Dear Diligent Sunday Readers,
The first quarter of the year has come to an end, and the second one has begun. A quarter is a good planning level for personal goals and changes.
- It is not as abstract as a year (e.g. rough yearly goals)
- but not as short-term as a week (e.g. rough task planning).
A quarter allows you to create 90-day challenges. You can translate your abstract goal (e.g. losing weight) into a system of daily actionable steps (e.g. working out for an hour daily) and form positive habits that maximize your time and energy.
As a habit, I like to reflect on my progress and goal achievements of the previous quarter during the weekend of the quarterly change, think about whether I'm still on the right track or if a course correction is necessary, update and reprioritize my goals based on that, and finally, come up with a new 90-day program.
I hope this inspires you to start the next quarter deliberately and thoughtfully so that your hard work leads you in the right direction.
Today at a Glance:
- 💬 Inspiring words about Daily Habits
- 🥸 Controversial Debate: Morning Routines - Waste of Time or Key to Productivity?
- ⚒️ Proven Tools & Practices: Mastering Your Goals with a Quarterly Planning Session
- 📄 Listicle with 5 Daily Habits for Maximizing Your Energy and Productivity
💬 Inspiring words about Daily Habits
"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit." - Aristotle
"Habits are the building blocks of our lives. It is through our habits that we transform ourselves and create the future we desire." - Unknown
"Your habits are either the best of servants or the worst of masters." - Nathaniel Emmons
"The secret of your future is hidden in your daily routine." - Mike Murdock
"Habits are like financial capital – forming one today is an investment that will automatically give out returns for years to come." – Shawn Achor
"You'll never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret of your success is found in your daily routine." – John C. Maxwell
🥸 Controversial Debate: Morning Routines - Waste of Time or Key to Productivity?
The topic of morning routines has been a subject of controversy on social media. In the past few years, productivity gurus have become popular, linking success to unrelenting discipline and early morning routines that start at 4 am and end late at night. However, it became evident that such practices are not sustainable, and even the gurus who preached them likely did not follow their own advice.
This realization led to a counter-movement that vilified anything promoting a hustle and productivity culture. Anyone who mentions having a morning routine is immediately met with rejection.
The problem with social media is that we have lost nuance. Although the exaggerated and overly simplified morning routines of productivity gurus are nonsense, it does not mean that having a morning routine is not a good idea. In this essay, let us sort through this topic and restore the necessary nuances.
For those following me, it is no surprise that I love morning routines. I firmly believe that implementing a morning routine (in various forms and compositions) has improved my life.
But what exactly is the key to them?
These factors are irrelevant:
- The exact time you wake up
- Precise timeboxing
- Mandatory inclusion of meditation, journaling, reflection, or any other activity
- Achieving 100% consistency
- Doing only 100% productive activities
Instead, what matters are:
- Waking up with full energy, i.e., going to bed early the night before
- Uniformity, so that you can reap the benefits of a routine for your body and mind (e.g. not having to actively think and decide on what to do next)
- Doing what is most important to you first thing in the morning
- Having time for your priorities before your 9-5 job
- Having distraction-free time
The truth about my morning routine
My morning routine varies greatly depending on my needs. If I primarily need/want to focus on my body, I start with exercise. If I'm developing a side gig, I start with that. The routine doesn't have to be set in stone but should adapt to your current goals and priorities.
Here's my current routine - I'm starting an hour earlier than in the winter because I've realized that I need an extra hour in the morning for Deliberate-Diligence.com:
- 5 am - 6 am: Write blog articles
- 6 am - 7 am: Create social media posts
- 7 am - 8 am: Engage with my social media community and peers
- 8 am - 9 am: Exercise (alternating between strength and endurance training)
- 9 am - 11:30 am: Eat the Frog - Focus on my most important task for the day without distractions
It's worth noting that not every morning is precisely the same. It's an ideal plan that can deviate in practice. Sometimes, I wake up 30 minutes later because I went to bed late, and that's okay. I'll save those 30 minutes somewhere else or shift everything by half an hour.
On other days, I'm a little low on energy and prefer to scroll through TikTok first thing. That's okay, too, as long as it's an exception. But I know when it's not worth forcing myself because I'm exhausted. Sometimes, I even don't do anything at all.
Overall, I stick to my routine for 4 out of 7 days as I intend, which is enough consistency to enjoy most of the benefits of having a routine.
