Tag Archives: Productivity

How To Wake Up Early In Two Steps

4 AM

That’s how early I was waking up and hitting the pavement to run. Every morning…

It was crazy, to be honest.

But I was extremely motivated for an upcoming 5k that I was competing in and it was giving me huge drive to be up, and running, before work.



Eventually, I was able to run my 5k and still maintain my early routine, but around Christmas I got sick… Which basically reset my sleep schedule and made it extremely difficult to start waking up early.

Now I’m back on the path to waking up early and I want to share the tips that are working for me and how you can implement them into your own routine, if you also want to become an early riser.

1. Make It Automatic

Have you ever heard of Pavlov? Maybe you’ve heard of Pavlov’s dogs? If you haven’t, Pavlov was a Russian scientist who, in the 1890’s, conducted a small test, and learned that he could train his dogs to do things, just by playing a particular sound.

His test showed that he could ring a bell, show a dog a treat, and the dog would salivate in anticipation of getting that treat. After a few rounds of this, Pavlov could then remove the treat from the equation, simply ring the bell, and the dog would still salivate, despite there being no treat.

Now, we’re not dogs, but understanding that we can train our bodies using similar methods, can help us to become early risers. What we are aiming to do is train our bodies, so that when it hears the sound of the alarm clock, we immediately get out of bed.

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We start this process by setting our alarm clock for the normal time that we already wake up. So if you typically wake up at 7 AM, and rush to get to work. That’s okay. We want to start training our bodies with the normal time we already wake up, even if we are always in a rush.

It’s very important that we start where we already are. Don’t try to be wishful and think, “Oh I’ll start at 6:45 today” when you haven’t even been getting up at 6:45 since pre-covid….

Set your alarm for when you already, normally, get out of bed.

Now when that alarm goes off, before you turn the alarm off. Jump out of bed. Literally, get out of bed the second that alarm goes off. This shouldn’t be too terribly difficult if you’ve set your alarm for the correct time you already, naturally get out of bed, so… again…be sure you’re setting the correct time.

The key element here is that when your body hears that alarm sound, it’s response is to get out of bed quickly. What we’re essentially doing is training our bodies response to the sound of the alarm, similar to Pavlov training his dogs to salivate, at the ring of a bell.

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2. Make It Small, but Always More Challenging

Along with training our bodies we also need to progressively move our wake up time towards our target time. So if we want to train our bodies to wake up at 5:45 AM, we need to start working in that direction. The trick to doing this is actually understanding how our minds tend to work as we aim for a goal.

When we set goals, we naturally tend to think, “What’s the truest way to reach my goal?” but this also tends to include, “What’s the fastest way?

Our minds naturally want to find the most efficient path to reaching our goal, so that we can obtain that goal, and benefit from it, but this is also where we make our mistake.

What I’ve seen happen in myself, and other people, is that we tend to get caught up in getting to our goal. It overwhelms the actual process to getting to that goal, and the moment anything happens that looks like it might not be as easy to reach your goal as you thought, things start to fall apart.

BUT, there’s a way around this and it’s as simple as not worrying about how quickly you are getting to your goal. When we’re talking about waking up early, and our target time is 5:45 AM, we should not be taking 15 minute jumps on when our alarm goes off, compared to when we typically wake up. We should instead slowly, over-time, move our alarm clock backwards.

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This small process, of making these tiny incremental changes, along with training your body to react to the sound of your alarm clock, will train you to wake up early.

I’m currently dialing my alarm clock back 5 minutes everyday as I work towards my goal time. I’m sure I will have a day where I miss or I will reach a time where it seems like I can’t wake up.

When that happens, I’ll adjust my alarm clock back 1 minute to my last successful wake up time instead. Then I’ll slowly adjust back by 1 minute, until I feel like I’ve overcome that more challenging spot in the process. Then I’ll go back to adjusting by 5 minutes.

The idea is that we want to make these tiny steps every day. We don’t want to try and rush to reach our wake up time. People rush to reach their goals all the time. It’s why fad diets are a thing and why they don’t work. Don’t rush. Let the process roll out overtime and put more focus on just always make a small improvement and you’ll get there.


Write, The Right Tasks Down

There’s a bit of research available that claims writing down your goals, actually improves your chances of reaching them. I personally think that writing down my own goals has historically helped me find direction, when I had too much going on. Where I struggled wasn’t so much with writing down goals, but writing down the right tasks, to reach those goals.



