Posts Tagged Time management

A Simple Guide To Living In The Moment

A Simple Guide To Living In The Moment

living in the moment


It’s hard to be present in the moment when our attention is being pulled in every direction. There is a constant stream of news stories, social media posts, advertisements, advice from friends, rants from strangers, you name it.

But nothing can take our attention without our permission. I have come to believe that the ability to be present, to mentally be where you physically are, is a superpower that can deeply increase your quality of life in today’s world.

ryans tiny house

Hi, I’m Ryan

Believe me when I say I know it’s not easy learning how to be present in the moment. As the founder of The Tiny Life, I have a ton on my plate each week. I have to be intentional about staying present. It’s a work in progress. But I do think that over the last 10 years, I’ve gotten a lot better about being fully be where I am. I’m excited to share that with you.
ryan mitchell simple living expert

How do we actually stay present in our own lives? How do we consciously choose to be in the moment when the globe is heating up and we have to finish that project by 5 p.m. and dinner definitely won’t make itself and there’s about 10 unread texts just waiting in our notifications and …

What Does It Mean To Be Present In The Moment?

What Does It Mean To Be Present In The Moment

It seems a little bit idealistic to say we can just ignore all stimuli and obligations to be in the moment. There are things we have to get done. Important tasks to think about.

But I do believe, and I mean really believe, that we can integrate presence into our busy, chaotic lives. We can get things done and focus on the details while also listening to our partners without being distracted, enjoying the fullness of our good experiences, quieting our racing minds, and having gratitude in the moment.

Presence and productivity aren’t mutually exclusive. So, what does it actually look like to be in the here and now?

Presence Means Having Gratitude

Presence Means Having Gratitude

Presence is being grateful for what’s right in front of you instead of worrying about how to have the next best thing. Gratitude can keep you from spiraling.

expressing gratitudeIt’s natural to wake up and have your first thought be about what you need to get done in a day. I often feel like I have a never-ending laundry list of things I need to get to and goals I want to achieve for The Tiny Life. It makes it hard to stay focused on the now.

Something I’ve tried in order to be more present is starting each day by listing things I’m grateful for, either in my head, or by writing them down.

Specifically list out things you’re thankful for — your family, pets, hot coffee, nice weather, what have you. That way, when you’re tempted to focus on all the ways you aren’t doing enough, or all the goals you haven’t met, you can ground yourself in the things you’re thankful for.

Maybe it’s okay that you didn’t finish your entire to do list today. You have a warm dinner and your family waiting in this moment, that’s enough.

a simple guide to what makes you happy

Presence Looks Like Childlike Wonder

Presence Looks Like Childlike Wonder

A lot of learning how to be present in the moment looks like channeling the awe and wonder of a child despite all the commotion that comes with being an adult.

childlike wonderI got to chat with my good friend Carlee Kumler, who is a mental health therapist with Meltzer Counseling and spends each day talking to teens, kids, and adults about their lives. Being present and fully in the moment with her patients is a huge part of her work.

Carlee talked to me a lot about the lessons she’s learned from being a new mother. She’s quickly picked up on a thing or two about presence from watching her sweet six-month-old daughter and trying to see the world through her eyes.

It’s interesting to me that this idea of being where you are is so difficult, yet we came out of the womb really good at it. What do children understand that we have lost to adulthood?

The thing is, adults have a lot more years to think back about and a lot more details to worry about to keep their lives secure. There are bills to pay, mouths to feed, and decisions to make. However, learning to live a little more like our children is one way to keep us grounded, even with all the background noise.

Carlee Kumler
“Little kids are exactly where they are. We’re born very present; it’s a learned condition to worry about what comes next. Then, all of the sudden, we’re living in our worry. We’re anywhere but here.” – Carlee Kumler

Presence Is Allowing The Feeling Of The Moment

Presence Is Allowing The Feeling Of The Moment

A huge part of being present where you are is being true to whatever feeling the moment brings and not putting up walls. Presence means allowing the feelings that are born in a moment to affect you in a way that is honest and raw. It’s the habit of not blocking out feelings due to fear, worry, or insecurity.

