The other day, I reached 1,000 workouts tracked on my GymHero app. That’s more than three years consistently going to the gym. I say this not to brag but to point out the importance of being consistent. If you want to be successful at anything, you need to be consistent. If you want to achieve important goals, you need to work at it every day.
It’s not what we do once in a while that shapes our lives. It’s what we do consistently.” – Tony Robbins
One of the best books I have read on this topic is Finish: Give Yourself the Gift of Done by Jon Acuff. In it, he talks about the importance of consistency. He also points out that the enemy of consistency is perfectionism. Perfectionism will tell you to quit if you don’t have a perfect day on your diet or you miss a workout. Acuff stresses the secret to hitting our goals is to keep moving forward every day, especially the “day after perfect,” when our results underperform our aspirations.
“The harder you try to be perfect, the less likely you’ll accomplish your goals.” – Jon Acuff
Acuff provides humorous and practical advice on how to beat perfectionism and learn how to make long-lasting change. He tells us that we will be more successful if we simply relax and develop a tolerance for imperfection. If you skip a workout, no problem, just start again tomorrow. If you cheat on a meal, don’t cheat again that day. The key to finishing is to just keep moving forward consistently.
Like most leaders, I’m very busy. My role as the CEO of a start-up manufacturing company requires a great deal of time and effort. I’m at our manufacturing plant for 9-10 hours a day and I commute an hour each way. I also work 2-3 hours at home each day. In total, I spend 13-15 hours working or commuting. During the week, I don’t have a lot of spare time.
I also know that to be an effective leader, I need to continue to learn and grow. I need to expose myself to the latest business books and thoughts on leadership. I need to understand new concepts and think about how they can help my organization and my ability to motivate my team. The problem is that there isn’t a lot of extra time for learning.
To overcome this challenge, I have incorporated some simple techniques to embed learning in my day. These small changes to my schedule have allowed me to be exposed to a variety of leadership and business topics while still keeping up with a demanding schedule.
I have used these 5 techniques for the past few years with great effect.
Keep a commonplace notebook. This is probably the most important change I made in my daily routine. The idea is to keep a simple notebook of all the things you are learning or various ideas you have. The concept of keeping a commonplace notebook comes from the education community. The notebook is used to write down quotes, concepts, thoughts, ideas, books, websites or anything else you come across in the daily activities that you want to remember. This is not a to-do list but a central place to document ideas and important concepts you’re being exposed to. This is a technique that Richard Branson credits to his success as a leader. I use a simple Moleskin notebook for my commonplace book.
“if you don’t write your ideas down, they could leave your head before you even leave the room.” Richard Branson
Listen to books on Audible. Leaders should be readers but finding the quiet time to read a book is often difficult. I use Audible to listen to books while I’m driving or relaxing. For a monthly fee, you get one book a month to listen to. In a year, you can be exposed to 12 top business books without altering your busy schedule. Here are some of the books I have been listening to.
Listen to podcasts. Podcasts are another great way to be exposed to authors and thought-leaders without impacting your calendar. When I’m not listening to books, I will listen to one of twenty different podcasts I subscribe to. I listen to a variety of leadership and business podcasts but I will sometimes explore other unusual and interesting topics as well. 99% Invisible is probably one of my favorite non-business podcasts.
Use Twitter as a learning platform. Social media can be a time killer if used incorrectly but it can also be educational. The key is in how it is used. I use my Twitter account as a learning tool. I follow business leaders, authors, leadership writers, entrepreneurs and business news. In a quick glance of my timeline, I can see what’s happening in the world of leadership and business. I can also interact with people and further develop my thoughts on a subject.
Set up an RSS reader. There is so much written each day on the subject of business and leadership, there is no way to read it all. One tool I like to use is an RSS Reader. These readers make it easy to follow what’s happening on a variety of websites and blogs. In one glance, you can get a summary of articles that you might be interested in. This saves you the time of having to visit each site individually. You can even add my blog to your RSS Reader.
Leadership is demanding and your schedule is not likely to get any easier. Don’t put off increasing your knowledge because you’re busy. These five simple techniques will allow you to embed learning into your daily routine. The most important tool, however, is the commonplace notebook. This is where all your thoughts, ideas and key lessons are written down. Applying the ideas from your commonplace book will make you a more educated and effective leader.
The biggest problem with resolutions is that a vast majority of people never achieve them. Statistics show that 20% of Americans will drop out after just one week of trying. At best, only 8% ever reach their goal.
What’s the problem?
In general, we over-commit and under-perform. We try to do too much. We underestimate the time, effort and willpower it takes to meet our commitments. We don’t understand the power of our old habits. We give up too easily.
How can we end the resolution failure loop? The answer is to create new habits.
“The golden rule of habit change: You can’t extinguish a bad habit, you can only change it.” Charles Duhigg
The importance of habits – In the book, The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, Pulitzer Prize-winning business reporter Charles Duhigg provides a comprehensive analysis of why habits exist and how they can be changed. He explains the key to making lasting change is understanding how habits work.
Duhigg describes the habit process as automatic. “When a habit emerges, the brain stops fully participating in decision making. It stops working so hard or diverts focus to other tasks. So, unless you deliberately fight a habit—unless you find new routines—the pattern will unfold automatically.” This is the reason why willpower alone is insufficient to keep us on track towards our goals. We need to create good habits to replace the bad habits.
“Change might not be fast and it isn’t always easy. But with time and effort, almost any habit can be reshaped.” Charles Duhigg
How small changes establish new habits – The secret to creating good habits is making small, incremental improvements every day. Another book by Dr. Robert Maurer, a psychologist at the University of Washington School of Medicine, shows the solution to making great and lasting self-improvement is through small and steady steps.
“Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out.” Robert Collier
The concept is to get started with very small steps. For example, if you’re trying to get fit, just start by walking in place during the commercials of your favorite show. If you’re trying to drink more water, start with one glass before supper. Choosing a very small step is the key. Dr. Maurer says, “The criteria for the smallness is that the step is so ridiculously small that it requires no willpower, self-control or discipline. There’s not going to be any pushback. That’s how you know it’s going to be a small enough step.”
In essence, Dr. Maurer is showing us how to create new habits by taking small, incremental steps in a new direction. By doing this every day, we begin to develop a new habit.
The problem with perfectionism – If new habits are the superpower to gain long-lasting personal change, then perfectionism is the kryptonite. Perfectionism is the reason we quit. When we have a cheat meal, perfectionism tells us we are not good enough and we “might as well” eat whatever we want that day. When we miss a workout, perfectionism tells us we are failing and we “might as well” give up. Perfectionism tells us to quit if our performance isn’t completely perfect.
“The harder you try to be perfect, the less likely you’ll accomplish your goals.” Jon Acuff
Creating new habits while also defeating perfectionism is important if we want to make sustainable change in our lives.
If you are looking to defeat perfectionism, a good place to start is the book, Finish: Give Yourself the Gift of Done, by Jon Acuff. Here, Acuff provides humorous and practical advice on how to beat perfectionism and learn how to make long-lasting change. He stresses the secret to hitting our goals is to keep moving forward, especially the “day after perfect,” when our results underperform our aspirations.
Acuff tells us that we will be more successful if we simply relax and develop a tolerance for imperfection. If you skip a workout, no problem, just start again tomorrow. If you cheat on a meal, don’t cheat again that day. The key to finishing is to just keep moving.
If you want to be part of the 8% of people who achieve their annual goals, ditch the New Year’s Resolution. Instead, focus on creating new habits to replace your bad habits, take daily incremental steps toward your goal, and develop a healthy tolerance for imperfection. These three actions will help you finally end the resolution failure loop.