Most often my To Do list would look something like this:

  • Make Grocery List
  • Check Kids Homework
  • Wash the Laundry
  • Let the Dog Out
  • Fix the Bathroom Light
  • Cook Dinner
  • Give the Baby a Bath…
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I really didn’t have any problem getting through this To Do List on most days, but what would happen is that after I had worked through my list, I would lay down in bed and think…

“I didn’t workout today…”

“I didn’t do any better on trying to quit smoking…”

“I didn’t drink enough water…”

“I didn’t work on writing my book…”

“I didn’t move my goal forward…”

Basically, I had done all of the things I needed to do that day, which felt productive, but I didn’t actually get any closer to reaching any of my goals.

Now, don’t get me wrong. My kids homework needs checked, the laundry needs done, and I’ve got to make dinner. I’m not about to say those things don’t matter or don’t need done. That’s not where this is going.

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What I am about to say, is that when I was writing my to do list, I was writing the wrong things down. By writing my day-to-day chores and responsibilities down, I was filling my mind, or rather, distracting my mind, from the bigger picture. I was busy thinking, “What do I need to do today” instead of thinking,

What do I need to do today that will get me somewhere in a year?

This is where the shift in mindset needs to be to really get on track for any goals you have. Don’t write down the things you already know you need to do. If you miss doing dishes one day, I promise you. I PROMISE YOU, you won’t care in 10 years.

But, if you keep doing your dishes everyday, instead of going to the gym, I PROMISE YOU, you will care about that in a year.

What I’ve found works best is to create a To Do list that focuses just on your goals and what you need to get done today to move your goals forward.

Completely eliminate anything that doesn’t directly relate to your goals.

  • Drink water
  • Plan some healthy grocery items
  • Workout
  • Write
  • Read
  • Practice a skill
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These are the things that you want to be writing on your To Do list and by doing so, what I’ve found, is that I was able to focus on these things, get them done, and then still have time to do the dishes and make dinner.

I actually was more productive than I had been before, simply because I shifted the focus of what I needed to get done. I inadvertently put the priority on my goals and made them the number one thing to get done each day, instead of laundry.

If you’re looking for a deeper read on this topic check out my post – The “I HAVE To List” and let me know if this works for you!


Dream Big Long-Term, Work Small Short-Term

When it comes to setting goals and trying to figure out how to reach them, I’ve done my fair share of experimenting (you can see some of the strategies here: The ‘I HAVE To’ List).

But of all of the methods I’ve tried, and all of the ones I’ve failed at, there are a couple of things that have stood out as being helpful, across the board.



Dream Big Long-Term

In “Measure What Matters” by John Doerr (which I recommend buying and reading, it’s like a $10 book with about 20 pages in it), he discusses setting objectives, or goals, at a level that requires more than the average amount of effort to achieve. He follows this up by stating that even if a person, or team, only achieves a percentage of their goal, say 85%, that this is still a success.

The thought process behind this is that we too often limit our potential by trying to set reasonable goals… yet it is the unreasonable goals that actually drive innovation and progress. If you’ve ever heard anyone say, “shoot for the moon and you might land on a star”, this is what they are referring to, and it’s more than just a simple saying.

Setting big goals with an aggressive deadline will quickly put you into a different level of drive and this is exactly where you want to be, to achieve your goals.

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The thing that trips most people up though, is that they become very impatient to reach their bigger goals. Many people expect to hit the gym for a week or a month and then decide to give up, because they aren’t where they thought they should be. Peoples expectations on how quickly they should find success is terribly misguided and is often the cause of people who give up too soon.

This is what makes Dream Big Long-Term valuable. It tells us to continue to aim extremely high, so that we can continue to innovate and grow, but it also reminds us that we need to be running the race with the tortoise mindset and not expect to reach the finish line so quickly.

You can’t fast-forward to an achievement you haven’t earned.

Work Small Short-Term

While we need Big Dreams to set us on the right path, being a dreamer alone won’t get you where you want to go. And while our expectations should concern the Long-Term, if we’re not making enough happen consistently in the Short-Term, we’ll never get there.

That’s why Working Small Short-Term matters and it’s all about staying consistent, quickly. We can have a goal to win a race, but the only way to reach the finish line is to start taking steps. And the person or team that can show up every day, no matter the obstacles, and take another step, is the one who is going to reach the finish line.

Working Small Short-Term means looking for the Little Victories and trying to obtain as many of them as possible, as quickly as possible. The thing that tends to slow down a lot of people, when trying to reach their goal, is getting too caught up in trying to make the right decision.