So, my message to you is the follows:
Don't condemn morning routines just because it's a thing now to condemn them. They have decisive advantages, but you can take it easy in configuring and executing them.
At the minimum, consider the most important thing in your life right now and do it - translated into a daily action - first thing in the morning. That might be enough "routine" to reap tremendous benefits over time.
⚒️ Proven Tools & Practices: Mastering Your Goals with a Quarterly Planning Session
As previously mentioned, the quarterly level is one of the best planning levels - it's not as abstract as the annual goal level and not as detailed as your weekly task list. It's well suited for planning projects, milestones, and deliverables that can exceed the horizon of a week but are still more concrete than a goal, no matter how SMART it is defined.
What is also appealing is to combine quarterly planning with a 90-day habit challenge, utilizing the effects of "Don't Break the Chain".
I'll show you how to proceed by demonstrating it with my own goals.
Step 1: Reviewing the Yearly Goals and Goal Achievement
I have ten work goals and five personal goals for the year. Just counting them, I realize that there's a significant imbalance: I have too many work goals. Also, 15 goals are too much in total - it's not manageable. I was probably too optimistic at the beginning of the year and overburdened my future self.
I can't go through my work goals in detail, but the evaluation is as follows:
Corporate Job / Manager Tasks:
- 4/10 projects are languishing undone
- 3/10 projects are going well, and the project completion is within reach
- 3/10 projects are in the middle ground
- The area where the most time is invested, my Deliberate-Diligence.com content creation side hustle, has not yet shown any tangible progress, at least not in terms of the KPIs that I set my focus on (e.g. monthly revenues).
- The other personal goals are lying fallow. I have even worsened the starting situation of, for example, my body-shaping goal, as I am even less fit than in January (VO2 max, weight, resting pulse, etc.)
I am very unhappy with my goals and goal achievement. I have too many goals where the pressing issues have overshadowed the important ones in the first quarter. I have neglected essential areas of my personal development.
My attention is obviously torn between too many goals, so I only progress in each area in small steps.
Step 2: Consider Basic Measures
When considering the status quo, I already have some rough ideas of what I need to do:
- I need to make fitness my top priority again and move my sports session to the forefront of my morning routine.
- I need to reduce my ambitions regarding my content creation side hustle. Spending 4 hours on my blog and social media presence besides an 8-hour job has not overly burdened me (after all, it's work for my own agenda). However, it still takes time away from my family/relationships, reading/learning, and workouts. I must introduce committed time limits for my side hustles (e.g. 2-3 hours).
- There are no apparent candidates among my work topics that I could completely and entirely discard, finish or delegate. But for each subject, I need to narrow the scope in detail and aim for smaller intermediate goals to avoid becoming entangled.
- I need to say "No" again to distracting tasks and set binding time boxes for the important but not pressing matters so that they are not displaced by pressing issues.
- I need to actively track my time again to ensure I don't invest too much time in particular areas.
Step 3: Converting my review and insights into a new 90-Day Challenge for April-June
Now it's time to turn the insights into a daily challenge, where I promise to implement favourable daily actions as well as possible for these 90 days.
I use different tools for this, depending on my mood. This time, I set up my new habit tracker in Google Sheets.
My 90 day challenge columns:
- 3000kcal Limit: Check/Success if I have stayed below 3000 kcal calorie intake
- Weight lifting or Endurance training: Check/Success if I have performed one of them alternately for 45-60 minutes.
- Walks: Check/Success if I have taken more than 15k steps
- Virtual Office Timeboxes: Check/Success if I have more or less kept the time boxes defined in my calendar (i.e. for my priority projects that are important but not urgent)
- Kcal Intake - Kcal Burn = Kcal Deficit: Calculation of my calorie balance, to be in a deficit of about 500-750kcal
- Equals Fatloss: Recalculation of the calorie deficit into a calculated fat loss to make it more tangible (1kg body fat corresponds to about 7000 kcal)
- Coffee: Number of coffee to drink no more than 8-10
- Sugar: Total amount of sugar, with the goal of not consuming more than 50 grammes per day
- Intermittent Fasting: Check/Success if my first meal of the day is at noon or later.
- Other columns: Time tracking, indicating in hours, rounded to 15-minute accuracy. Colour coding (automatic formatting via google sheets) to see outliers and how things develop over time.
