest way to do this is by checking all the criteria each option meets, then total the checkmarks. The option with the most is the best option.

You can expand this to be more complex with numbers, such as a rating from 1 to 10, or you can add in weighted factors if certain criteria are more important than others. Just realize that this framework is flexible for your needs.

Taking A Risk – Risk Reversibility Matrix

Risk Reversibility Matrix

This is an interesting matrix for making a decision where you’re not sure about the risk involved. It could be a decision where you’d have to spend a lot of money, or it could be that you’re deciding whether to move somewhere new or take a new job. This approach focuses on how much risk is involved and how easy it would be to reverse your decision to stop negative consequences.

Risk Reversibility Matrix

I used this approach when I was considering leaving my job to start a new business venture, realizing that there were several ways to go about it: start a new business on the side while still working full time, ask if I could go part time at work, or leave my job and go all in. Each had different risks associated with it and some were easier to undo than others.

Cost Benefit Analysis

Cost Benefit Analysis

Many times in life we have to consider things that may come at a cost, but could result in a positive outcome. An example might be getting a college education. A degree costs money upfront, but can lead to greater earning later on. You can hone in on various options you are considering by finding what will have the least cost with the most benefit, allowing you to get quick wins from low hanging fruit.

Cost Benefit Analysis

Product / Market Matrix – Ansoff Matrix

Ansoff MatrixWhen deciding how you might want to develop a new product, there are several ways to go about it: you can double down on your existing project, you can develop a new product for your current market, you can take your existing project to a new market or start a new product in a new market to diversify your income.

marketing matrix

The Ansoff Matrix is simply a decision matrix to make high-level decisions in business about how you want to proceed.

Using The Prioritization Matrix + Matrix Template Download

Using The Prioritization Matrix + Matrix Template Download

If you want to get started, here is a free template to download for you to start prioritizing your life and tasks at work. Included in the download are five questions to ask yourself about these tasks to make sure you put them in the right spot.

how to use matrix

How To Prioritize Your List:

  1. Make a comprehensive list of all action items
  2. Consider the qualifier questions for each item
  3. Write down tasks in the appropriate quadrant
  4. Consider what items shouldn’t make the cut
  5. Once all are sorted, rank within each quadrant

I hope this has helped you get a better grasp of how you can take charge of your task list and prioritize your way to success!

Your Turn!

  • What tricks have you learned when prioritizing things?
  • What’s at the top of your to-do list?


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Building good habits guide
How to set personal goals guide
how to stop procrastination
how to get stuff done

Building A Bias Towards Action – Be The Person Who Goes For it!

Building A Bias Towards Action – Be The Person Who Goes For it!

building a bias towards actionWhat if you were the kind of person who just went for it? The person who had a bias towards action and just got things done. The kind of person who took that leap to start a business, sat down to write that book or walked right up to that cute girl/guy and asked for their number.

Whatever you’ve been dragging your feet on, getting started can be challenging. It’s so easy to procrastinate and do it later. You wait for the right time. You want to get it perfect before you share it. Sometimes you don’t even know where to start!

Bias Towards Action Meaning:

Having a bias towards action means developing a habit where you promptly take action by making decisions quickly and setting aside common roadblocks.

Why Is a Bias Towards Action Important?

why is a bias towards action important

Forward movement toward your goals as your default pattern is a huge asset. It is easy to put something off until later or wanting more information to make a decision. However, those uncertainties come at a major expense and the data supports that. Studies have shown that those who are more likely to move towards action were many times more successful than their peers.

I’ve seen firsthand how those who move to action quickly are the winners. I’ve lost count on the number of people who came to me with big aspirations and failed miserably, not because of lack of skill, knowledge or aptitude, but because they didn’t even take the first step.

setting priorities




If you’re willing to take some calculated risks and just start, you will win big in many areas. You’ll stop procrastinating, you’ll be more successful, you’ll feel happier, earn more money, get the girl/guy you dreamed of and take your life to places you never thought possible. This may seem like a fantastical claim, but standing on this side of building a habit of going for it, I can tell you it’s incredibly possible.

Having a propensity to just go for it can help with something I call “what ifs”. These are things that will haunt you on your deathbed when you think back and say “what if I had the courage to say I loved them”, “what if I had taken that job across the country”, or “what if I pushed myself a little harder”.

What ifs are toxic forces in life: a combination of dreams deferred and haunting regrets. Between being successful in life and being filled with regrets, it’s an obvious choice. All we need to do is step up and take life by the horns.

How To Develop a Bias Towards Action

how to develop a bias towards action

Getting started won’t be easy, we are going to feel uncomfortable and resist this change. It’s easy to be lazy, to say I’ll do it tomorrow. What is difficult, though, is getting up and doing the work right now. If we want to be the best we can be and get things accomplished, it only happens one way. That happens through acting like a person who is all those things.

decisionsOver time we want to build a habit of setting aside all our excuses and moving forward even without a perfect plan or all the information. In order to do that, we need to understand that building a habit of action centers around being decisive.