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Maybe they over think what their workout routine should be, or they spend too much time trying to consider every option out there, and so they burn a bunch of time and energy on just thinking… but the thing is, no one can make the right decision always (unless of course you can predict the future).

Something that might look like a sure-fire, right decision now, might turn out to be a terrible choice 6 months later. You might think it’s a good idea to go to the grocery store, and then get hit by a car on the way. Suddenly that sure-fire choice just took a wrong turn. Life has a funny way of working like this, isn’t it ironic?

The point is, don’t get too caught up in trying to make the right, or even the best decision. Start taking actions and steps that you think might move you forward toward your goals ,and along the way you’ll figure out which choices work most of the time.


How To Be More Efficient

One of the best ways to get ahead in anything that you work on is to find ways to improve efficiency. The faster you can get something done the more time you can put towards working on other important things. I think that’s a pretty straight forward concept to understand but the real trick is identifying what can be improved and how.



Let’s start with what you should try not to make efficient. It’s important to understand that not all things should be optimized for efficiency. For some things, the actual amount of time and the quality of that time both have an impact on the end result. One big area in this regard is in your relationships.

Don’t try to make Relationships efficient!

When we start thinking about efficiency we tend to start looking for lots of areas we can improve and this unintentionally bleeds over into our relationships, but…. this is the one place that you do not want to be efficient.

If you try to be efficient in your relationships people will know that you are doing just that, and it will come off as being too busy for them. Even if it’s not intentional, you just cannot put efficiency into your relationships. Instead, focus on quality and effectiveness in this area.

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Automate your way to getting more done!

So what you can focus on for efficiency? Just about everything else. And there are a number of ways you can optimize efficiency. One of the best ways is to look for places to automate things. (read my article on automating: Automate FTW!).

Automation can provide you a great deal of efficiency and potentially remove the risk associated with people. Because let’s be honest, people are very error prone (I’m sure I failed a grammar test on this blog...).

Get better at what you’re already doing.

After automation you can look to training. Training can greatly improve efficiency. The more you do a task and the more you learn about a particular task, the better you can do it. Consider an athlete who wants to improve their shot efficiency and spends the off-season in training camps. You can approach your tasks the same way.

And you have two approaches to getting better training. You can learn to train yourself through practice and self education OR you can hire/find a coach or mentor. Both methods can be effective and both combined can be efficient, see what I did there 😉

Master… Delegate… Train… Master… Delegate… Train…

Your next option to improve efficiency is to delegate. A lot of people struggle with delegation and it’s because they have an expectation that another person… a completely different human being, with a different background and a different set of life experiences, is going to do something the same way they do when they delegate it.

But that never works. If you delegate something to someone, your expectation should be that they do it roughly 85% as good as what you really want them to do.

Once you’ve set a more realistic expectation on the tasks you’ve delegated, you need to start training. Now you are the coach or mentor and you need to help this person improve their efficiency, which in turn, will improve yours. Delegation is often an investment that is mistaken as a handoff. Delegation is not a hand-off. Be clear on that. It’s an investment and should be treated as such.

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Now you have three different approaches you can use to improve efficiency. Remember, not all things should be more efficient. I find the best way to know what should be efficient, is to identify something that you’re doing on repeat. If you’re performing a particular task and it has become fairly routine for you, you should look to see if you can apply one of the three methods above to make it more efficient.

Can you automate it? There are a million ways to automate things. I automate my monthly budgeting and my weekly grocery list. I automate rules in my email applications to organize them for me. You can buy dog feeders to reduce the number of times you have to fill up a dog bowl. These are just some random ideas to get your mind on the right track.

Can you train on it? Can you learn to get better at the task and therefore do it more efficiently? I’m a very avid reader and reading has given me a ton of insights into how to complete tasks more efficiently. We live in an age of technology where literally learning to do anything faster or better is a google search away.

Take advantage of this opportunity and do a little research to teach yourself how to do things better. Just be sure to consider your source and know that not all information on the internet is equal. I recommend getting multiple view points.

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Can you delegate it? Can someone else do this for you? I delegate chores to my kids and offer an allowance in return. If I have a particular work task I think someone else can do better than me, I offer to exchange a work item with them that I know I could also complete faster.

Can you hire an accountant to do your taxes for you? What about pay someone else to cook for you, like when you order take out? Delegation happens more often than we think but once we start to realize it we can take better advantage of it.

