A man without a plan, is not a man.
—Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche
I like to discuss goals frequently, although I am no self-help guru – far from it. Most of the time, I’m preaching to myself. There are times when I set a plan to reach a goal and execute flawlessly, but all too frequently, I fail to do what I know I need to do. It’s vexing.
I’d like to share my thoughts concerning my plans of action for 2020 and beyond. Perhaps you will find some of my ideas fit with your objectives.
The thing I know for sure is that when it comes to making significant life changes or progression, there are no quick fixes or magic bullets.
As I discussed in my last article, I am a creature of habit – some good habits and some bad. In his book, Atomic Habits, James Clear refers to habits as the compound interest of self-improvement but notes that habits can be a double-edged sword, meaning they can also work against you. Initially, small changes appear to make little difference, but the results compound over time.¹
The key to successfully achieving any goal is to consistently adhere to your plan (provided the strategy is sound). Sometimes this can be an easy endeavor where you can ride the waves of momentum. Other times it can be an uphill struggle, where maintaining the discipline to stay the course can be exhausting and require a herculean effort. To reach our full potential in 2020 and beyond, we are going to need to focus on both time management and attention management.²
“Attention management is the art of focusing on getting things done for the right reasons, in the right places and at the right moments.”³ It is the prioritization of what is most important to benefit you and your wellbeing.
75HARD — Background and Context
In “The elitefts Article That’s Changing My Life,” I wrote about my experience with the 75HARD program – a mental and physical challenge designed to push yourself outside of your comfort zone to develop confidence, self-esteem, self-worth, resilience, perseverance, and grit. This program includes five tasks that must be completed each day for 75 days straight with no compromises, no excuses, and absolutely no substitutions.
- Follow a diet (zero alcohol)
- Work out twice a day for a minimum of 45 minutes (one of these sessions must be outside)
- Drink one gallon of water per day
- Read 10 pages minimum of a personal development book
- Take a daily progress picture
I completed the program on my first attempt because I committed. I needed it. I needed the structure it offered and, at the onset, I knew for sure I would not allow myself to fail.
I don't want to reiterate the content of the article mentioned above, but there are a couple of points worth mentioning again:
I had been lying to myself about the amount of time I have available during a given day. The 75HARD program required two hours per day for just the training and active reading. During the program, I managed to find that time each day.
The program taught me to pay myself first (there is tremendous value in prioritization). Much like how you should have been taught in your financial life, you must pay yourself first. The stringent program required me to make time for my betterment. I knew that without making these items a priority, it would be impossible to complete this program for the requisite number of days.
I also kept a separate notebook to document the completion of each of the required daily activities. The act of writing down what I needed to complete (i.e., the goals for the day) and checking each item off as I finished it kept me on track. It must be endorphin-releasing, as it provided a sense of accomplishment.
75HARD Notebook excerpt:
Since completing the program, some old habits have resurfaced and I find that I am wasting more time, hence the need for this follow-up article and renewed focus on future goals!
2020 Goals — Beyond 75HARD
I have always utilized lists to manage my day. I maintain separate “To Do” lists for both the personal and professional tasks that I need to complete to stay on track. Andy Frisella, the creator of the 75HARD program, calls his list the Power List. Andy’s Power List contains the five critical tasks he needs to accomplish each day no matter what. I like Andy’s concept.
Likewise, I had been using prioritized lists since the early 1990s, with Franklin Covey Planners and Covey’s systems of prioritization and time management (a system that I am sure pre-dates Covey, but Covey facilitated my introduction to productive planning).
I use the following system at work: an ABC prioritization (“A” signifying the most critical tasks and “C” signifying the least significant). I draw a checkbox next to each task and check the box upon completion (a dot in a box denotes the task is in process, but not yet complete).
See the example below – Professional Prioritization:
I benefitted from the 75HARD program and when looking forward to my goals for 2020, I decided the best decision would be to carry-over the aspects of the program I thought were the best fit for my specific goals. I then added and subtracted where necessary to arrive at an optimized personal plan.
Here are some of my thoughts as I craft the plan. Don’t be afraid to add and subtract from your plans as needed, as you will quickly learn what works well for you and what does not.
My plan encompasses both activities that will better my physical preparedness and general health, as well as improving my mental health.
Measured Week = Monday to Sunday
Part A: The Morning Routine
1. Get up and out of bed daily with alarm (no hitting snooze and no iPhone surfing)
Adhering to the alarm has always been a problem for me. Whether I am only hitting the snooze button (several times on some days) or defaulting to an entirely separate alarm set for a later time, I know I need to curb this habit to achieve what I need to complete in a given day.
Also, even a glance at your iPhone can significantly derail performance due to the cost of context switching.2
2. Daily Progress Picture (a morning weigh-in is optional)
I am carrying this over from 75HARD. It’s another task that helps with your daily momentum because it enforces that you are making visible changes and that you are following a plan.