Carlee Kumler
“If you’re on a rollercoaster, presence means you’re able to just scream and enjoy it. If you’re in an argument with a friend, you’re present in the pain of that conversation. Instead of trying to manipulate our feelings, try to just experience them.” – Carlee Kumler

It takes a lot of work to feel moments fully, to be in them without letting your cerebral side take over. Children are better at allowing themselves to feel their moments because they haven’t learned how much it can hurt yet.

They haven’t built defense mechanisms to safeguard them from pain or pleasure — they’re all in. But if you can unlearn this kind of emotional authenticity, you can relearn it too.

This doesn’t mean that we should feel the full gravity of every moment as it’s happening. If we lived like that, we might all be way more overwhelmed than we already are!

Being authentic to the moment isn’t letting every emotional wave hit you at once, it just means you aren’t afraid to recognize it for what it is. You aren’t afraid to recognize the wave as a wave, and allow it to wash over you.

Presence Is Easier When You Love Yourself

Presence Is Easier When You Love Yourself

Being present in the moment is easier when you are content with yourself. One huge culprit for taking us out of the moment is self-doubt; that pesky inner narrative that tells us our hair looks weird, or we were dumb for saying that, or that we don’t belong.

observe your own behaviorSelf-acceptance and self-confidence are building blocks toward the mental freedom that being present in the moment brings. When you know your tendencies deeply enough to not be consumed by that self-conscious voice, it’s easier to be present with your friends and loved ones.

Introspection is vital for being present. In order to love who you are and quiet the voices of self-doubt, you have to pay attention to what you bring to the table.

Take time to observe what you’re good at, both from what you know about your passions and talents to what others have told you about your gifts. Write these things down. Then observe your weaknesses. Write down areas you feel you fall short, things you could work to improve, or types of tasks you find difficult.

Once you’ve observed your patterns, you can start to accept them. It’s easier to be in your moments as they happen when you aren’t distracted by insecurities. This won’t happen overnight, though, it’s a lifelong journey.

Presence Looks Like Accepting Your Past

Presence Looks Like Accepting Your Past

Another culprit that steals us from the present is its all-familiar cousin, our past. Creating a healthy relationship with your past is a challenge and a balancing act.

Carlee Kumler“We can ruminate on the past all day, overthink it, rethink it — it steals us from the now. But, when you have a time and a place dedicated to working through those things, they don’t hold as much real estate in your present. That’s what frees you.” – Carlee Kumler

On one hand, there is value in reflecting on your past experiences and memories to better understand yourself in the here and now. Bottling it all up and refusing to process what you go through leads to bad results; therapists and psychology textbooks concur.

On the other hand, it’s not healthy to spend too much time dwelling on the hardships you’ve been through, the good times that have gone by, and all those would-haves, should-haves, and could-haves.

How do we navigate this balancing act? The balance between unhealthy dwelling and healthy processing takes time to figure out, and it’s not something you ever fully master.

With the right tools, you can maintain a healthy relationship with your past so that you have the freedom to enjoy your present. Like an old friend you meet for coffee and chat with on occasion, but they don’t get their own room in your home.

Presence Is Confidence In Your Future

Presence Is Confidence In Your Future

Navigating the future is also tricky. Worrying about what’s to come is a major offender in keeping us from enjoying our present lives. Again, its about balance.

Excessive worry about every outcome will get you nowhere. There is so much out of our control. But throwing caution to the wind and enjoying the now without planning for the future at all doesn’t seem to be the solution either.

have confidence in your futureThere is a quote I like: “Worrying doesn’t take away tomorrow’s troubles, it takes away today’s peace.” I don’t know who was the first to say that, and it’s one of those quotes that’s been passed around a lot. But I think it says a lot about the ways excessive worry steals our lives.

A study from Huffpost states that 85% of what we worry about in life never actually happens. Of course, managing your worry and anxiety is easier said than done. Oftentimes, worry comes from trauma, mental illness, or experiences that aren’t in our control.

Practicing the habit of being at peace is something you owe yourself to be more present in your life, even if it takes work to get there. In my experience, I’ve found that taking things day-by-day helps reduce my worry. Then, reducing that worry helps me to be where I am. It’s kind of cyclical.

When I feel those thoughts of worry about tomorrow, next week, or next year creeping into my mind, I focus on what’s right in front of me, whether that be my loved ones, the small task I’m working on that day, the book I’m reading, or my plans for that week.

