Eat that Frog – Book Review






Written by Brian Tracy, a businessman, coach, and productivity guru he goes straight to the point with 21 clever tips to overcome procrastination and get things done.

Here I’ll show you the highlights of his 21 advices to improve productivity.

At the beginning of the book, he talks about how the path to success is already built, and you just have to follow what other successful people have already done and proved to work. It’s not rocket science, find someone who is remarkable in your field, ask him how did he get to that point, and apply it to your career.

I felt like he was talking directly to me, we sometimes fall into the mistake of thinking that we have to be unique, we have to do something different to succeed. Therefore we use all our time and energy into thinking these brand new idea that no one has thought about before, when the path is already there.

Truth is, even if you follow the steps of somebody else who has already reached success you will always instill your own personality to it. you will always find something to improve and customize it to your routine to your schedule, you just have to start.

“The ability to concentrate single-mindedly on your most important task, to do it well, and to finish it completely is the key to great success achievement, respect, status and happiness in life”

Brian Tracy, Eat that Frog

In this book he will teach us exactly that, how to recognize your most important task, and work on it non-stop until you finish it, because that is the secret to success.

What does eat that frog mean?

Mark Twain once said that if the first thing you do each morning is to eat a live frog, you can go through the day with the satisfaction of knowing that that is probably the worst thing that is going to happen to you all day long. Your “frog” is your biggest, most important task, the one you’re most likely to procrastinate on if you don’t do something about it.

Brian Tracy, Eat that Frog

Your frog is the most important task you have to do today, the one that if you don’t do it will make you feel bad, but if you succeed you’ll feel like a champion, you’ll feel energized to get going with your day with the confidence that you’re moving toward your bigger goals one step at a time.

There’s something interesting about finishing these big scary tasks, the completion itself gives us a release of dopamine, that feel good hormone in our brains, you can develop a healthy addiction to finishing big tasks, in a way that it will get easier everyday to sit and get to work and don’t stop until you’re done, getting the habit of finishing what you start is a daily practice that onbce acquired will set you up for success.

“You have a virtually unlimited ability to learn and develop new skills, habits and abilities. When you train yourself, through repetition and practice, to overcome procrastination and get your most important task completed quickly, you will move yourself onto the fast track in your life and career and step on the accelerator.”

Brian Tracy, Eat that Frog

1. Set the table:

You have to be clear about your objectives before you start working on them, he encourages us to think on paper. Writing your objectives, will make them more real, tangible, this will give you a reminder of why you wanted to do this in the first place, and the motivation you will need sometimes to start doing it.

He talked about formula for setting and achieving goals, that has seven steps:

  1. Decide exactly what you want.
  2. Write it down.
  3. Set a deadline on your goal. Set sub-deadlines if necessary.
  4. Make a list of everything that you can think of that you are going to have to do to achieve your goal.
  5. Organize the list into a plan.
  6. Take action on your plan immediately.
  7. Resolve to do something every single day that moves you toward your major goal.

2. Plan every day in advance:

Did you know that every minute spent in planning saves you 10 minutes in execution? If you only take 10 minutes every night before you go to sleep to plan your day ahead, you can save up to 2 hours that will be used to start working right on what you have to do.

His advice is to always work from a list, if something else shows up add it to your list, but keep working from it. There are four different lists mentioned in this book that are key to scheduling how you’ll be working on your goals:

  • A master list, this is where you put all your lifetime goals, everything you want to do sometime in the future.
  • A monthly list, where you decide what are you going to work on each specific month.
  • A weekly list, here you take little pieces of work from your monthly list and plan your whole week ahead.
  • A Daily list, this is the one that you make the night before, including tasks from your weekly list.

Writing the daily list the night before it’s a little hack for your brain to sub-consciously work on how to resolve those problems, or how to finish those tasks quickly.

3. Apply the 80/20 rule to everything

Pareto’s Principle applied to productivity translates into this: 20% of your activities will account for 80% of your results.

