The Gap

Do you sometimes find yourself worrying or stressing out over where you want to be and where you are right now?  I know I do.  If you’re like me,  you can sometimes feel like where you want to be is so far away from where you are now that you will never be able to get there. Maybe you want to open a business or maybe you want to make a certain amount of money. Maybe right now your goals seem so far out of reach that you won’t ever be able to achieve them.  Your goals will always shift and they will always be out there in the future.  They may sometimes or always seem unreachable.  I learned an awesome exercise from my friend AJ Roberts that can really help you change your mindset and will help you learn how to really get your head in the right place so that you aren’t focusing on all of the things you haven’t achieved yet.

Enter “The Gap”

The gap is that space between where you are right now and where you want to be.  If we focus on that gap it can be bad for us.  We need to think more about what we have accomplished.  What are our “wins?”  Just how far have we come?  This exercise will help you think more positively about yourself and your goals. Instead of focusing on what you don’t have right now, this exercise helps you see all of the great things you have done to get you where you are right now. This in turn will help you think positively about the future and instead of worrying or stressing out about it you can can be excited about all of the incredible things that are going to happen over the coming days, months and years. 

Here is an example of how this works.  Where were you 3 years ago?  Write it down. Everything about what was going on for you 3 years ago. Were you working? Making money? Where did you live? Write everything down. Take a minute and think about all of the things you write down. 

Now write down where you are today. Same stuff. What’s changed?  What things are better?  Take a minute and think about all of the progress you have made in the last three years. Think about all of the lessons you have learned and how much of a better person you are now than you were then. 

Now instead of thinking about how far away you are from where you want to be, focus instead on all of the things you have accomplished and all of the things you are going to accomplish in the next three years. Think about yourself in three years sitting down to work through this exercise again. Think about how much progress you will have made in that time.  

It doesn’t have to be 3 years though.  It can be 5 years, 1 year, 6 months or even one day.  There is a really cool app that I found called WinStreak.  Every day it will ask you “What were your wins today?”

winstreak

Every day I can put in my wins for the day and add in things that I want to win at tomorrow.  This helps me focus on the positive things that I’m getting done and not the things I am not getting done or things that I can’t do right now.  Anyway, this is a very simple, yet powerful exercise that can really help out a lot.  Especially if you are one who is struggling with feeling positive about where you are going in life and where you want to be.

Bonus: Check out this video of Dan Sullivan talking about the 3 wins:

The Gap

How To Use Email To Be More Productive

communicationA couple of months ago a friend of mine told me about a way he manages his inbox that he called “Inbox Zero.”  This really grabbed my attention because my email inbox was full with thousands and thousands of emails.  Some read, some not read, and lots of junk.  When I visualized a completely empty inbox it was a little like daydreaming about winning the lottery.  Something that would be really nice, but it was just never going to happen.  However, here I sit writing this article and I’ve had an empty inbox for over a month now.  I check email only two times per day and end every day with an empty inbox.  I am going to show you exactly how I do it and how I made this happen.

Let me start by telling you about my old way of “doing email.”  First, I never deleted anything out of my inbox and I constantly checked my email.  If something came into my inbox and someone was requesting something from me I would immediately respond or start working on what they wanted me to do (<—psst that’s a key point).  For years I took pride in the fact that I was “always available” and would answer emails so quickly.  I let my inbox drive my day and decide what I was going to work on.  I basically let everyone else decide what I was going to work on and how I was going to spend my time.  Over the years, this method led to what I have come to call the “Shotgun Method” of working.  That is, multi-tasking on overdrive,  working on many things at once and never spending large, focused chunks of time on any one task.  Once I started working on managing my own time and really focusing on what needed to get done vs. what other people wanted me to get done this “Shotgun Method” of getting things done had to change.  This is why the “Inbox Zero” idea appealed so much to me.  It was the beginning of a more productive and organized life.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have everything figured out.  I’m still working really hard on time management and productivity, but having an empty inbox every day is making that much easier.

