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How to plan the week by creating your Week Map

We often struggle to “find time”.
Find the time to exercise. Find the time to read. Find the time to socialise. Find the time to finish an important task.

Balancing your available time can be a challenge.

And yet, whenever we have a spare hour or even a whole weekend, too many of us treat it like money found in a coat’s pocket.
Because it wasn’t expected, it gets spent on whatever next thing comes along. Usually an unnecessary one.

Even worse. Available time is always so little and so scattered, that you can never use it intentionally.

In the meantime, meaningful activities keep waiting.

How can you maximise your time without adding a ton of stress to your week?
How can you boost your productivity, and balance all the areas of your life?

Enter your Week Map.

The Week Map is a plan for the whole week.
It considers everything that’s important:

  • your long-term goals
  • recurring activities
  • breaks and commute
  • enjoyable time off
  • learning and personal growth
  • social time

It’s made to include and balance all different areas of your life.
It also leverages constraints to compress more things in a week.
And, just in case you’re wondering, it also leaves as much time as you desire for last-minute planning.

Here’s how to navigate through this guide:

Part 1: What’s sabotaging your week
Part 2: How to create your Week Map
Part 3: Move your schedule to your calendar
Part 4: How to track your time every week [advanced]
Bonus: The week of your dreams [advanced]

Let’s jump right into it.


how to plan your week1

Part 1: What’s sabotaging your week

Before going into creating your weekly strategy, let’s have a quick look at why you should even bother.
You might have the best intentions, and all the motivation in the world. But somehow, things never go according to plan.

Here are invisible forces shaping your day when you don’t come prepared.

Missing the big picture

Most people plan the next hour, many plan the day.
With such a narrow perspective, it’s hard to be intentional.
No wonder we get stressed over a deadline we could have seen coming (or avoid altogether). Or decide to lie on the sofa even when…we said we couldn’t wait to go to the gym.

Most people plan the next hour, many people plan the next day, high performers plan the next week. Click To Tweet

Behind the scenes, here’s what happens.
When we think about the future, we engage a different part of the brain than we do when thinking about the present.
We are wired to make lighthearted decisions about the future, and then stress out when it becomes the present.

Decision fatigue

Willpower has a daily cap. Research shows that our ability to make rational decisions diminishes as we move through the day.
No matter whether you’re deciding on breakfast, what task to work on next, or whether to say yes or no to friends wanting to meet: the more willpower you use, the less you’ll have left.

decision fatigue

At a certain point in the day, you will go to your default choice, or the easiest one to take. Most of the time, it’s a half-hearted yes.
With plenty of choices every day, we spread our willpower on things that don’t matter, and then have none left for things that are actually important.

When you don’t plan and miss the bigger picture, you’ll fall victim of your weakened willpower. You will take the easiest choice, rather than the most important or most enjoyable.

Parkinson’s law

In 1955, C N Parkinson studied the growing bureaucratic machine of the British empire. He noted: “It is a commonplace observation that work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”
Since then, this has been dubbed ‘Parkinson’s law‘.

parkinson's law

Do you know when you’re faster and nimbler as a deadline approaches? As available time shrinks, you become hyper-focused and productive.

Well, it turns out—it’s not just you.

During the first world war, a decision by the British government to cut hours at munitions plants made workers healthier and also more productive.
In more recent times, Sweden has been trying out a six-hour workday, with a variety of companies cutting their working week to improve wellbeing. So far, companies involved have reported improvements in productivity and lower staff turnover.

And yet, when you miss the bigger picture, it’s easy to think you can expand your current activity into the next hour. And then the next hour again. You keep procrastinating and let work expand to fill in the extra time.

Here’s a summary of all the things influencing your week.

Plan your week, design your life

In 1527, cartographer Diogo Ribeiro made the first scientific world map. The largest empires at the time were developing a system of maps to help them define, understand, and navigate their way through the world.

Expanding tasks, last minute invitations, underestimating future commitments, other people demanding our time, and then work, family, reading, fitness,…

The obstacles along your week are many.

To create a balanced week, draw your own Week Map.
This will help you define, understand, and navigate your way through your time.

Without a map, how will you get to your destination?

The freedom of maps

I know what you’re thinking.

Planning the whole week sounds scary.

And that’s exactly right. It sounds scary.
But it actually takes all the stress away.

Like a world map, it allows you to spot difficulties ahead, and come prepared. And, because it allows you to see the bigger picture, you can see the future consequences of your present choices.

Yuor present choices determine your future choices. Click To Tweet

Plus, we’re not just going to plan the week.
We are going to design our own map, giving priority to what actually matters to us, regardless of what last-minute commitments look like.


how to create your weekly schedule template

Part 2: How to create your Week Map

Taking back control of your week

The biggest advantage of having a Week Map is that it allows you to be in control of how you use your time.

We all spend our 24 hours at the speed of one minute per minute.
The only choice we have is about what to do with those 24 hours.

The reactive approach only looks at one activity at a time: the next activity.
A text from a friend asking to go for a drink, the next task on your to-do list, an email pulling you away from what you had planned for the next hour.
This approach relies on a first come, first served basis, and uses ‘yes’ as the default answer.

The proactive approach looks at the whole picture to ensure that all the important activities get the priority they deserve. This is across the different areas of your life: work, fitness, family, friends, relaxing, learning, or whatever is important to you.
This approach uses a priority principle and has ‘no’ as the default answer.

proactive reactive

The quickest way to switch from reactive to proactive approach is to realise that saying ‘yes’ is actually another way to say ‘no’. Whenever you decide to use your limited time on a particular activity or with a certain person, you are also saying no to everything else. Even though it may be more important.

Whenever you say yes, you're actually saying no to everything else. Click To Tweet

Design your Ideal Week

The first step to creating your Week Map is to…design your ideal week.
I first heard about this concept from Michael Hyatt, who uses a simple spreadsheet to plan the week you would live if you could control 100% of what happens. Total game changer.

This is your blank canvas to design your time: what would you do if you had control of all the variables in your week?
Once you create it, you won’t have to touch it ever again (unless you want to experiment or change your weekly rhythm).

I have created a template for you, which includes time tracking (we’ll talk about that below).
Sign up here and I’ll send you a Google Spreadsheet you can copy and use to design your own week and track time.

What to include in your week

Your ideal week should contain everything, from events to tasks you need to get done. In other words, include everything that takes more than 15 minutes.

plan your ideal week

Don’t get too granular: you won’t know each week’s specific tasks, but you can estimate your weekly workload.
For example, I know that I am going to need at least 6 hours of uninterrupted time to write. I like to break those into two 3-hour chunks, Wednesday and Thursday.
I might not not what I will write on a specific week (yet), but I know that writing will be there.

Having “writing” in my week map allows me to make sure I always have time to focus and get lost in my own writing. No sweat.

Sometimes it may take me a bit longer or shorter, and I will adjust (and then learn) accordingly.

how to plan your week2

Part 3: Move your schedule to your calendar

Boom. Now that you’ve designed your ideal week, it’s time to bring it all into your calendar and create your first Week Map.

I like to use Fantastical for Mac and iOS: I love the interface and how easy it is to add events and amend existing ones. However, you can do this in any calendar.

Look at your ideal week spreadsheet, and select the activities that repeat every single week. Then add them to your calendar, and set them to repeat every week.

What about those activities that are different each week?