Your have to identify what are the main tasks that will bring the highest value to your job, career or business. It is applicable to any subject.

A high-value task most of the time will take the same amount of time to finish than a low-value task, be smart when choosing where to invest your time and energy.

4. Consider the consequences

Something that is important a long-term consequence if it is not done correctly and on time. To identify your most important task you have to ask yourself what are the potential consequences of doing or not doing this task? The clearer you are about your goals the easier it will be to identify what are the most important tasks when you answer this question.

“Time is going to pass anyway. The only question is how you use it and where you are going to end up and at the end of the weeks and months.”

Brian Tracy, Eat that Frog

And where you end up depends on your actions, and if you have correctly chosen which are your most important tasks.

5. Practice creative procrastination

There is not enough time to do everything you need to do you will always procrastinate on something, if you have your priorities straight you can choose to procrastinate on those activities that are low-value, delegate them, outsource and eliminate them. and Focus your time on your high-value activities.

“Creative procrastination is the act of thoughtfully and deliberately deciding upon the exact things you are not going to do right now, if ever”

Brian Tracy, Eat that Frog

6. Use the ABCDE method

This is a priority setting technique, you assign letters to the activities depending how it’s importance. Making it easier to decide whether you should be doing a certain task or another.

  • A: These tasks are very important, you must do them or there will be negative consequences.
  • B: you should do this, if you don’t there will be mild consequences.
  • C: This is something that would be nice to do, but there will be no consequences at all if you decide not to do this.
  • D: This is something you can delegate to somebody else, so you can free up more time for the “A” items on your list.
  • E: you can eliminate altogether these tasks and it won’t make any difference.

7. Focus on key result areas

Ask yourself what is the one thing that you and only you can do, you are the only responsible for this and if you don’t do it it won’t get done, those are your key results areas. If you focus your efforts on improving the skills needed to get the work done efficiently you’ll succeed and will bring the most value to your company or business.

One of the reasons we procrastinate to complete a job is because we lack of the skills needed to do it correctly, or we have done it poorly in the past, instead of putting it away be honest with yourself and make the commitment to improve in that area so you can do that tasks you are solely responsible of excellent and on time.

8. The Law of Three

If someone gives you 30 seconds to write down your three most important goals in life, what would they be? This answer is as accurate as if you’ve been given 3 hours to think about it. When you think fast enough your brain will put in front of you your top priorities. These are the ones that if you put all your efforts on will give you the greatest satisfaction.

You can apply this law to define your priorities, your most valuable tasks, the 3 actions that will provide most income to your business, and it takes no more than 30 seconds. In the book there are several given aspects to think about using this approach, family, finances, personal, health goals, you can ask yourself what are your goals on these areas and what are the most valuable actions you can take to improve in just 30 seconds.

9. Prepare thoroughly before you begin

Have a comfortable work space, with everything you need to get the work done at reach, keep in mind that you’ll be working for a long time you have to eat your frog completely before moving onto another task.

One of the reasons we procrastinate on getting the work done is because we get up to find things that weren’t in our workspace, therefore distracting ourselves from our main task.

“Once you have completed your preparations, it is essential that you launch immediately toward your goals. Get started. Do the first thing, whatever it is.”

Brian Tracy, Eat that Frog

Sit up straight, get yourself into the skin of a highly efficient, high performing personality. Get to work and don’t stop until you’re finished.

10. Take it one barrel at a time

This goes for taking it one step at a time, it doesn’t matter if you don’t really know how to continue after you’ve finished with this task, if you take it one step at a time the path you need to follow will eventually appear, you just have to keep moving forward. Your next step will soon be clear to you.

11. Upgrade your key skills

Learn what you need to learn so you can get your work done in an excellent fashion. Improve your skills, in a way that it gets easier and faster every day to get your work done.

Never stoplearning, the better you are at a determined skill the more likely you are to jump straight to work and finish it.