A lot of times I’ll ask myself: If I knew my life was going to end in 30 days, would I be worried about this? If the answer is no, then it must not be worth giving all my energy to it in the now, either.

Why Is It So Hard To Be In The Moment?

Why Is It So Hard To Be In The Moment

There are many culprits that keep us from being present. But if we identify these repeat offenders, it makes it easier to deal with them.

Technology Keeps Us From Being Present

Technology Keeps Us From Being Present

I think technology and social media win first place as far as reasons it’s hard to stay present. If I’m being candid, I have probably been distracted by notifications on my phone five to 10 times while writing this post. The irony is rich.

distracted on phoneTechnology pulls us out of the moment not only when we use it, but by planting ideas and narratives in our minds that stick with us even as we pull away.

The news, the Instagram stories, the funny Tik Toks, the endless notifications and text messages — these things aren’t innately bad. Yet, if we aren’t careful, they can steal our moments from us.

A tangible way to combat this is through the concept of digital decluttering. You don’t have to cut out your media intake cold turkey, but study after study shows why managing our media with intention can help us mentally. Being intentional about how much time we spend online as well as the type of content we consume is key for staying present.

social media detox

Racing Thoughts Take Us Out Of The Moment

Racing Thoughts Take Us Out Of The Moment

Anxious thoughts are a huge culprit for whisking us away from the here and now. A racing mind, whatever the cause may be, moves your attention away from what’s physically in front you and onto the mental clutter filling your brain space.

One of the main reasons fear keeps us away from the now is that fear and worry are centered on what might be instead of on what is. Quieting the inner voices in your mind can be a challenge, but there are several tips and strategies listed below to help you navigate anxiousness.

Carlee Kumler
“Redirect your fears to observations. Fears like ‘What if I get a flat tire, what if I’m late, what if I get in a wreck?’ become redirected toward what is true, like, ‘What is true is I am safe, my hands are on the steering wheel, there is no evidence to suggest I will be late.’ Observations ground you.” – Carlee Kumler

Overstimulation Keeps Us From Being Present

Overstimulation Keeps Us From Being Present

Having too much on your plate is another culprit that can make being present in the moment difficult. The main cause of distraction is an overstimulated brain, as our brains can only hold so much before being overworked.

getting a grip on a busy scheduleWhen our schedules are too full, we’re going through something emotionally draining, or we have too many people needing our attention, it all plays in the background of our minds. It takes practice to learn the art of clearing your mind of the extras begging for your attention.

For me, it’s helpful to think about my time and my mental capacity as two separate buckets that I pour from. Just because I am able to fit five meetings, a facetime with a friend, watching the news, finishing a project with a partner, and dinner with loved ones into my day, that doesn’t mean I should.

Having the time and hours to do it all is different than having the mental capacity. If you base what you can take on from time alone, you’ll find yourself distracted and frazzled in moments you wish you were present. Be intentional about analyzing what your brain has room for, not just what your calendar does.

Things You Can Do Each Day To Stay Present

Things You Can Do Each Day To Stay Present

Tangible habits are the best way to reset your mind and body and learn how to be present in the moment. Let’s talk about simple, easy things you can engage with to stay present as you live day-to-day.

Movement Helps You Stay Present

Movement Helps You Stay Present

Exercise and movement help you to stay grounded and increase endorphins — the feel-good hormones in your brain. There is something about the act of moving your body that reminds you, I am here physically and, thus, I can be here mentally too.

It doesn’t have to be a huge workout, even things like standing up for a bit instead of sitting down all day, or doing stretches in the middle of a long day can bring you back to the present moment. This list of top serotonin increasing exercises are great ways to engage with your physical body and recenter your mind:

Exercises to stay Engaged

  • Walking
  • Running
  • Biking
  • Swimming
  • Yoga
  • Pilates
  • Aerobics
  • Zumba
  • Dancing
  • Inline Skating
swimming to stay active

Use Music And Art To Be In The Moment

Use Music And Art To Be In The Moment

playing violinMusic, visual arts, or other creative outlets engage your mind and hands at once. It’s hard to be out of the moment when being creative, because your inner and outer worlds have to work in sync with each other.

If you feel like you’re going through the motions, try engaging with some form of creative activity to feel your moments more fully. Maybe you want to try taking up an instrument, water coloring, or writing a poem. There are lots of possibilities to get your creative juices flowing.

