Hey there! I’m Matt Sandrini, the founder of Time Zillionaire. In the age of endless choices, overwhelm and lack of direction are a daily occurrence. Your days are full, yet you’re not getting anywhere. There’s so much more you could do in your life. Shape your life, one day at a time. Combine time strategies, peak performance, and mindful habits to cut through the nonessential, smash..
According to Google, there were over 129,864,880 published books in 2009.
If you read 2 books a month, it would take you over 5 million years to go through all of them.
Just enough time for you to forget the first few hundreds and start all over again.
Books changed my life and changed who I am. For the better.
Sandwiched between two covers of paper, you can find life changing knowledge, timeless ideas, and captivating stories ready to empower you and enhance your thoughts.
I'm also a big fan of podcasts, videos, and blogs.
If books show a summary of someone's lifetime work, podcasts and videos allow you to peek into a personal conversation or into someone's journey, and blogs offer laser focus on a particular issue or skill.
On WordPress alone (the leading blog platform) 80 million new posts are published each month. YouTube gets 300 hours of new video content uploaded every minute.
Books, podcasts, blogs, and videos are a powerful way to upgrade your peer group, hone your skills and learn new ones, and be exposed to possibility.
It's mind blowing.
But when it would take thousands of generations to go through it all, it can become overwhelming. Really fast.
Information or infotainment?
Infotainment is when you absorb informative content for its entertainment value without doing anything about it. Even the most life changing book or thought provoking article has some infotainment value. (This post included).
The infotainment spectrum is very wide, ranging from the news (unactionable by its very nature), to a step-by-step article that makes you think “Ah! She's so right.” seconds before you push that thought aside and go back to life as usual.
And that's fine.
As long as you don't mask consuming information as a race to better yourself, colouring it with all the pressure and anxieties of being up to speed and constantly catching up with everyone else.
As it often happens, your own chemistry doesn't help. Like ticking small tasks off a todo list, jumping from one short read to the next trying to keep up releases dopamine in your brain, making you feel good and craving for more.
Learn to recognise the purpose of the information you consume.
If it's a highbrow way to entertain yourself, treat it as such and just enjoy it.
When you use the executive function of the brain on conscious and engaging activities, you are tapping into a finite resource. Information overload uses up our limited willpower, which reduces your ability to take action and make decisions. So the more information you ingest in a day, the less likely you will be to take action on that information. Or just take action at all.
Another reason why content can be so overwhelming, is that it makes you feel like you are taking action, without actually having to take any risk. You feel good, and get to stay in your comfort zone.
Constantly looking for more information is a form of procrastination.
It's also a way to try to minimise risk and cling to certainty, by absorbing as much information as possible before taking action.
But risk is intrinsic to life. So using information to eliminate it becomes a race without a finish line. And because different authors and broadcaster followed a different path and experience, you may get contradictory information and end up more confused than before.
Don't get me wrong.
Books, blogs, and podcasts changed my life, and opened doors to possibilities I would have likely never stumbled upon. I am forever grateful.
But opening the door is not enough if you don't walk inside.
Imagine reading a book on handwriting.
Imagine memorising every single letter and how each stroke is drawn.
Does this make you good at writing longhand? Or even able to?
Most of us learnt how to write by practicing. Someone showed us how to do it (the theory), and then through experience it became automatic. We're so good, we can apply it to different materials and use different pens. But, though we do have a theoretical understanding of how to write, most of us can only do it with one hand.
Theoreticalknowledge usually builds context, exposes you to new ideas, gives you a clear direction and specific examples of what you are learning. It's a great way to learn from the experience of others, and direct and shortcut your own.
Experience, on the other hand, comes from blending theory with facts, events, and actions. It brings knowledge to a whole new level, making it flexible to problem solving and adaptable to different situations, which makes it more applicable and requiring less cognitive power.
Theory helps you shortcut experience. Experience gives theory purpose.
Balance Theory with Action
Information doesn't get it done.
So how can you balance theory with action?
Here's a simple rule of thumb: only absorb as much information as you can action.
The less time you can dedicate to taking action, the more focused you should be in your learning.
Align your learning and your goals
It's too easy to get lost into the next blogpost or the next book popping up in the suggestion box.
