Self Improvement: Strategies to Make 2019 Your Best Year Ever
I LOVE how everyone gets pumped up a new year rolls around.
It’s like the universe gives everyone a shot of dopamine and a kick in the ass when January 1st hits.
Every year I set New Year Resolutions, and like everyone else, I don’t always complete mine by the end of the year.
In fact, I think some of them I dropped after a few months. For example…
- The year I wanted to track every single penny I spent. That lasted about two weeks. This was before YNAB and Mint were around, and I had to track everything using spreadsheets. You can imagine how annoying that was.
- The time I wanted to be engaged by the end of the year. Yeahhh, let’s not get into that.
- The year I resolved to network more. Then I realized how much I hated networking, conferences, and coffee meetups.
If you’ve failed at keeping some of your resolutions, you’re not alone. Far from it.
I’ve always viewed my life as a constant experiment. Yes, we’ve all failed, but the key is to learn from those experiments and not to lose your motivation.
I’ve also learned a thing or two along the way when it comes to setting and keeping New Year’s Resolutions. Even though I’ve failed at keeping numerous resolutions, I’ve also had some huge successes.
When I look at my successes, I see a few consistent themes. Factors that contributed to my success.
If you want 2019 to be your best year ever, I recommend the following steps.
1. Conduct An Annual Review
How did 2018 go?
The easiest way to look back is to use this framework:
- What went well?
- What didn’t go well?
- What did you learn?
- What should you keep doing?
- What happened that you didn’t expect?
The hard part is looking at yourself objectively. Don’t be judgemental or harsh on yourself. Try to evaluate yourself from an outside perspective.
It’s important to look back on what didn’t go as well and learn lessons from those experiences.
A great example for me is investing in cryptocurrency last year.
Things didn’t go as well as I hoped.
I spent several hours analyzing and understanding my behavior, and I’m confident that my mistakes and follow up analysis will make me a better investor over my lifetime. Don’t let your mistakes go to waste.
I find it really helpful to look at the things that happened that were unexpected.
The reality is that some things ARE unexpected, and can have a big impact. No one can predict a car accident for example.
Some other things, however, are more in your control than you think.
My cat and my dog were both hospitalized a few months ago and the vet bills were ridiculous. I didn’t expect that to happen, but the fact is they’re 12 years old.
I should’ve expected there to be more problems due to their age and increased our relationship with the veterinarian.
When you do your annual review, look for things that seemed unexpected but that were actually more under your control than you thought.
As you think about 2019, look for similar situations and take the necessary actions.
2. Limit Your Number of Goals
Most people have way too many goals. Ten years ago, I was determined to accomplish 20 different resolutions.
I achieved 8 out of 20 that year, but they were all the low hanging fruit goals. They didn’t move the needle in my life.
Now, I like to limit the number of goals to three.
A simple framework for goal setting is:
- Something Else (Fun, Relationships, etc.)
Ask yourself: What would really move the needle in your life and is worthy of an entire year?
I did this exercise with my girlfriend yesterday.
She had a resolution of donating half her closet to charity.
I didn’t especially like that goal because I felt that if she was determined, it could be done over several weekends in a month.
That felt more like a quarterly PROJECT.
Some examples of good resolutions (the kind that could move the needle and are worthy of an entire year):
- Run a marathon
- Get promoted to Vice President
- Backpack through Asia for a month
- Go Vegetarian for three months
- Make $X in profit via iPhone app
- Average two hours a week in meditation
When setting these big, needle-moving goals, it’s really important that they be S.M.A.R.T.
Specific – Measurable – Achievable – Relevant – Timebound
I always have a health-related resolution each year.
I’m already active in the gym with Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ), I eat healthy, and I sleep well. I have the basics covered.
However, one part of my health that’s horrible is my flexibility. I’ve spent decades sitting in front of the computer, and it has made me as inflexible as a rock.
It’s embarrassing for me not to be able to do certain moves in BJJ because of this limitation.
I’m able to touch my toes in the normal standing pike pose, but I’ve set a goal to touch my palms to the floor while doing this pose
My game plan for reaching this goal is simple:
- Yoga classes twice a week
- 10+ minutes of stretching every day
- Take a photo each month to measure my progress
- Get an evaluation by a physical therapist on what I need to work on
- Find the right routine to practice daily
3. Conquer Your Digital Addiction
That’s how much I use my phone on a weekly basis according to the new Screen Time feature on iPhones.
Writing that makes me cringe since I’m supposed to be Mr. Productive. I’m not gonna bullshit you and say that it was all emails, checking stats, and working.