Great question. If it’s an important activity, put a placeholder in the calendar. You might have to move it around, but it will make sure that you book some time for what’s important.

Here’s an example.

In my schedule, I have blocks for social time and training.
I train pretty much at the same time, but not on the same days.
And socials…well, they’re not regimented by definition. That’s great!

I can move around my social and fitness blocks every week, but they must fit somewhere. You are setting up an event for events that matter, to make sure that the unimportant won’t take over.

If you leave your calendar empty, someone else will fill it up for you.

Other examples of flexible blocks are:

  • team meetings
  • client calls
  • me time
  • fitness
  • cooking and meal planning
  • socials

You can then adjust each week on your planning day to create your Week Map.

⚠️ Things to keep in mind ⚠️

Don’t be a perfectionist.
Trying to get your blocks perfect will throw you off track.
Aim for 80% accuracy, and adjust for the rest.

Don’t overdo it.
Keep your blocks high-level, don’t be too specific on the task.

Life isn’t a regimented experience.
Make sure you leave blank space for breaks and leeway.

Batch similar tasks.
Working on similar tasks at the same time is a great way to reduce your time and increase effectiveness. It also creates great blocks for your Week Map (and stops you from being too specific).

Should you use different calendars?

I used to use different colour-coded calendars for different things (writing, social time, exercising,…) but I stopped when I realised…they’re all part of my life.
Dividing them into specific calendars I was putting each activity against each other, instead of looking at the big picture.

However, I love to use emojis to connote each kind of activity, and I suggest you do it too, as it will help you understand your day and week at a glance, and learn from how you use your time.

Here are some of my favourites:
💕 = social or me time
🦄 = growth
💬 = coaching
💪 = training
📖 = intentional learning
💌 = replying to readers’ emails
…and a few more.

Don’t create too many, or you won’t be able to categorise how you spend your time at the end of the week.

Quickly plan the next week in advance

Every week, set aside some time to plan the week ahead.
I like to do this on Sunday afternoon, but Saturday and Monday work too. Make sure you add this to your calendar.
This may sound counterintuitive. Investing one hour to map your time will save you many wasted hours as the week unfolds.

During my mapping session, I review my past week (more below) and plan out the next 7 days. I review my monthly objectives, my ideal week, and my commitments ahead.

Here’s what to consider:
1) How you feel: you might need more sleep, be more social, or just hyperactive. However you feel, make sure you structure your week to take that into account.
2) Your objectives for the month and week: what do you want to accomplish by the end of the week? What will get you closer to your monthly goals?
3) Your commitments this week: whether it’s a flight to catch, a conference to attend, or a night at the theatre, every week will be different. Look at your commitments to be realistic.
4) What’s in your ideal week: when you start mapping, your calendar will already have lots of recurring events. Some will stay where they are, but others will be moved around to fit each particular week. Spot patterns to learn and improve your map, but also add activities you’ve kept on the back burner for now.

The all-important rule (why this won’t work for you)

Using your calendar to create your Week Map is a powerful tool that allows you to take control of your time and have a balanced week.

As a side benefit, you can rely on your calendar without having to remember whether you’re free or not, and weigh the consequences of saying yes on the spot. Open your calendar, and you will be reminded of your priorities and commitments.
More on your calendar, less on your mind.

This brings an incredible sense of freedom and removes the stress of having to take micro-decisions about your time.

But.

You have to commit 100%.
If you don’t use your calendar for everything, you won’t be able to trust it, and you just get frustrated and give up.

The golden rule is: if it’s not in the calendar, it doesn’t exist.

If it's not in the calendar, it doesn't exist. Click To Tweet

 


how to track your time

Part 4: How to track your time every week [advanced]

The main challenge when it comes to scheduling your time is that sometimes you have to guess, and sometimes…you just don’t know how much time you actually spend on different activities.

If only we could look at our calendar and see everything we did during the week at a glance…

Track your time as you go

Mapping out your whole week in advance gives you a bird’s eye view of your next seven days, allowing you to prioritise and balance your activities. You can make better decisions without falling victim of the forces influencing your week.

Having your week map adds another great advantage: at the end of the week, you can look back and learn how you actually spend time.

You have to do one thing: adjust your events as you go.

For example, say that you scheduled a whole afternoon to…write a blogpost (random example).
You factored in 6 hours, but it only took you 4.
At the end of the day (or right there and then), make sure you adjust that event to reflect what actually happened.

calendar planning

In those extra two hours, you might have…read a book or call a friend. Well, make sure you add that in as an event (and categorise it accordingly).

Then, let’s say you decided to move your workout from Wednesday to Thursday in order to see a friend for dinner. Or maybe you just didn’t feel like working out and dropped it.
Cool. Make sure you move or delete the event accordingly.

Your calendar needs to reflect and predict reality.
If you can only trust it 99% of the time, you will end up not trusting it and you will stop using it.

What to track

Now, during your weekly mapping session, look back and keep track of what’s most important to you.

For example, I like to keep track of how much time I spent writing and how much I actually produced.
This showed me that I am becoming a faster (and hopefully better) writer, but also that giving myself less time to write makes me more productive and creative.

Here’s what I track, and what I think you should too.

  • Who I spent time with. 💕
    This has lifted the quality of my life, and keeps doing so.
    Writing down everyone I intentionally saw during the week shows me how socially active I have been, and whether it matched my mood and workload.I then go through the list and ask myself ‘why?’.
    Any answer works here, but they usually range from “I enjoy spending time with them”, to “I helped them do x”, or “they helped me do x”.
    If I don’t have an answer other than “I couldn’t say no”, I know something is not right, as I am taking time away from relationships that are more than a zero-sum game.
    This has given me extra awareness, helped me upgrade my friendships and strengthen the ones I care about the most, since I am able to dedicate them more time and attention.
  • How many times I went to the gym. 💪
    On most weeks, this happens 4 times. Working out supports my energy levels, my health, my sense of progress, and my discipline.
    If it’s less than 4 for more than two weeks in a row, this is a red flag to readjust my priorities and my workload.
  • If I went on my weekly run. 🏃
  • How many hours I spent on my number one business goal. 🦄
    This allows me to keep my finger on the pulse of…my own progress. If I haven’t spent enough time on this category, I look at the rest of my week (and the goal itself) to understand how I can do better and regain momentum the next week.
  • How many hours I spent on language learning. 🗯️
    To put things into perspective, this is usually between 2-3.5 hours, and it’s the result of two daily 10 minute sessions plus a weekly call.
    Compound gains!
  • How many hours I spent on intentional learning. 📖
    This is, how much time I spent on a specific topic I intentionally want to know more about?
  • How many weekly comfort challenges I did.✋
    I currently strive for one or two.

Like mapping your week, tracking your time will take some commitment. If you did your homework and adjusted events during the week, it won’t take long (and you won’t have to guess).
The returns are incredible, as each week you will continue to upgrade your performance and overall happiness.

Learn from the past week to create a better one, each week. Click To Tweet

create your schedule

Bonus: The week of your dreams [advanced]

One last time mapping secret.
If you are working towards a major life change, including a new job, a new house, a new city, a new family, a new or growing business, or if you just want to push the reset button…I suggest you create the map of your dreams.

This is the kind of week your current constraints don’t allow you to live on a regular basis (yet), but that you aspire to build and live.

