Self Improvement: 9 Simple Ways to Have a More Productive and Successful Year
Did you have a productive year?
I’ve been having a few conversations with people lately where we reflected on how we did in 2013. A majority of people looked back in their year with regret.
“I didn’t work hard enough”
“I literally did nothing all year”
“I wasted so much time”
That’s behind us and today is a fresh start. One thing I’ve learned is to not depend on your “future” self. If you want to make change then start today. Don’t ever waste a day this year, because we can’t ever recover lost time.
Here are 8 of my best strategies for you to implement to have an amazing year. Don’t just read it and nod your head – print it out and read it once a week.
1. Create a Self-Improvement System
Self-improvement’s not something I do every January, it has been a daily part of my life for the past decade.
The easiest way for me to improve is to determine the outcome I want, and then do a related action everyday. For example if you want to become more knowledgeable, then try reading a book 30 minutes a day or watching a good TED video.
I’ve accumulated various daily habits over the years and they’ve built into a daily system.
- Stretching. 8:30am for 15 mins
- Meditation. 1:00pm for 15 mins
- Reading. 1:15pm for 30 mins
- Writing. 2pm Writing for 30 mins – 1 hour
- Gym. 6pm. 5 times a week.
There is no end goal – I’m just trying to become better and better everyday.
It might be hard to develop a habit in the first few days, so you need to really focus. Set reminders. Give yourself a reward. Do whatever it takes to complete the habit.
After a few weeks you’ll find that it turns into a habit and it becomes easier to do. In a few months time the habit becomes so ingrained into you that it becomes part of your life.
If I don’t write or lift weights, it just feels weird to me.
One last note is don’t try to take on so many habits. Yes I listed around 5 habits, but it’s taken me years to develop my system. I also probably have more free time than you to devote to this (no kids, no commuting to work, etc.). Pick 1 thing to improve at and slowly work your way up.
2. Control Your Social Media Addictions
Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are designed to get you addicted. Every time you check Facebook and see a notification, the reward system of your brain lights up and that encourages you to repeat the behavior.
It’s a huge time sink – some people can spend upwards of 6 hours of day checking their social media without even noticing it.
You should also be concerned because it’ll affect your ability to concentrate. When you’re trying to do work you’ll start having this “itch” to check your phone, and then the habit becomes stronger.
Studies have also shown it can give you negative feelings such as jealousy due to always comparing your life to others.
How do we beat this.
- Take a technology detox – This year I took a month off completely from social media by deactivating all my profiles. Try going one day a week without it.
- Block yourself – For Mac I use Self-control. For Google Chrome you can use StayFocused. I’ll set the blocker for 9am-7pm on the weekends.
- Use buffer.com – It’s a program that will schedule my updates. The benefit of this is I don’t have to log into Facebook and be distracted by the newsfeed or notifications.
- Set boundaries – No phones during meals. No phones during gym / walk.
- Quit – Do you really need to be a part of 10+ different social networks? I deleted my Reddit account for this year. I don’t use Instagram as much as I use to.
Live your live in the present, not on the phone checking out the lives of others.
3. Measure Your Actions
“What gets measured gets improved”
The biggest secret I know to improving at anything is to simply track it. The numbers don’t lie and it’ll let you see what’s going on with your life.
I’ve meditated 8 days in a row, and yesterday I just didn’t feel like doing it. However I didn’t want to break my streak so I forced myself to do it. Tracking is this extra pressure that gives me the push to complete tasks.
I’m a huge fan of RPG’s (role playing video games such as Final Fantasy). I like to envision myself as a video game character and I’m always trying to “level up.” When I track how many books I read this year, I know my intelligence is going up. I know the more effort I spend on my campaigns, the higher my “gold” becomes.
Here are a few of my favorite apps:
Commit to tracking at least one or two metrics that you want to improve.
4. Train Your Motivation Muscle
“People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily.”
You ever noticed how you can be motivated for a few days, and then sometimes it’ll suddenly turn off? And when you look at some exceptional achievers, it seems as if their motivational switch is on 24/7.