If you have other tips on how to improve efficiency share them in the comments!


How To Get Past A Plateau

Everyone reaches a plateau eventually. It’s a normal part of the growing process, and not just physically, but in the world around us also. When we attempt to achieve or push towards a new goal and begin to rise, we inevitably hit a plateau moment.

And there’s a key a difference in people that continue their growth pattern and those that level off and settle on the plateau.

Identify when you’ve plateaued



The first piece to overcoming that plateau is really recognizing when you’ve hit it. In our exercise or our fitness routines it can be really easy to recognize when we’ve hit our plateau.

All you have to do is check if you’ve improved in the last couple of weeks. If you’ve noticed that your run times haven’t improved or you noticed that you’re no longer increasing your weight week-after-week, you’ve plateaued.

A plateau is a normal part of the the process

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It’s important to understand that plateauing is a normal part of any process. It’s the result of our bodies and our minds adapting to the current situation to have a better chance of continuing to survive in that situation. The problem becomes when our goal isn’t to just survive but to grow, and our bodies and minds don’t quite follow that pattern naturally.

However what’s really important is how quickly we recognize that we are plateauing so that we can pivot as quickly as possible. I’ll talk more about pivoting in just a bit but the important piece right now is understanding that we want to know as soon as possible when we have leveled off. The sooner we recognize that we have slowed our growth, the faster we can change direction and get back on track.

It can be extremely tricky to identify when we’ve plateaued outside of fitness. How do you know when you’ve plateaued at your job? How do you know you’ve plateaued as a parent? How do you know you’ve plateaued at your hobby? The answer to these questions is the same way you know you’ve plateaued in your workouts. By measuring.

Track your efforts like you do your workouts

The only way we can really make a good decision that isn’t based on emotion or bias is to use quantifiable data. In our workouts we do this by recording time or our weights. In other life aspects this can be more complicated but we can still help give ourselves an idea of if we are on the right track.

You can do this by identifying a metric that you feel closely represents (not exactly) where you are getting your value from, and recording it every week just like you do your workouts.

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Is your goal to learn to play the piano? Write down how many minutes you practice for every day. Is your goal to write a book? Write down how many words you write every day. Is your goal to be a better parent? Write down the number of times you do something you feel makes you a better parent.

By capturing this information and reviewing it each day, just like you do in a workout program, you can identify when you are improving and when you have plateaued.

Now, to actually get past the plateau…

Remember, our bodies and minds try to adapt to the particular situation we are putting them in and then from there they will level off when they feel good about that adaptation. To overcome this, we simply need to throw a wrench in the current routine.

Pivot your routine into something different

In exercise, when we are doing pushups and we get to a point where we just can’t seem to do any more day-after-day, we should switch to a different style of push up. We should purposefully do something that is similar, but slightly different. That’s the trick to over-coming a plateau.

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So if you’re having trouble improving your long distance run times, try spiriting short distances. Having trouble improving swimming laps? Go ride a bike. Is your bowling game falling off? Try bowling left-handed. Struggling to think about what content to create for your next blog? Go off on a new topic.

Find ways to create change in your routines.

Don’t use the same tools and the same strategies every day!


How To Get More Done

Whenever we’re researching things online, and we’re trying to learn something new or trying to gain some insights into a topic, we always hope to come across the perfect article. The one that is the one stop shop, that’s going to have all the answers we need, in one place, and we’re usually willing to jump around, from source-to-source, as we search for it.

When a source does just seem to perfectly nail everything we’re looking to learn, it tends to bring us a lot of value. Value is the keyword here.



Someone spent time to create that source or article, whether employed or as a hobbyist, and it brought a lot of value to you. Things that tend to bring a lot of value, to a lot of people, also tend to be in good company with success.

If we think about how value relates to success, and that by creating value we can create success we can start to rethink how we set our to do list (which really should be an I HAVE To List…). A lot of times we tend to prioritize and keep track of items on our to do list that don’t really bring us great value.

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When we’re working towards goals and trying to create success we want to try and identify where the value is in what we’re doing. The tricky part is that value has no one way to be defined. Sometimes things can seem like they should be bringing value, when they don’t. Other times the great value task is right in front of your face and you just can’t seem to grasp it or you’re hesitating to.

If you do find it difficult to identify what your high value tasks are, that will move you towards your goals, you can start by trying things.

That’s the secret right there.

Try more new things.

That’s really how you get more done. You try different things, and then you evaluate how much value they brought, to yourself and hopefully others because then that’s a double win.