If you want to turn knowledge into experience, you need to be intentional and say no.
Theme your learning to support your goals.
Ask: what must I learn in order to achieve that goal or become that person?
What do you need to learn first? Concentrate on one topic, understand it, action it, and then move on once you've turned knowledge into experience.
Use a bookmarking service like instapaper to save articles that sound interesting, and then filter through them before you actually read them. Is this relevant to your journey now?
If not, learn to be ok with the feeling of missing out on something.
129 million books, remember?
I get asked a lot why I only write a post every 2 weeks. It's because I believe in quality over quantity.
On one hand, I don't want to overwhelm readers (you) with unnecessary content; on the other hand, I want to keep a high standard and write well-researched, thought-provoking posts.
The same principle applies to consuming information.
It's easy to want to go through a long list of new books, just because it feels good. Explore a lot of different topics, just because they're interesting.
Learn deep instead. Read more of the same topic or the same author. Read or listen to the same blogs, podcasts, and books again: each time you will have a different takeway. Spaced repetition and examples applied to different situations will make it easier to internalise the knowledge and truly master it in your experience.
It's not a matter of quantity, it's a matter of quality.
If you read one book a year and you take ten times the action of someone who reads ten books and takes no action, you are going to be a much greater expert, and a much wiser person.
Think about this.
Would you rather be under a brain surgeon who's read 100 books or done 100 operations?
Would you rather be in business with someone who's read 100 books or done 100 deals?
Ideally, I'd say both. But I know which one I don't want.
So make sure that you theme your learning, and you focus on quality, not quantity.
Mixing knowledge with action, you'll create solid experience.
You turn now: what's one action you will take from this post to turn knowledge into experience? Send me an email and let me know.
How often do you say ‘yes' to something, only to regret it moments later?
Or eagerly agree to a social event or commit to a conference well in advance, only to become very stressed as the date becomes closer and closer?
Often, we fall victim of the empty calendar: we book unusual events days, weeks, or even months in advance just because our calendar looks empty. In reality, the only reason why the future holds so much free time is that we are too far away to consider the bigger picture, or even factor in our usual, daily commitments.
Sometimes, this phenomenon allows for spontaneity and to commit to a much needed holiday without having to weigh too many pros and cons. And that's great.
But most often than not, it makes us say ‘yes' to too many things, and then force us to juggle unnecessary commitments with what really matters.
So why is it that we take future commitments so lightheartedly, only to become emotionally stressed when they become the present?
Thinking about the present vs Thinking about the future
The future is a pretty abstract notion: it only exists as a present experience of our own imagination.
Every time we think about something that is distant in time, space, social link, or certainty, we travel through what's called psychological distance: the farther away you feel from an object, person, or event, the more abstract it will be.
The #future only exists as a present experience of our own imagination. Click To Tweet
Let's take planning a holiday as an example.
Booking your flights a year in advance is likely to make you think about abstract notions of relaxation and fun, but the closest your trip gets in time (and space), the more you will focus on concrete details of the present situation, such as how to get a visa, what to pack, where to eat, and a lot more practical decisions.
When it comes to taking a holiday, most of the time it will be worth it (as long as you know what kind of holiday you actually enjoy). But when it comes to more mundane, recurring commitment, the inability to gauge the future complexity of present decisions expose us to a great danger: credit card behaviour.
Decisions on credit
What is credit card behaviour?
It's any decision carried in the present that will have a negative impact on your future resources.
Let's talk money.
You might decide to spend more money that you do not currently have, and then pay it back over a few months, with interest. You are deciding to spend now your future resources.
But it doesn't just happen with money.
Let's talk sleep.
You might decide to stay up late today because you're on a (often imaginary) deadline. This means you will be tired and poor-performing tomorrow (risking to fall into the sleepless cycle): it's a decision to spend now your future resources. And pay with interest.
More examples of credit card behaviour?
Saying yes too easily.
Not taking care of your health.
Ignoring your relationships (waiting for an imaginary better time).
Settling for an unfulfilling job.
Drinking coffee to ignore your body's need to recuperate.
And any other decision made at tomorrow's expense.