A hypothesis of mine is that there’s a motivational muscle in our brain. Some people’s are stronger than others and they are the ones who get shit done. What if you’re one of the guys who has motivational issues?
There is good news because you can actually train it. Here are a few ways:
- Develop a dream board – Hang this on your wall next to your computer or make a desktop wallpaper out of it. It’s a compilation of images that motivation you: women, quotes, cars, vacations, your family, etc. This is YOUR board so put anything you want on it. Constantly seeing this will remind yourself of what you’re working towards.
- Surround yourself with winners – Simply being around winners will encourage you to step your game up. This also means trimming the fat from your social life. Are you surrounded by people who are always complaining and not doing anything with their lives? Their negative energy affects you.
- Affirmations – They are positive sayings you repeat everyday. Most people will write them off as “woowoo” but I truly believe they work. If you repeat thought patterns then I believe it’ll help condition your brain into new ways of thinking. An example is “Everyday, in every way, I am getting better and better.”
- Discover what you truly want – Part of motivation is to go deep into your soul and figure out what you truly desire. What kind of legacy do you want to leave the world? What is your purpose in this life? What is your mission? I feel these are the kind of motivation that are much stronger than wanting a new car or something.
- Create a motivation zone. I have an Evernote that contains motivational quotes, my favorite videos, short stories, and more. Every morning I’ll spend 10 minutes going through it.
- Follow me – Twitter. Facebook page. If motivation is a muscle then I want to be your steroids.
5. Dedicate 1 Hour a Day to a Passion Project
My blog started in late 2012. I wanted to start it a few years prior, but I was afraid that it’d eat up too much time.
When I finally decided to start, I gave myself a constraint of 1 hour max a day. With this hour a day, I used it the past year to build what I consider the best affiliate marketing blog out there. . It gives me a break from my affiliate marketing work, and it’s a way for me to add value to peoples’ lives.
A passion project is something that should get you excited each day. It doesn’t necessarily have to make money. What is it that you’ve always wanted to do but never seemed to find the time for? Anyone can create an extra hour a day, and you’d be surprised at what an hour of intense focus a day can do.
Friend: I wish I knew programming, it would be cool to program iPhone games
Me: Why don’t you spend an hour a day learning?
Friend: I don’t have any time…you know how it is.
Me: No I don’t know how it is. Aren’t you on Facebook and Instagram all day? When you are old what are you going to regret more, not pursuing your dream of programming games or that you didn’t browse social media more?
A year later he has made significant progress on his programming and should be launching his own game in a few months.
6. Break Your Years into Quarters
We’re all naturally motivated January 1st. It represent a new beginning, and a clean slate. What if you could have that feeling multiple times a year?
I have mentally changed my years into 12 weeks.
Have you ever heard of Parkinson’s Law? “Work expands as to fill the time available for its completion.” When a college professor assigns a paper due in two weeks, how long would it take for everyone to complete? Two weeks. What if that SAME assignment was due in 3 days? People would find a way to get it done in 3 days.
Its the same concept with yearly goals. If you want to lose 10 pounds this year, you don’t feel the urgency until the end of the year when it’s too late. Instead it might be better to focus on losing 2.5 lbs, with a deadline of 12 weeks each.
Each quarter for me represents a fresh start. Another benefit of this is that it keeps me agile. We all know how fast paced affiliate marketing can be. My goal now may not be the same a year later. By re-evaluating every 3 months, I can keep my goals relevant and current.
Check out this book if you want to learn more – highly recommended: The 12 week year.
7. Analyze 2013 and Keep it Real
The first step in achieving a better 2014 is to analyze how last year went. You have to learn from the past so you don’t repeat the same mistakes.
What went well? Celebrate what you’ve accomplished. You should feel proud and take that energy into 2014.
What sucked? It’s tough to objectively look at yourself and figure out what didn’t go as well. Thats why I recommended to measure your actions earlier, the numbers don’t lie.
It also helps to have a trusted friend who can keep it real with you and give you constructive criticism you need. I have a number of friends who come to me for advice because they know I’ll give it to them straight.