I have been going through a program called “Wake Up Productive” that was built by a guy named Eben Pagan.  I could get off on a really big tangent here, but to make a LONG story short between the Wake Up Productive program and listening to and reading a lot of Tim Ferriss podcasts and articles I made a couple of decisions:

  • I would empty my inbox every day
  • I would only check email twice per day (and NOT first thing in the morning)

By doing these two things it would set me up to be in control of my time and what I did with it.  I could now sit down in the morning and decide exactly what I was going to get done that day.  I wouldn’t be driven by what happened to land in my inbox at that moment.  Again, I could get off on a really big tangent here and if anyone is interested I could write another article just on this topic.  The important thing to know here is that shifting the way I do email is key to getting control of my day and my life to be perfectly honest.

Most of the emails that we get are not urgent.  They do not have to be done immediately.  Sometimes the people sending those emails think they should be done immediately, but that’s their problem not ours.  This is an important mindset for you to have going into this new way of doing email.  Let’s be honest with ourselves though.  There are times that people are going to need you to do something immediately.  Urgent tasks do come up.  For me, anyone with such a task for me has my phone number and will send me a text message.  I will check my email at Noon and 4 P.M.  Watch the video below to see how I go about doing this.  There are a couple of things you need to do before getting started though.

Use Gmail

If you aren’t using gmail, and it’s possible to switch to gmail I highly recommend it.  I’m sure you could figure out how to adapt these “Inbox Zero” methods with another email system, but gmail is the best in my opinion.  So get with it!  If you own a company with a team of people then Google Apps is a great option as well.

Turn On Keyboard Shortcuts in Gmail

Follow this link to see how this is done——>All about gmail keyboard shortcuts.  This is an awesome little feature that I never knew about until I started doing this.  I’m sure there is something comparable in Outlook or whatever email app you might be using.  You may have to just do a little research and figure a workaround if gmail isn’t an option for you.

Without further ado, here’s what my email checking process looks like:

Other Helpful Resources:

 

How To Use Email To Be More Productive

The Filter

filter-xxlMy friend Christian runs a blog called The Maverick CEO.  A couple of weeks ago he did a podcast that I really loved with a girl named Debra Trappen.  When I clicked through to her website I ended up finding something REALLY cool that I have found very useful to me when making decisions in business and in life.  If you go to the D11 Consulting website you’ll see the option to enter your email and get a “Define Your Core Values” worksheet.

The idea is that if everything you do is aligned with your “core values” then you will be a much happier person.  It makes absolutely no sense to spend time on anything that you don’t really believe in or are not passionate about.  You only live once, and there is no reason to be doing things that you don’t want to be doing or things that don’t help you get to where you want to be.

So the worksheet is basically a giant checklist with a bunch of words on it.  You check off the things that you care about or the things that are important to you.  Once you’ve checked off all of the things you care about, you start to narrow down to just 10 words.  Once you’ve narrowed it down, you have your 10 core values.

I need to insert a caveat here.  I think I may have used the worksheet a little bit different than it was intended.  I immediately eliminated words like “family” and “spirituality.”  Those words, for me, are a given. Every decision I make is really to better not only myself, but my family.  So I focused on building a list of key words that I could use as a filter for making decisions in my life going forward because I was/am struggling with doing way too many things and saying “yes” to everything that anyone asks me.

Anyway, I came up with my list, and I would like to share it with you.  Once I figured it out I felt so much more confident in what I was doing.  I made an image for my phone’s screen saver and every time I look at my phone I see these words.  Every time I find myself having to make a decision I refer to this list.  If the decision I have to make does not help or enhance any of these areas of my life in any way then I say no. Check this out:

thefilter

These are not in any kind of order of importance or anything like that.  They are just words that I can use as filters when making decisions.  Here’s the run down:

Passion

Am I passionate about what’s being asked of me?  If not then it’s an immediate no. If you need to get your idea, product or business online I am game.  If you have a fitness goal that you really want to make happen I can help you.  If you want to run your first marathon or want to figure out how to sell your product online to your customers, I am all about it!  If you need someone to take out your garbage or teach you how to use Microsoft Outlook I’m not your guy.  I’ll say no unless you just REALLY want to pay me a lot of money to take out your garbage. 🙂

Coolness

Is it cool?  This is a tough one, but I can honestly say that every project I’m working on and every client that I have right now is cool.  I am not embarrassed by anything that I’m doing right now at all.  I’m not doing anything that I don’t enjoy just to make money.  Again, this is a tough one.  I’m gonna have to work hard on this one because if you offer me the right amount of money I might cave!

