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Screw motivation

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You don’t feel like calling that client, writing that article, or researching that motion.

So what?

You don’t need to “feel” like doing anything to do it. You just do it.

You do it because you have to. Because bad things will happen if you don’t. Because as Steven Pressfield writes in The War of Art, “At some point, the pain of not doing it becomes greater than the pain of doing it.”

Ah, but what about all the optional stuff? The things you need to do to accomplish your goals that don’t have immediate negative consequences if you don’t do them?

Like marketing.

You know you have to do it because if you don’t, your income will shrink or you won’t achieve the goals you (say you) want. But you still procrastinate.

The answer–the way you get things done without motivation–is to establish systems and habits that align with getting those things done.

When you schedule 15 minutes a day on your calendar for marketing (or whatever) and commit to it, you will see progress. Even if you don’t feel like making the calls or scratching out the words, you’ll do it because the alternative is to sit quietly, thinking about what you’re not doing.

(Note, if 15 minutes is still too much for you to handle, start with 5 or ten.)

Checklists can play a part in your systems. It’s easier to do something you don’t want to do when you have a pre-determined sequence in front of you that leads off with easy tasks that help you start.

Breaking up tasks into bite-sized pieces can help. Ten minutes of assembling and organizing your notes and ideas (while you’re watching the game) will make it easier to take the next step.

Ask yourself, “What could I do to help me get [whatever] done?” Would coming in an hour early twice a week help? Would hiring someone to do the most difficult or disagreeable parts help?

There are answers. You can get things done without motivation. But only if you have enough internal motivation to do it.

15 minutes a day can help you get more referrals

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A daily habit for people who think too much

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My wife and I are talking about getting a new car. We’re considering a hybrid, talking about features, costs, and gas mileage. My wife asks me a question. “I think better on paper,” I tell her, and reach for a pad and pen.

By writing things down, I see things more clearly. I can weigh the pros and cons, do the math, and figure out what I think. That’s harder to do when everything is still in my head.

Author Joan Didion said, “I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear.”

Yeah, me too.

While back, I talked to you about “keystone habits,” positive habits that have a ripple effect on other areas of your life. Regular exercise, for example, doesn’t just improve your physical health, it can improve mental well-being, give you more self-confidence and more self-discipline to develop other positive habits.

Journaling is another keystone habit. It can help you see what you think, work through problems, explore ideas, and clarify priorities. Benjamin Franklin kept a journal. So did Mark Twain, Thomas Edison, and many other great thinkers.

Take five minutes a day and write something in a journal. It might not make you a great thinker but it can help you figure out what you think, what you’re looking at, and what it means.

Earn more, work less. Start here

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Keystone habits for the win

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Charles Duhigg, author of “The Power of Habit,” talked about “keystone habits”. These are habits that tend to lead to other good habits and behaviors.

Exercise is an example of a keystone habit. Duhigg said,

“Typically, people who exercise start eating better and becoming more productive at work. They smoke less and show more patience with colleagues and family. They use their credit cards less frequently and say they feel less stressed. Exercise is a keystone habit that triggers widespread change.”

Other keystone habits might include meditation or prayer, reading personal development books for 30 minutes daily, writing in a journal, getting more sleep or learning a new skill.

Marketing is a keystone habit. Writing a weekly email to your clients and prospects, for example, can not only bring in more business, it can also improve your presentations, help you develop more content (and better content) for your website, and improve your conversational skills.

You don’t have to change every habit to achieve your goals. Focus on developing a few keystone habits that will allow you to create a wave of successful outcomes in your work or personal life.

Start by identifying one keystone habit and working on it every day. If you’ve chosen well, one small change in what you do or how you do it can cause a trickle-down effect and generate a plethora of positive outcomes.

Keystone habit: teaching clients how to identify your ideal client and refer them

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Deciding what to do first

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Yesterday, I said that when you feel overwhelmed with too much to do you should make a big list of everything and then choose (no more than) three things.