Following the exact same steps as in Part 2, map out the week of your dreams. What will you do once you have made that big change happen?

map your wishweek

This is particularly important if you are working towards a life changing goal: deciding what your weekly life will look like will make it more concrete and give you an extra dose of motivation.
But it will also allow you to start from a blank slate before new commitments and old behaviours shape it out on your behalf.

It will create a clear goal for how you want to be spending your time.

Plan the week, design your life

Ok, now you have the principles, the steps, and even the tools to map out your week.

You’ll be creating a custom template for your own weekly schedule.

The first step is to move from the reactive approach—where you always do whatever’s next and struggle to balance everything, to the proactive approach—you’re not afraid to say no and you prioritise your activities looking at the medium-long term.

To do that, design your static ideal week, and then move it to your calendar to create your week map.

Every week, reserve one hour to map the week ahead and look at your previous week, so you can track how you spend your time, and learn how to improve every week.

Finally, you can take it one step forward and create the week of your dreams, to have a clear vision of what to aspire to, and start creating change daily.

Now it’s your turn to take action and design your own week, each week.
If you don’t do it, you will be always playing catch up, chasing rainbows wondering why you can’t ‘find’ the time.

To help you take action, I have created a template for you, which includes time tracking (we’ll talk about that below).
Sign up here and I’ll send you a Google Spreadsheet you can copy and use to design your own week and track time.

Welcome to your best week yet.

— Matt

 



plan your week

Case Study: from overwhelmed CEO to a £50,000 launch

LoveRaw is a fast growing UK food company creating healthy snacks and drinks made from all-natural ingredients. LoveRaw makes and sells energy bars, almond drinks, and, most recently, the brand-new vegan buttercups.
The products have won numerous awards, and the team has given a dazzling presentation on Dragon’s Den (the UK’s Shark Tank), turning down an offer from Deborah Meaden.

As a family-owned business, the whole team work very closely and must take care of different aspects—when CEO Manav started working with me (Matt) on the 1-1 coaching programme, he felt too overwhelmed to ever start making progress on the “important”, all while a new launch was looming, new hires were being onboarded, and the main salesperson had left the business.

I sat down with Manav to talk about what he gained through working together, from lowered stress to a £50k product launch (in one week).


I don’t work Saturdays and Sundays anymore, I don’t even look at my computer.
Having one clear goal, and using it as a filter for my own actions, and then for the whole team, was a game changer. My stress lowered, while I was able to get a lot more done with my days.

Manav, LoveRaw CEO


What was the challenge you were having at the start?

We’re a small business, so as the CEO I took on so many roles.
I kept switching from one thing to another: I felt overwhelmed all the time, and it didn’t feel like anything was getting done. At the same time, most of the business responsibilities were on me, so I felt the pressure to deliver on everything.

I kept thinking “how am I going to manage this?”

I tried new approaches on my own but…I quickly realised that I’m too in it every day, and I needed someone that could see the situation from the outside and question my approach, actions, and goals. Something had to change.

Why me? What convinced you to get in touch?

A: We knew each other from the past, and I trusted your work and the fact that you had an understanding of the business. Plus, I had been following your content and the growth of your community for some time, and that made me confident too.
Because of those two reasons, I felt it would have been easy to open up and say how I was feeling about the challenges I as facing as a business owner.

I went to a business event in the US for a week, and when I came back I felt overwhelmed with the extra work and having to catch up on what I had left behind.
I thought “I can’t lead the business this way: I’m not even free to go away for a week without looking at my emails (which is where I want to be)”
That was a turning point: we had a new product launch, loads of stuff going on, growing the business and family time — I couldn’t balance everything.
I had to find a better way.

When did you realise you made progress?

Actually, right after our first chat. We worked through a few challenges together, which was very useful, and the clear solutions you gave me made sense: they were not unreasonable and very actionable. You are very good at striking a balance between fast change and progressive overload, to make sure that things keep running smoothly — I have a business to run and I can’t lose time trying something
that may delay everything for a couple of weeks.

Progress came quickly — on the first session or the day after.
Theming my days and batching tasks together was the “a-ha moment” where it really clicked.

I don’t work Saturdays and Sundays anymore, I don’t even look at my computer.
In a way, you get more free time, and you don’t know what to do with it. I find that that makes you even more ambitious — at least if you’re a hyperactive entrepreneur.

What did you expect from the coaching programme when we started?

I expected to get what I got out — I knew that it was going to work: seeing your content helped, and also the way you run your business and grow your community gave me total confidence.

 

What are 3 things you gained from our coaching sessions?

My stress lowered, while I was able to get a lot more done with my days.
All while I was onboarding a new team member, taking care of the sales pipeline, and heading a massive product launch.

Having one clear goal, and using it as a filter for my own actions, and then for the whole team, was a game changer.
There’s no way we would have smashed the target of a £50k launch, without your help — I was focusing on too many things: raising capital, coordinating the sales, and preparing a new product launch. You gotta choose.
Without that clarity, we wouldn’t have got to that point, or at least we would have got the buttercups out 2 months later. That’s a lot of time.

Working with you has helped me be a better leader and an example to everyone else on the team: I have passed on a lot of effective practices to the rest of the team. For example, we have common daily themes across the company, and a shared goal which we discuss every Monday. Some of my practices are now being passed on to new hires by other team member now. That ripple effect is cool to see.

Personally, I’m a lot more grounded and structured: I’m working hard, I go to the gym every morning, I meditate, I stick to my morning routine.
After a long time, I’m also focusing on my own personal goals — what do I want to accomplish next.


Check out LoveRaw’s website, and get your buttercups here.

Book your coaching call today.

Apply for a free coaching call

If you’re an overwhelmed business owner or executive, and are ready to multiply your results, get in touch here and let’s set up a free call. 💬
I want to help you smash your targets and be an example to your team.

What to write in a journal: ideas and prompts to upgrade your day

“If you want to change your future trajectory, all you have is today.”

When I hung up the phone, that made me think.
Sometimes, we get lost mulling over the past or getting obsessed about the future.
But all we have is the present. This is where all the action happens.

That’s why I’m a big fan of journaling first thing in the morning and last thing at night.
By transferring your thoughts and memories from your brain onto paper, you free up a lot of headspace and let go of recurrent thoughts. It’s like looking at your day from a distance, finally able to see the bigger picture.
It’s also a great way to set up your day in the morning, by making sure you nurture supportive thoughts and make your focus clear, right from the start.
Finally, it’s a great practice to look back and learn from your day: did you follow your plans? What experiences did you overlook? How can you make tomorrow even better?

You show up prepared, and then review your lessons and gifts: this is a simple habit that can have a life-changing impact on your present and your future.

What things should you journal about?

I like to write free-form in my journal, and let thoughts pour on paper. Letting your mind guide the pen helps work out challenges and blockers, but also be done with worries and thoughts.
I also use writing prompts to kickstart entry ideas and structure my daily reflection and prep.

Here are my favourites.

Morning prompts to prepare your day

What are three things you are grateful for?

This prompt helps me notice and appreciate the things I would otherwise take for granted, and sometimes not even see. This is a great way to start the day, but also prime yourself to notice opportunity and prevent negative thoughts.

gratitude journal

What is the ONE thing I must achieve today? How will I do that?

This question helps me focus on what’s really important today. If I could only get one thing done, what will bring me forward? What will make today a great day?
This way I know what to give priority to, and not get distracted by “quick wins”.

morning prompt

Crazy move: what will get me to [my main goal]?