You are never going to be able to predict, into the future, what all of the right choices are going to be, and which ones have the most value. The only way to figure out what has value is to start trying things.

That doesn’t mean we should take extreme actions, unless they’re positive ones, but we can still get trapped into doing all the reading and research we want on a topic or goal and still not be able to achieve it. We can think we have the perfect plan and that the problem isn’t with our strategy, but it’s with life… when it’s actually the other way around.

There is so much content available in this day and age for people to learn from. The problem is not all content is equal. We may find information we need or we may read something that isn’t even true. We might read something that just isn’t a good fit for our own life. The only way we can really know, is to try things.

By trying different strategies, different approaches, different techniques, different products, different everything, we get the advantage of collecting data that is exactly specific to our unique situation.

You can’t find that data any where else. No where else can you get data on how things do or don’t work best, for your life, for your career, for your family, than from your own self.

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No matter how good at it you may already be, we should always be experimenting and re-evaluating how we’re trying to reach our goals. Life changes, pandemics happen, family changes, friends change, jobs change, and it’s not all bad or negative either. It’s just the fact that life is about change. Life wants to change and change and change. That’s just what it does.

If you want to figure out how to get more done you have to start experimenting with different actions. Take a different approach, adjust the current plan, or start with a completely new one. You may even go back to an older strategy, but be sure to always review how much value you’re getting.

If we try to employ one tactic or one strategy, that we learned somewhere in our lives, and we try to apply that strategy over-and-over, eventually… it’s going to fail. We can have a high value strategy that is very successful, but someday… it will fail. It’s just trying to identify when things has changed enough that the current strategy is no longer effective.

And the way you figure that out is by trying more new things.


The Two Rare Skills You Need To Be Wildly Successful

There’s a lot of things out there to learn in life.

I remember being fresh out of high school and changing my major about 500 different times never really knowing what I wanted to do with my life. I felt like I had to find the right skillset or I wouldn’t be setup to be successful later in life. Unfortunately, the skillsets you need to actually be successful in life aren’t even taught in the class room.

For anyone out there reading this and trying to figure out how to be successful at what they’re doing, understand that it has nothing to do with what you’re actually doing. The two skills that you need to truly be successful can be applied to any job, any relationship, and any situation. They are the secrets to success.

Skill #1

photo cred: Moritz Mentges

The first skill is the most important one. It’s the one that actually creates action and makes things happen. Skill #1 is Work Ethic.

Work ethic means that if you put in the hours, you put in the work, you collect feedback, and you take time to learn, you will find success. Work ethic is the number one ingredient to making things happen.

Life is often times like a set of dominos except every so many dominos gets bigger and harder to fall over. Each time you knock down a domino, a couple of them fall, but then they get stuck on a domino that is even bigger than the others. That’s when you have to come along and work to make that next domino fall.

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And they don’t just keep falling for you. That’s a trick that a lot of people fall in to. They think they can just work hard for a few days, a few weeks, a few months, and then dominos will just keep falling, but that’s just not how it works. Your domino’s will stop falling and you will have to go put in more work to make the next one fall.

Skill #2

photo cred: Nathan Dumlao

The second skill goes right along with the first. It’s what keeps us honest and balanced and it’s life’s way of making sure you earn what you get. The second skill is Patience.

We live in such a, “give it to me now” society and we’re so used to instant gratification. We want to do one workout, one little project, one day of hard work, and then expect the lavish rewards. Life doesn’t reward you for one single great effort. Life rewards you for consistency. You can’t go to the gym once and get in shape, you have to do it every day, over-and-over and to get to that point, you have to be patient.

Lacking patience is what makes people quit too soon. The lack of patience has people hitting the gym for a week and then giving up because they don’t see any difference on the scale without realizing how close they really are to getting there.

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Try to understand that life is longer than you think. All of that, life is short talk that you see online is garbage. It’s just another marketing point to get you to spend money. “Life is short, take the vacation…” but the truth is, life is pretty fucking long. You literally spend years of it drinking and partying (aka college) and then come out the other side 10 years later with a job and a family.

Life is long, be patient with your goals and with yourself.

If you take these two skillsets and you mix them together you have everything that you need to be successful. Don’t expect to put in 1 day of hard work and reach your dreams. You haven’t earned it and it wouldn’t be fair to anyone else that had. Life rewards you with what you deserve. Work hard, be patient, and reach a point where life has no choice but to reward you.