Creativity

Does this thing that is being asked of me allow me to be creative?   Am I challenged to come up with a solution or am I given freedom to try different things?  I am a somewhat creative person.  I’m not a great designer or artist, but I do have a musical background and I do love creating new things and expressing myself.  If what you are asking me to do is something new and creative or gives me a chance to think outside of the box or outside of outside of the box then I’ll say yes.

Excellence

Is what I’m doing better than everything else in it’s category?  Is it excellent?  If not, ditch it.  Say no.  I don’t want to do anything that isn’t awesome.

Excitement

Am I excited about this thing that I am doing?  If not, stop it.  Say no.  I don’t want to do anything that I’m not excited about.  It doesn’t help me or the person that asked me to do it.

Celebrity

Ok, this can be a tough one for some people to get their brain around.  If you run a business or you are trying to help people in some way then you are a celebrity whether you like it or not.  People watch you and watch the decisions you make and if you are doing what they want to do then they are going to copy you.  That’s awesome, but it can be hard.  You have to make sure that you are doing everything you can to represent yourself as the celebrity that you are.  Get yourself in newspaper articles, podcasts, blog posts, etc.  However, remember in your everyday life that you represent your brand.  People see what you do and associate that with everything that you endorse and promote.  This might be the hardest one of all.  Promote yourself and walk the walk.  Don’t just talk the talk.  Does what you are being asked to do help you promote your celebrity?  If not, maybe you should think twice.

Uniqueness

Simple.  Is this thing unique?  Is everyone else doing it?  Is nobody else doing it?  If not, do it.  Is you know a ton of people doing it then refer to the other filters. 🙂

Compassion

Do you/I care about the thing that we are being asked to do?  Do I have a skill that can help someone in need?  Do I see a situation where something that I can do can drastically improve someone else’s situation?  If we see a situation like this that we can help out in, then I believe that it is our duty as humans to help out.  If this is the case, then it’s a no brainer.  I’m here for anyone that really needs me or my services in that way.

Fitness

Not going to say much about this one as it’s obvious.  I love fitness and feel like taking care of yourself is the best thing you can do for you and your loved ones.

Sharing

Can I share something that I know with someone that doesn’t know?  This is huge!  If I have some skill or something that someone else needs to know for their own personal development I am sharing it with them.  Can I contribute to some open source project or can I help someone reach their own goals by sharing some knowledge with them?  I’m going to share it.  No matter what.  We should all want to help each other become better human beings, better husbands, better dads, better business people, better coaches, and on and on and on.  If you have something you can share with others to make them better people then you better do it.


There you have it.  My 10 filters that I’m going to use to make all of my decisions.  Remember though that family comes first.  Loved ones come first.  Spirituality comes first.  If at any time these ten things butt heads with Family, loved ones or your own spirituality then those that are close to you come first.  Don’t compromise on that.

Some projects may not help all of these things, but I am asking myself every time I’m asked to do something whether or not it enhances or helps one of these areas.  If not, I’m going to say no.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Filter

Negative Energy

mopeyToday I listened to this podcast:  http://thefoundation.com/podcast/episode66/.  Starting From Nothing:  The Foundation Podcast is a great podcast that features entrepreneurs that basically started from nothing and grew to do millions of dollars of business or more.  This particular episode is with Ari Weinzweig who is the founder of a Deli up in Ann Arbor called Zingerman’s.  This guy is really awesome.  I loved listening to him talk about his business and how he runs his company.  There were a lot of business related nuggets I took away from this podcast, but there were even more nuggets that I took away that I thought could apply to all of our personal lives.