Sometimes it’s too easy to get lost in detailed plans, and not seek opportunity. This question forces you to think outside of the box and take unconventional action, which no one else would take (including yourself).

crazy move journal prompt

How can I ensure I will have fun today?

Instead of letting the day get past you, how can you make it a fun day?
It could be something as simple as being present in your activities, or you could add a reward like an amazing meal out, or even add some delight to your day, like working from a special place or even adding some music (and a little dance) to your morning.

journaling prompt 5

My affirmation

This is a broad statement on how you want to conduct the day or a place to reaffirm your bigger goals or main focus, as a reminder to prime the rest of your day towards that.

journal affirmation prompt

Evening prompts to review your day

What are three amazing things I experienced today?

Like the morning gratitude, this post helps you reflect back on your day, and pick the little gifts you found along the way: from a stranger smiling to you, to a wonderful chat with a friend, a book passage, or even getting laser-focused on whatever you were doing.

review the day

How did I allocate my time?

This is a quick sense-check on your conscience: was your day fragmented and directionless, or were you intentional and present in your 24 hours? This is not about how “busy” you felt, it’s about how effective and mindful you have been, so you can do better (or more of it).

journal writing evening

Is today a good day to die?

Memento mori (Latin for “remember you must die”) is the act of reflecting on your own mortality and the finite nature of life’s experiences. In one question, you can summarise whether you lived a full day embodying your values and living your passions.

Be honest with yourself: if it’s a no, what can you do to remedy?
Go for a walk, call a friend, take that action you’ve put off, do a little dance, whatever.
Go to bed with a clear conscience.

journal memento mori

What scared me today?

In 2017, I did something that scared me every week: my life changed. While things like bungee jumping or approaching an attractive woman while holding two bags of groceries expanded my comfort zone, I also learnt to appreciate smaller, daily challenges. Sending a scary email, being brutally honest, saying no to a friendly request you feel obliged to: nurturing those tiny choices makes facing your limits a daily standard.

do one thing that scares you

What’s one piece of advice I could have given myself this morning?

What would have helped you make today an even better day? This question helps you reflect on the biggest lesson each day holds for you: take the time to internalise your answer.
Then, be ready to act on recurring answers: they’re telling you what’s not working right now.

daily journal

Am I ready for tomorrow?

I’m a big fan of planning your next day at the end of each workday: it takes all the thinking out of your action time. You wake up and do it: no reacting, no doubting.
This one question reminds you of your biggest priority and greatest challenges you’ll face tomorrow: how can you own your 24 hours?

plan tomorrow prompt

These are my favourite journaling prompts I’ve selected over the years. Follow them to complete your morning prep and your evening review in less than 10 minutes a day.
Use these prompts to guide your reflections and know what to write in your journal when you face a blank page – feel free to pick and choose, but also add your own.

– Matt

PS: check out my secret to removing distractions and concentrate.

 


"I don't have time for ______"

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6 lessons from my first 90 days of travelling

Three months ago, I decided to pack my life essential in a small suitcase, move out of my flat in Manchester, and spend each month in a different European city, starting from Porto, Portugal.

The ultimate photobomb.

Switching places every month is very exciting, but it also means starting from zero every few weeks. As I moved to my fourth location, I reflected on the lessons I learnt on this adventure.

Here are six lessons you can apply to your own life.

Your daily micro-choices shape your life

As I packed all the things I wasn’t going to bring with me, I realised how we keep accumulating choices. We choose to buy an extra pan, getting more supplements from Amazon, a new pair of trousers. As I looked at my things piling up, I was shocked. And this was only 3 boxes.

For the past 94 days, I have been living out of a carry-on suitcase and a small bag.
The filtering process has allowed me to really understand what I value, and take it with me. Even meaningful friendships have grown stronger, choosing connection over convenience.

And the big, meaningful life choices have become easier.

We spend hours researching the perfect next thing to buy on Amazon, yet few ever question their job, the people shaping their everyday lives, even their location.
So we let micro-choices shape our lives. Over time, they pile up in a formless mountain stopping you from going all in on what you really value.

My posessions for 6-8 months.

Remove variables to discover what matters

Taking a break from my usual spaces, the friends I spend time with, my possessions, and my daily activities helped me see them from a distance, and really find out what I value and what is important to my life.

This applies to objects, spaces, activities, and friendships alike: the ones that have travelled with me (even from a distance), have grown stronger and revealed how important they are to me.
Questioning what you take for granted helps you appreciate what you have, and make space for what you want.

Be prepared for the important

Moving to a new city means starting from scratch every time: if you’re not prepared, you have an easy excuse not to do the things you actually want to do.
This is why I prepare in advance for my non-negotiables: working, training, and nutrition.
For work, I research a couple of coffee shops near home and a central coworking space with a quiet vibe and strong wifi.
I then look for outdoor training spots: I mainly do callisthenics, so a couple of monkey bars is all I need.
In the past, I used to look for gyms and hotels for a quick sesh during my travels.
The same happens for nutrition: I make a list of shops where I can get my essentials from, and then visit all of them on day one to find the most effective combo (or source).

By front-loading all the thinking before I get to my destination, I can just take action once I’m there and feel at home from day one. I don’t leave any time for excuses to set in.
You can apply the same principle to short trips or even to your everyday life: do all the preparation upfront, so the road is smooth when it’ time to take action.

Don’t sweat the small stuff

While I like to come prepared for what matters to me, I also don’t want to overplan my whole stay: I value experiencing my everyday adventure, instead of making it a series of predictable events.
Instead of having a list of “things to visit”, I make a list of “possible experiences”: whenever I want to do something special or share a moment with a friend, I look at the list to find activities, places, and possible day trips. If it doesn’t happen, that’s fine.

Things like transports and commuting are easily shortcutted by living in the city centre and walking around, while most things like events, currency exchange, and hidden places are best sorted once you’ve arrived (and can talk to locals).

Come prepared for what matters to you, but don’t let the unimportant take your attention away.

To get friends, be friendly

Everywhere I visited, I noticed something that surprised me: people were very friendly.
In Portugal, I quickly made friends with the chocolate store owner (I was likely their best customer). In Transylvania, I exchanged language lessons with a taxi driver who spoke no English. My landlord helped me out when my travels got cancelled. It was pretty unexpected.
I started to think this was “unique” to…every place I visited until someone pointed out how friendly I am, and how unexpected that was.

So here’s the lesson: generally, people are very nice, but they also respond to what you put out. For people to be friendly with you, be friendly to them first. Ask questions, give smiles, be friendly.
Try it: it will change your every day.

Resistance to change

The day I arrived in Porto, I thought “everything is so antiquated”.
The day I arrived in Madrid, I thought “it’s just another capital city”.
On my first day in Timisoara, “everything is so run down”.
The night I arrived in Sofia, “this city is empty”.

And guess what, I was wrong every single time.

I was resisting change, comparing a single look at a single street in a totally new city, with a full month in another city. By the third time, I got the message and learnt to just ignore that feeling, and trust that by day two I will adapt to and get to know my new environment.

Every time you go through a change in life, you will naturally feel squeamish and uncomfortable. Learn to recognise the pattern, so you can experience it without letting it affect your choices or hold you back.

Which lesson can you apply in your own life?

