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14 ways a productivity coach can help your business

When you’re your own boss, everything depends on you.
You decide when to work, what to work on, and…what your team should be working on. This is great but, the flexibility also means you have no one else to blame when things don’t work out. Sometimes, you wish you had a blueprint to tell you what to do next.

If you feel overwhelmed by all the possibitlities available in your business, productivity coaching can help you gain clarity and have the structure to take action. By working with a professional coach, you will see results faster by working on the right things only.

Especially if your business is going through a transformation, your productivity coach will guide you through streamlining your workflows and setting clear goals, so you can make the most of your opportunity (and avoid burn out).

The most common business transformations are:

  • Growing from freelancer to business / agency
  • Expanding from one-man-band to creating your first team
  • Building a personal brand around your business
  • A change in leadership in an existing company
  • Creating and launching new products and projects
  • Adjusting your workload to support your lifestyle

Here are 14 ways that productivity coaching will upgrade your business and impact your life.

Know exactly what to work on every day (and bust stress)

What if you could wake up productive, knowing exactly what needs your attention?

Instead of letting the day sidetrack you to whatever emergency, meeting, or call that comes your way, knowing exactly what’s worth your attention and when to take care of it.

When you are reactive all the time, you can never be strategic and decide where you want to take your business (and, therefore, your lifestyle).

Having a productivity coach will help you create the structure to make progress every day. When you do that, you will no longer feel like you’ve worked all day but…didn’t get much done. Every day will be a success, and stress will go down.


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.

Manav, CEO, LoveRaw

Focus on what will grow your top line

Your time is limited to 24 hours a day, so it’s important you spend it on things that will actually grow your revenue. Focusing on the projects and activities that will give you the most results also means you will be able to generate more resources to free up your time: once you know what works, you can leverage other people’s time and skills in order to multiply your results.

Understanding what is worth your time is simple: track how much time you spend on each activity, and then quantify its monetary result. Then, divide the money generated by the time invested: this will give you an idea of which activities are giving you the greatest returns, and are worth doubling down on.

Learn to say no to things that don’t take you anywhere

It’s easy to feel paralysed by opportunities: after all, it’s your job as an entrepreneur to create new ones. When you spread your bets across many projects, tasks, and responsibilities, it’s usually showing a lack of trust. Trust that your efforts will pay off, or trust that your leadership is advanced enough to delegate your work to other people.

Instead of spreading yourself thin across a myriad of roles, projects, and businesses, select the few that will impact everything else. Like the first domino that impacts the whole game, productivity coaching can help you identify the projects and activities that will make everything else either easier or irrelevant.

Create daily habits that support your growth

Every business is the reflection of its owner.
Whatever standard you accept, that is what you will get in return from your business, and your life. If you are scattered all the time, always working on the unimportant, you are building a business that supports these same principles: the more you wait, the more difficult change will be.

By creating small daily habits that automatically support your personal growth, like journalling, learning, planning your day, and training, you will generate a constant sense of growth, which will positively impact everyone of your projects. You will have more energy, and finally be in control of your day, going from reactive follower to proactive leader.

Productivity coaching will help you find and create the small daily habits that will have the greatest impact on your daily life and performance.

Get the accountability to take action

Being your own boss means that you set the agenda, but also that you are responsible for it happening. No one else tells you what to do, nor when to do it—it’s easy to justify if you fail on your own tasks and objectives.

You can have the best intentions, the strongest motivation, and the best plan but…sometimes, you can’t help but keep falling off the horse.

Having a productivity coach will give you the external accountability you need to stick to the plan and take action, instead of going back to planning again.

Have a trusted advisor to remind you of the big picture

When you’re immersed in the work every day, you forget the overall roadmap. It’s easy to get lost in the small details that take you nowhere, especially when you have to figure it all out yourself. Your productivity coach will keep you focused on what’s important to the business and your revenue goals, allowing you to stay organised and keep calm in every situation.


