Focus Less on Goals and More on Habits

I’ve always been a goal-setter, especially at the beginning of a new year. I love to make a list of lofty but achievable goals that inspire and motivate me.

The problem is, I never take the time to establish a system of daily, repeatable habits that will help me to actually achieve my goals. I simply hope the goals themselves will be enough motivation to cause me to take action every day. That never works.

So, when I stumbled upon Atomic Habits by James Clear, I was excited to get this book and dive in. And man am I glad that I did! This book is filled with so many great ideas, insights, and tips to help you develop good habits and eliminate bad ones.

Clear does a masterful job of explaining his four laws for creating a good habit:

1) Make it obvious

2) Make it attractive

3) Make it easy

4) Make it satisfying

And he also inverts each law to provide additional help in breaking a bad habit:

1) Make it invisible

2) Make it unattractive

3) Make it difficult

4) Make it unsatisfying

Here are a few nuggets that really stuck with me:

  • Habits are the compound interest of self-improvement. Try to get 1% better everyday. At the end of a year, you’ll be 37 times better!
  • We don’t rise to the level of our goals; we fall to the level of our systems.
  • Habits are not a finish line to be crossed; they are a lifestyle to be lived.
  • Success is the product of daily habits–not once-in-a-lifetime transformations.
  • Your outcomes are a lagging measure of your habits. You get what you repeat.

I also recorded a recent plug for the book that you can watch here:

If you are looking for a resource that will help you develop a system for improving your habits, go get this book. I couldn’t put it down, and I didn’t want it to end.

I look forward to continuing to unpack the material and dive into James’ weekly writings. I encourage you to do the same!

Book Review: 15 Secrets Successful People Know About Time Management

Need help managing your time more effectively? Well, join the club! The reality is, we all struggle with managing and navigating all of the tasks and competing priorities that we encounter on a daily basis. I know I do. Lately it has become such a challenge for me that I started researching some books that might help me improve my time management.

While conducting my search, I located a book called 15 Secrets Successful People Know About Time Management by Kevin Kruse. I immediately downloaded it to my Kindle and began reading it. The book is a quick read with short chapters and lots of practical ideas, which I love. In addition, Kruse incorporates a number of ideas and tips from other people (hence the title), which again provides great practical advice from people who are good at managing their time. I don’t about you, but I enjoy the practical way more than the theoretical. I want to hear what works for others.

Here are a few of the key takeaways from the book:

1) Focus on minutes. Specifically, think of the number 1440 (the amount of minutes in a day), and start focusing on how to maximize those limited minutes you have each day.

2) Identify your MIT. Not the school… your Most Important Task. Get clear about this each day and commit two hours of uninterrupted time to this task.

3) Don’t use to-do lists. Yikes! I use these all the time. Instead, Kruse instructs you to use your calendar to schedule everything.

4) Only check e-mail three times a day. Schedule specific, uninterrupted time to check and respond to e-mail each day.

5) Delegate or outsource. Focus only on your unique ability and what you do best. Delegate or outsource everything else.

6) Use daily themes. Have work themes for each day of the week and organize all of your work tasks and projects around those themes.

7) Touch things only once. If something takes less than 10 minutes to complete, do it immediately.

8) Focus on energy, not time. By maximizing your energy (through sleep, diet, exercise, and scheduled breaks), you will in turn maximize your time.

These are just a sampling of the key points — there are many more great insights and ideas. In the book, Kruse brings each of these to life and provides real-world examples of how successful people are utilizing these principles. I’ve already put some of these tips into action, and I am seeing the results already. My e-mail inbox has never been so clean!

My guess is that you could use some help managing your time too. Whether it’s this book or a different one, I suggest you find a resource that will help you get more focused and intentional about how you use your time each day. Remember, you only have 1440 minutes.

5 Leadership Book Recommendations for 2016

If you want to get better as a leader, then you need to commit time daily to reading something that will fill your mind with valuable leadership knowledge and insight. Something that will challenge you to think critically about the way you lead and cause you to examine yourself closer.

Below are five leadership book recommendations for 2016. Having read them this past year, I’m confident that the content will help you become a better, more effective leader. But only if you apply what you learn! So before you read any of these, you must first commit to being open to what you read and willing to let it change your thinking and behavior.

1) Dare to Serve (Cheryl Bachelder) – If you want to learn how to apply the principles of servant leadership to your organization, then this book is for you. I’ve never seen a more convincing and compelling case for servant leadership than the one articulated by Bachelder. Easy, practical read with deep insight and application for any leader in any industry.

2) Leadership & Self-Deception (Arbinger Institute) – Wow, this book will cause you to take a HARD look at yourself! Be ready to rip the blinders off and hold up a mirror when reading this one. The message in this leadership fable is powerful and transformational, getting right to the heart of what causes conflict and discord in organizations and teams. It should be required reading for every leader and team member.

3) The Work of Leaders (Julie Straw, Mark Scullard, Susie Kukkonen, & Barry Davis) – Based on years and years of research and experience, this book articulates the essential elements of effective and results-oriented leadership. It is full of practical tools and action items that can be immediately applied to your organization. Once you start reading it you won’t want to put it down.

4) Creativity, Inc. (Ed Catmull with Amy Wallace) – I initially resisted reading this one because I was not very interested in learning about the history and culture of Pixar. However, I was blown away by the vast number of leadership lessons and ideas presented by Catmull. There is a reason that Pixar has been so successful, and it all starts with the leadership philosophy and culture of the company. By applying the lessons learned at Pixar, this book will help you create a more healthy and transparent culture at your organization.

5) Tough Choices (Carly Fiorina) – This is not a political book–it’s a memoir. But more than that, it’s a book about leadership in the trenches. Fiorina is brutally honest and open in articulating her account of what it takes to be an effective, courageous leader in the corporate world. Any leader in any industry can learn from Fiorina’s success and failure as a leader. This is not a quick read, but it’s very in-depth and transparent, giving you an inside look into the challenges that leaders face in the corporate boardroom.

So there you go … five book recommendations that are certain to help you get better as a leader. But only if you read them and apply them. As Bill Hybels often says, “Everyone wins when a leader gets better.” One way to do that is by reading and learning from other leaders.

If you have any additional recommendations or feedback, please feel free to share!