– Matt

Freedom app: how to stop distractions

Do you know when you sit down to do something, and everything happens effortlessly?
You’re present and zoned out, and when it ends, everything is done.

Being able to get in the zone is the force multiplier to do better, in less time.
How can you get in the zone with so many distractions around you?

From writing an outline to brushing your teeth, everything takes longer, because there’s always something to do in between: another video to click, a message to reply to, an email to open. You can never immerse in whatever’s at hand.

This turns you from an eager creator of things and moments to a powerless consumer of ephemeral bits that don’t add up to much, creating an addiction to constant updates.

I have a secret.

Block it all out

I use an app called Freedom, which allows me to set blocks on my phone, tablet, and laptop so I can’t access certain apps or websites at specific times. You can block Youtube, Facebook, Instagram, and even block specific websites on Chrome or Safari.

It takes all the distractions and temptations away, so you can focus on what matters.

It also breaks those bad behaviours like checking Instagram in bed or watching another YouTube video when all you should be doing is going to sleep.

My favourite block is on Monday and Wednesday until 11 am when I do most of my writing and editing, and I know that I don’t want to get distracted by checking emails or Instagram.

I also have a morning block and evening curfew, so I can keep to my morning routine and a restful wind down in the evening.

My third favourite way to use Freedom is to give myself a hard deadline.
Set up a block for 6 pm (or whenever you really want to stop working) for the entire internet, and watch yourself get ultrafast to stick to that deadline.

How the app works

Once you install the app on your phone, tablet, or computer, you can create blacklists of apps and websites you may want to block in specific occasions.
You can then start sessions or time-bound blocks that include specific blacklists.
Sessions can be recurring (say, every morning 8 am – 11 am), or they can be triggered manually for a specific amount of time.

You can set blocks for each device separately, but also you can control each device from any other within the same account. For example, from your iPhone, you can block your Mac, and so on. You don’t even have to touch your distracting device to be able to defuse it.

freedom app review

Here are some of my favourite ways to use Freedom:

  • Block social media during my morning routine
  • Block emails when I write
  • Block everything at 11 pm
  • Block messengers and emails on Saturday morning

Pro-tip: pair Freedom with your time blocks.
Set a specific amount of time for a specific task or purpose, and then block out everything that’s not needed.

I’m a big fan of Freedom, you can download it and try it for free here:
affiliate link | normal link

(If you click the affiliate link, I get a small commission for recommending an awesome product)

– Matt

PS: check out how I used a 25 minute timer to train my ability to focus.

 


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The ultimate SMART goals worksheet (with step-by-step examples)

Goals are contagious. Once you achieve one, you can’t wait to get to the next one.
After a while, you gain extra momentum and confidence, and you start feeling like you have some sort of superpower.

Goal setting is like having a Sat Nav for the future: it helps you get closer and closer to the destination you chose, and it tells you when it’s time to turn right or left on the way.
If you’re not specific or descriptive, you will end up at the wrong destination, with the wrong passengers, driving someone else’s car, at the wrong time.

smart goals workbook

That’s why I put together a free smart goals worksheet for you to finally set clear goals for your lifestyle and your business following a clear and proven template.

When to set smart goals

Whenever you set out to accomplish something new, from doubling your sales to upgrading your fitness, you should take the time to write down a clear goal.
Whether it’s a business or a lifestyle goal, not being specific or descriptive enough will lead you astray, or set you up for disappointment once you get there: this is like a marksman getting the best technique and equipment, but forgetting to decide which target to aim at.

The right goals allow you to:

  • Have a clear direction and keep it top of mind (and avoid procrastination)
  • Have different people working together on a shared mission
  • Know what to say no to, so you can use resources towards what really matters
  • Measure and see progress so you can adjust, celebrate, and learn

Here’s where SMART principles come in handy. They provide a framework to make sure you give your goals the right structure to allow you to be successful.

The SMART principles

Here’s the definition of what the letters SMART stand for:

Specific: your goals should tell you exactly what you want to accomplish, instead of being based on general statements that can be open to interpretation (like, “feel happy”).

Measurable: you can measure progress (and adjust your plan) as you get closer to your goal, instead of having to wait for the final outcome to get feedback eventually.

Assignable: who is the person responsible for the success or failure of the goal?
This is very empowering, as it makes you focus on the variables you can influence.

Realistic: depending on your current situation, your available resources (including time), and how important this is for you, you’ll be able to gauge whether this is a realistic goal.

Time-bound: How much time are you giving yourself? Be precise, as this will allow you to measure whether you are moving in the right direction (if at all).

how to set smart goals

 

You can download your free goal planner to create solid life and business objectives here.
The included goal setting worksheet and audio guide will lead you through the process, so you can start to plan and work on great goals that support you.

Now let’s have a look at how to put these 5 principles into practice.


⚠ the example section goes beyond the 500 words guarantee


Examples of smart goals

Let’s use some examples. Two business goals, and two life goals. I’ll pick some from a list of the most common New Year’s Resolutions (I’m mean like that). To better understand how to apply the 5 principles and set great goals you can accomplish, let’s look at these examples.

Example #1: More money (increase revenue).

(specific, measurable, assignablerealistic, time-bound)

More money? Is a dollar enough?
This goal is pretty confusing, as it doesn’t tell you how much money you desire, how much would be enough, and also…there is no clear accountability nor timeline to make it happen. It’s a pretty lousy goal.

I have increased monthly revenue to $x by 15th July.

Look at how much clearer and more empowering this goal is.
There are many ways to increase revenue (for example, increase your rates, find new clients, upsell new services or products…), so we can also take it one step forward and make it prescriptive:

I have found 4 new clients at $x/mo each by 15th April.

Specific: it gives clarity on what kind of revenue (or client) you should focus on.
Measurable: you know exactly how much revenue (and how many clients) would constitute a success or a failure.
Assignable: you have to take action.
Realistic: the timeline for the goal is realistic.
Time-bound: there’s a clear deadline, making it possible to measure (but also adding a sense of urgency).

smart goal money example

Example #2: Lose weight.

(specific, measurable, assignable, realistic, time-bound)

This goal doesn’t tell you what kind of weight you want to lose, how much, how quickly, and it doesn’t even make it clear who should take action. This is a very disempowering goal, as you won’t be able to measure progress, do better, and know whether things are working or not. Would a haircut be enough to lose weight? What about 10 kilos (20lb) over 10 years?

I have lost 2 kilos (of body fat) by 30th July.

Notice how much more empowering this goal is.

Specific: it gives clarity on how much body fat you should lose.
Measurable: you must lose 2kg to succeed, so you can measure your progress and success objectively (and adjust).
Assignable: it’s clear that you must take action.
Realistic: it’s realistic (unless you’re reading this in late July).
Time-bound: the timeline is clear, allowing you to know whether you’re progressing fast enough and…whether you got there in the end.

smart goals template

Example #3: More me time.

(specific, measurable, assignable, realistic, time-bound)

How much is more? Would one minute a day be enough? One hour?
This goal leaves you chasing your own tail, and feeling frustrated even when you accomplish it, because it’s not measurable and it’s based on a feeling (that will likely change and adapt).
Secondly, what will you do with that me time? If you had 2 hours a day and used them to play with your phone or stare at the ceiling, would you feel satisfied?
This lack of purpose and specificity is also why it’s so difficult to measure it.