The biggest thing was negative energy.  He talked a lot about surrounding yourself with people that encourage you and make you feel like getting things done, making things happen, and then removing or avoiding the people in your life that are always negative and making you feel bad.  This has been a huge thing for me in the last year.  How do you seek out and find people to hang out with that inspire you to be creative and get things done?  More importantly, how do you become that person that other awesome people are attracted to and want to hang out with? How can we make sure that we don’t give off that negative energy that puts people off and keeps us from being productive, creative, inspiring, and all those positive things.

We need to be able to take an honest look at ourselves and how we are behaving.  Do we find ourselves complaining about a lot of stuff ?  If so, we need to try to catch ourselves doing it and change the negatives into positives.  Instead of complaining and griping about things try to talk about something positive.  Set a goal to not say anything negative for 7 days.  See how many days you can go without saying something negative.  That could be a lot harder than it sounds for many of us.

What about taking responsibility for things happening around you?  Do you find yourself blaming other people for things happening around you?  Take some time and think about your situation.  Are you playing the role of “victim” on a regular basis or do you take responsibility and control the situation?  We can try the same 7 day experience here as well.  See if we can go 7 days without blaming someone or something else for whatever situation we find ourselves in.  See if we can take control of what could potentially be a negative situation and either let it go or turn it into something positive.  Nobody wants to be around that person that is always talking negative about other people or blaming other people for their situation.  People want to hang out with positive people that take responsibility and make things happen.

I am not really sure I got my point across here, but the what I am trying to say is that you want you need positive people around you in order to be successful.  If you find yourself feeling negative or feeling bad every time someone is around it could be a sign that you don’t need to spend so much time with this person.  If you know people that inspire you and whenever you are around them you want to do great things and make things happen, find more people like that and figure out how to hang out with them more.  In addition, if you find that nothing is really going on around you or you don’t have anyone around you that’s doing awesome stuff then maybe your negativity is ruining their mojo.  Dont’ be afraid to take a hard and honest look at yourself and most importantly be ready to make positive changes.

 

Negative Energy

Let Us Enjoy This Fantastic Voyage

shutterstock_176640380One of my new goals that I am trying really hard to work toward is making everything I do fun and enjoyable.    If something is not fun, satisfying, enjoyable, or if I do not get some sort of sense of accomplishment out of it then I am going to try my hardest to not do that thing.  Of course, we all have times when there are things we must do that we really do not like doing.  In those instances I am going to make a point to figure out a way to make it fun.

Here I am once again with an idea that I have no clue where I got it from.  I am listening to so many podcasts at this point that I am having trouble keeping up with who I hear say things.  I guess it does not really matter as long as there is a positive change in my life or behavior.  Anyway, the idea is basically that you should try to insert fun into everything you do.  Most of us take ourselves way too seriously most of the time, and when we take ourselves too seriously I feel like it makes it harder for us to make an impact or lasting impression on anyone.

A perfect example of this is coaching a CrossFit class.  It can be so easy to get into a routine when coaching classes and forgetting about the experience of the people in that class.  In our gym we have been putting a lot of energy into our “Free Saturday Class.”  We invite anyone and everyone to come workout with us.  Usually there are 2 or 3 people in this class that have never experienced a “WoD” before.  I have really been working on making sure that everyone has a really good time at these workouts.  The last three Saturdays we have had over 20 people come to workout, and from my perspective they have all had a really good experience and have had a fun time as well.  I could easily walk into the gym, write a workout on the board, start the clock and say go without talking to anyone.  But that is not fun for me or anyone else.  It’s boring and nobody would want to come back again if there was no interaction and no fun.  Not only that, but that would not be any fun for me as a coach either.  It’s just a bad experience all the way around.  I would rather walk in the gym with a ton of energy, chat with people, do a fun warmup, turn the music up loud and scream and yell at people.  That is WAY more fun!