The sessions have already paid back dividends
I don’t have to double guess myself – I know that the actions we decided on are my sober thoughts and well thought through, I don’t have to think about it again and can just get on with taking action and see results.

Tom, Founder, TomInYourPocket

Beat procrastination and master focus

Multitasking is a myth. Research has shown how all our brains do, is quickly switching between tasks, dividing our attention (the “central manager”) across too many tasks. It feels like we’re getting a lot done, but in the end everything takes longer.

As an entrepreneur, you must be in control of your actions, and squeeze as much as possible out of your 24 hours. However, focus is a challenge when you’re in charge, and procrastination…well, sometimes it’s great way to postpone taking an uncomfortable decision.

Productivity coaching will teach you proven techniques to work on fewer things and maximise impact, while also training your focus to be as sharp as a zen master’s. You will get more done in less time. More importantly, you will get the right things done, so you can take time off and enjoy your wins. Bye bye scattergun approach, welcome procrastination sniper.

Learn to outsource (so you can fire yourself)

The secret to successful outsourcing is knowing exactly what it worth anyone’s time, and what isn’t. The most common mistake I see in business owners working with a VA or hiring their first employee is that they start delegating actions without giving any context nor explanation: essentially, they gain more arms to type with, but they are still the one mind that needs to make every decision and critical thinking. Instead of freeing up time, you get trapped managing other people’s work, instead of focusing on your own.

A productivity coach will help you identify what needs to be outsourced, and what needs to be automated or eliminated altogether. They will guide you through creating documents and streamlining processes that will make your team independent, so they don’t need your opinion on every decision: they understand your thinking behind it.

That way, you can fire yourself, and focus on your strengths (or finally take a week off).

Become a better leader and manager

Why does everyone always need you? Employees, suppliers, customers, the management team…it feels like everyone needs you, and you can never work on your own tasks (the important ones). When other people depend on you though, often is because they don’t have the context or independence to make their own decisions, and then measure the outcome. They depend on your emotional satisfaction or gut feel, and they need you to make every single call.

In order to grow your business and your team (remotely or locally), you must put in place clear boundaries, areas of responsibilities, and process documents for everyone to be able to do their best work without being a bottleneck to the team. By empowering your team, you will go from executing everything to managing the vision and direction of the business.

Streamline your workflows to be effective

Most of the work you take care of is either recurring, or is made up of small tasks that can be bucketed in a few categories. And yet, they take a lot of your time and, most importantly, ability to think clearly. You’re left with no time to think strategically about the future of your business, and what would actually make a difference for you and your team.

Your productivity coach can help you identify those activity buckets, and then create processes and checklists to streamline them and make them effortless, so you can have the time (and presence) to work on what grows your business. To make things even more efficient, you will also identify activities that can be either eliminated, automated, or outsourced, giving you with extra time to make the future happen.

What’s the opportunity cost of you working on the wrong things?

Gain clarity for your personal goals

Every year, you start out to meet your goals. But by the end of the first quarter, your focus is in 20 different directions. How do you choose?

When you choose which goals to take on, you have to choose on those areas that will bring radical progress across every single aspect of your life. That’s why it’s important to align your business with your lifestyle: they will both feed and support each other.

Working with a coach will guide you through a proven system to identify what’s lacking in your life, and align it with your working schedule and goals. At the same time, you will have someone to help you choose those activities that will have the largest impact.

So you can have more energy at work, more time for growth, and wake up ready to make it a great day, every morning.


I used to start my days feeling overwhelmed, and finish with a sense of guilt: constantly being behind. Matt’s principles and hacks helped me get better results with less effort, and wake up on top of my day.
I really wish someone shared this with me 10 years ago!

– Jez, founder, Harbour.

Set measurable goals for your business

Business goals like “more clients”, “more revenue”, “more free time”, and the like set you up for failure, because you can never know whether you are getting close enough or not. Heck, you don’t even know whether you got there already.
Is one more client enough? How about $50 a day? Or 10 minutes of free time? What about 2 hours? What are you even going to do with it?
The key is to set goals that are easily measurable: they need to have a clear condition to get to, and a time to get there by: you’ll know whether you got there or not.