Just like credit card debt, sometimes it's just a temporary resort that comes in handy. And, just like credit card debt, sometimes it's worth the interest rate.
But, just like credit card debt, when it becomes the norm, things can get out of control.
If you don't make time for sleep, you'll have to find more time to balance poor performance.
If you don't make time for positive relationships, you'll have to find time to cope with draining relationships or loneliness.
If you don't make time for health, you'll have to find time for illness.
So how can we balance our brain's bias to prefer the present over the future?
(and save our future self from all sorts of debt?)
Reverse the game
Let's do a quick recap.
When we imagine the future (or something otherwise distant), we activate parts of the brain associated with cognitive, abstract thinking. As the distance shrinks, the decision becomes present, and concrete, acquiring context, details, and an emotional aspect. This is how many people end up taking on a commitment they regret soon after.
Whenever you are deciding about the future, imagine yourself doing it in the present. By moving the future closer to you, you will be able to give it context and better evaluate the consequences of your decisions.
Planning your time in advance will also help you see the big picture: if you have any future deadlines or recurring commitments, stick them in your calendar. This will give you a clear reminder of the juggling a light “yes” in the present might require in the future.
When you’re your own boss, everything depends on you. You decide when to work, what to work on, and…what your team should be working on. This is great but, the flexibility also means you have no one else to blame when things don’t work out. Sometimes, you wish you had a blueprint to tell you what to do next.
If you feel overwhelmed by all the possibitlities available in your business, productivity coaching can help you gain clarity and have the structure to take action. By working with a professional coach, you will see results faster by working on the right things only.
Especially if your business is going through a transformation, your productivity coach will guide you through streamlining your workflows and setting clear goals, so you can make the most of your opportunity (and avoid burn out).
The most common business transformations are:
Growing from freelancer to business / agency
Expanding from one-man-band to creating your first team
Building a personal brand around your business
A change in leadership in an existing company
Creating and launching new products and projects
Adjusting your workload to support your lifestyle
Here are 14 ways that productivity coaching will upgrade your business and impact your life.
Know exactly what to work on every day (and bust stress)
What if you could wake up productive, knowing exactly what needs your attention?
Instead of letting the day sidetrack you to whatever emergency, meeting, or call that comes your way, knowing exactly what’s worth your attention and when to take care of it.
When you are reactive all the time, you can never be strategic and decide where you want to take your business (and, therefore, your lifestyle).
Having a productivity coach will help you create the structure to make progress every day. When you do that, you will no longer feel like you’ve worked all day but…didn’t get much done. Every day will be a success, and stress will go down.
I don’t work Saturdays and Sundays anymore, I don’t even look at my computer. Having one clear goal, and using it as a filter for my own actions, and then for the whole team, was a game changer.
Manav, CEO, LoveRaw
Focus on what will grow your top line
Your time is limited to 24 hours a day, so it’s important you spend it on things that will actually grow your revenue. Focusing on the projects and activities that will give you the most results also means you will be able to generate more resources to free up your time: once you know what works, you can leverage other people’s time and skills in order to multiply your results.
Understanding what is worth your time is simple: track how much time you spend on each activity, and then quantify its monetary result. Then, divide the money generated by the time invested: this will give you an idea of which activities are giving you the greatest returns, and are worth doubling down on.
Learn to say no to things that don’t take you anywhere
It’s easy to feel paralysed by opportunities: after all, it’s your job as an entrepreneur to create new ones. When you spread your bets across many projects, tasks, and responsibilities, it’s usually showing a lack of trust. Trust that your efforts will pay off, or trust that your leadership is advanced enough to delegate your work to other people.
Instead of spreading yourself thin across a myriad of roles, projects, and businesses, select the few that will impact everything else. Like the first domino that impacts the whole game, productivity coaching can help you identify the projects and activities that will make everything else either easier or irrelevant.
Create daily habits that support your growth
Every business is the reflection of its owner. Whatever standard you accept, that is what you will get in return from your business, and your life. If you are scattered all the time, always working on the unimportant, you are building a business that supports these same principles: the more you wait, the more difficult change will be.
By creating small daily habits that automatically support your personal growth, like journalling, learning, planning your day, and training, you will generate a constant sense of growth, which will positively impact everyone of your projects. You will have more energy, and finally be in control of your day, going from reactive follower to proactive leader.
