(Breather) Writer Michael Simmons breaks everything down everything for us in this fantastic Medium.com article so we can incorporate the most useful and effective tips that will help us be more like Buffett. Enjoy this 13-step process to help you become more focused, strategic, and prioritized in investing and in life.
The first step is determining your true values and goals, otherwise, you’ll find yourself wondering, “Why do my goals leave me feeling so empty?” Well, here’s the thing: you need to reflect on where your values come from: are they truly your own, or are they the result of the culture and environment you grew up in? From your peers to your parents to the consumerist agenda permeating modern society, who knows how deeply ingrained certain ideas are into your mind, without you even realizing it?!
It’s also crucial to make to-do lists and prioritize; go for the big rocks first a la Steven Covey and get good at it through repetition; identify your very top priority, do it first, and measure results carefully; filter out unnecessary stuff by getting better at saying “no;” and get expert coaching and accountability partners. Check in with yourself and your habits, and determine if you are guilty of “Procrasticlearing” – a term coined by Gretchen Rubin – as a way to avoid doing the necessary tasks on your to-do list. This is something so many people are guilty of, and it’s understandable: you’ve got a ton of tasks to tick off on the list, with no idea where to start. The pressure starts to mount, and it gets overwhelming. “I know,” you think to yourself. “I’ll organize all my utensils! Or my sock drawer! No, wait – I’ll wrap up all my holiday gifts, or clear out my computer…Then I’ll feel accomplished, like I really did something.” Wrong! That’s not the road to take, especially when you’re getting anxious about the things that you really need to just get done. Just focus on what you need to do, and do it.
Also, something that I don’t think a lot of people realize is that you need to make time for organizing your priorities. We’re so used to having calendars and reminders and all kinds of apps and tools on our devices, but what about investing in a plain old fashioned calendar? Yes, I’m talking about a literal calendar, one that allows you to physically block out your time and see how you’re balancing your priorities throughout the day and week. And if a physical calendar is not your thing, give Evernote a try, if you haven’t already. Evernote has been by far my favorite way to effectively organize all my thoughts, notes, schedule, to-do list, etc. Having a combination of a calendar, to-do list and notebook on a digital platform really helps me stay focused and clear, because it’s something I can update and have access to anywhere, which helps me keep myself accountable.
Another important thing to note that Simmons says is that, “Prioritizing is a skill” and that every time you see all your priorities, it’s an opportunity to get better at prioritizing. Once you start to incorporate prioritizing into your daily habits, you’ll see that you get better and better at it the more you do it. A great example of truly incorporating prioritizing into your daily life is to, “Do your priority first,” something I’ve adopted from my friend Andre Obradovic. In the mornings, straight after my cold plunge and stretching routine, I went straight into a few hours of super-focused work (book writing) before even daring to check my emails and messages. Once I did the one priority I knew I needed to get done, I would email him to confirm that I did this, and then I would go on with my day. This kind of discipline is really integral to accomplishing things, and sometimes you simply can’t do it alone – having someone who holds you accountable just makes it a lot easier for you to actually follow through. Commit to doing that one thing first, because if you push it off for later in the day, you’ll often find that you just keep pushing it to tomorrow, day after day.
Another thing that will help you stay focused and disciplined is by making an “Avoid At All Costs” list. These are the things you know that you can’t do without getting distracted, frustrated, or losing a big chunk of time out of your day. It takes a lot of energy and self-restraint to not do the things on this list, but the thing is, when you’re not deliberate in your actions, you’re likely to fall into old habits and lose time. Eliminate potential distractions before they can happen, so you’re not forced to confront them – this is why saying “No” is such a great skill to cultivate. We all have situations in life that we need to start saying no to, but you shouldn’t wait for the stress of battling those situations to drain you, simply remove them. Essentially: take the problem out of the equation for yourself.
At the end of the day, we’re all guilty of putting off the most important item on our to-do lists. Why? Simmons, the author of the article, says he’s guilty of this because, “I often resist the thing that is most important, because it requires me to confront my fears and self-sabotaging beliefs. Therefore, I always operate more effectively when I share my priorities with others, every day, and every week. Accountability forces me to be brutally honest with myself…it helps me put my foot on the accelerator.”
To sum it up:
- Determine your true values.
- Determine your true goals.
- Set aside time for prioritization: daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly.
- Make a list of everything you have to do.
- Get your to-do list out of your head, and physically put it onto paper.
- Practice the 80/20 rule in all areas of your life.
