The secret of your success is hidden in your daily routine.
The actions you complete day to day form your life. To ensure you're doing the right actions every single day requires the right structures to be in place, guiding your path.
To do this we must build a house.
First, let's get things straight. I'm no carpenter and I wouldn't trust myself to build a birdhouse.
Building an actual human house...? Forgetaboutit!
I'm a personal trainer with an unusually keen interest in helping people build discipline and structure in their lives. I may see a client for just three hours a week, so what happens in those other 165 hours of the week is crucial.
Yet, even with the carpentry skills of an overgrown hamster, I HAVE build my own house - I've built out the way I live. The design, foundations, walls and furniture have all been meticulously placed in a way I can live my life to it's fullest.
I've created this system through endless trial and error, learning from the best in the world.
Now it's time for me to share how you can do this too.
In my experience, there are 3 steps to building a house (and structuring your days).
1. Choose the location and design the house.
2. Lay the foundation and build the framework.
3. Put up walls, add in furniture and make the whole thing pretty.
So grab your trusty hammer, bring a few nails and let's get building.
Choosing the location for your house
The right location for your house is priority number one. If you want to live by the beach but build a house in the country... well, you kinda screwed up.
Similarly, you must have a goal.
As a man with gigantic hands once said,
"You can't have a plan for your day, 'til you have a plan for your life."
- Tony Robbins
He's completely right. How can you successfully plan your day if you have no idea what the desired outcome is? You did everything on your to-do list, but did it get your closer to your goal?
To focus your direction there are two parts you'll need to run through; a 5-year vision and the 1-year goals which will pave the way to that 5-year vision becoming reality.
(check out this article for an audacious goal-setting breakdown)
The 5-Year Vision
For your vision I want you to imagine how you'd like your life to look in 5-years time. Imagine it in such detail it feels completely real. Write down all the different things going on (I find jotting down bullets on a pen and paper the easiest way to let your mind wander).
Cover the areas of family, career, health, finances, personal growth, romance, fun, physical environment and any contributions you've made to the world.
That should get your visionary juices flowing.
Your 5-year vision gives you a North Star to aim for. It's guaranteed to change along the way, and that's fine. We really have no idea where we'll be in 5 years time, but if you have an idea in your head of where you'd like to be there's a much higher chance you'll get there.
The 1-Year Goals
Once your 5-year vision is set you can break it down into yearly chunks. What are the things which will need to happen in the next one year to be on track for your vision? It's best to organise this into four aspects:
As an example, let me share with you some of my 2019 goals in each of these areas.
Health - Finish my 12-hour sled push charity event, complete the Spartan Beast, walk the Oxfam 50km and compete in two biathlons.
Wealth - Invest $10k, save $25k and grow Executive Performance past six figures.
Personal Development - Attend 2 conferences, read 25+ books, complete 1-2 NLP courses.
Social - Travel to 2 new countries, become an ambassador for a mental health charity and forge deeper relationships with core people in my life.
Each of these is distinct, achievable and is directly in line with my vision. I know if I'm able to achieve these I'll be one step closer to where I want to be.
Give it some thought yourself and see what you come up with.
Okay, now you know where to build your house we can start to look at the overall design, slowly working in the details to the perfect structure.
You know where your house is going.
Time to design it.
You have your direction, your vision and your goals - perfect. Now you're able to break it down into what's going to need to happen on a smaller scale to make it happen.
In other words, what is your house going to look like?
There are a few special designer tricks we'll use to determine this.
Mastering the Necessary Skills & Systems
For your 1-year goals, there are certain skills you'll need to master and acts you'll need to repeatedly perform to achieve them.
Skills are the things you'll need to learn, and eventually master. Systems are the repeated actions, habits and processes which must happen consistently.
To determine the skills you'll need, ask yourself this question:
"What skills and expertise will I need to master to improve the odds of achieving my 1-year goals?"
For example, a few things on my own 2019 list include:
I know I'll need to put direct effort into improving these skills to increase the likelihood of reaching my goal.
Systems are the actions needed to make the goal happen. Any sort of goal can be broken down into a few key actions which will need to happen (or happen consistently) to reach it.
For example, if the skill is public speaking I'll need to practice solo, practice in front of friends, practice in front of strangers and learn how to use gestures and tone to make it engaging.