- Go-Offline Time: quitting time, to close the laptop no later than 7-8 PM.
By this specification, I don't have to keep my abstract goals on top of my mind, but I can focus on what I want to achieve daily. An evening routine ensures that I will notice if something goes wrong by the evening of the same day.
The insights alone usually suffice to ensure that I pay more attention the next day so that my misbehaviour does not repeat.
At times, I establish consequences for myself. If I experience food cravings and consume as many as 5000 calories (while only burning 4000), I impose a 24-hour fast on myself as a form of self-discipline.
Conclusion & Adaption for your benefit
The quarterly planning session and 90-day habit challenge are powerful tools to assess and realign your personal and professional goals. By reviewing your progress, identifying areas of improvement, and creating a tangible daily action plan, you can make a system that keeps you on track and accountable.
To adapt this method for your benefit, follow these steps:
- Review your yearly goals and assess your progress. Identify any imbalances or areas where you're falling short. Reflect on the reasons for these shortcomings and any changes you can make to align your goals with your priorities better.
- Consider basic measures to improve your current situation. This might involve setting boundaries, adjusting your priorities, or delegating tasks. Consider what you must do differently to make your goals more achievable and sustainable.
- Create a 90-day challenge for yourself. Choose specific daily actions that will help you make progress towards your goals. Use a habit tracker or time management tool to keep yourself accountable.
- Regularly review your progress and adapt your plan as necessary. It's essential to be flexible and make changes when needed to ensure you continue moving in the right direction.
Consistent action, self-reflection, and adaptability are the key to mastering your goals.
📄 Listicle with 5 Daily Habits for Maximizing Your Energy and Productivity
If you're not interested in doing the goal reflection from Part 3 and are simply looking for five easy habits to implement in the next 90 days to become happier, more successful, and balanced, consider these five suggestions as inspiration:
1) Daily Walking
Walking is an excellent activity that offers numerous physical and mental benefits. It might seem strange for many people to go for a walk without an exact reason, but it works wonders when integrated regularly into your daily life.
2) Jotting down thoughts, ideas, and tasks
I am shocked to see that many people overlook this fundamental habit. Its absence often results in disorganization, scattered thoughts, and constant distractions.
What I suggest is writing down your thoughts.
It's so simple that I even considered not including it here, but many people don't practice it. Here's my method:
I have an "Inbox" folder in a tool (currently Evernote) where I jot down all my thoughts and ideas as individual notes throughout the day.
In the evening, or at the latest by the following day, I have a routine where I go through and sort all the notes:
- Is it still relevant? (Many thoughts and ideas resolve themselves)
- What is the topic? (Project, area of life, etc.)
- What is it? (Idea, thought, task, note, etc.)
The results are:
- The moment you write down your thoughts and store them in your inbox, your mind quiets down, allowing you to concentrate on the task at hand.
- Revisiting thoughts - once when capturing and once during the review - ensures that the important things stick.
- Sometimes, thoughts are already resolved when you review them, saving time compared to immediately following the impulse.
I usually have 20-30 notes daily, and processing them takes about 20 minutes.
3) One hour of daily exercise
Numerous tricks and tips on exercising most effectively (e.g. super sets) require only about 3x 30 minutes per week. I find that too complicated. Instead, try one hour of exercise daily, alternating between strength and endurance training, to alleviate health and fitness concerns.
Nothing is simpler than the daily exercise hour.
4) Avoid industrially processed foods.
Endless time can be spent delving into various diets and tips. However, I believe that you only need to focus on one single aspect: by using basic foods and avoiding industrially processed items when shopping, you can maintain a sufficiently healthy diet with low sugar and a good balance of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins.
For me, the automatic reduction in sugar is the key.
By keeping my sugar intake below 50g daily, I avoid the cravings I used to experience.
By the way, this doesn't mean you always have to cook fresh. Some dishes with basic ingredients can be prepared quickly, such as curd cheese (quark) with oatmeal, nuts and frozen berries.
5) Dedicate an hour every day to your passion projects.
Many people think the key to happiness is not having to work. That's nonsense. I find a lot of fulfilment in work, as long as it's for my own agenda.
I recommend spending at least 30-60 minutes daily working on your passion projects, giving you the feeling of making progress on your personal agenda, regardless of what happens in your corporate job.
That's it for this week! I wish you a fantastic start to the week and Q2/2023!