- Identify your single most important priority, and do that thing first, every day.
- Message your accountability partner to confirm you did it.
- Collect and measure metrics primarily on that “one thing.”
- Put (mostly) everything else on your “Avoid At All Costs” list.
- Prepare for, and envision what will happen if you get distracted by things on the “Avoid” list. This will help illuminate just how difficult and energy-consuming it is to stay away from distracting stuff.
- Practice saying “No.”
- Get both accountability and coaching.
Brad presents a 13-step process to get inspiration. Numbers 1 and 2 are: determine your true values and goals. [03:43]
Set aside time for prioritizing. [06:54]
Make a list of everything that you have to do. Getting it out of your head and onto paper is cathartic. [09:46]
Do your top priorities first. [10:24]
If you leave your one thing for later in the day, it probably won’t get done that day. [14:23]
Measure the metrics of the items on your list. [15:13]
Put everything else on your avoid at all costs list. [18:04]
Practice saying “no.” [19:52]
Get both accountability and coaching. [20:43]
Brad summarizes these steps from the article. [22:52]
- Stephen R. Covey
- Michael Simmons
- Warren Buffet
- Gretchen Rubin Podcast
- Getting Things Done
- The One Thing
- Andre Obradovic Podcast
LISTEN:Download Episode MP3
Get Over Yourself Podcast
Brad: 00:00 Welcome to the get over yourself podcast. This is author, an athlete, Brad Kearns, discovering ways to be healthy, fit and happy in hectic, high-stress, modern life. So let’s slow down and take a deep breath. Take a cold plunge and expertly balanced that competitive intensity with an appreciation of the journey. That’s the theme of the show. Here we go.
Brad: 03:43 Okay, breather show. Backing up the previous one about the inspiration behavior patterns mindset of investor King Warren Buffet, and now we’re going to do a 13 step process to apply these insights to your own life. Inspired by a great article. On the medium.com by Michael Simmons link will be in the show notes. So in the previous show you had some great exposure to his focus, prioritization skills, minimalist, simple, straightforward lifestyle. And now we can get into it with some practical tips starting with one and two determine your true values and your true goals. When you prioritize without having clear values, your goals often end up feeling empty. Hmm, sounds familiar. Yeah. Goal, goal, goal, focus, focus, focus. Do I care that much? Not really. Even though I achieve the goal, so, uh, this is a lot of quoting, but I’ll be interspersing in and out without your own north star.
Brad: 04:55 The goals you set are often the result of the values of the culture you have been previously in. Therefore, your goals aren’t really your own goals. I am a lot of people influenced by, of course, parents, well meaning parents, peer influences, the culture, the consumerism, and the value of material success over everything else. So let’s choose out of that and find out your own true values and true goals. Without setting clear goals, your daily priorities become overwhelmed with urgent tasks that have a short term payoff that make you feel good. Having clear values based goals keeps you focused on what matters most short term and longterm. Can you think of any good examples here? I can. Your email inbox, oh, doesn’t it feel great to clear your inbox and get back to everybody and clear your voicemail and make all those calls back and do all those seven errands of returning this garment to the clothing store and going and buying another a lock.
Brad: 05:57 I lost my lock. I have to go buy a lock today. I hate that. But this efficiency stuff can easily get away from you. Remember Stephen R Covey, seven habits of successful people. He was talking about effectiveness versus efficiency. So efficiency is a ordering the order of your errands so that it’s in a geographical linear stop here. First stop there next. But if that took 20 minutes to write down all the steps or you’re so efficient with every little thing like returning the $7 item that didn’t work and all of a sudden an hour of time has gotten away from you. Some of this stuff doesn’t add up. It gets away from you. Time gets away from you. I had a great interview with Gretchen Rubin, bestselling author, uh, on this podcast channel a little while back. Search for it online. And she talked about the concept of procrastaclearing, right?
Brad: 06:54 Clearing, clearing up, decluttering and making things so orderly and so efficient that you kind of forget your highest priority tasks of the day or you lose the time to do them. So determine your true values, your two goals. Third, set aside, time for prioritization, uh, making blocks in your calendar, uh, recommended by Simmons. 15 minutes a day, an hour a week, three hours, a quarter, and an entire day every year. Ooh, that’s interesting. Imagine that. Taking like your own personal retreat once a year and spending the whole day on your priorities. Wow. What is 2020 going to be all about? It’s about winning the super bowl for the dream team. Oh my goodness. That would be so fun. And so interesting to spend a day on your own personal retreat down at the library. Imagine that just sorting through your plans and your ambitions and your vacation opportunities. Wow. Uh, how about 15 minutes a day?