I spend half an hour a day sketching (and I have kept it up for a whole week) by the end of September.

This phrasing gives you much more clarity and direction.

Specific: it tells you exactly what “me time” is to you, and how much time is needed.
Measurable: you must keep up a weekly streak of one hour a day of sketching.
This way, you’ll know whether you got there, but also it will allow you to carve out that time gradually, starting from 10 minutes a day and increasing as the momentum picks up.
Assignable: guess who’s going to sketch?
Realistic: half an hour is totally realistic if you give yourself enough time to build it gradually.
Time-bound: the working make it clear this is an ongoing lifestyle goal, but by specifying when the ritual needs to be created by (the end of September) it makes it time-bound.

smart goals example 2

 

Example #4: 5x the company’s sales this year.

(specific, measurable, assignable, realistic, time-bound)

This goal is specific, telling you to focus on sales (not profit, launches or any other metric), and by how much to increase them by, which also makes it measurable.
It’s also time-bound, specifying when it needs to be accomplished by.

This goal could be even more specific by choosing one or more product categories.
It’s also not assignable since no one is really responsible for making it happen. Is this on one person? On the whole team? The sales department? Should each have a separate goal that contributes towards the larger company goal?
Lastly, depending on the current situation and timeline, increasing sales by five times may not be realistic. Especially if you’re in November.

(As a team) we have 5x’d sales of recurring services within 12 months from [today].

This wording is much more specific and assignable, and ideally, it would be paired with team or individual goals that specify which target and action will contribute to the company’s overarching goal.

Specific: it tells you exactly what needs to happen, even which kind of services to focus on.
Measurable: it is clearly measurable, and the company can see whether they’re getting closer or not. They could also track individual actions to see the effect on the goal way before the timeline is approaching.
Assignable: it specifies it’s a company goal, so each person and department can choose a different set of actions that will get the company closer to the objective.
Realistic: the goal is realistic compared to today’s situation.
Time-bound: it needs to happen 12 months from the starting date.

smart goals example 3

Achieve your own smart goals

The way you phrase your goals determines your chances of success, but also whether it will be fun or frustrating to get there: smart goals will give you a clear direction to work towards, a way to measure your actions, and a timeline to keep you on your toes.
Badly worded goals could even lead you astray towards something you did not want or keep you and your business stuck in a loop of frustration.

To help you set huge goals you can crush, I create a free template and worksheet you can download and use every time you want to set new personal and team goals. Click here to receive in your inbox and start smashing your goals from today.

– Matt


Other articles you’ll enjoy:
When to stop trying
How to plan your week and track time by creating your Week Map



 

When to stop trying

I try to meditate every morning.
I try to go to the gym three times a week.
I try to launch a successful online business.

The words we use to describe reality determine the set of choices we have.

Whenever you tell yourself that you try, you let yourself off the hook.
You have done your best, but somehow, external circumstances don’t seem to agree.
There is nothing else you can do.

We celebrate trying, and we say things like “oh well, at least I tried”.
By masking a defeat as a victory, you give up all the precious feedback and the ability to do better next time, and finally get close to your goal (so you can stop trying).

Trying is playing not to lose.

Here are three things you can do next time you use the word trying:

Claim back what’s within your control

What’s really holding you back?
Too often, we get hung up on variables outside of our control and forget about those that actually are within our control.

You may not be able to decide when you need to be in the office by, but you can decide what happens on the way, at what time you wake up, at what time to go to bed.

Check your present values

We technically all have time to go to the gym twice a day, but it may not be a priority (let alone sensible): there are other things you value more than that, and they should get more time resources.
Yet, we rarely manage this tradeoff intentionally.

Next time you find yourself trying to do something (without success), look at what you are giving priority instead. What other activities are taking up your day?

You can’t fabricate more time, but you can allocate it better if you know what matters to you.

Look at the bigger picture

We often ignore the larger impact of a single action, thinking it happens in isolation, at the expense of everything else. So we have to choose between “me” and “them”, between “work” and “life”.
When you focus on the larger impact, you’ll find ways to align your activities, so they support each other instead of competing.

Meditation will impact your thinking at work; feeling great in your body will impact your confidence; investing in yourself will make you more interesting to others. The opposite is true

Adjust your actions

Now that you know what’s within your control, what you truly value most right now, and what the larger impact of your goals is, it’s time to change your actions.
After all, repeating what didn’t work so far will only keep you stuck trying.

So look at the previous steps, and change your approach.

how to stop trying

To stop trying, focus on what’s under your control and be clear on what’s really important to you.
Then adjust your actions to go all in on what matters.

– Matt


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How to stop waiting on your next big decision

Why is there always a lag between deciding to do something and…actually doing it?

Sometimes, we know what to do and yet, we wait.
It’s like if an invisible force is pulling us back, telling us to stick to what we know, even when it doesn’t feel right.

I asked Time Zillionaire readers for personal examples of difficult decisions in their lives.
Many stories included getting in or out or a relationship, starting a business, changing jobs, even moving your life to a new city. All these have a shared theme: getting in or out of a present situation and striving for something (even) better.

Here are three of my favourite stories.

Starting to freelance was a difficult decision. Launching into an unknown space and hoping the income will come from somewhere is scary stuff. What made it worse for me was that I had my uni to worry about, renting and all the various expenses when living away from home with little to no external support.

 

I am considering leaving a well-paying job that I have built up over nearly 14 years. A terrifying prospect for a woman in a male-dominated industry, with two small(ish) kids, a large mortgage and a big case of imposter syndrome!

 

When I started working as a videographer to get exposure, I lied when my parents told me to get a real job until I could turn my passion into profit.
I told them that I worked as a waiter for nearly 6 months, having to pretend on the phone that I was at work, going to work, oh I had a great time at work!

What do all these stories have in common?

Notice that three forces are at play:

  1. The fear of leaving the comfort of your current situation
  2. The fear of the unknown future and challenges ahead
  3. The fear of being judged or letting others down

The natural instinct is to escape or avoid fear. When you listen to it instead, it will show you the real cause of your discomfort: it’s like a radar to save you from future trouble, so you can prepare for your change ahead.

How can you manage fear, and turn a paralysing emotion into actionable steps?

Ask questions to stop fear

Here are 6 questions I use in my own life whenever I am faced with a difficult, scary life decision that matters. From leaving my safe corporate job to launching my first business, to starting to write when the publish button terrified me, all the way to my recent extended travelling, these questions have guided me to be prepared and calm in the face of fear of the unknown.

You can apply them to any new adventure, whether you’re thinking of changing jobs, launching a business, hiring your first person on your team, changing cities, ending a relationship or…any other major life change that scares you.

Let’s jump right in.

What’s the worst that can happen?

This question forces you to define the invisible beast behind your fear.
Instead of trying to manage an airy emotion, you can go straight to the source and take action before things go badly. Or maybe find out your fear is totally unfounded.

When I wanted to leave my corporate job, the worst was…ending in a different corporate job a few months after leaving. Likely, this was going to be in a better location, too. Essentially, the worst case was the same situation I was currently in, only slightly better. Suddenly, everything felt much easier.

How likely is it? What can I do now to prevent it?

Now you know your worst case outcome. Great. How likely is it to happen?
If you put in the work, how likely is the bad scenario to manifest? Look at all the possible causes and triggers that would be needed for it to happen.