Your productivity coach will help you find the most meaningful metrics for your business, so you can focus on fewer things and maximise the impact. Then, by having someone there to help you take action and assess progress, you’ll be able to adjust before it’s too late, so you can get even better results, faster. It’s like predicting the future.

Learn from other businesses’ experience

When you work with a coach, you tap into the collective experience of someone running multiple businesses and working with many business owners across several industries—food, e-commerce, design, marketing, manufacturing, services, blockchain, and much more.

Instead of seeing everything for the first time and figuring out all through tough mistakes, you gain the support of someone who’s able to recognise business patterns and share tools and principles that will grow your business around the flexible lifestyle you deserve.
It doesn’t have to be lonely at the top.

Stop working after dinner (and at the weekend)

Most people play the 25-hour game, going to bed late or postponing what’s important in order to make space for everything else. When you work for yourself, no one is there to tell you otherwise. It’s easy for work to bleed into your personal time, and never have time to be at home with your family, your friends, or invest in yourself.
It makes you feel guilty and powerless.

Here’s why you should set boundaries: when you have less time available, you will have to focus on important things rather than getting lost in options (and then finding yourself desperately trying to catch up in the evening). For it to work though, you have to first break the negative cycle, and then respect your own rule: that’s where being accountable to a coach, after identifying the most important activities together, can have a massive impact on your life and business.

Don’t forget to book your free consultation today, and see how productivity coaching can help you grow your business faster, while taking back control of your schedule and your personal time. Don’t let the busy hold you back.

How to be accountable to yourself and stop making excuses: the accountability letter

“If you’re not getting the results you want, you must change your approach.”

As I jotted down thoughts on a piece of paper, I knew that principle applied to me. In 2017, I had seen some results: in business, relationships, personal growth. Yet, I still felt stuck: I wanted to compress a decade of growth and experience into one year, but my mental scripts were holding me back.

“Play it safe”

A year later, and a lot has happened.

I spent over 200 days abroad, living in 8 different cities throughout Europe.
My businesses expanded, and I was able to launch new products and help new amazing clients take control of their time and achieve their own goals faster.
I moved to a different city (London), and surrounded myself with new amazing people. All while keeping up my past habits, increasing my own self-awareness and pushing my comfort zone.

All of this wouldn’t have happened if I didn’t sign my accountability letter a year ago.

What is the cost of not achieving your goals?

Whenever you set a new goal for yourself, the game is immediately rigged for you to fail. You have three possible scenarios: not attempting; attempting and failing; attempting and succeeding.

Not attempting, is the easiest emotional choice: we tend to think that, unless we actively take action, things will stay the same.
Of course, this is not true: our bodies and minds constantly adapt to our environment. If we go from gym freak to couch potato, our body will adapt to be able to do more of that; if we give in to our fear and stop taking action, our mind will adapt to be able to do more of that.

What we call stability is nothing more than slow, unintentional change happening around us. So slow, that we don’t notice it (until we have no choice).

“If you don’t use it, you lose it”

Attempting and failing brings change, but not in the desired form.
My most important tough lessons came from moments of failure, and I learnt to treasure them over time. But failing is scary, since it brings unwanted change, and often self-judgement and peer pressure. It’s a scary thought.

Attempting and succeeding isn’t easy either: achievement brings change, which you will have to learn to deal with. New problems, unknown situations, external judgement and envy, the feeling of not being good enough. Fear of success can be as strong as fear of failure.

Giving up is the safest option

There is no punishment for giving up.
But if you keep going, you’ll have a lot on your plate.

Now you see how not achieving your goals is often the easiest choice.
At least emotionally.

By not taking action, you will stay stuck in a life of humdrum, regret, an missed opportunities, which you will only recognise looking back. When it’s too late.
For now, we are naturally wired to steer clear of change, and that’s why giving up on your goal is the easiest option.