Focus On Your Breathing To Stay Present

Focus On Your Breathing To Stay Present

Science says that our lungs are the epicenter of our minds. The way we breathe directly correlates with our ability to be present in the moment, to focus, and to take in our surroundings. Focusing on your breathing helps to calm your body down. When our body is calm, our brain is calm, and we can connect more fully to the present moment.

woman meditating in the momentAdopting good breathing habits is important whether you are in a state of panic or not. Healthy breathing helps to keep you grounded and centered on the moment at hand.

If you’re in a situation where you feel your stress response taking over, your pulse racing, or your skin starting to sweat, try some basic breathing techniques to bring you back to the present.

A simple exercise is to breathe in through your nose for a count of four, hold your breath for a count of four, then breathe out through your mouth like a straw for a count of six. Following this sequence repeatedly in the middle of high stress moments can help you come back to the present without drawing attention to yourself.

Playing With Children Or Animals Keeps You Present

Playing With Children Or Animals Keeps You Present

Playing with kids increases serotonin and oxytocin as you create bonds. The ability to let go and freely engage in play can help us to stay in the moment. As adults, it is easy to forget to do things that light us up and that are merely enjoyable. Playing with kids awakens our imagination.

playing with petsPetting or playing with an animal is proven to help with anxiety and depression and improve cardiovascular health. It also engages your senses.

Playing with a dog, cat, or any other pet can elevate levels of serotonin and dopamine, which calm and relax your body and mind, bringing you back to the present moment.

Mental Strategies When Being Present Is A Challenge

Mental Strategies When Being Present Is A Challenge

Sometimes you can eat well, do yoga, journal, breathe, rinse, repeat, and still feel like your moments are getting away from you. Some moments are just harder to be present in than others, to not let your racing mind take over.

Let’s walk through some mental and emotional grounding techniques to help us to stay present when our thoughts get way too loud and try to steal us from the moment.

Count Five Senses To Ground Yourself

Count Five Senses To Ground Yourself

The concept of shifting our thinking from our inner voice to our physical surroundings is a high brow grounding technique in the therapy world that helps us learn how to be present in the moment.

The five senses technique is a fairly common tactic to bring patients back to the here and now. Here’s the way it works. You move sequentially and intentionally take note of the following things:

Five Senses To Keep You Centered

5 Count five things you see around you: A soda can, a stain on a blanket, clouds

4 Count four things you can touch around you: The fleece of your jacket, gravel on the road

3 Count three things you hear: Dogs barking in a park, rustling leaves

2 Count two things you can smell: Detergent on your clothes, sharpie on your notebook

1 Count one thing you can taste: What does the inside of your mouth taste like right now?

This process of taking inventory of things you can physically observe by using your senses brings you to the present.

Carlee Kumler
“Use the counting to five technique to make the shift from thinking about things to observing things. The process pulls us back. Take in what’s actually in front of you, feel it in your body. Your mind can’t ignore that.” – Carlee Kumler

Use Extreme Temperatures To Come Back To The Moment

Use Extreme Temperatures To Come Back To The Moment

Engaging with extreme temperatures increases endorphins. Increased endorphins can ease symptoms of depression and anxiety and help you to stay grounded.

Try using a cold or hot pack to bring you back from racing thoughts. You can also take a cold or hot shower or bath to help you re-center your mind.

Schedule A Time For Worry To Stay Present

Schedule A Time For Worry To Stay Present

Compartmentalizing is a skill and a superpower, one that is vital for being present in each moment. One way to compartmentalize in a way that is healthy is to create an imaginary box where you place your worries to open later.

Carlee Kumler
“Say I am really worried about a big event coming up. I set a date and time to deal with it, like Thursday at 4:00. Until then, every time that worry pops into my head I’m going to say, ‘I see you worry, I’ll meet with you Thursday at 4 p.m.” – Carlee Kumler

This trick keeps you from fighting your own thoughts. You acknowledge the thought and recognize that it exists, yet you have a plan set in motion for when you will give it your attention. You figuratively put your worry on a shelf for later.

How To Be Present In Each Area Of Your Life

How To Be Present In Each Area Of Your Life

Learning how to be present at the office might look like staying passionate about work instead of being worried about getting everything finished by 5.