Brad: 07:57 Do you think that would be a useful, uh, application of your time? I really like that. I would probably reference that I spend three or four or five minutes a day. Definitely not enough, but I am trying to, uh, resource, uh, reference that to do list that I keep in digital form on the notes app, uh, from iPhone and a macbook. So it transfers back and forth between, um, my portable device and my desktop device. My home base, uh, also ever note is a fantastic program used by tens of millions of people. And what’s cool about that is it’s just a, a notes program where you can, uh, make folders and put notes in there. Uh, you can do multimedia, you can save like, uh, pictures and audio, but mostly them just making an assortment of text notes. And these also update to mobile device. And the great thing about Evernote is you can type into their search bar.
Brad: 08:51 It’s just like Google for your own life. You type in any term or anything. Like if I type in buffet, uh, I will come up with every single note where that word is mentioned in the note and quickly find all kinds of stuff from the owners manual to the spa, uh, all the way to the hiking trails that I wrote down on another scrap paper of note. Everything’s organized in Evernote. I think it’s free. Sure. You can do it with a pad of paper. I did that for many, many years. But I love the digital aspect of keeping things clean and the thought of losing, uh, some detailed notes and plans and things you spent a lot of time on just because you misplaced the spiral notebook, that would be tough. So my recommendation, go digital and then have at your fingertips on your mobile device anytime you just punch into a Siri or the talking voice of the other platforms that you might use and then it’ll fold right in.
Brad: 09:46 And so I have to clean up a mess basically every day where I’m taking these one off notes and integrating them into my priority list. A great stuff. So back to the, uh, the Warren Buffet List inspired by Warren Buffett, written by Michael Simmons, uh, going down from your true values, your true goals, your time for prioritization daily, weekly, quarterly, and yearly. And then make a list of everything that you have to do. Getting it out of your head and onto paper is cathartic and it gives you fodder for the rest of the steps. Uh, there’s a great book called Getting Things Done that the author of the article recommends. David Allen’s getting things done.
Brad: 10:24 Next, circle the top 20% of priorities that will give you 80% of the results. Man, you hear this all the time. Do you think it’s really true? Maybe it is. I don’t know. Maybe we get bogged down in that 80% category when we could really let a lot of things slip through the cracks and just focus on the top 20% of priorities.
Brad: 10:47 I don’t think I’m very good at that. Maybe I should try it for a week and then do another podcast about that. Yeah. I don’t call people back. Don’t answer these text messages. Don’t answer these emails. Just go for that top 20% love it or some way, shape or form of that. Getting more focused. I think we would all benefit from, uh, I remember back in the day when I was working in corporate setting and the emails would come flying through these group CCS where there was five people on there and back and forth all day. The badminton birdie would get batted back and forth over the net and a few were out of the loop. For some reason, out of the office, away from your desk, you’d sit down at the end of the day and realize that the entire thread had been resolved without you needing to participate in these intermediate steps. Uh, okay. So top 20% of priorities, they give 80% of the road results.
Brad: 11:38 Next practice, the 80 20 rule like you would any other skill. Hmm? Prioritization is a skill says Simmons, by learning and then using different mental models such as the bottleneck analysis, the IC method or the critical path approach. Wonder what those things are. You get different ways of seeing your priorities every time you see your priorities as an opportunity to practice becoming better at prioritization. Oh, that’s cool. I like, I get what he’s saying there is just is just um, repetition and endurance as they say, building a better habit. So I’ve talked a lot about my morning stretching routine and cold plunge exposure. Didn’t do it today. I have to admit, very, very rare. Uh, I had to get my dogs out before it was really, really hot, so I skipped my cold plunge.
Brad: 12:29 That means I’m going to have to go back and do it later anyway. Uh, by identifying those priorities and having them at the forefront of your mind every single day and then developing the discipline to make them the priority by executing them, then your awareness is heightened all the time and you don’t slip and slide away from what your stated priorities are, but you don’t take action on. Love that. So that’s the tip named practice. The 80 20 rule like you would any other skill.
Brad: 12:59 Then identify the single most important priority. So if you were to narrow down a list of 25 priorities to five priorities, how about this aggressive misuse of the term priority? Anyway, you know what he’s talking about. Then you can apply the 80 20 rule again to focus on the one priority that gives you 80% of the results from those top five priorities, narrowing, narrowing, narrowing, focusing, getting to the top of the pyramid.