Productivity coaching will help you find and create the small daily habits that will have the greatest impact on your daily life and performance.
Being your own boss means that you set the agenda, but also that you are responsible for it happening. No one else tells you what to do, nor when to do it—it’s easy to justify if you fail on your own tasks and objectives.
You can have the best intentions, the strongest motivation, and the best plan but…sometimes, you can’t help but keep falling off the horse.
Having a productivity coach will give you the external accountability you need to stick to the plan and take action, instead of going back to planning again.
Have a trusted advisor to remind you of the big picture
When you’re immersed in the work every day, you forget the overall roadmap. It’s easy to get lost in the small details that take you nowhere, especially when you have to figure it all out yourself. Your productivity coach will keep you focused on what’s important to the business and your revenue goals, allowing you to stay organised and keep calm in every situation.
The sessions have already paid back dividends I don’t have to double guess myself – I know that the actions we decided on are my sober thoughts and well thought through, I don’t have to think about it again and can just get on with taking action and see results.
Tom, Founder, TomInYourPocket
Beat procrastination and master focus
Multitasking is a myth. Research has shown how all our brains do, is quickly switching between tasks, dividing our attention (the “central manager”) across too many tasks. It feels like we’re getting a lot done, but in the end everything takes longer.
As an entrepreneur, you must be in control of your actions, and squeeze as much as possible out of your 24 hours. However, focus is a challenge when you’re in charge, and procrastination…well, sometimes it’s great way to postpone taking an uncomfortable decision.
Productivity coaching will teach you proven techniques to work on fewer things and maximise impact, while also training your focus to be as sharp as a zen master’s. You will get more done in less time. More importantly, you will get the right things done, so you can take time off and enjoy your wins. Bye bye scattergun approach, welcome procrastination sniper.
Learn to outsource (so you can fire yourself)
The secret to successful outsourcing is knowing exactly what it worth anyone’s time, and what isn’t. The most common mistake I see in business owners working with a VA or hiring their first employee is that they start delegating actions without giving any context nor explanation: essentially, they gain more arms to type with, but they are still the one mind that needs to make every decision and critical thinking. Instead of freeing up time, you get trapped managing other people’s work, instead of focusing on your own.
A productivity coach will help you identify what needs to be outsourced, and what needs to be automated or eliminated altogether. They will guide you through creating documents and streamlining processes that will make your team independent, so they don’t need your opinion on every decision: they understand your thinking behind it.
That way, you can fire yourself, and focus on your strengths (or finally take a week off).
Become a better leader and manager
Why does everyone always need you? Employees, suppliers, customers, the management team…it feels like everyone needs you, and you can never work on your own tasks (the important ones). When other people depend on you though, often is because they don’t have the context or independence to make their own decisions, and then measure the outcome. They depend on your emotional satisfaction or gut feel, and they need you to make every single call.
In order to grow your business and your team (remotely or locally), you must put in place clear boundaries, areas of responsibilities, and process documents for everyone to be able to do their best work without being a bottleneck to the team. By empowering your team, you will go from executing everything to managing the vision and direction of the business.
Streamline your workflows to be effective
Most of the work you take care of is either recurring, or is made up of small tasks that can be bucketed in a few categories. And yet, they take a lot of your time and, most importantly, ability to think clearly. You’re left with no time to think strategically about the future of your business, and what would actually make a difference for you and your team.
Your productivity coach can help you identify those activity buckets, and then create processes and checklists to streamline them and make them effortless, so you can have the time (and presence) to work on what grows your business. To make things even more efficient, you will also identify activities that can be either eliminated, automated, or outsourced, giving you with extra time to make the future happen.
What’s the opportunity cost of you working on the wrong things?
Every year, you start out to meet your goals. But by the end of the first quarter, your focus is in 20 different directions. How do you choose?
When you choose which goals to take on, you have to choose on those areas that will bring radical progress across every single aspect of your life. That’s why it’s important to align your business with your lifestyle: they will both feed and support each other.
Working with a coach will guide you through a proven system to identify what’s lacking in your life, and align it with your working schedule and goals. At the same time, you will have someone to help you choose those activities that will have the largest impact.
