On the morning of my mother’s funeral, I wrote the following paragraph for the original, first edition of this book:
My mother passed away a couple of days, actually nights ago, and the viewing was last night; the memorial service will be in about four hours from now, this morning. It is 6:00 A.M. And here I am, at the keyboard, in my home office, writing. That’s what I do almost every day, for at least the first early hour of the morning, no matter what. And that’s the answer to how I can have five books in bookstores, a sixth and seventh hitting early in 1996, be under contract for an eighth for 1997, write my monthly newsletters, and so on.
It’s not that I’m devoid of emotion, nor that I didn’t love my mother. However, I learned long ago the vital importance of regimen, ritual, commitment and discipline in relationship to successful achievement. So it takes a lot to derail me. Most people are much more easily distracted. Perhaps I’m extreme in my insistence on proceeding with my work plans no matter what, but most people are even more extreme in their willingness to set aside their work plans for just about anything.
Having and commanding the respect of others is a tremendous advantage in life. That edge comes from self-discipline. The highly disciplined individual does not have to point a gun at anyone to take what he wants; people “sense” his power and cheerfully give him everything they’ve got.
Take a look at how little self-discipline most people have. Ask an employer of any size, and you’ll hear how big the problems of tardiness and absenteeism are. People don’t even have enough self-discipline to get up in the morning!
In my business dealings, I find more than half the people can’t seem to get to appointments and meetings on time or keep preset telephone appointments. Clients miss prescheduled appointments. Vendors miss deadlines as often as they make them.
In the entrepreneurial environment, there’s a lot to be said just for showing up on time, ready to work. The meeting of deadlines and commitments alone causes a person to stand out from the crowd like an alien space ship parked in an Iowa cornfield. The ability to get things done and done right the first time will magnetically attract incredible contacts, opportunities and resources to you. All of this is a matter of self-discipline.
And self-discipline aimed and applied at a particular thing is quite literally a magic power. When you focus your self-discipline on a single purpose, like sunlight through a magnifying glass on a single object, look out! The whole world will scramble to get out of your way, hold the doors open for you, and salute as you walk by.
Successful achievement of most worthwhile objectives — including being an infinitely more productive entrepreneur who makes the most of his time — is rarely easy, but is often simple. In fact, it can be boiled down to three steps.
Awareness. If you become aware of the importance of time, you’ll have a different concept of time, valuing of time, and how you must exercise control over your use and others’ consumption of your time in order to have a reasonable chance of achieving your goals and tapping your full potential. You’ll have new awareness of how your time is used or abused, invested or squandered, organized and controlled or let flow about at random. As the first step to new achievement, there’s always awareness of problems and failings, and of opportunities and successes.
Decision. All achievement follows deliberate decision, with extremely rare exceptions of accidental achievement, like tripping over an untied shoelace, falling face down on the pavement, and seeing a wrapped stack of lost $100 bills lying against the curb you wouldn’t have noticed otherwise. Absent that kind of freak accident, achievement can only follow decision. As a result of your thinking of the importance of time, you can develop certain decisions.
Action. There are three kinds of action: starting things or implementation, follow-through, and completion. When you’ve made a decision, you have to start doing things about it. For some people, this is hard, but for many people in many situations, starting is relatively easy. The person who decides on a new diet may find it easy, even exhilarating to take a huge garbage bag and empty the refrigerator and pantry of all offending foods. It’s follow-through that is usually the hard part. That’s where the tough-minded boss-of-self comes to bear. Relying on sheer willpower is rarely successful. You have to create an environment in which high self-discipline is supported. But self-discipline is required. And rewarded.
The most successful people share a striking number of similar habits. Regardless of whether they’re the CEO of a technology startup, or manage a popular local neighborhood retail outlet, their reoccurring patterns of behavior often pave the way to ongoing levels of achievement. Below are six habits that hugely successful people use to maximize productivity, effectiveness and success – by following them, you can also catapult yourself further and faster towards achieving your own personal or professional goals.
According to Basex, a management science company, it’s estimated that distractions cost U.S. businesses $588 billion per year, a number that continues to grow. Besides costing businesses billions in resources, these sneaky time consumers undermine concentration and can make it hard to stay focused on a task or consistently follow important train of thought. Learning to ignore these nuisances can help you create less stress, improve productivity on the job, and enjoy a happier workday, so put your phone away, log out of your social media accounts, and close your office door during your most productive hours. If you’re not quite sure which distractions eating up your day, try tracking your schedule by creating a running diary for two to three weeks to find out.
Get Enough Rest
Productivity can suffer if you don’t feel your best, and one of the most important factors of feeling up to par is maintaining a consistent sleep schedule. Getting enough rest is one of the easiest things you can do to revitalize your mental clarity, passion and energy. The National Sleep Foundation states that there’s no magic number when determining the right amount of sleep needed, but studies show that those who get 7 hours of sleep a night are far more productive. Research dating back decades also shows a marked decline in productivity after a typical 40-hour workweek – anything more produces diminishing returns. So be sure to take breaks, rest, and recharge: It may vastly improve your creativity, productivity and output.
Follow a Morning Ritual
By doing the same things every day when you wake up, you’re letting your mind focus on the bigger tasks at hand. Plus, establishing a routine of getting up and getting active first thing in the morning is a great way to start the day with a blast of energy – energy you can immediately begin spending on professional and personal development. (Hint: The smartest investment you can ever make is in yourself.) For example, many hugely successful people don’t just wake up earlier and spend time working out to improve fitness, start the day strong, and reduce stress. They also read business books, catch up on the news, get up-to-date on emails, or listen to podcasts while exercising, starting the day off strong by accomplishing multiple goals in one fell swoop and the most of all a praise and worship with God.
Prioritize Your Day
Hugely successful people have a daily agenda that helps visualize what they would like to accomplish that day. It’s an easy way to give them a sense of work balance since they can see exactly what’s on their plate, as well as help them focus and mentally prepare for the challenges that they’ll be facing. Mimic their behavior by creating a daily “to-do list” of your own the evening before each workday, and prioritize tasks by importance. That way, you immediately know where to begin your work the next morning, and can tackle the most difficult challenges first, improving productivity and making the rest of your workday look like a breeze by comparison.
Take Care of Yourself
You may have heard successful men and women say, “I work hard but I also play hard.” These folks are well aware that it simply isn’t possible to operate at full speed every waking hour. They know that taking time for yourself is one of the biggest steps in avoiding work burnout. Try relaxing a little each day and use your free time to indulge in something you truly enjoy. Taking care of yourself also means eating a healthy diet, which includes breakfast, to fuel your body and mind for the challenges ahead. Staying organized both in the office and at home eliminates stress and is another way to take care of yourself.
Put First Things First
Not every task is equal, and successful people account for this when they budget their time. Whether you function best in the early morning hours or late in the afternoon, use your peak performance hours to knock out harder tasks and bring you closer to your goals. Save less-pressing tasks such as skimming through interoffice memos or submitting speaking proposals to annual industry conference organizers for a time when you’re not exactly ready to move mountains. Get the most important tasks done first – the rest will seem trivial by comparison. These important tasks should be tackled while you’re at your freshest, most awake, and best.Remain bless.