Another example is breaking my goal of travelling to 2 new countries. There are certain things I'll need to do such as:
Decide where I want to go and when I'll go.
Work out how much it will cost.
Start putting money into the travel account.
Book flights and accommodation.
As you can see, it's a system.
Breaking goals down into skills and systems allows you to take those first few steps.
A Year of Quarters
The best thing to do next is to turn the whole year into quarters. Twelve months is a long time away and some of your goals may seem unreachable, by breaking it into four 3-month blocks you're able to direct focus, set smaller goals within reach and reassess your progress often.
"You can do anything, but not everything."
- David Allen
Think Q1, Q2, Q3 and Q4, with each quarter building on the last.
Now you have complete clarity on what you truly want.
You've set goals and have broken them down into their parts and processes. It seems achievable. Next up is to direct your focus on your week.
Laying the foundation
Any home starts with a foundation, the base upon which everything is built. Only when you've determined your long-term goals and determined what needs to be done can we begin to look at your week.
There are three parts to mastering your week:
Laying the foundation is all about prioritisation.
A quick question - How much time do you spend doing things which will move you forwards?
I'm talking dedicated, proactive work towards your goals. It's so often we get caught in a reactive mode, doing the work to help others reach their goals and never having energy or time to move the needle forward for ourselves.
Think back to your 1-year goals which you broke down into skills and systems. Look back at your last week and ask yourself if you intentionally did anything to develop these skills, actualise your systems and make progress.
Or did you tread water?
There's a difference between doing work, and doing work which will move you forwards. Building the foundation relies on knowing the difference.
At the start of your week, you must set five specific tasks to be done which will, without a question, move you closer to your goal.
For example, if the goal is to get shredded (although it should be more specific than that) you may have the tasks of:
Hit the gym four times following the program set by your coach
Log every meal in MyFitnessPal, hitting your macros
Sleep 7.5 hours on average every night
Drink 3L of water a day
Research gyms in the area for next weeks business trip to Melbourne.
Everything else is secondary to your priority tasks. They form the foundation of your week and ensure you make progress towards getting shredded, becoming a millionaire or whatever else your heart desires.
Building the framework
Great, you now have priorities you know for a fact will lead to your progress. Now to make sure you do them.
Like putting up the wooden frame of a house, planning and preparation build the backbone of structure.
Step 1: Planning
Get out a blank weekly calendar and place it on the table. The first thing you do is place your five specific tasks on there, before work or social commitments. These are the things which will move you forwards and MUST come first.
Only after you've done that can you put anything else on such as work, family time, date nights and down time.
If you don't do this your tasks won't get done.
Imagine the goal of reading a book a week (like I managed in 2018). You can't hope to read in any spare time that pops up and expect to do it. You must put specified reading time in your diary, else you'll fail.
Step 2: Preparation
If planning is the chef cooking up a 5-star plate of food, preparation is putting it on a plate and making it look as good as it smells.
Preparation involves taking the precursor steps needed to take action on your plan, setting yourself up for success. Execution of the plan is where you make progress.
"A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week."
- George Patton
What are the things you can do to be more likely to stick to the plan?
Here are a bunch of examples from a heap of different goals:
Planning to run before work three times this week?
- Know what you're wearing for each run.
- Put out a glass of water, your headphones and shoes the night before.
- Map out your runs and determine the pace you'd like to hold.
Planning on cold-calling leads this week?
- Have a list ready to go.
- Know your sales script off by heart.
- Have a pre-game ritual (it works).
Planning to eat 90% perfect this week?
- Go for a big shop on Sunday and plan the week's meals.
- Before each meal, drink a glass of water.
- Pre-cook protein and vegetables.
Planning to write an article on 'structure' this week?
- Use the pomodoro technique.
- Download the 'Self-Control' app and use it during writing blocks.
- Write first, before any admin, emails, messages or 'busy' work.
There are a billion variations of this for all the possible goals, systems, priorities and plans. Determine what you need to do and prepare like your life depends on it (because it does).
The house is coming together now, take a step back to admire it in all its glory.
Yet not nearly finished.
The basic structure is set up and it's time to fill in the details.
The first thing you do is put up walls
We've worked hard today to determine the activities which make up an awesome day. Putting up walls is symbolic of putting boundaries in places to ensure you do these things.