But how do you choose?

Do you select something that’s urgent? Important? Easy? Challenging? Enjoyable? Do you choose something at random just to get moving?

There’s no right or wrong answer.

One thing you could do is go through the list and for each item, ask yourself, “What’s the worst that could happen if I DON’T accomplish this today?” No doubt you’ll realize that most of the things on your list can wait but you still may be no closer to choosing.

One question that’s helped me choose is the one posed by Gary Keller in his book, The One Thing:

“What is ONE THING you could do such that by doing it, everything else would be easier or unnecessary?”

A simpler version: “If I could ONLY do ONE thing today, what would I do?”

When we limit ourselves to just one thing we make it easier to choose because we tacitly give ourselves permission to put everything else aside. It forces us to identify our priority.

Get your “one thing” done and even if you don’t do anything else today, you will have a good day. Get your One Thing done FIRST and you’ll have the rest of the day to choose what to do next.

Referrals every day

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What to do when you’re overwhelmed

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You’ve got too much to do. Too many ideas. Too many thoughts bouncing around in your head. You’re feeling anxious, confused, defeated, overwhelmed.

One of the best things you can do to gain some relief and clarity about what to do is to get everything out of your head and onto paper.

Grab a sheet or your favorite note app and do a brain dump. Write down every task, idea, and worry. Write quickly and don’t stop until your brain is empty.

When you’re done, you should feel a bit better. A little lighter, more centered.

What now? Take the rest of the day off. Go do something fun and life-affirming. Your list will be there when you return.

If you can’t do that, at least resist the urge to study and prioritize your list. That’s likely to make things worse.

Instead, read through the list quickly and choose (underline, star, circle) no more than three things that jump out at you. Things that are urgent or important and calling to you to get done.

Once you’ve done that, write down those three things on another list and put the first list away. Then, deal with those three things.

If they’re tasks, do them. If they’re decisions, decide them. If they’re problems, work on them, and continue doing that until you’re done or you have completed these three things or taken them as far as you can go.

Then, celebrate. You’ve re-established control and taken care of some important things. Pick up your list again and choose what’s next.

If “get more clients” is one of your three things, start here

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Reading wide and reading deep

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I just logged into my Kindle account and found I have just under 7000 books.

I’ll never read most of them.

In fact, all my life I’ve purchased books I never read. I’m okay with that because I read as much as I can and I like having lots of options I can turn to.

Nearly every successful professional is a prolific reader. They read in their field and outside their field. They read books written by and about their colleagues, business leaders and a wide variety of subject matter experts.

They read broadly–to gain insights and ideas, to learn from the mistakes of others, to learn things they never knew and to think about things they’ve always known in different ways.

And when they find a superlative, transformative book, they read it more than once.

On a first reading, they might highlight or underline passages, make notes in the margins or elsewhere, so they can not only process the material at a deeper level, they will have a guide to that material when they return to read it again.

They reread books because each time they do that they pick up new ideas, insights and nuances they didn’t previously see or appreciate. And they reread books because each time they do, they bring to the material a different context. They’ve read other books that support or contrast the ideas in the first one. They’ve implemented the ideas and seen how they worked. They’ve allowed the passage of time to contemplate what they’ve learned. And thus, when they read the book again, they get more out of it.

If you asked them, they might say, “It’s better to read ten good books ten times than to read 100 books once.” And I agree.

How to get more referrals

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What’s all the fuss about habits?

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Aristotle said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” Your value isn’t determined by what you know it’s determined by what you do.

All the little things you do or don’t do cumulate, compound, and create who you are. They also determine what you achieve.

One author put it this way: “You are at this point in your life because of the way you have treated every ‘today’ for decades. You will never change your life until you change something you do daily.”

If you keep some kind of journal, you might start tracking your habits. Write down the things you do (and fail to do) during the course of your day.

Some habits are good. Some are bad. And some are neither good nor bad, except for the fact that they use time and energy that might be used for something else.

