You’re ready to change.
You want to lose weight, quit smoking, exercise regularly or read more books.
You have a goal. You’re determined. So you get started...
The first week is easy. As you successfully form your new habit, you gain confidence and tell your friends how simple it is. But as one week turns two, three and a month, life starts to get in the way.
Distractions pop up, you get sick, unexpected emergencies change your plans.
How do you maintain your focus? How can you accomplish your goal?
I know it’s difficult to make a change, and I’ve struggled myself. But there’s one specific tactic that can make a tremendous difference. It can help you move mountains and accomplish anything you wish.
How do I know it works? Well, I’ve done it before...
How I saved up to travel around the world making $14 an hour
It was tough.
Especially since I was freelancing.
After self-employment tax, my true earnings were closer to $10.50 an hour. And to make matters worse, I didn’t have a company paying my health insurance—I paid it all out of my own pocket.
So how did I manage?
I moved into a dining room. Yes, the place families gather to eat.
Thankfully the dining room I moved into was empty, as the house was occupied by a bunch of dudes (who are also my close friends). So why move into a dining room?
Of course, it was to reduce the cost of my rent. The move effectively lowered it from $475 a month to $200.
The plan was to save up as much money as possible so I could travel the world for at least 6 months. And the uncomfortable conditions of the dining room were a perfect motivation.
I had no door, only 3 walls and plenty of noise from the adjacent entertainment room. These circumstances reminded me of my goal every day. A goal that so many young Americans dream of—world travel.
It took me a year in that dining room, but I finally achieved what I wanted. An 11 month trip across Asia and Australia.
The travel was one of the best times in my life.
And while I would never want to do it again, living in that dining room for a year was worth it.
So why do I tell this story?
It conveys a principle that essential to forming any new habit or accomplishing a goal. That principle is this:
Prioritize your habit or goal
When I moved into that dining room, I prioritized my goal of traveling abroad over everything. I dedicated my life to saving money and planning the trip. Every single day, I thought about my goal and how to achieve it. There was no way I couldn’t. The dining room was a constant reminder of what I was trying to accomplish.
So when it comes to changing your habit, you need to do the same thing. Well, not necessarily move into a dining room...but prioritize.
How to prioritize effectively
I used to think I knew how to prioritize. But I didn’t really “get it” until I read Brian Tracy’s book Eat That Frog.
If I can name one book that’s had the most dramatic impact on my life, hands down, it’s this one.
In Tracy’s book he explains the ABC method of prioritization.
The method is simple enough, and I use it every week as I plan my schedule. Here’s how it works.
At the beginning of each week (typically Sundays for me), I write down everything I want to accomplish.
Each task is labeled with an A, B, or C. These letters note how important the task is for me to accomplish.
It’s up to you to decide what tasks are most important to accomplish. Once you determine this, you’ll then schedule your A tasks into your planner or calendar first, and then add B and C tasks when there is time available. Essentially, you plan your whole week around your A tasks.
How the A, B, C method applies to goals
Just like with planning your week, it all starts with knowing what goals you want to accomplish.
So write them down.
For example, let’s say you have 4 goals you want to accomplish in the next 3 months: you want to start a blog, read a book a month, exercise 3 times a week, and learn the tango.
You think you’ll accomplish all these?
Unless you have ample free time, I’d bet a thousands bucks it won’t happen.
The time period is too short to achieve all goals. So you have to choose. Which of these goals is your A priority? If it’s exercise, then make sure to schedule that as an A priority every week.
What’s your B priority? If it’s blogging, then schedule that as a B task each week.
Of course, you could just schedule everything as an A priority. But for most people (myself included) accomplishing all of that would be impossible. And the result would be you don’t accomplish anything.
And, yes, it is possible to choose more than one goal. Maybe you can schedule exercise and blogging as your A tasks and effectively complete both.
The principle to keep in mind is…
The more A tasks you have to accomplish, the less likely you’ll complete them.
So you need choose wisely.
Sticking with my New Year's resolution
While I’ve personally been using this method to prioritize my goals for years, I can see how effective it is when starting new habits.
This past December, I chose a very common New Year's Resolution: to exercise at least 2 times a week—every week.
How have I done so far?
I have a perfect record. And the reason is because exercise is an A task in my schedule.
Yes, it has been difficult to accomplish at points, but I am making it a priority every week, and therefore it gets done.
Ready to prioritize your habit?
Now, you know what goals you want to accomplish.
You understand how to prioritize them according to importance, and you know you need to schedule them into your calendar each week.
You’re going to accomplish them. You’re going to make it happen.
And won’t it feel great when you do?
You’ll feel empowered, proud of yourself, and—best of all—you’ll feel like you can accomplish anything.
And the truth is, you can.
So start with one habit. Complete it. Then move on to the next.
You’ll build momentum, and you’ll start accomplishing bigger and bigger goals. And sooner than you know it, you’ll become that person you’ve been dreaming of.
That person is inside you. Just waiting to come out.