There are times in life where there is one single right answer, but more often than not, there are no good answers. No amount of information gathering, expertise, or having the right circumstance will lead you to the one true answer, because it doesn’t exist.

What are we supposed to do when, more often than not, we don’t have all the information to move forward? Understand that at some point we need to move forward regardless. That requires us to be decisive, quickly formulating the best plan of action we can, then getting on with it.

Becoming More Decisive

Becoming More Decisive

Making a decision quickly is sometimes hard, we don’t always have perfect data and we may not know the best way forward. A lack of decisiveness usually stems from fear; fear of failure, fear of looking stupid, or fear of our peers perceiving us in a negative way.

This fear is often masked by our subconscious and called many things. We might feel shame, embarrassment, or something else deep in our minds that causes us to hesitate from just going for it. The first step is to recognize the fear and name it.

personal goal setting




When you feel yourself holding back from taking the leap on something, ask yourself, why that is? Some of the best decisions I’ve made in my life involved me hesitating around some fear and then understanding that fear. In most cases, just seeing my hesitations as fear allowed me to overcome that mental block.

Owning our fears allows you to at least be honest with yourself about why you’re not going for it. Without that understanding we will waste time pointing fingers at all sorts of reasons why we don’t move forward. At least now we know what the real reason is and from there, we can work through it.

It is at this point we have a choice: we can start or we can be stagnant. If there is a change in our life that we want, no amount of hoping will cause it to manifest, it is through action that we can make it happen.

Starting Badly

Starting Badly

Giving yourself the grace to start badly is an important step. No one likes to fail, particularly in front of others, but it’s an important part of the process that we need to get over. Being willing to take that first step with the understanding that we are just at the beginning and will have missteps is an important mindset to adopt.

When starting something new, we need to understand that there will be many failures and that’s okay. The interesting thing is if we make our best guess and try, two things can happen: we succeed or we fail. If we move toward action and succeed, we achieve our goal in way less time. If we fail, we suddenly have a lot more information about the problem than we did before and often become wiser much sooner.

A good example of this was when I wanted to try my hand at writing a fiction book. I’ve now written 6 books[Link To Store], but they all were non-fiction, so fiction was a totally new thing that surrounded me with anxiety. I had spent so many years reading some of the best fiction humanity has produced, how could I stack up?

By starting badly was my answer.

To do this, I sat down and started with some short stories to see what shook out. I then took those short stories and went to a writing group, where my writing was politely ripped to shreds. I licked my proverbial wounds and started again; this time much wiser.

Adopting The Right Mindset

Adopting The Right Mindset

Many people get tied up in all the things that can go wrong, putting a ton of pressure on themselves. I see people put so much pressure on themselves to succeed. One good approach that I’ve come to adopt is framing things not as a dramatic start, but as a hypothesis we are testing.

In science you’ll come up with an idea and then test it, study the results, then formulate an updated approach to test further. This was how a friend explained to me how he started new businesses.

He laid out a few ideas that he was considering and he would test out each idea in some small way. In many cases he’d only take a few steps and realize a critical flaw. He could either adjust it in a meaningful way or eliminate it for one of his other tests.

setting personal goals




I’ve since adopted a similar strategy and it’s helped me relieve a lot of the stress of potential failure. When people are asking what I’ve been up to I’ll say something like “I’m exploring these three new options right now to see if one of them has potential.”

This lets me adopt a curious mindset where failure is just a result, not some judgement passed on me. It also helps manage expectations of others by making it clear that we don’t have the answers… yet.

For this approach to work, you’ll need to set some bumpers up to keep you honest to the process. An important part of this approach is outlining the items you are going to test, how you can test them in small ways and finally what criteria you’ll use to either pivot to move forward or make the decision to stop.

The temptation with this approach is to try all of your ideas in an uncoordinated fashion. I work to narrow down to a short list, then figure out what’s the smallest action I could take to see if I can break it. Finally, I set some rules upfront before I start to guide me when to keep going or to move on to something else.

Understanding You Need To Do The Work

understanding you need to do the work

There are times we wish we could wave a magic wand and we have all that dreamed of. But that is not real life, so get over it. The only thing that will get you from where you are today to where you want to be is to put in the work to make it happen.

I talk about this a lot in my goals post (link to goals post), but realizing you need to take responsibility for improving your life is critical to getting where you hope to be. Taking ownership over our future, setting a plan and executing each day will make it happen.

Sitting on the couch wishing you had something only results in people being bitter over the things they weren’t willing to make happen. Don’t fool yourself, get out and do the work.