Note your good habits and look for ways to do them more often or for longer periods of time. Look for ways to improve the way you do them and, therefore, the results they bring.

Note your bad habits and look for ways to eliminate them, do them less often, or neutralize them by changing them in some way.

Note your habits that are neither good nor bad. The potential time-wasters. Look for ways to do them less often or for shorter periods of time, and find positive habits to replace them.

Because you are what you repeatedly do.

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Is your cat too thin?

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The last time my daughter was in town she commented on how much weight our cat had lost. My wife and I didn’t see it. Maybe he was a little thinner but not that much.

But we were wrong. Our vet confirmed that the cat had lost too much weight. (Change of food and other measures and he’s back to normal now.)

Why was our daughter able to see that the cat had was too thin and we couldn’t? We couldn’t see his gradual loss of weight because we saw him every day and our daughter didn’t.

We were too close and couldn’t see what was right in front of us.

I want to make the case for periodically taking a step back from your routines and changing up what you do. When you interview a new client, for example, instead of following the same checklist in the same order, mix it up. Ask the questions in a different order or ask different questions.

You may be surprised at what you find.

The same goes for anything you do habitually. Your exercise routine, the way you do research, the way you arrange your desk or the desktop on your computer.

When you always do the same things, and you always do them the same way, you can get stale and miss things.

Change your routines. Change the people you hang out with. Change the way you drive to work.

Change your perspective and you may see things you no longer see (or have never seen).

Your cat’s health may depend on it.

Change your marketing habits

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Failure is an option

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Nobody likes to fail so most of us tend to avoid doing things we’re not good at, things we’ve failed at before.

Thomas J. Watson, the founder of IBM, said that’s the opposite of what we should do:

“Would you like me to give you a formula for success? It’s quite simple, really: Double your rate of failure. You are thinking of failure as the enemy of success. But it isn’t at all. You can be discouraged by failure or you can learn from it, so go ahead and make mistakes. Make all you can. Because remember that’s where you will find success.”

I don’t think he meant we should literally increase our “rate” of failure, meaning the percentage of mistakes or failures. I can’t see how intentionally doing worse would help us to become more successful. I think he meant we should double the “number” of failures, meaning the number of times we “attempt” things we’ve failed at.

The more attempts we make, the better we get. We’ll rack up more failures but each failure brings us closer to success.

What are you avoiding that you’re not good at it or don’t like it but know you need to do?

Instead of avoiding these things, increase your knowledge, work on your skills, and forge ahead. Screw up more, embarrass yourself more, bitch and moan more, and eventually, you’ll have a breakthrough.

Because failure is an option and it’s not a bad thing.

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How to conquer fear

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Fear is a bitch. It stops you from doing things you need to do and things you want to do and it makes things you do more difficult.

I’m not talking about big scary stop-in-your-tracks kind of fear. They don’t crop up that often and when they do, it’s often better to give in to them. If you’re afraid of sky-diving, for example, don’t do it. Do something else on your bucket list.

No, I’m talking about micro-fears, little nagging worries that make you avoid situations or people, doubt your process, procrastinate, abandon half-finished projects, or move so slowly that you miss the opportunity.

You may not see what these fears do to you because they are small and familiar but they add up and make for a poorer quality of life.

What can you do?

You can do more research. You can delegate the task. You can do something else that makes the original task unnecessary or easier. Or you can get someone to do “it” with you–yep, hold your hand as you take your first steps.

I’ve done all of these at various times in my life. I’m sure you have, too.

But there’s something else we can do to defeat our fears or to get the thing done despite them.

Do it anyway.

Dale Carnegie said, “Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.”

Easier said than done? Maybe. But here’s something that can make it easier.

It’s called “the five-minute rule”. Whatever it is that you’re avoiding, do it for just five minutes.

You can do just about anything for five minutes. When you do, you will have done the hard part–you got started, and getting started is the antidote for what ails you.

How to get better at delegating

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