I have mixed feelings regarding the scale and daily weigh-ins. I think it can work for some people, but for others it can negatively impact motivation. I intend to use the scale as one tool to monitor my progress, but only as an optional tool.
3. After taking daily Progress Picture, I will change into clothes appropriate for morning stretching and core/abdominal training
I am utilizing a technique called Habit Stacking. James Clear (Atomic Habits) suggests that rather than pairing a new habit with a specific intention, combine it with a current habit. The habit stacking formula is: “After [CURRENT HABIT], I will [NEW HABIT].”1
Pairing the new, desired habit with a current habit dramatically increases the probability the new habit will eventually stick.1
4. Morning Meditation (ten minutes to start)
Meditation is something entirely new for me, so I cannot attest that it works just yet.
I was discussing stress with my dental hygienist, Natalie, a few weeks ago and she recommended daily Meditation (true story – I figure while getting your teeth cleaned, you are laying in a reclined position and it’s almost like a therapist’s couch). She said it has helped with managing stress in her life.
Natalie recommended the Headspace App, so that is the direction I went. The female voice is very soothing. I am optimistic.
5. Consume 32 ounces of water before the first cup of coffee
Hydration is important. Get out of the gate fast (more on hydration below).
6. After I get my morning coffee, I will head out to the garage gym for daily stretching and core/abdominal training at a minimum
One of the benefits of 75HARD was that it forced me to become more active. My goal is to get out of the gate fast and get some work in the books. Maintaining a reasonable state of general physical preparedness (GPP) has a positive health benefit.
Part B: Daily Tasks
1. The Morning Routine
See the six steps referenced above in “Part A: The Morning Routine.”
2. Writing (minimum of 10 minutes per day)
This item is of paramount importance to me. I need to write more, and I need to follow a more disciplined approach to ritualize this activity.
Again, I am borrowing from Atomic Habits: “The more you ritualize the beginning of a process, the more likely it becomes that you can slip into the state of deep focus that is required to do great things. Standardize before you optimize. You can’t improve a habit that doesn’t exist.”1
In starting with a simple goal of only 10 minutes a day, I am setting myself up for success as well as cultivating the seeds of consistency.
3. Training (5 sessions per week - a minimum of 3 resistance training sessions per week); daily tracking of training sessions
The 75HARD program required 14 training sessions per week (2 per day at seven days a week for a total of 75 days). While it worked well for me during that period, in terms of longer-term training it is not the optimal volume for me.
In balancing work, family, and personal goals that are outside of the fitness and health realm, I am targeting a solid five sessions per week. I will see how this training volume works and adjust as needed depending on the results.
4. Reading (minimum of 20 minutes per day)
With 75HARD, the mandate was to choose a book that will improve your life — a personal development book, an entrepreneurship book, etc. — anything that will teach you something beneficial. However, I also enjoy fiction and, as a writer, I know there is a positive correlation between the amount of reading I complete with the quality of my writing.
For 2020, works of fiction are fair game if I can log the requisite 20 minutes per day per week.
5. Diet – modified ketogenic diet (low carbohydrates)
- Daily caloric intake must be logged into MyFitnessPal or another tracking methodology
- Set a definitive calorie goal per day and stick to the plan
- Alcohol consumption is permitted, but be smart and moderate
- One cheat meal allowed every 14 days
6. Water – 1-gallon intake per day
This goal is a direct carry-over due to the benefits I experienced during the 75HARD program.
There are many health benefits to maintaining optimal hydration. It helps maximize physical performance, as water comprises approximately 80 percent of muscle. In addition to cushioning the brain, spinal cord, and other connective tissues, hydration can have a significant effect on energy levels and brain function, as even mild dehydration can have detrimental effects on mood, memory, and brain performance.
Working toward your goal (or goals) each day, without exception, is an essential part of reaching your full potential. Hopefully, some of my action plans for 2020 fit with your objectives and will have some benefit for you. Please borrow and modify any of these ideas for your benefit in the new year.
As mentioned at the onset of this article, when it comes to making significant life changes or progression, there are no quick fixes or magic bullets. The key to successfully achieving any goal is to consistently adhere to your plan, work on your positive habits, and focus on both time management and attention management to reach your full potential in 2020 and beyond.2
- Clear, James. Atomic Habits. Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
- Herrera, T. (2019, December 25). 6 Tips to Getting Things Done in 2020. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2019/12/24/smarter-living/6-tips-to-getting-things-done-in-2020.html?searchResultPosition=3.
- Grant, A. (2019, March 29). Productivity Isn't About Time Management. It's About Attention Management. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/28/smarter-living/productivity-isnt-about-time-management-its-about-attention-management.html?action=click&module=RelatedLinks&pgtype=Article.