Understanding Locus Of Control

Understanding Locus Of Control

In psychology there is a concept called “locus of control” which helps us foster a bias towards action. Locus of control is an individual’s belief system regarding the factors to which that person attributes success or failure. If you have an internal locus, you believe your success and failures come from within you and are within your control. An external locus of control means that any successes or failures are attributed to outside of you.

Each person adopts a locus of control as their world view and to develop this bias, we need to shift our thinking to an internal locus of control. We control our destiny, our success, and our actions. Any change needs to come from within us and it will never happen unless we take action.

If we act like we control our destiny, that the source of our success (and failures) comes from within, the worst-case result will be that I believe what I do matters. The best-case scenario would be that I do have the control and I alter my trajectory of my life in a positive direction.

Stop Procrastinating And Get On With It

Stop Procrastinating And Get On With It

A big reason why people aren’t prone to getting certain things done is procrastination. The real challenge here is that it’s so easy to do! I’m sitting on my couch, Netflix has an endless amount of shows, we can order food direct to our door with one click of an app and homework or working on my work project can wait one more day.

None of those things are bad in and of themselves. It’s even fine to take some time to recharge after getting all the important work done. The problem is when we spend our time lazing about at the expense of our goals.

Building a better life for ourselves is difficult and it will only happen if we put in the work. Don’t fool yourself into thinking you can wish it into being. The people who have what you want put in the work to get it.

Read more on getting over procrastinating in my full post on that topic:

go for it




Mitigating Failures And Catastrophes

mitigating failures

I think it’s important to call out the elephant in the room: if we are moving to action all the time, our failure rate is most likely going to rise with it. While we do want to move to action quickly, we also want to lessen the impact of failures, avoid them where we can, and prevent catastrophic failures.

Failures are generally fine, except when they disrupt your ability to meet your basic needs or compromise you in a way that would be ruinous. I like to make the distinction of being assertive e, but not reckless.

Earlier on I mentioned that we are often going to have to start with imperfect information, to start badly in order to get us off the starting line. One critical step to this is identifying disastrous threats that you may encounter and building boundaries around them.

This typically falls into a few categories:

  • Spending above a certain budget
  • Taking on debts or other liabilities
  • Compromising current income sources
  • Exposure to legal actions: criminal or civil
  • Crossing a moral or ethical standard
  • Not respecting important relationships

I want to be willing to face my fears of failure in order to move ahead, but I also need to know where to draw hard lines. If we are reckless, we can put ourselves in a bad place. If we get clear on the necessary standards to ensure we have our basic needs, we operate in a way that’s aligned with our own ethics and have the ability to be smart about not taking needless risks. Thus, we can avoid the major pitfalls.

In some cases, these guidelines will be a natural stopping point for consideration. Spending money is something that can be perfectly fine if done within a reasonable budget and within our means. There have been many times when I decide I want to try something and set aside $1,000 for exploration purposes. . There have been other times when I started and realized my budget wasn’t enough. This created a natural stopping point for me to consider if I can or should allocate more funds.

If I’m pushing forward, but realize that pursuing this action will impact people I care about, I know I need to have a conversation with them. For example, I wanted to move to Croatia for a few months. There were several people in my life that I had to have conversations with to make sure I wouldn’t damage those relationships. In the end they were simple conversations that didn’t take much time, but necessary to have. A few days later I was on a plane to Croatia.

Think about what your critical areas of failure are, the ones that would be serious if a failure occurred around them, then develop a process to make sure when you charge ahead, you’re not setting yourself up for a disaster. Doing this ahead of time and developing a quick checklist will allow you to move quickly but still mitigate major failures.

Common Things That Prevent You From Starting

Common Things That Prevent You From Starting

A large part of my adoption of forward momentum comes from my Mother. She has worked a lot in hospice, listening to the words of the dying. Their regrets almost always revolved around things they wished they had done. I don’t want to be on my deathbed and think back to all the things I said I’d do “someday.”

Don’t be that person who has a long list of regrets. Push and push hard.

Too often we get caught up in trying to figure out the best way to do something, we may feel like we don’t know enough to start or we are afraid of failure. Analysis Paralysis is a real thing and if you’re reading this, it’s probably holding you back.

Waiting For The Perfect Time

Waiting For The Perfect Time

Let’s get this out of the way, it will never be the perfect time. In fact, it will often be a really bad time to start. Being a person who’s decisive and gets stuff done means setting aside all of the excuses and making it happen. As you do this more and more, you’ll learn to manage the factors that make the timing poor and be successful despite them.

The saying goes, the best time to plant a tree is 50 years ago, the second-best time is right now.

Being a full-time professional blogger for over a decade now, I have received a lot of questions about getting started. People worry they don’t know how to do things, they aren’t good at writing, things are busy in their lives or careers, the list is endless.

My advice has always been to start now so you can get your biggest failures out of the way. If the right time does come around, you’ll be that much more prepared to take advantage of it. If “the right time” never does come around, you’ve started anyway and probably figured out how to make it all work out regardless.