Nah, 80% of it is me wasting time on Reddit and YouTube.
What’s interesting is that some of my friends are at 40, 50, and even 80 hours per week.
Why is this bad?
The first reason is time. Shit, 80 hours a week on the phone?!? You could work two full-time jobs with that many hours.
The second, and most important one, is that it’s high jacking my ability to concentrate and focus.
You’re SUPPOSE to be working on an important project, but your brain still has attention residue from checking Instagram.
You know what some of the smartest engineers in the world are doing? Their job is to get you addicted to their products.
The more time you spend on Facebook, the more money they make.
A long time ago I read a quote that said, “Do the opposite of what the average person does.”
If you think about it, the average person is unremarkable. Whatever the average person does, you should do the opposite of it.
If the average person spends all day surfing the web and checking their phone, then NOT doing that gives you an advantage.
So, how do we break these addictions? We need to look internally and externally.
You have to figure out motivates you personally.
I deleted my personal Facebook account several years ago. Why? Because one day I realized that you never leave Facebook happier than when you came in.
Everyone crafts an overly positive, fake image of themselves, there’s all kinds of drama, and I’d get upset if someone posted something dumb.
Once I figured out my WHYs then it was easy to delete my profile.
I didn’t understand that digital addiction was a problem until I went on a trip last year. I didn’t have my phone.
My mind felt clear. I had SO MUCH PHYSICAL ENERGY.
Once I started studying the effects of digital addiction, the more I realized how much of a problem it is.
Once you figure out what motivates you internally, you have to take external steps to make your goals a reality. I’m talking steps like…
- Delete as many unessential apps as possible
- Turn off all notifications
- Set your phone to “Gray Scale” (this has been proven to diminish the attractiveness of it)
- Lock your phone in a kSafeThis is a cool device I found online. Just put your phone in there during work hours, and boom! No phone + distracting website blocking app on your computer = IN THE ZONEEEEI showed this to a co-worker and she asked if my willpower wasn’t strong enough to resist the phone.
I believe in setting up an environment so that I don’t HAVE to use willpower.
- Have set hours for phone usage. I only use my phone 12pm-7pm each day, other than that it’s turned off.
If you’re interested in learning more about conquering your Digital Addiction, check out NoSurf
4. What’s Your Recipe to a Perfect Day?
Rome wasn’t built in a day. It was built brick by brick.
If you want to build an amazing life, you should think of each day as a “brick” in your life.
Figure out how you can engineer more great days and have less horrible ones.
The first step is to visualize the difference between a great day and a horrible one?
A horrible day means I have no energy. My mind is constantly distracted because I am mindlessly surfing online. I barely make a dent in my to-do list. By the time I’m ready to go to bed, I feel bad because it feels like I wasted my entire day.
Let’s compare that to a great day.
I wake up EXCITED and full of energy. By lunchtime, I have completed my most IMPORTANT tasks. Besides work, I’ve also accomplished some of my other goals, including exercise and reading. I crushed the day so hard that I can spend an hour playing video games without feeling guilty.
I immediately fall asleep at the end of the day because I’m exhausted. I’m happy because I know that I’m a little bit closer to my goals.
I’m 99% in control of whether or not I have a great day or not. (I’m leaving that 1% buffer in case some crazy person keys my car for no reason).
I use a simple framework: what actions do I need to avoid (Kryptonite), and what do I need to do more of (Spinach) in order to have a great day?
Some actions are universal, like having a great night of sleep. Others are personal, like me eating a power salad for lunch.
You need to experiment to figure out what your recipe is.
I love the term “recipe” to describe this experimentation. We’re experimenting to figure out our perfect recipes, and from there we follow them to create the perfect dish (our day).
You can also think of it like a formula:
- Charles + Cocaine + Gambling – Sleep = Bad
- Charles + Coffee + Exercise + Sleep = Good
Here’s my personal recipe:
Spinach (I visualize Popeye eating his Spinach and gaining super strength):
- Going to a Brazilian Jiujitsu or yoga class
- Eat a power salad for lunch
- Drinking 100oz+ of water
- Limiting my phone usage to less than an hour per day
- 7+ hours of sleep
- Completing 4 hours of deep work on my most important work
- Walking 10,000 steps
- Reading a book for over 30 minutes
- Journaling before bed
- Using my blue light device in the morning
- Using my standing desk at least 2 hours + a day
- Meditating 10+ minutes
Kryptonite (I visualize Superman losing his powers):
- Not getting 7+ hours of great sleep
- Waking up late
- Using my phone before noon
- Checking email or social media before noon
- Spending more than an hour playing video games or Netflix
Don’t be intimidated by my list. Keep in mind that these are habits that I’ve been developing over the past 15 years.