Learning how to be present with your partner might look like letting the dishes sit in the sink long enough to truly hear the story they’re trying to share with you. Presence is bound to take a different form in each area of your life.

living a level 10 life

Being Present In Your Relationships

Being Present In Your Relationships

Interpersonal relationships drive the biggest portion of our lives. Our friendships, our family, our romantic partners, our coworkers — the way we communicate with all of these people has the greatest impact on who we are and how we feel.

Being present in your relationshipBeing present with people by sharing meals, listening to anecdotes, catching up over Facetime after a long hard day — aren’t these the moments that matter most? If we aren’t able to be present for our people, I might venture to say we aren’t actually present in our lives at all.

I think this goes back to the concept of attention. Relational presence looks like giving the person you are with your full attention when you are with them.

If someone is confiding in you, presence looks like listening to what they’re saying intently, then taking the time to formulate your response based on what they actually said, not an assumption you already made.

If you’re sharing an experience with someone, like a concert or going to the movies, presence looks like enjoying that time with them, off your phone.

When you’re present with someone you love, you’re not texting your boss back, thinking about what you need to finish once the conversation ends, or focused on what you plan to say next. You’re just with them.

Carlee Kumler
“If you struggle with active listening, find a specific spot on their person to focus on. Then, focus on breathing and listening instead of on what you’re going to say next. Partnerships are more effective when we work to hear one another.” – Carlee Kumler

This isn’t easy, and no one is perfect. Making the time and effort to be present with your people means being strategic about the way you manage your time elsewhere so that when you are with them, you can truly be with them.

Getting good at time management is a whole other conversation, but I do think improving that skill and setting work life boundaries is the prerequisite to being present when you’re actually with people.

This looks like scheduling ample time for work so you aren’t distracted by it with your friends, or responding to, “You free?” texts with, “I don’t have time today, but would love to call you tomorrow afternoon so I can give you my full attention,” and then actually calling when you said you would.

It takes practice. I’m still getting the hang of balancing The Tiny Life and other work endeavors with my romantic and social life. However, I think being present with people is something we should never stop striving to be better at. Is anything else really as important as that?

How To Be Present At Work

How To Be Present At Work

When we’re able to be present, we’re more productive. When you’re working, you want to be able to give your full attention to the task you’re working on in that moment.

being present at workThe best quality work comes when you’re able to give all of your mental capacity to that task and not be distracted by last week’s mistakes or the drama waiting for you at home.

You also want to focus on each task fully without being overwhelmed by all the other tasks in your mental loading dock.

For me, keeping a to-do list and taking tasks one-by-one is the only way I can make the best use of my time. This is backed by science. Neuroscience says that multi-tasking is a total myth and that our brains can’t actually handle more than one thing at a time.

If we want to be present in our work lives, we need to take things slowly in order to speed up. It seems a little backwards, but inching along task by task will actually allow you to get more done in a day than trying to bulldoze through a ton of work at once.

Even if you are only working on one task, your brain is processing everything else in the background, and you work more slowly. Biting off more than you can chew keeps you from being present in your work.

However, sometimes we can’t go slow and steady. Sometimes these things are out of our control and we have to get 99 things done in the time it would take to do 10.

When that happens, well, it sucks. But we can still take the mountain of work one bit at a time while having grace for ourselves when we don’t get as much done as we intended to.

Staying Present With Yourself

Staying Present With Yourself

Of course, none of this matters if we aren’t present intrapersonally, within our own selves. The experts say that knowing oneself is the key to connecting with others and the world in a healthy way.

being present in the momentI think mastering self-presence just means continuing to show up for yourself, despite life’s demands. Presence for yourself looks like taking care of your physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual needs even when you’re extremely busy.

It’s having grace for yourself when you fail or react to things in a way you don’t love. It’s carving out time to do things you love, things that actually make you feel good and not just things you need to do for money, or to please someone.

While this might feel unattainable in a demanding world, I have found that being present with myself has helped me to show up more fully in all areas of my life.

Your Turn!

  • What areas of your life can be more present in?
  • What habits can you start this week to be more present in each moment?

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
how to prioritize guide
how to get stuff done

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?


Click Titles To Visit Each Post

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