So you can have more energy at work, more time for growth, and wake up ready to make it a great day, every morning.
I used to start my days feeling overwhelmed, and finish with a sense of guilt: constantly being behind. Matt’s principles and hacks helped me get better results with less effort, and wake up on top of my day. I really wish someone shared this with me 10 years ago!
– Jez, founder, Harbour.
Set measurable goals for your business
Business goals like “more clients”, “more revenue”, “more free time”, and the like set you up for failure, because you can never know whether you are getting close enough or not. Heck, you don’t even know whether you got there already. Is one more client enough? How about $50 a day? Or 10 minutes of free time? What about 2 hours? What are you even going to do with it? The key is to set goals that are easily measurable: they need to have a clear condition to get to, and a time to get there by: you’ll know whether you got there or not.
Your productivity coach will help you find the most meaningful metrics for your business, so you can focus on fewer things and maximise the impact. Then, by having someone there to help you take action and assess progress, you’ll be able to adjust before it’s too late, so you can get even better results, faster. It’s like predicting the future.
Learn from other businesses’ experience
When you work with a coach, you tap into the collective experience of someone running multiple businesses and working with many business owners across several industries—food, e-commerce, design, marketing, manufacturing, services, blockchain, and much more.
Instead of seeing everything for the first time and figuring out all through tough mistakes, you gain the support of someone who’s able to recognise business patterns and share tools and principles that will grow your business around the flexible lifestyle you deserve. It doesn’t have to be lonely at the top.
Stop working after dinner (and at the weekend)
Most people play the 25-hour game, going to bed late or postponing what’s important in order to make space for everything else. When you work for yourself, no one is there to tell you otherwise. It’s easy for work to bleed into your personal time, and never have time to be at home with your family, your friends, or invest in yourself. It makes you feel guilty and powerless.
Here’s why you should set boundaries: when you have less time available, you will have to focus on important things rather than getting lost in options (and then finding yourself desperately trying to catch up in the evening). For it to work though, you have to first break the negative cycle, and then respect your own rule: that’s where being accountable to a coach, after identifying the most important activities together, can have a massive impact on your life and business.
Don’t forget to book your free consultation today, and see how productivity coaching can help you grow your business faster, while taking back control of your schedule and your personal time. Don’t let the busy hold you back.
“If you’re not getting the results you want, you must change your approach.”
As I jotted down thoughts on a piece of paper, I knew that principle applied to me. In 2017, I had seen some results: in business, relationships, personal growth. Yet, I still felt stuck: I wanted to compress a decade of growth and experience into one year, but my mental scripts were holding me back.
“Play it safe”
A year later, and a lot has happened.
I spent over 200 days abroad, living in 8 different cities throughout Europe. My businesses expanded, and I was able to launch new products and help new amazing clients take control of their time and achieve their own goals faster. I moved to a different city (London), and surrounded myself with new amazing people. All while keeping up my past habits, increasing my own self-awareness and pushing my comfort zone.
All of this wouldn’t have happened if I didn’t sign my accountability letter a year ago.
What is the cost of not achieving your goals?
Whenever you set a new goal for yourself, the game is immediately rigged for you to fail. You have three possible scenarios: not attempting; attempting and failing; attempting and succeeding.
Not attempting, is the easiest emotional choice: we tend to think that, unless we actively take action, things will stay the same. Of course, this is not true: our bodies and minds constantly adapt to our environment. If we go from gym freak to couch potato, our body will adapt to be able to do more of that; if we give in to our fear and stop taking action, our mind will adapt to be able to do more of that.
What we call stability is nothing more than slow, unintentional change happening around us. So slow, that we don’t notice it (until we have no choice).
“If you don’t use it, you lose it”
Attempting and failing brings change, but not in the desired form. My most important tough lessons came from moments of failure, and I learnt to treasure them over time. But failing is scary, since it brings unwanted change, and often self-judgement and peer pressure. It’s a scary thought.
Attempting and succeeding isn’t easy either: achievement brings change, which you will have to learn to deal with. New problems, unknown situations, external judgement and envy, the feeling of not being good enough. Fear of success can be as strong as fear of failure.