Figure out THE ONE HABIT that would be a game changer, and do it consistently (I recommend focusing on sleep, meditation, and exercise first).
Then determine how you can make the actions easier or harder.
I’m trying to use my phone less. To make it easier, every morning I lock my phone up physically.
I want to walk 10,000+ steps I day. I wear a FitBit Alta on my wrist, and it vibrates to remind me to do my walk.
5. Don’t Set it and Forget It
One problem we have is that we often FORGET about our goals.
Don’t spend several hours crafting your goals, only to have your list buried deep inside Evernote. You’ll forget about it.
I have two simple solutions for this.
The first one is to make your list of goals visible. Make it so visible that you see it multiple times a day. You’re using the power of reinforcement.
You could write your goals down on a Post-It note and stick it on your computer monitor.
Here’s an idea for the overachievers.
- Write down your three goals next year.
- Use a program like Canva or hire a designer to make some “art” out of your goals.
- Print it out on a giant poster and frame it. You can use Snapfish to print and grab a frame from Amazon. An alternative is to print it smaller and put it on your desk like a picture.
- Put it in your office where you’ll be reminded of your goals multiple times a day.
Next, you can use something that I call the “waterfall effect”
Break your yearly goals into quarterly, monthly, weekly, and daily goals.
Start from the top.
Lets say that your goal is to run a marathon for the first time.
Start with your Quarter 1 Planning (January, February, March).
What can you accomplish this quarter that’ll move you towards achieving your yearly goal?
You can run a 5k! (It’s a much smaller version of a marathon)
We’re trickling down. Yearly and quarterly is done.
Next is monthly. What can you accomplish in January that’s going to help you run a 5k this quarter?
- Buy running shoes
- Research a training plan
- Start running
Next is weekly goals. What can you do THIS WEEK to help your monthly goal?
You need to buy running shoes. You can start by researching this week.
Finally, what are you going to do TODAY to help achieve the weekly goals?
You can run for two miles in the gym. You can go to the Nike store to try on running shoes.
Are you seeing the power of this?
New Year Resolutions are fucking scary. But you make them manageable by breaking them down into bite-sized goals.
6. Hammer Harder
Keith Cunningham said that if you’re not getting the results you want, you either need to change your strategy or increase your activity.
I recently listened to a Jocko Podcast where he talked about the analogy of the hammer. People are obsessed with finding the perfect “tool.”
Sometimes you have a hammer in your hand, and that’s not the best “tool” for the job. But most of the time, the solution is to just hammer harder with what you have.
How do I interpret this?
We’re programmed to find shortcuts and hacks. We want to avoid work. But usually doing the work IS the answer.
Don’t obsess over finding the perfect workout program. Make a DECISION on a program and COMMIT to it. If you don’t have experience, you don’t have the knowledge to evaluate what the perfect workout program is. You can get pretty far with an average workout program if you’re consistent and put the work in.
The same goes for affiliate marketing as well.
People want immediate results. You launch a campaign or two and it’s not profitable. It’s tempting to switch to the hot new traffic source or the hot new offer. But usually, it’s better to stick to mastering something.
The point is don’t be so obsessed with your tools. They make less of a difference than you think. Focus on your craft.
The tools aren’t as important as getting your reps in.
7. Keep Going
One of the most destructive things you can do is to constantly compare yourself to others.
This isn’t a new phenomenon, but I think it’s more ubiquitous than ever because of social media.
You went on an awesome vacation to Florida but saw that your friend just came back from Bora Bora.
You finally quit your job and you’re starting a business at 36. The winds get taken out of your sale because you read an article about how a 7-year old is making $20m a year on YouTube.
My point? It doesn’t matter.
Progress in life isn’t linear.
You can’t 100% control the results you get, but you can 100% control your efforts.
I can’t control if I’ll have a heart attack or not, but I can exercise regularly and what my diet.
I can’t control if I’ll win a BJJ tournament next year, but I can make sure I show up to classes five times a week.
I can’t control if X campaign will be profitable or not, but I can control how many campaigns I launch and how many split tests I do.
Focus on what you can control.
Here’s to dominating 2019!
If you enjoyed reading this post, check out similar ones that I’ve written:
- Strategies to Achieve Any Goal This Year
- 9 Simple Ways to Have a More Productive and Successful Year
- My 5 Best Strategies For You to Dominate Next Year
- 3 Simple Steps to Conducting an Annual Review
- 2016: The Year of Essentialism
Featured Image by Anton Matyukha