I like to change the rules of the game, and associate a punishment or loss to not taking action, so I do.

Here’s how you can do it.

How to stay accountable to yourself

The accountability letter leverages pain and punishment to force you to take action and break the tendency towards inaction.

If I really wanted to take uncomfortable action, I knew I needed to make that momentum last.
So last year, I wrote a contract to myself and gave it to two friends, together with a punishment in a pre-sealed (and pre-stamped) envelope. If I broke the contract, each friend was instructed to simply post the letter.

What was in the envelope?

One contained a congratulations letter and a signed cheque to UKIP, a pro-Brexit party I strongly disagree with. The other, a postcard and a flight voucher addressed to an annoying relative. It said “Come visit me, I can’t wait to see you”.

The contract itself spelt out three uncomfortable (but controllable) actions I was going to take throughout the year:

  • Not travel for the first 3 months of the year (I need to focus)
  • Spend at least one month working and travelling remotely
  • Move to a new city (I needed to shake things up and meet new people)

What happened?

All three points were a success, and all of them had positive rippling effects onto every area of my life: from forcing me to grow my business (while staying true to my values), to growing my self-awareness and comfort, all the way to strengthening old relationships and growing new ones.

Why does it work? The accountability letter introduces a consequence for inaction, levelling the playing field and also leveraging loss aversion, a psychological bias that makes us prefer avoiding a loss to acquiring an equivalent (or sometimes greater) gain.

Since inaction comes with a consequence, you will take action.

Will I do it again? You bet.

In fact, I already have drafted my contract for 2019 and asked two friends to be my guardians of the pledge.

Ready to take your 2019 to the next level?

Here’s what you need to prepare your own accountability letter.

How to write your own accountability letter

There are three ingredients to the accountability letter: the contract, the punishment, and the guardian.

The Contract

The contract should be a simple one-pager (or less), outlining your intentions and the actions you commit to taking during the year. This will serve as a guideline and a reminder to both yourself and the guardian throughout the year.

It’s important that you focus on actions that you can control, rather than outcomes that depend on external factors or other people. How can you uncomfortably change your approach in order to nudge yourself towards your results?

For example, 5x’ing your clients may not be in your control, but contacting 10 podcasts every week is (and may push you out of your comfort zone).
Similarly, you may not be able to find the perfect mentor, but moving to a new city will force you to meet new people and think in a different way.

Check out my guide to SMART goals to make sure your goals are actionable.

The Punishment

The punishment should be something uncompromisingly negative, but also have a passive trigger. It should not be easy to stomach, you want to use the thought of that happening to fuel you past any moments of doubt and inaction.


What’s a cause you cannot stand? Or the antithesis of a cause that is dear to you?What’s a party, a cause, a person, or a brand you cannot bear?
I suggest brainstorming a few on a piece of paper, until you find one that truly makes you blood boil.

It should also have a passive trigger, so it can be activated by the guardian without your consent or action. A signed cheque is ready to be mailed, while you getting your hair dyed pink needs you last-minute agreement. Think of it as an anti-charity, and when in doubt, go for both.

The Guardian

The guardian should be a friend you trust enough to be open ( and a bit whacky) with, but also that loves you and your goals enough to actually post the punishment when it comes to it. It’s your accountability partner.

Don’t choose a friend that will back down if you ask them to, but one you know will trigger the punishment if you don’t take action (after all, you chose all of them to be within your control).

Once you have printed the contract, signed it, and given it to your guardian together with the punishment, all you have to do is take action.

Time to take action: to help you set huge goals you can crush, I create a free template and worksheet you can download and use to set measurable goals. Click here to receive it in your inbox and start smashing your goals from today.

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

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

What’s one thing I am looking forward to?

This prompt can change your whole mood. In fact, it breaks your morning pattern, your expectations of a standard day of humdrum, and forces you to look for something you genuinely look forward to. Big or small, if you can’t find anything, seeing this pattern will help you take action to change things in the future. Upgrade your day!