Giving up is the safest option
There is no punishment for giving up. But if you keep going, you’ll have a lot on your plate.
Now you see how not achieving your goals is often the easiest choice. At least emotionally.
By not taking action, you will stay stuck in a life of humdrum, regret, an missed opportunities, which you will only recognise looking back. When it’s too late. For now, we are naturally wired to steer clear of change, and that’s why giving up on your goal is the easiest option.
I like to change the rules of the game, and associate a punishment or loss to not taking action, so I do.
Here’s how you can do it.
How to stay accountable to yourself
The accountability letter leverages pain and punishment to force you to take action and break the tendency towards inaction.
If I really wanted to take uncomfortable action, I knew I needed to make that momentum last. So last year, I wrote a contract to myself and gave it to two friends, together with a punishment in a pre-sealed (and pre-stamped) envelope. If I broke the contract, each friend was instructed to simply post the letter.
What was in the envelope?
One contained a congratulations letter and a signed cheque to UKIP, a pro-Brexit party I strongly disagree with. The other, a postcard and a flight voucher addressed to an annoying relative. It said “Come visit me, I can’t wait to see you”.
The contract itself spelt out three uncomfortable (but controllable) actions I was going to take throughout the year:
Not travel for the first 3 months of the year (I need to focus)
Spend at least one month working and travelling remotely
Move to a new city (I needed to shake things up and meet new people)
All three points were a success, and all of them had positive rippling effects onto every area of my life: from forcing me to grow my business (while staying true to my values), to growing my self-awareness and comfort, all the way to strengthening old relationships and growing new ones.
Why does it work? The accountability letter introduces a consequence for inaction, levelling the playing field and also leveraging loss aversion, a psychological bias that makes us prefer avoiding a loss to acquiring an equivalent (or sometimes greater) gain.
Since inaction comes with a consequence, you will take action.
Will I do it again? You bet.
In fact, I already have drafted my contract for 2019 and asked two friends to be my guardians of the pledge.
Ready to take your 2019 to the next level?
Here’s what you need to prepare your own accountability letter.
How to write your own accountability letter
There are three ingredients to the accountability letter: the contract, the punishment, and the guardian.
The contract should be a simple one-pager (or less), outlining your intentions and the actions you commit to taking during the year. This will serve as a guideline and a reminder to both yourself and the guardian throughout the year.
It’s important that you focus on actions that you can control, rather than outcomes that depend on external factors or other people. How can you uncomfortably change your approach in order to nudge yourself towards your results?
For example, 5x’ing your clients may not be in your control, but contacting 10 podcasts every week is (and may push you out of your comfort zone). Similarly, you may not be able to find the perfect mentor, but moving to a new city will force you to meet new people and think in a different way.
The punishment should be something uncompromisingly negative, but also have a passive trigger. It should not be easy to stomach, you want to use the thought of that happening to fuel you past any moments of doubt and inaction.
What’s a cause you cannot stand? Or the antithesis of a cause that is dear to you?What’s a party, a cause, a person, or a brand you cannot bear? I suggest brainstorming a few on a piece of paper, until you find one that truly makes you blood boil.
It should also have a passive trigger, so it can be activated by the guardian without your consent or action. A signed cheque is ready to be mailed, while you getting your hair dyed pink needs you last-minute agreement. Think of it as an anti-charity, and when in doubt, go for both.
The guardian should be a friend you trust enough to be open ( and a bit whacky) with, but also that loves you and your goals enough to actually post the punishment when it comes to it. It’s your accountability partner.
Don’t choose a friend that will back down if you ask them to, but one you know will trigger the punishment if you don’t take action (after all, you chose all of them to be within your control).
Once you have printed the contract, signed it, and given it to your guardian together with the punishment, all you have to do is take action.
Time to take action: to help you set huge goals you can crush, I create a free template and worksheet you can download and use to set measurable goals. Click here to receive it in your inbox and start smashing your goals from today.
“If you want to change your future trajectory, all you have is today.”
When I hung up the phone, that made me think.
Sometimes, we get lost mulling over the past or getting obsessed about the future.
But all we have is the present. This is where all the action happens.
That’s why I’m a big fan of journaling first thing in the morning and last thing at night.