Brad: 13:27 He also learned this from a book called The One Thing. So another plug. Do your one thing first. Oh, I got this also from another, uh, another perspective from, uh, my friend Andre Obradovic who’s been on the podcast before. Wonderful. Uh, life coach, peak performance coach and a athletic coach from Australia has some great insights. No muppets being the very best insight he’s ever come up with in his life. Taking that to the bank and run with it. Uh, but that’s what he said to his like, do your priority first. And his assignment to me, our little coaching assignment was that I would get on it, uh, do my, let’s say two hours of focused work on the book before I opened up email or got distracted. I would do that as the very first thing, the day after my cold plunge of course, and my stretching.
Brad: 14:23 Uh, but then I would do it and then email him at the end of that time period that I had committed to saying I effing did it mate. And then go on with my day and allow myself to get distracted. Huh. Check out this youtube video. Oh, look at my inbox. It’s blowing up. But at least I pulled those two hours out of the hat and kept that commitment and it could be 20 minutes, it could be four hours, whatever it is for you to do that one thing first, when our day starts quoting about the one thing first, we have the most energy and the least distractions. This makes it the perfect time to tackle the hardest, most important activity. If you leave your one thing for later in the day, it probably won’t get done that day. I learned about managing my days based on my energy levels in a book called the power of full engagement.
Brad: 15:13 Next, we’re getting close to 13 I think this might be number eight, collect and measure metrics primarily on your one thing. Ooh, very cool. Did you do it or not? I’m thinking of that Voice of Dr Dre and my head. Uh, where’s the email? Did you effing do it or not? And if I have to write an explanation of two sentences. Oh yeah. Our Internet was down this morning and, and and no, collect and measure metrics primarily on your one thing. The mind loves metrics, says Simmons, especially public metrics. This is why social media platforms can so effectively train us to maximize our followers likes and comments. When these vanity metrics increase. I love that. What’s your vanity metric this month? Oh, I gained 50 followers on my social media. When these vanity metrics increase, we feel like we’re making progress and doing important work, but at the end of the day, if you run a business, what matters more is tracking profit first.
Brad: 16:14 If you run a nonprofit, what matters more is improving the world. If you’re trying to reduce loneliness, what matters more is how many high quality interactions you’ve had with close friends. The author of the articles business changed overnight when he took the time to identify the few metrics that really mattered and then focused religiously on them. Oh Man, I love this. This is such a great reminder for myself to to to get that metric part in. On the last show, I talked about how I’ve always been good at pursuing my passions and doing work that mattered and following my heart and my destiny. And I became an athlete, which was such a great surprise and a wonderful journey and did it for a little bit too long because I wasn’t really focused on my priorities, uh, weighing the instant gratification of doing something that was supposedly my passion with my, uh, a future plan and where everything was heading.
Brad: 17:12 And so sometimes we can just get stuck in the, uh, the play mindset. Life is short, uh, why plan for the future mindset. And that would probably be righted or checked and balanced if you collected and measured metrics primarily on your one thing. So why are you in this job? Oh, it’s to make a difference in my nonprofit. Oh, it’s to make my quarterly sales quota. And if it’s not working for you, even though you loved it and you had a great Christmas party and it’s really fun to hang out with the gang at the office. And you guys really laugh a lot when you take your breaks in the coffee room. Hey, let me see your metrics. Yo Man. So, uh, real life circumstances and pressures. Uh, same with college. Remembering the times when that fall semester freshman year is oftentimes an opportunity for the lowest GPA of all because kids are away from home.
Brad: 18:04 They’re going crazy, they’re having fun, they’re hitting the parties and they’re getting used to a new life and they’re not measuring the metrics primarily on the one thing. And the one thing being that they’re there to go to school, uh, get grades, pass their classes, accumulate those units because those units are so damn expensive. Now in today’s college world, their parents gonna be checking up on them for sure. Okay. So measuring the metrics of the one thing down the list, uh, it looks like number 10, put everything else on your “avoid at all costs” list. Uh, he references that Warren Buffet does this. And I read further into the article and it turned out that this was sort of a, uh, urban legend that Warren Buffet, uh, made a list of the top 25 most important things to do for the year or whatever. And then as soon as he completed the list, he crossed out, uh, numbers five through 25 and only focused on the top five.