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

How did I experience abundance today?

Scarcity mindset focuses you on preserving the few opportunities and resources you have, whether in business, your time, your financial life, your relationships, or general growth. The more you see scarcity, the more you will focus on a sense of lack.

I like to train myself to spot abundance in my life, so I can create more opportunities and resources, by using the ones I already have. Instead of a sense of lack, you cultivate a sense of resourcefulness and opportunity by spotting ways you experience abundance daily.

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 commitment did I honour today?

If you are looking to build discipline and keep up the promises you make to yourself, this prompt will do two things for you.
Firstly, it will help you notice the small commitments you have actually kept during your day, so you can build momentum. Taking a cold shower (to yourself), coming back home in time (to your spouse), sending an email within a deadline (to your team), and any other small commitment will no longer go unnoticed.
Secondly, it will show you patterns of where you are falling short: by going through your daily commitments, you will also notice areas that do need your work.

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

How could I have made today even better?

Notice the stress on even better.
This question is specifically phrased to make you focus on the positive in your day (not the bad stuff), and stretching you to think of ways to further upgrade it. So you can make each day even better.
Remember to phrase your reflection in the past, just like if you actually did it.

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.


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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



 

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.

"I don't have time for ______"

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Is time management a waste of time?

We have an odd relationship with the concept of time.

“How do you find the time to do x?”
is one of the most deceiving and disempowering questions ever.

We all have 24 hours a day.
No exception.

Time cannot be found, yet that very expression encloses the widespread expectation that time isn’t here yet. That we are still missing something.
That there is a golden pot at the end of the pendulum.

Future expectations forsake the present, until we’re forced to look back and regret the past.
This is the most stressful form of time-travelling.

Like a horse wearing blinkers, we focus on what’s ahead, when the golden pot is sitting next to us the whole time.

Future expectations forsake the present, until we're forced to look back and regret the past. Click To Tweet

Time is actually simple.

Every day, we move through space in 3 dimensions.
Walk to work, extend your arm forward, nip to your favourite coffee shop, lean to your right while you wait, go for a jog along the river. You know what I’m talking about: moving.

We also move through time.
The difference is – we have no control over speed and direction.
In other words, we can only move forward, and only at a constant speed of…1 minute per minute.

time management is a waste of time

The doodle is actually 2D.
We move through space in 3 dimensions (using some combination of left-right; up-down; front-back).

Time management: a collective delusion?

Time cannot be lost or found, nor stored up.

From President Trump to the Uber driver you spoke to last week, from the person sitting next to you right now to Usain Bolt, (passing by you and me), we all have 24 hours a day.

Here are the biggest time lies.

Managing time

Time management implies you are in charge of time. This sets your up for disappointment.
Time moves, whatever you do (or don’t do), at a constant speed.

What you can actually do, is manage yourself in relation to time. More on this below.

Finding time and losing time

If anyone ever succeeded in finding time, please let me know.
If anyone has ever lost any time, also kindly let me know.
Like a banknote forgotten inside the pocket of an old coat, I’d like to find it (and keep it).

Wait, would that be a waste of time?

Wasting time and using time

These two are spin-offs of time management.
Let me be clear: you cannot stop time. What you do with your present moment, is up to you.

Sure, waiting for the bus or for someone who’s late may feel like “a waste of time”, but only if you forget to experience that time. The feeling of wasting time comes from your expectation of reality following the plans you made up in your head.
What if that wait was a gift? What can you experience instead?

Making time

Email me, I’d like to buy some freshly made time from you.

Spending time

…as opposed to saving up time?

I don’t have time

This is a case of poor priorities, masked as an external problem. 24 hours, remember?

This matters, because the ways you talk and think about time determine your expectations and attitude towards it.

If you are convinced you can manage time, you condemn yourself to daily frustration and guilt. When there’s nothing you could have managed in the first place.
If you tell yourself (and others around you) you still need to find the time, you subscribe to a lifetime of helpless procrastination.