Life is always going to be busy, conditions are never going to be perfect,, and time will always be short. Figure out your priorities in life and realize that you make time for the things that are important. If this new thing is important to you, you’ll figure out a way.



There is a common desire to get things perfect when you’re just starting out building this habit. We want to give it the attention it deserves and we want our work to be a good reflection of ourselves. Whatever the reason, understand that it will never be perfect no matter how long you spend on it.

What I have learned over the years is that often putting out a “good enough” version is a huge advantage because not only does it shorten the time to starting, but it allows us to see where we might have made faulty assumptions, where the realities of life impede us, or some other factor comes to light.

A really great illustration of this is in developing products. For a long time, people would build products, working to refine it to get it just right. Then something funny happened; They started selling it, only to learn that what they made had a critical flaw, it wasn’t of interest to customers or otherwise fell flat.

From that, we’ve learned to develop what many call a “minimally viable product”, meaning getting a product to market that is good enough to have something to offer, but not fully built out. You’ll see that a software is in “beta”, maybe there is a limited run of a book or item, or there could be a crowd funding campaign before the product is even made. These are all minimally viable products.

The important thing to realize here is that if you can get to a place of action, you’re going to learn a lot. Your assumptions are challenged and you learn a great deal about what not to do. By starting in small ways, failing, then learning from those failures, we can actually get it “right” faster than if we tried to get “perfect”.

Things That Hold Us Back

Things That Hold Us Back

We all have the same amount of time in the day, it’s totally equal. So why is it that some people seem to get a lot more accomplished than us? We will want to point to some reason why they had an advantage or we were at some disadvantage, but in reality, these are excuses.

Let me play devil’s advocate here for a moment. Let’s say these factors are real, that others have a huge advantage or you have some major disadvantage. You have a choice: let those things hold you back, or push through and make it happen anyway.

The difference is those who push forward will figure out ways to succeed despite their limitations. They will be stronger, wiser, tougher and more successful because of what held them back.

Those who let those things hold them back, will be stuck right where they are. They will be miserable because they feel cheated. They will be filled with deferred dreams and dissatisfaction for the rest of their lives. Do you want your life to be defined by such negative energy or would you rather overcome it?

There is no greater victory than standing at the finish line and being able to say “despite everything that was against me, I still made it”. You will be strong, proud, confident and able to face your next challenge head on.

Not Enough Time

Not Enough Time

Over the years I realized a simple truth: we make time for what’s important to us. With this logic, things that are done with our time are important and things that we “don’t have time for” are not really that important to us.

If things are important, not just something we say are “important”, we will find a way to make them happen. When I was doing my 75 Hard challenge, I made sure I always got my workouts in, which meant one day I was working out at 3 am before I got to bed.

Taking stock of your goals, priorities and what you think is important to you is critical in getting things done in life. Not everything is equally important. We need to know where we are going by setting goals. Then prioritizing them so we know where they lie in order of importance. With that done, we understand that something will not happen, but we have a reason behind that, allowing us to stop worrying about it.

A really good exercise here is to take stock of what you actually spend your time on. Then independently set goals for yourself. Once you’ve done these two things, see where things line up; what time gets dedicated to your goals and what time gets spent on things that don’t further your pursuit of what matters?

setting personal goals





Lacking A Skill or Expertise

Lacking A Skill or Expertise

Being a beginner can be tough because we have so much to learn. There can be a lot of fear of starting something new because we’re afraid of looking silly as we fumble through the initial learning curve. There is often a fair bit of wanting “the one right answer” or to get something perfect mixed into this too.

We first must give ourselves the permission to be bad at our new venture, understanding we are at the beginning of the learning curve. This is the natural process and those around us who are more experienced only got there by failing their way to more experience. Remember we must do the work.

Consider tapping into resources such as mentors, guides, classes and other resources to help facilitate your learning around something. By the same token, be wary of people who claim to have the magic bullet, the “one” answer, or some fool proof system. Use the resources available to you, avoid the quick and easy ways that seem to be too good to be true and realize the best way to build your knowledge or expertise is to do the work.

tips for a bias towards action

I’ll leave you with these final tips to make sure you keep moving forward.

  • Understand that most decisions are easily reversible
  • Time box your consideration: Set a short window of time to plan/research before acting
  • Think of the worst possible outcome, see how bad they really could be
  • Rely on your catastrophic checklist to avoid reckless behavior
  • Ask yourself “what if I only had a few hours and $100 to achieve this” how would you do it?
  • Look for ways to test your ideas minimally, quickly, with low cost and low effort methods
  • Realize that twice the effort rarely results in twice the outcome, so start now, don’t get it perfect


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Building good habits guide
How to set personal goals guide
how to prioritize guide
how to stop procrastination