Wall 1 - Your physical environment
In his book, Atomic Habits, James Clear refers to anti-habits: how to make it hard to do habits, actions or behaviours which sabotage your day.
For the things you DON'T want to do, you must:
Make it invisible
Make it unattractive
Make it difficult
Make it unsatisfying
The rule is to reduce your exposure to any cues which tempt you to go off track. Remove any of these from the environment.
For example, back to the goal of getting shredded. Here are some things you can do:
Don't have trigger foods in the house
Put fresh fruit and healthy snacks in eye-view when you walk in the kitchen
Place your alarm on the other side of the room so you have to get up and don't miss your morning gym session
Tell the people you live with what your goal is.
Remove alcohol from the fridge.
Be careful who you follow on social media
We are the masters of self-sabotaging ourselves. We can set up the perfect plan and be motivated to do it but in the moment come up with hundreds of excuses.
Removing the triggers of these excuses is the basis of structure and discipline.
Life is already hard, why make it any harder by testing your willpower?
Wall 2 - Pure, relentless focus
The next boundary to keep you structured comes from the mirror. More precisely, the person looking back at you in the mirror.
Be relentless in protecting your structure.
In today's age, you're constantly bombarded by distractions, time-suckers and energy-vampires. People who want to take your time and attention and waste it on non-issues.
You have the structure of an awesome day, week and life here. You MUST say no to anyone and anything who tries to tear it down.
Respect yourself and your time, only then will other people follow suit. It will be hard in the beginning but once people realise you're no pushover they will change their expectations of you, giving you the freedom to focus on what's important.
Wall 3 - Place accountability in people you don't want to disappoint
Accountability forms the third wall to keep your house propped up. Not just any accountability though... accountability to someone you deeply don't want to disappoint.
This can be friends, family, employer, co-workers - anyone you have a strong relationship with, who will support you when things get tough and also push you when you're not 'feeling it'.
Ideally, you'll find and invest in a coach. A great coach can walk the fine line between friend and authority figure. They want you to succeed.
Accountability builds your social environment and mental awareness, further strengthening your structure.
Wall 4 - Control the beginning and the end
You need four walls to make a room, and what an important wall this is.
Your morning and night routine are the bookends of your day, how you start and how you finish. If these two things are optimised it can lead to consistently great days, no matter what happens in the middle.
A few examples of great additions to your morning routine:
Each of these creates positive momentum to carry you through the day. Gratitude sets up a positive mindset, writing down your MITs develops focus and not hitting snooze tells the world you’re the boss.
Here is my exact morning routine if you're interested.
'How To Get Out Of Bed At 4:25 Every Morning'
Same goes for your night-time routine. As sleep is so critical, the things you can do at night to optimise it become large factors your energy, health and mood the next day. Anything you can also do the night before to prepare for the next day can lead to a more calm and positive day.
Here are some example night routine additions
Write down your 3 biggest wins of the day
Phone gets turned off 30-minutes before bed
Daily review - what did you learn?
Plan your day for tomorrow
No screens an hour before bed
Meditate for 2 minutes
Set out clothes for tomorrow
Prepare food for tomorrow
(as a note, I try and hit all of these every night. I don't often get them done, but 1,3,7,9,10 are non-negotiable).
Making it look pretty is the final touch
You've just spent all this time building a house and it's looking pretty fresh, yet it's not quite ready for your friends to come over for a housewarming party.
Paint the walls with a meaningful incentive.
An incentive is a reward to keep you on track, a prize at the end to look forward to. This isn't a necessity, only something which may provide an extra boost of motivation when the going gets tough.
And feng-shui the hell out of the place.
You are in control of your life. You choose how you to live it, what you want out of it and how you define your own success.
Take life by the balls and make it yours.
You've just invested quite a bit of time reading this article... for what?
I'll tell you what.
If you made it this far you're one of the few people who want to make an impact in the world. As a member of the same gang, I salute you.
From here on you follow this mantra,
'Every Day is Game Day'
Living up to your own potential is what you're after. With modern life's distractions, instant gratifications and general laziness it can be tempting to cruise by.
Not in this lifetime.
I want you to commit to excellence, bringing your best to each day. You now have to structure to do it, so no more excuses. Read this article on discipline and strap in for a successful future.
Go get it.
This article is based upon what I coach my executive clients. If you want to learn more, check out this link.