By transferring your thoughts and memories from your brain onto paper, you free up a lot of headspace and let go of recurrent thoughts. It’s like looking at your day from a distance, finally able to see the bigger picture.
It’s also a great way to set up your day in the morning, by making sure you nurture supportive thoughts and make your focus clear, right from the start.
Finally, it’s a great practice to look back and learn from your day: did you follow your plans? What experiences did you overlook? How can you make tomorrow even better?
You show up prepared, and then review your lessons and gifts: this is a simple habit that can have a life-changing impact on your present and your future.
What things should you journal about?
I like to write free-form in my journal, and let thoughts pour on paper. Letting your mind guide the pen helps work out challenges and blockers, but also be done with worries and thoughts.
I also use writing prompts to kickstart entry ideas and structure my daily reflection and prep.
Here are my favourites.
Morning prompts to prepare your day
What are three things you are grateful for?
This prompt helps me notice and appreciate the things I would otherwise take for granted, and sometimes not even see. This is a great way to start the day, but also prime yourself to notice opportunity and prevent negative thoughts.
What is the ONE thing I must achieve today? How will I do that?
This question helps me focus on what’s really important today. If I could only get one thing done, what will bring me forward? What will make today a great day?
This way I know what to give priority to, and not get distracted by “quick wins”.
Crazy move: what will get me to [my main goal]?
Sometimes it’s too easy to get lost in detailed plans, and not seek opportunity. This question forces you to think outside of the box and take unconventional action, which no one else would take (including yourself).
How can I ensure I will have fun today?
Instead of letting the day get past you, how can you make it a fun day?
It could be something as simple as being present in your activities, or you could add a reward like an amazing meal out, or even add some delight to your day, like working from a special place or even adding some music (and a little dance) to your morning.
This is a broad statement on how you want to conduct the day or a place to reaffirm your bigger goals or main focus, as a reminder to prime the rest of your day towards that.
Evening prompts to review your day
What are three amazing things I experienced today?
Like the morning gratitude, this post helps you reflect back on your day, and pick the little gifts you found along the way: from a stranger smiling to you, to a wonderful chat with a friend, a book passage, or even getting laser-focused on whatever you were doing.
How did I allocate my time?
This is a quick sense-check on your conscience: was your day fragmented and directionless, or were you intentional and present in your 24 hours? This is not about how “busy” you felt, it’s about how effective and mindful you have been, so you can do better (or more of it).
Is today a good day to die?
Memento mori (Latin for “remember you must die”) is the act of reflecting on your own mortality and the finite nature of life’s experiences. In one question, you can summarise whether you lived a full day embodying your values and living your passions.
Be honest with yourself: if it’s a no, what can you do to remedy?
Go for a walk, call a friend, take that action you’ve put off, do a little dance, whatever.
Go to bed with a clear conscience.
What scared me today?
In 2017, I did something that scared me every week: my life changed. While things like bungee jumping or approaching an attractive woman while holding two bags of groceries expanded my comfort zone, I also learnt to appreciate smaller, daily challenges. Sending a scary email, being brutally honest, saying no to a friendly request you feel obliged to: nurturing those tiny choices makes facing your limits a daily standard.
What’s one piece of advice I could have given myself this morning?
What would have helped you make today an even better day? This question helps you reflect on the biggest lesson each day holds for you: take the time to internalise your answer.
Then, be ready to act on recurring answers: they’re telling you what’s not working right now.
Am I ready for tomorrow?
I’m a big fan of planning your next day at the end of each workday: it takes all the thinking out of your action time. You wake up and do it: no reacting, no doubting.
This one question reminds you of your biggest priority and greatest challenges you’ll face tomorrow: how can you own your 24 hours?
These are my favourite journaling prompts I’ve selected over the years. Follow them to complete your morning prep and your evening review in less than 10 minutes a day.
Use these prompts to guide your reflections and know what to write in your journal when you face a blank page – feel free to pick and choose, but also add your own.
PS: check out my secret to removing distractions and concentrate.
"I don't have time for ______"
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Three months ago, I decided to pack my life essential in a small suitcase, move out of my flat in Manchester, and spend each month in a different European city, starting from Porto, Portugal.