Sure, you can still use some of these expression out of social convention – just don’t believe a word you’re saying. When you’re honest with yourself about your powers and your limitations, that’s when you can take responsibility and move forward.

If time management is a collective delusion, what can we actually do?

Time strategies

I want to propose a different view.
Time isn’t found or lost. It isn’t used or wasted.
Time is experienced.

I don’t mean you should let go of future plans, big objectives, and a general direction. Blasphemy.
I don’t mean you should indulge in the present, letting go of the direction given by the future and the lessons provided by the past.

What I propose is a shift of focus.

Rather than obsessing about the quantity of time, obsess about the quality of time.
How do you experience it?

Rather than focusing on managing time, focus on managing your choices.
What do you choose to do? What do you choose not to do?

The future is shaped by your present action.
The past is given purpose by your present reaction.

The only way to manage time is to manage yourself in relation to time.

What you choose to include and what you choose to left out is equally important.

The only way to manage time is to manage yourself in relation to time. Click To Tweet

Over time, your present choices will add up.

Like the most beautiful natural formations are the result of daily erosions and constant small shift, so your present actions will add up over time and create impressive results.
Consistency and patience is key.

So take the long-term view.

You have 24 hours a day.
So don’t focus on hours. Focus on days. Focus on weeks. Focus on months.
Show up, and manage your choices.

The only time management is actually a time strategy.

What will you choose? What will you leave out?

– Matt

PS: check out my favourite two questions to help you choose what to work on.


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Learn to say NO to say YES

How good are you at saying NO on a scale from 1 to 5?

If 1 was a total people pleaser, unable to let go of the smallest opportunity (even when it’s not that interesting), and 5 was a laser-focused NO-ninja, ready to say no to protect a greater vision, how would you score?

how to say no

Whether it’s to a person, to a skill, to an experience, or to an opportunity, saying no isn’t easy.
Will this opportunity ever come again?
Will the other person take offence?

Because we decide not to travel a certain road, we will rarely (if ever) be able to see what was waiting on the other end. Saying NO is a decision that never shows a clear outcome, unless we make one up.

To complicate things as usual, in come all sorts of cognitive biases to cloud our judgement.

Fear of Missing Out is the fear of having made the wrong decisions on how to spend time, and typically manifests in constantly contemplating how things could be different, and a need to stay connected with other people’s activities. Though the person doesn’t commit to a single decision, it can vicariously “access” several scenarios through other people’s experiences. It’s the ultimate yes-hemorrhage.

Loss Aversion is the tendency to prefer avoiding losses to acquiring equal gains: in other words, we cling to what we already have more than to what we want to have. It’s better not to lose $5, than to gain $5.
Saying NO closes an opportunity window you already have. No matter whether you would have sought that opportunity out in the first place, loss aversion will make it difficult for you to let go.

…finally, our good friend Decision Fatigue joins the group, making our ability to say NO dependent on our energy and what particular time of the day we have to make a decision.

Focus on a higher purpose

NO is the friend of focus.
NO is the friend of results.
NO is the friend of purpose.

Whenever you align your decisions towards a higher purpose, whether it’s a big personal change, helping someone else, or completing your personal mission; NO becomes easy.

It becomes your shield to fend off distractions on your way to your greater goal.

Better relationships, health, learning, personal growth, excellent work, tripling your output, all require laser focus. Which is a synonym for NO.

Set a clear vision of where you want your life to go, and then use NO to make it happen.

'NO' is a shield to protect the 'YES' that really matter. Click To Tweet

Don’t underestimate impact

Sometimes, it’s tempting to take a lot on.
Why not learning three languages instead of one?
Or start writing AND playing guitar. You just can’t help it.
Or take on as many business projects as you can so…at least one will succeed. Right?

Errr. 🚨

Having a clear vision of the future will allow you to identify which possibilities actually align with your purpose. And say NO to everything else.

Whatever’s left, prioritise you must.