What can you do right now to prevent it from happening?
Now that you know the weak points in your plan, it’s time to put in the work and stop them from manifesting. I am a big fan of running a pre-mortem to prevent failure (and keep the learning) whenever I embark on a new project or commitment.

If the worst happens, will it be forever?

Let’s take our bomb disposal one step forward. Time to cut the red wire.

If the worst were to happen, how long could it last for?
We often get hung up on bad scenarios, thinking that if they do happen, they’ll be a life sentence. Behind the scenes, the negativity bias is taking over our thoughts to focus on the problem. Take a step back, and think about solutions and actions you could take to get out of that worst case.
You’ll see it wouldn’t last very long at all.

When I wanted to leave my flat and travel while working for a few months, my mind kept coming up with the most creative problems. “What if all my clients leave me because of bad internet connectivity”, was one of the most dumbfounded, but also the most persistent. Once I realised it wasn’t at all likely, I looked at what I could do in that situation: moving to a cheaper country with great connectivity for two months and finding new online clients from there…that almost sounded fun!

When you start coming up with an action plan, you feel empowered and your confidence raises (making the worst case even less likely).

What if it does work out?

Hey, let’s not only think about worst case scenarios.
When you force yourself to explore the best case, you go from looking for trouble to understanding the potential. By peeking into what the future could look like, you can understand whether you like it or not. If you do, you’ll be motivated to make it happen, knowing what you value and what you’re really leaving on the table.

Ask yourself this question whenever negativity starts to set it. Prepare for the worst, but prepare for the best, too.

How will I feel a year from today?

If you choose not to take action, how will you feel a year from now?
Just imagine, 12 months from now, the weight of another 365 days of knowing what to do but…not pulling the trigger. Same problems, same decision, just older. How will it make you feel?

Will the opportunity even still be there in the future? And if not, how will that make you feel?
We take for granted what we have, but things could change overnight. International laws might change, there could be a major economic meltdown, a family emergency, a personal injury.
How will you feel if your current golden opportunities went away, and you didn’t take them?
I’m all about minimising the regrets of my 97-year-old self, and this question is a great motivator to take action today.

What lesson do I want to teach?

This last question addresses external judgement and the idea of letting others down.
We tend to use other people’s expectations as an excuse to stay stuck. But actually, we don’t even know how they will react.

I was terrified to tell my manager I wanted to quit. I did it while we waited for the lift. Awkward timing. She said, “whatever makes you happy, I will support that” and smiled. I wasn’t expecting that but, after all, who wants to work with a colleague who dislikes their job?
It was win-win, I was just too much in my own head to see that.

To balance the fear of external judgement, ask: what lesson do I want to teach?
Think about your family, your friends, your colleagues. Do you want to be an example of just getting by every day, or do you want to show them what’s possible in the adventure of life?

This shift in thinking leverages your peer group as motivation to take responsibility, not as an excuse to wait.

How to make your tough decision

When you want a major change, don’t escape your emotions: listen to fear to understand where the problem lies, then ask questions to go to the core and come up with concrete actions you can take today.
Here are the 6 questions:

  • What’s the worst that can happen?
  • How likely is it? What can I do now to prevent it?
  • If the worst happens, will it be forever?
  • What if it does work out?
  • How will I feel a year from today?
  • What lesson do I want to teach?

Change will happen anyway. Just look in the mirror. Or think about your life 5 years ago. You can either be the agent of change and dance, or you can be the victim of change and fight.

Go through your big decision, and write answers to the questions above on a piece of paper.
The temptation is to do it in your head while skimming this article (I know you). That won’t get you any closer to your decision. Write them down, and take the time to internalise your answers.

Do it today, then send me an email: what’s the worst that can happen?

– Matt


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6 ways to prevent regret and crush fear

“Do not regret what you have done.” — Musashi

Regret is that powerless, angry, and melancholic feeling that you could have taken a different shot. That possibility was there for you, and you didn’t take it. Now it’s gone.

How can regret be minimised or prevented altogether?

The last time I saw my uncle, he held my hand and smiled at me, for a moment shedding the emotional armour of a man born about a century ago.
He got me that much closer to many of my own aspirations.

Uncle built and sold a business decades before it was cool. He travelled way before cheap airlines made flying a modern expectation. He looked after his sister and created a great personal connection with me and my mum. No expectations, just be who you are.
Until he turned 85, he cycled 50 miles every weekend. He then bought a sports car, to the bafflement of a cautious car salesman. He was active well into his 90s, and when he had to get a wheelchair he looked at me with a childish grin and said “look, I bought a new whip”. Lol.

That last time I saw him though, he was dealing with regret.
The realisation that, had he taken different and more intentional choices, he’d still be living the same worst-case scenario: running out runway.

That was an immense gift.
The realisation that we’re all running out of runway, and that the choices we have today may be gone tomorrow.

Fear of regret can be such a powerful antidote against fear of taking action.

Regret is a (daily) choice

“Easy choices, hard life. Hard choices, easy life.” — Jerzy Gregorek

Regret is never about the outcome, never about how things turn out. It’s not a disappointment in the present.
It’s a lack of clear conscience. The sharp realisation that a different set of actions would have impacted the outcome you find yourself dealing with. It’s the guilty awareness that, really, it is your doing.

Your actions were not aligned with your objectives, values, and thoughts: deep inside you know, you didn’t do your part.

Regret really is a daily choice, not a result.

When your daily actions are aligned with your priorities, with your goals, with your values, then you won’t have any regrets, regardless of how things turn out.
When you choose easy action aligned with comfort and avoiding-fear, that’s when regret kicks in.
You didn’t give yourself a fair shot.

Like a radar for what matters to your, fear is giving you a clear message: you give a shit. Ignore the warnings at your own peril.

Choosing not to chose

The biggest trap is the belief that our present choices will be there forever. So we procrastinate until we no longer can.

Choosing not to choose is a clear choice.
Sometimes, we prefer procrastination. We lie to ourselves, pretending things will stay the same until we finally will get the nerves to pull the trigger.
In the meantime, your choices expire. Deep inside, you knew it all along.

Choosing not to choose is sticking to the familiar.
Choosing a clear choice often brings change.

Positive or negative, we always resist change.
Understanding that there is no way not to choose (it’s a choice!) takes a lot of pressure off and allows you to actually decide based on your personal values and goals.

Regret of the dying: the most common regrets (to sort out)

What are the most common regrets people have at the end of their life?
Thanks to Bronnie Ware, you don’t have to wait until you run out of runway to find out. Bronnie has worked as a palliative care worker, looking after countless patients through the last days of their lives. When she asked them about any regrets they had, she started seeing a few patterns: there were a few regrets that would surface over and over again.

The top 5 regrets of the dying are
1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
2. I wish I didn’t work so hard (particularly common in men).
3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

What’s missing?

Notice how no one wished they had taken more conservative choices: actually, most of them wished they’d had the courage to express their true self through their emotional choices and actions.

Also, no one wished they’d had the latest iPhone, or spent more time at their mahogany table. I’m a big fan of upgrading your life following big goals, but it’s also important to appreciate what we already have through daily gratitude.

How to prevent regret

“Some things are in our control and others not. Things in our control are opinion, pursuit, desire, aversion, and, in a word, whatever are our own actions. Things not in our control are body, property, reputation, command, and, in one word, whatever are not our actions.” — Epictetus

Being aware of your future regrets can be very liberating.
Fear of regret in the future can help you embrace what you value and bust fear of taking action in the present.