It’s also good to analyze 10 different mistakes you made this year. Don’t beat yourself over it or feel bad. The point is to learn so you don’t repeat it again. Let a friend borrow money and he didn’t pay you back? Are you going to do it again?
What will I do different this year? This is the essence of new year resolutions. Don’t just say you want to do something, develop a system and a game plan to achieve it.
Check out one of my favorite blogs, James Clear, on how he did his 2013 annual review.
8. Stop Comparing Yourself to Others
A large cause of depression these days is caused by people comparing themselves for others. You might feel jealousy, envy, or that your life’s shit while the rest of the world is having a good time.
The issue is that it’s an inherently unfair playing field.
The ladies can’t be as beautiful as some celebrities and models. Why? The abundance of plastic surgery and photoshop. Even the models don’t look like their own pictures.
Bodybuilding’s an important part of my life now but I don’t compare my body with some of the guys out there. The Rock, Zyzz (Forever mirin), youtube fitness stars, athletes, and most celebrities are on different forms of steroids.
It’s just impossible to achieve their looks as a natural. Instead I just focus on what I looked like before, and use that as my benchmark to improve.
Money? Most people are broke and financing their dreams through car leases, credit cards, and debt. Don’t worry about keeping up with them. Being financially independent is the best thing money can buy.
We’re in the social media generation. It’s basically a race to make your life look as exciting as possible- the term is “image crafting.”
“One reason we struggle with insecurity is that we’re comparing our behind the scenes to every else’s highlight reel”.- Steven Furtick
With the way social media is set up, you only see the best sides of every body. John is honeymoon in Italy. Eagle just bought a new car. Michael is at the strip club. Everyone’s doing amazing shit while you’re at home eating Cheetos in your underwear.
I look like a Rockstar on my Facebook because I only post pictures when I’m doing cool shit or traveling. The truth is my normal days are quite boring. I literally just work, sleep, lift, groceries, and repeat. It’s the life I designed because my goal is maximum productivity, but of course it’s not sexy enough for Facebook :-).
Don’t let it fool you, and don’t fall into the comparison trap.
9. Put in 10x More Effort into Everything
Success is never guaranteed.
The good news is there are variables you can control which can increase your chances significantly. What’s the #1? Effort. It’s the one thing you have complete control of.
I love this scene from Pursuit of Happyness
One of my “secrets” as an affiliate marketer is the crazy amount of work I’ll put into a campaign. If someone is testing 10 ads this week, I’m testing 100. Are you only testing the image on your landing page? I am testing the headline, buttons, copy, image, and more (at the same time).
The #1 resolution every year is always fitness related. Most people are going to hit the gym a few times in January and give up. What does 10x more effort look like?
Whatever goal you’re trying to achieve, you need to be honest with yourself. Am I putting in my absolute best effort into this?
One visualization I like to use is pretend someone’s filming a documentary on me, “A day in the life of an internet marketer.” How would my behavior change? I’d probably put in 100% effort that day and work my ass off. The office wouldn’t be dirty, I wouldn’t be dicking around on Reddit, and I’d be ferocious with my campaigns.
That’s the kind of day I want to have each day.
I can’t control my luck. I can’t control whatever natural talent I was born with. The only thing I can completely control is how hard I work. No one can take that away from me.
Truth Bombs for a Productive Year
No one cares about how bad do you want it. Who doesn’t want to be rich and successful? Intentions alone don’t accomplish anything. The winners are the ones who put in the work on a daily basis – even if they don’t feel like it.
Everyday should be progress. If you are not moving forward, then you are moving backwards. There is no standing still.
Are you not happy with your life now? It’s your fault playboy. Where you’re at is the accumulation of all the decisions you’ve made in the past. Don’t blame your parents, don’t blame the economy, etc. Take responsibility for your own growth. However you have the ability to grow and do great things, and it begins now.
A year from now what are you going to say about 2014? Was it a waste of a year or did you make progress towards becoming the personal you are meant to be?