You see, you don’t have to do everything today.
Seneca said it best, in 49 AD:

“Life is long, if you know how to use it.” — Seneca

What commitment will have the greatest impact on everything else?
Often, we look at the future without imagining it. We forget that circumstances will change as a result of our present decisions.
Find the commitment that will impact every other sphere, making it easier to take on the next challenge.
Whether it unlocks time, relationships, or resources, be strategic with your YESes, and you will make progress on everything else, automatically.

Fear opening another door

Whenever I catch myself being lavish with my ‘yeses’, I do a fear check.
Usually, it’s one of two fears that turns the yes tap on.

Fear of rejection

Fear of rejection is one of the deepest human fears, as we are biologically wired to seek belonging to our peer group.
The inability to say NO is often triggered by the fear of being judged and excluded by others.
Or a projection of the fear on the other person. That is, if you are particularly sensitive to being rejected, saying NO to other people and commitments will make you empathise with that same uncomfortable feeling. So you won’t do it. (That’s how a people pleaser is born).

learn to say no - rejection

Fear of change

Fear of change is a feeling of anxiety about the unknown.
It’s clinging to certainty, to what we already know, no matter how negative or boring it may be. It’s the root of self-sabotage.
Opening many doors and taking on new commitments all the time is a classic manifestation of this.
Whenever your reach your comfort threshold in any given activity, instead of grinding your teeth and pushing through to the next level…you can just take on a new commitment and start from scratch, so you’ll stay in the comfort zone. Easy right?

say-no-comfort-zone

Fear of change is really a form of fear of failure, which is ultimately…(you guessed it) fear of rejection.

No in disguise

Whenever you say yes, you’re actually saying many nos.
Your time, energy, focus, resources, all have a limit.
Whenever you say yes, you become unable to say YES to something else. Therefore, at some point, you have to say no. Sometimes with words, other times with actions. Or inaction.
No. Even though it was more important. Even though it was aligned with your purpose. Even though it would have had a larger impact.

Don’t say yes. Say NO.

Saying NO is saying YES to what really matters to you.

Learn to say NO

To become a NO-ninja, you have to start small and train yourself to say NO.
One does not go from NO-apprentice to NO-sensei in a day.

Check in with yourself: is this aligned with my higher purpose?
Check in with yourself: am I being guided by fear?

NO is the friend of focus.

Remember that every yes is actually many nos, and that saying NO is saying YES to what really matters to you.

NO. The new YES?

— Matt



Hedonic Adaptation: the dangers (and joys) of the new normal

Consider this. You are incarcerated.

Suddenly, you go from the comfort of your home and the freedom of your every day, to being confined to a seven-foot cell. Would you care if that was a nine-foot cell instead?
Chances are, you probably wouldn’t see much point in trying to get the “bigger” cell, as it wouldn’t much alleviate the loss of freedom and personal space. And that’s what a study on adaptation suggests, too.

But here’s the interesting twist: as you get adapted to living in the seven-foot cell, two things would happen. Your happiness would increase, along with your perceived value of the larger cell.

This is the power of the new normal.

Adapting both ways

We think of ‘the normal’ as a stable baseline for our level of happiness and fulfilment. A universal, firm concept. But ‘the normal’ is actually very fluid, and very personal.
It adapts to our expectations, as we adapt to our circumstances, in a phenomenon called Hedonic Adaptation.

Normal changes all the time.
Driving may feel normal to you now, but how did it feel the first time you drove?
You are taller now than when you were a small child. Does it feel any less normal?
There was even a time when you considered it normal to let your parents wipe your baby bottom.

Adaptation is a great skill, built right into our DNA.
When circumstances change, our expectations change with us.

But Hedonic Adaptation goes both ways.

In a 1978 psychological study, researchers evaluated the happiness levels of recent lottery winners and recently injured paraplegics, comparing them to those of the general population.
As you guessed, the lottery winners experienced a spike in their happiness levels immediately after their win, whereas the paralised accident victims experienced a dip.
But within (only) two months, both groups had returned very close to the average level of happiness of the control population.