Use your emotions to build self-awareness

Listen to yourself, and use your emotion and fear to build self-awareness: they are telling you what you value, and what brings you the most joy. We often conform to a general idea of what will bring you fulfilment, but only being self-aware will tell you what actually matters to you.

Happy vs less unhappy

Watching Netflix isn’t probably something you will remember 10 years from now. It’s not bringing you joy, but just helping you escape the negative.
Yet, most of us confuse happy and less unhappy, constantly chasing the same short-term fixes and escaping those emotions and fears that are telling us what actually matters to each one of us.

Shift your focus from the past to the future

There are a few things we can influence, and there are a few things we can’t influence. The past is one of the latter.

It’s easy to say “I should have bought some Bitcoin in 2011”. Now we know how that would have likely worked out. In the meantime, you are missing out on current opportunities.
So instead of looking back and using your energy on what you wish or could have been, learn from the past and move forward with more self-awareness and focus on what is under your control.

Focus on what you can influence

Just like the past, other people’s actions and reactions are not under your control. Neither are external circumstances.
Instead of waiting for things to happen and outsourcing responsibility to something or someone else, take control of the variables that you can influence and making the most of what you have. Intentional action is always better than desperate wait (i.e. choosing not to chose).

Embrace trade-offs (and the paradox of choice)

The number of choices we have today can be paralysing.
Too many things to buy. Too many skills to learn. Too many books to read. Too many matches to message. Too many possible choices.
Whatever you choose, you will always wonder what it would have been like in every other case.

Embrace this trade-off. It’s inevitable because we all have 24 hours a day. Learn to say no a strong, so you can give only passionate, decisive yeses that really impact your life.

Ask your future self

A great way to prevent regret is to ask your future self.
Use your imagination to time travel to the future, and put yourself in the moccasins of your 2022 self: what would you like to look back and thank yourself for?

Regret isn’t just a negative, powerless experience.
It’s actually a very powerful driver to take scary action now that you can. It’s also a very accurate radar telling you what matters to you and what you should focus on.

Some regret is inevitable. But when you focus on what matters to you and your future self, your conscience will be clear.

– Matt


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The Pre-Mortem: how to learn from failure (before it happens)

Learning is connected to making mistakes.

A confidently uttered sentence in a foreign language is built on countless clumsy attempts to say something remotely understandable.
A smooth blog post (and not worrying about feedback) takes a lot of mediocre writing and fearful publishing.
Approaching an attractive woman (or man!) in a public place and maintaining some sort of composure requires a lot of embarrassing attempts during which your right knee keeps trembling out of control.

Trust me, I’ve been through all of the above.

Think back on things you consider yourself confident at, and you’ll find your own examples: learning is built upon layers of mistakes.

how to learn from failure

The challenge is, some mistakes can take a lot of time, drain resources and…be pretty painful.
What if you could get the learning without going through failure?

Enter the pre-mortem.

Knowing challenges in advance

In medicine, a post-mortem (literally, after death) is the examination of a corpse to determine the cause of death.
In project management, a post-mortem is a similar autopsy performed on your last finished project, in order to examine the outcome and help the team improve next time.
If you’ve ever asked yourself “how could I have done (even) better?”, you were performing an unaware post-mortem on your own actions.

Post-mortems are a great way to intentionally analyse your recent actions and learn from the outcome. But here’s the main limitation: it’s too late. The opportunity is gone. The project has closed. Time has passed. Resources have been spent. The client has left. Team (and personal) relationships have worn out.

Whenever you’re about to start a new project, (ad)venture, or major life change, all you have to do is…change the prefix.

How to do your own Pre-Mortem

The first step to starting your pre-mortem, is getting clarity about your desired outcome: what do you want to achieve?
Be very specific, and make sure you can measure the outcome (or it will be difficult to learn from it). Check out how this guide on setting SMART goals to make sure you don’t deceive yourself.

Let’s say, for example, that your goal is to “find 3 new clients by 31st March”.

The second step is to take that ideal outcome, and completely reverse it: make it as negative as possible. Not only your goal hasn’t happened: things got worse than when you started.
In our example, imagine it’s now the 31st of March and…not only you haven’t found 3 new clients, you also have lost 3 of your existing ones.
Make sure to keep the outcome relevant, but feel free to add as much negativity as you wish.

How did things get to this point?

Now, here comes the fun bit.
On a piece of paper (or a Google sheet), create 2 lists: internal obstacles and external obstacles.
What factors and challenges will bring your future self to such a gloomy outcome?

Internal obstacles are in your control, and often self-generated. These include motivation, poor priorities, not taking care of yourself, waiting until the last minute…you name it.

External obstacles depend on other people or events. These could include an existing client sending over extra work, a team member getting ill, a life event taking your energy and focus…anything external that might impact your outcome.

Go ahead and list a minimum of 10 of each. I’ll wait.

Anticipate the learning to be prepared

Ok, at this point we know:

  1. our ideal outcome and SMART goal
  2. how things might go wrong
  3. why things might go wrong

The last step is to prepare strategies and solutions to either prevent or minimise the impact of challenges. We take ownership of what’s within our control to maximise our chances of achieving our goal and smooth out the road ahead.

how to do a pre-mortem

Next to your obstacle lists, create a new solutions column.
For each internal and external obstacle, write down at least one action you can take to either prevent it now or deal with it once it manifests.
Make sure you don’t rush this part: a few extra minutes could save you months of setbacks and trouble.

In our example, obstacles that may bring you to losing clients instead of gaining 3 new ones by 31st March, could be:
Internal obstacle: I procrastinated every morning.
Solution: leave the flat right after breakfast, and find a coffee shop to work from and use it to make progress on your goal exclusively; get enough rest and go to bed by 11 pm; ask a friend to check in with you via text every day at 10 am; break down big goals into daily tasks to reduce complexity and make it easy to take some action; do not have lunch until you have completed a specific daily action.
External obstacle: too many social activities took a lot of my time and distracted me from my goal.
Solution: cap socials to 3 times a week and calendar them; choose only activities I feel passionate about; explain why this goal is important to me to get friends’ approval and support.

When should you run a Pre-Mortem?

Running a pre-mortem is a great way to prevent challenges and smooth out the road ahead.
This isn’t exclusive to business and team goals: it extends to personal objectives and life changes too. If these involve other people, a shared pre-mortem will allow you to better understand personal frictions without having to go through them: you’ll be able to align everyone’s vision and accommodate differences…before they become apparent (or it’s too late).

It’s also great to bust excuses before they happen.

Here are some great examples of when to run your own pre-mortem.

  • Business and team goals
  • Starting a side hustle or launching a new product
  • Moving to a new city or neighbourhood
  • Relationships and couple goals
  • Fitness, health, and other personal goals
  • Buying a house
  • Moving in with your partner (or a new housemate)
  • Starting a new job
  • Learning a new skill or a new language
  • Going on a first long holiday with friends

There’s never a wrong time to run your own pre-mortem, prevent roadblocks ahead, and learn from mistakes you will never make. Make it part of your toolkit, and share with the people around you: you’ll accelerate your growth, deepen your closest relationships, and make great decisions easy.

With a few minutes of planning, you will save yourself weeks of pain and months setbacks.

— Matt


PS: learn how to make big goals easy and take action every day.

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