Here is a simple yet powerful tool to establish habits, learn a skill, or complete a project. I used it to reinforce my daily meditation practice and to write two books.
The method is as old as procrastination but has been attributed recently to billionaire comedian Jerry Seinfeld, as in this frequently cited LifeHacker article, where it is called Don’t Break the Chain. I prefer positive instructions, so let’s name it Link-a-Day.
Buy or make a simple, clean one year calendar. Do not just print your Outlook or Google calendar; those have too many distracting details for this purpose. You can start your own on any date and fit 365 days on one sheet by downloading my template here in Excel format or use the Google Sheets version here.
Place your calendar in the physical world rather than in a computer or app where it can hide. Hang it where you will see it everyday. I put mine on the wall right next to my computer monitor. After you complete the promised activity for the day, mark it complete. When you miss a day or two, start again. No regrets, no excuses. Just start again. You can play games with Link-a-Day by playing for a longer unbroken chain or a shorter gap than last time.
That’s it. As Aristotle observed, a person is what she consistently does. Use this to start doing something you will be proud to be.
Of all the management tools I recommend, one of the most effective is both very simple and very unlikely to be consistently employed—if it is used at all: the written progress report, completed on a consistent schedule.
The power of progress reports to promote results and reduce anxiety is demonstrated daily, on matters titanic and trivial. The U. S. Constitution requires that the President “from time to time give to the Congress information of the State of the Union.” Public companies are required by law to present results to shareholders, at fixed intervals and in specific formats. Schools send regular reports to parents, our GPS tells where we are, and UPS sends a text when a package arrives.
Still, managers and employees resist implementing this simple process.
Who cares about why? Just grow up and start doing a progress report. Declare your goals. Confront your results. Adjust to living in reality. Enjoy the benefits of clarity while the less disciplined fail and fail in a fog of vague expectations and inchoate regrets.
Before I explain how to format and prepare a good progress report, let’s deal with some common excuses questions.
Q: I don’t have a boss.
A: If you have (more…)
People are always blaming circumstances for what they are. I don’t believe in circumstances. The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and, if they can’t find them, make them.
–Vivie, Act II of
Mrs. Warren’s Profession (1893)
via George Bernard Shaw – Wikiquote.
There is great power in a resolution that has no reservations in it — a strong, persistent, tenacious purpose — which burns all bridges behind it and which clears all obstacles from its path and arrives at its goal, no matter how long it may take, no matter what the sacrifice or the cost.
— Orison Sweet Marden
The end of one calendar year and the beginning of the next naturally brings reflections on our progress and plans. Apply scientifically proven methods to your goal setting and New Year’s resolutions with these free tools from Top Executive Coach Tony Mayo.
Here’s hoping that, with these tools and some solid coaching, your New Year is actually new and different. Good luck.
Live your life each day as you would climb a mountain. An occasional glance towards the summit keeps the goal in mind, but many beautiful scenes are to be observed from each new vantage point.
–Harold B. Melchart
No wind serves him who addresses his voyage to no certain port.
—Michel de Montaigne
French humanist essayist 1533-92
Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off your goal.
—Henry Ford, 1863-1947
To live is to suffer.
But not only creativeness and enjoyment are meaningful. If there is a meaning in life at all, there must be a in meaning in suffering. … Without suffering and death human life cannot be complete.
— Viktor Emil Frankl
Man’s Search for Meaning
One always finds one’s burden again. … The struggle itself towards the heights is enough to fill a man’s heart.
One must imagine Sisyphus happy.
The Myth of Sisyphus
One of the things I’ve noticed as a characteristic of the great [athletic] coaches, is that they start with their commitment to a result first and then they’ve looked at the circumstances they’ve needed to deal with from the perspective of the result.
The people who did not make it into the league of the great coaches were often just as articulate, just as smart but they were focused on the circumstances they needed to deal with and then they looked at the result from the circumstances.
— Werner Erhard in conversation with
John Wooden, Red Auerbach,
George Allen, & Tim Gallwey
See also Managing Yourself (from the future) with Specific Measurable Results, on this blog.