And, when asked about their expectations for the future, and to rate their everyday experiences, both groups reported very close levels of happiness, with the accident victims having a slightly more positive view about the future.

hedonic-adaptation-chart

As the two groups adapted to their new circumstances, Hedonic Adaptation kicked in, establishing a “new normal” with updated expectations.

Whether it’s a new flat, a relationship, a higher salary, a new car, moving to a new city, all these things tend to become normal, fast.
Seeking happiness through buying things especially, though intuitive in a consumeristic society, can turn into a trap. As you get used to the short-term rush of buying something exciting, you have to continually raise your game as it gets swallowed by the new normal.
Reaching the same level of happiness requires more and more energy and money.

Hedonic Adaptation can be a blessing, or a curse.

Hedonic wellbeing

Let’s take a step back.
The word hedonism derives from the Greek word for pleasure, hēdonē.
Hedonic wellbeing is focused on maximising pleasure and minimising pain. This is done through increasing positive emotions (like excitement, relief, pride, and of course, happiness), and limiting negative states (such as fear, hate, and sadness).

The issue is that not only these emotions are dependent on fleeting circumstances: we adapt to them until they’re no longer exciting. They become the new normal.
This makes us slaves to a constant game of catching up, like running backwards on an airport’s travelator.

hedonic adaptation

Is there a way to cope with Hedonic Adaptation?

How to use hedonic adaptation to your advantage

Deliberate scarcity

Taking away what you consider normal for a period of time, and adding artificial constraints, is a great way to actually notice it. After the break, the contrast will make the usual feel special again.

For example, I like to sleep on the floor once a month, practice a 60-hour fast every so often, and add constraints periodically. No matter how simple it is, having breakfast after nearly 3 days without food makes that breakfast feel and taste amazing.

https://twitter.com/mattsandrini/status/833604593183490048

Appreciate abundance

I’m a big fan of practising abundance: raising the standard that you ask from yourself is a great way to keep raising your game. It also contrasts negative thoughts and scarcity mindset.

However, I like to be mindful of what I am doing and appreciate that abundance in my life. Which brings me to…

Practice gratitude to keep the focus on small things

Gratitude is a simple practice that can have a massive impact  on your everyday life.
Some of my favourite tools to integrate it into my everyday life are gratitude walks, being present in what I do, and the simple and effective 5 Minute Journal.

Maximise enjoyment

Knowing what makes you happy and fulfilled is key to maximising enjoyment.
It’s easy to follow what other people see as positive, only to find out (or never quite understand) that it’s not really for us. Fulfilment requires self-awareness.
Once you know what make you feel better, go all in and have fun with it, ignoring those activities that only have a marginal effect.

Remove, don’t add

When it comes to buying new things, I love to use a question that I learnt from the wise Mr Money Moustache.
“Will it remove a negative or add a positive?”
Removing a negative, like replacing a painfully slow washing machine with a new, fast one, will have a direct and long-lasting impact on something you already notice daily.
Adding a positive, like buying a new car for no real reason, will create short-lived excitement, and add unpredictable complexities, like the need for a new garage or the fear of damaging it, that will actually result in more negatives.

Fleeting vs long-term

To contrast the traps of Hedonic Adaptation, think long-term.

The notion of eudaimonic well-being has been accompanying the hedonic view for many centuries.
Instead of focusing on subjective and fleeting emotions, eudaemonic well-being derives from experiencing personal growth, facing new challenges, and a sense of purpose and contribution.

Unlike the emotions behind hedonic well-being, these continue over time and build on constant progress, rather than being isolated events. And, unlike spending on things, investing in growth experiences will keep paying back in happiness and skills.

Hedonic Adaptation turns most changes into the new normal.
To turn fleeting happiness into long-lasting fulfilment, train yourself to appreciate the present experience and think long term, beyond yourself.

— Matt

PS: learn how to shortcut your personal growth through other people.