The ultimate photobomb.
Switching places every month is very exciting, but it also means starting from zero every few weeks. As I moved to my fourth location, I reflected on the lessons I learnt on this adventure.
Here are six lessons you can apply to your own life.
Your daily micro-choices shape your life
As I packed all the things I wasn’t going to bring with me, I realised how we keep accumulating choices. We choose to buy an extra pan, getting more supplements from Amazon, a new pair of trousers. As I looked at my things piling up, I was shocked. And this was only 3 boxes.
For the past 94 days, I have been living out of a carry-on suitcase and a small bag.
The filtering process has allowed me to really understand what I value, and take it with me. Even meaningful friendships have grown stronger, choosing connection over convenience.
And the big, meaningful life choices have become easier.
We spend hours researching the perfect next thing to buy on Amazon, yet few ever question their job, the people shaping their everyday lives, even their location.
So we let micro-choices shape our lives. Over time, they pile up in a formless mountain stopping you from going all in on what you really value.
My posessions for 6-8 months.
Remove variables to discover what matters
Taking a break from my usual spaces, the friends I spend time with, my possessions, and my daily activities helped me see them from a distance, and really find out what I value and what is important to my life.
This applies to objects, spaces, activities, and friendships alike: the ones that have travelled with me (even from a distance), have grown stronger and revealed how important they are to me.
Questioning what you take for granted helps you appreciate what you have, and make space for what you want.
Be prepared for the important
Moving to a new city means starting from scratch every time: if you’re not prepared, you have an easy excuse not to do the things you actually want to do.
This is why I prepare in advance for my non-negotiables: working, training, and nutrition.
For work, I research a couple of coffee shops near home and a central coworking space with a quiet vibe and strong wifi.
I then look for outdoor training spots: I mainly do callisthenics, so a couple of monkey bars is all I need.
In the past, I used to look for gyms and hotels for a quick sesh during my travels.
The same happens for nutrition: I make a list of shops where I can get my essentials from, and then visit all of them on day one to find the most effective combo (or source).
By front-loading all the thinking before I get to my destination, I can just take action once I’m there and feel at home from day one. I don’t leave any time for excuses to set in.
You can apply the same principle to short trips or even to your everyday life: do all the preparation upfront, so the road is smooth when it’ time to take action.
Don’t sweat the small stuff
While I like to come prepared for what matters to me, I also don’t want to overplan my whole stay: I value experiencing my everyday adventure, instead of making it a series of predictable events.
Instead of having a list of “things to visit”, I make a list of “possible experiences”: whenever I want to do something special or share a moment with a friend, I look at the list to find activities, places, and possible day trips. If it doesn’t happen, that’s fine.
Things like transports and commuting are easily shortcutted by living in the city centre and walking around, while most things like events, currency exchange, and hidden places are best sorted once you’ve arrived (and can talk to locals).
Come prepared for what matters to you, but don’t let the unimportant take your attention away.
To get friends, be friendly
Everywhere I visited, I noticed something that surprised me: people were very friendly.
In Portugal, I quickly made friends with the chocolate store owner (I was likely their best customer). In Transylvania, I exchanged language lessons with a taxi driver who spoke no English. My landlord helped me out when my travels got cancelled. It was pretty unexpected.
I started to think this was “unique” to…every place I visited until someone pointed out how friendly I am, and how unexpected that was.
So here’s the lesson: generally, people are very nice, but they also respond to what you put out. For people to be friendly with you, be friendly to them first. Ask questions, give smiles, be friendly.
Try it: it will change your every day.
Resistance to change
The day I arrived in Porto, I thought “everything is so antiquated”.
The day I arrived in Madrid, I thought “it’s just another capital city”.
On my first day in Timisoara, “everything is so run down”.
The night I arrived in Sofia, “this city is empty”.
And guess what, I was wrong every single time.
I was resisting change, comparing a single look at a single street in a totally new city, with a full month in another city. By the third time, I got the message and learnt to just ignore that feeling, and trust that by day two I will adapt to and get to know my new environment.
Every time you go through a change in life, you will naturally feel squeamish and uncomfortable. Learn to recognise the pattern, so you can experience it without letting it affect your choices or hold you back.