That was a pretty obvious example, but how can we take this and apply it to other things?  How can I make sure every class I coach is like the Saturday classes?  How can I shift my perspective when it comes time to mow the yard (I hate mowing the yard)?  How can I make that task that I hate doing become something that I can enjoy or even something I have fun with?  I don’t really have all of the answers for that, but I do know that it starts with your mindset and being aware of what you are doing.  Before I begin a task or start doing anything I can stop and think, “Is there a way I can make this fun?  How can this be better and more enjoyable?”  In addition, I can stop and make sure I’m not taking myself too seriously.

So let’s get out there and have some fun!  Let’s enjoy our lives.  Life is too short to walk around all stuffy and serious all the time.  Let’s think about how we can make everything we do enjoyable and fun.  I will report back in a week or so and let you know how it’s going.  In the meantime, I leave you with this video of the worst line reading ever…

Let Us Enjoy This Fantastic Voyage

Always Be Present

vonmurphyPut your phone on “Do Not Disturb.”  Stop checking Facebook messages, email messages, and worrying about whether or not there is a set of parenthesis with a number in it in one of those browser tabs.  If you know what I mean by that last one then we are most certainly on the same page.

Probably the biggest and most important thing that I have learned over the last year (and the one thing I still struggle with the most) is that I need to be 100% present in every moment of my life.  Remember that bad movie with Adam Sandler where he found a remote control that would allow him to fast forward through moments of his life?  At the end of the movie he wondered why nobody paid any attention to him or why he missed out on so many things in the lives of his family members and co-workers or whatever it was.  I haven’t seen the movie in a long time and I know I won’t watch it again, but that’s what I remember taking away from that movie.  That’s what I feel like when I look back at the 9 to 5, “going through the motions” life.  I’ve discovered that it’s also one of the hardest things to change.

We let ourselves get so distracted with social media, phones, computers, and even television.  There is so much going on around us in the real world that we should be paying attention to instead.  So how do we change this?  How do we get to the point where we are 100% present in every moment of our life without letting ourselves get distracted by the millions of distracting things around us?  Well, if you have any good tips please let me know.  I’ll share with you a couple of things that I’ve been putting in place recently to help me break out of the “distracted” lifestyle.

First, turn off the notifications on your phone.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve looked over at my phone when I heard a vibration or sound letting me know there is something for me to look at on social media or email.  Then once I look at it my productivity is completely drained.  I’m off in the “social media rabbit hole.”  If you just can’t bring yourself to go cold turkey without notifications, your phone (at least your iPhone) has a “Do Not Disturb” function.  Whenever you sit down to work, use it.  Don’t let yourself get distracted from your work.  When you’re done with what you’re working on then you can take a break and check your notifications and handle anything important.  Hint:  Most of the time it’s not important!

Second, schedule time to check and answer email.  This is another HUGE one for me.  For a long time I took a little pride in the fact that I would always answer emails just about immediately.  It has been a real challenge for me to focus on work and not get distracted by incoming email.  However, I find that when I focus on one project at a time and schedule time to answer emails I get WAY more accomplished than when I am constantly watching my inbox.  If I am constantly watching my inbox it is way too easy to get distracted from the project I am working on and forget what I was doing beforehand.  Hint:  Most of the time the emails that come in don’t need to be answered immediately.

Third, sit down and plan your day.  Either make it part of your morning routine or do it the night before, but you need to plan exactly what you are going to do for the day and get it done.  Sometimes I like to use real pen and paper and other times I like to use Evernote.  I sit down every morning, review the previous day, and write down what is going to get done that day.    It helps me stay on track and it helps me to be more productive.

It’s super important to be able to focus on one thing at a time.  This helps in so many areas.  Without distractions you’ll find yourself becoming a better listener, being more productive, being a better Dad, Husband, Wife, Friend, Coach, etc.  You might think that you can “multi-task,” but when you do the quality of whatever you do is decreasing.  Try these three things for 30 days and I bet you’ll find that your productivity and your life has improved sufficiently.

 

 

 

Always Be Present