Brad: 18:59 And it’s a really wonderful anecdote to think about, uh, the act of doing that, like going through the challenge of writing your top 25 priorities and then crossing out five through 25. Uh, but it’s probably an exaggeration. Warren Buffet answered a direct question at his Q and A at his shareholders meeting and he says, no, that, that’s not true cause I never even make lists. Whoa. But I like the idea from Michael Simmons to put, uh, an avoid all costs list together. And these are the things that a fritter away your time. Uh, furthering the concept of this avoid all costs list, realized that it takes a ton of energy and discipline not to do certain things on your avoid at all costs list. If you’re not deliberate, you’re likely fall into old habits to make sure this doesn’t happen. A strategize early on do a premortem.
Brad: 19:52 What would you, what would life being like if you got into these old habits got distracted? What would be the cause? Being aware of these potential distractions before they happen, we can dramatically increase the odds of avoiding them. Pretty Cool, Huh? Number 12 out of 13, practicing, no. Similar to, uh, how the prioritization is a learned skill. So too is saying no. Oh, it feels great to say no, not really. I mean, sometimes it does, but again, this might have a little bit of pain and suffering involved and changing your mindset, changing your, uh, established behavior patterns, but practice saying “no.” The skill is recognizing areas where we should say no but don’t. And then devising a solution for each situation that actually works.
Brad: 20:43 Finally, get both accountability and coaching. In my experience as the author of the article, I often resist the things that are most important because they require me to confront my fears and self-sabotaging beliefs. Therefore, I always operate more effectively when I share my priorities with others every day and every week. And when a coach forces me to be brutally honest with myself and give expert feedback, accountability helps me put my foot on the accelerator. Coaching helps me remove my other foot from the brake. Ooh, let’s repeat that and see if we can get what he means. Accountability helps me put my foot on the accelerator. Coaching helps me remove the other foot from the brake. I like the idea of accountability, accountability partner. They use that term a in workout, a vernacular where you’re trying to sign up for a, uh, let’s say, uh, a competitive event months from now. So you get a partner, a buddy, and you say, do you workout today? Okay, I did too. That kind of things. Cool. That could be a great role for a healthy partnership to serve as each other’s accountability partners, but then leave the coaching to, uh, an outside entity. Perhaps an expert, right? Cause if you’re spending all day trying to coach your partner and challenge them and do all these things that might be a little difficult to maintain the other wonderful parts of a love relationship. Same with your kids and other dynamics like that. I’m remembering the days of a huge sports where I was a really hands on participatory coach. I love coaching the little guys and a instilling the right values and the higher ideals of few sports until they were about high school age. And then it was time to get serious and it was more like a job with distinct goals in a highly competitive environment. So at that point you turn it over to a real coach. And then in terms of accountability, uh, you can check in and say, uh, did you get good nutrition today? Did you get enough sleep? Do you have everything that you need to succeed? How can I help you as a parent, as an accountability partner rather than trying to be all things? Hey, how about that for a little plug at the end?
Brad: 22:52 So, uh, finishing words from author Michael Simmons on the medium.com. Each of these steps is absolutely critical. Miss one of them. And your ability to pick and follow through on the right priorities plummets. Ouch. So let’s go hit the 13 really quick. Finish this thing off. Take a breath and carry on. Implement them into your life. Ready? Determine your true values. Determine your true goals. Set aside time for prioritization daily, weekly, monthly, yearly. Make a list of everything you have to do. Get it out of your head and onto paper. Circle the top 20% of priorities that will give you 80% of the results. Practice the 80 20 rule like you would any other skill. Identify your single most important priority and do that thing first every day. And then write an email to your friend. I effing did it, mate. Next, collect and measure metrics primarily on that one thing. Next, put everything else on your avoid at all costs list. Okay, not everything else, but put a lot of stuff on that list and then prepare for it. Envision what would happen if you were to become distracted by these. Avoid at all costs list items. Realize that it takes energy and discipline to stay away from stuff. Next practice saying no another learned skill, just like the 80 20 rule. And finally get both accountability and coaching.
Brad: 24:28 Thanks for listening.thank you for listening to the show. We would love your feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org and we would also love if you could leave a rating and a review on iTunes or wherever you listen to podcasts. I know it’s a hassle. You have to go to desktop, iTunes, click on the tab that says ratings and reviews and then click to rate the show anywhere from five to five stars. And it really helps spread the word so more people can find the show and get over themselves cause they need to. Thanks for doing it!