12. Leverage your special talents

We all have talents, that thing that it’s easier for you to do than it is for others. You can do it faster and better, and if you focus your efforts on improving that talent there are no limits on how successful you can be.

Do what you love to do, take those talents and turn them into high value for everything you put your mind on doing.

13. Identify your key constrains

Do not ignore your constrains, because whatever it is that is holding you back you have to identify it and try t o alleviate it so you don’t have any limitations on how fast can you grow or how far can you go.

The 80/20 rule can be applied to this, 80% of your constrains are internal, these are limiting factors that you can control and improve, the other 20% you can do nothing about because they are not in your circle of influence. Focus on what you can control, and the first step to improve it is identifying it.

14. Put the pressure on yourself

Don’t be that person who waits for somebody else to come and push them to do what they need to do. Take the initiative, work harder, be your own coach.

If you want to build your self-esteem start by doing better than expected, not bacuase anyone tells you to do so, but because you want to prove yourself that you can.

15. Maximize your personal powers

Take care of your body, eat healthy, rest well and the machinery you have to work with will perform at its highest.

Overworking can be underproducing, when you’re tired the best thing you can do is to stop, take a rest and continue when your body is fully rested and ready to get the work done.

Work at your own pace, under your conditions, know your body and how you perform at different times of the day so you can take advantage of this.

16. Motivate yourself into action

Be your own personal cheerleader, keep an eye on your inner talk, and try to avoid the negative, develop a positive attitude and you’ll soon find that seeing solutions where other people see a problem will be beneficial for you in the long run.

17. Get out of technological time sinks

We all need a little break from technology from time to time, it can consume so much time and have us “busy” by staying connected through emails, messages, we can lose a little bit of sight where we are heading to.

Don’t let technology take control of your time, you have to be the one who sets the amount of time you dedicate to technology and what amount of time you set for goal achievement.

Continuous contact is not essential, if you don’t keep up to date with the news the problems will solve anyway, if something really important is happening you will know it even if you don’t dedicate time to reading the news.

18. Slice and dice the task

If your frog is too big to be eaten at one seat, slice it down into little chuncks. This way you’ll feel a little bit of enthusiasm everytime you complete one of the sub-taks and it will keep you motivated to keep going.

You can develop a complusion to finish your tasks that motivates you to go through them until completion.

19. Create large chuncks of time

Time-blocking, we all know it is helpful but not all of us apply it. It is essential to have control of our time, define hours to specific tasks, and stick to your schedule. Use a time planner and work on it, monthly, weekly, daily, hourly and even minutes, keep track of everything.

The more control you have over your time the more effective you’ll be at your tasks.

20. Develop a sense of urgency

Once you have it all planned out, it is clear, your desk is with everything at reach, you have to jump right in to work like there’s nothing more important right at that moment than finishing it.

Get into the zone, focusing all your efforts on a single task without distractions for some time will get you into a state of flow.

“In the state of flow, which is the highest human state of performance and productivity, something almost miraculous happens to your mind and emotions. You feel elated and clear. Everything you do seems effortless and accurate. You feel happy and energyzed. You experience a tremendous sense of calm and increased personal effectiveness.”

Brian Tracy, Eat that Frog

21. Single handle every task

Once you decide what is your most important task anything else you do besides working on it is a waste of time, so don’t try to multitask on this. Focus all your energy on one task at a time without interruptions, because every time you distract yourself and try to get back to work your mind has to make a shift that takes some time to do, focusing from one activity to another makes you lose valuable time.

Final thoughts

I liked the fact that you can take any of these advices and put it to work alone you’ll see an improvement in your performance. You can hand pick which ever suits best for your aspirations and it will work.

The 5 Second Rule – Book Review

 

Success isn’t a quick path and there are no shortcuts. Getting better is a campaign, it’s a weekly, daily, hourly fight against weakness, temptation, and laziness. It’s a campaign of discipline, hard work, and dedication; waking up early and going to bed late and grinding out every second in between, every single day. Just start doing it, get up and get after it, here and now.

This book was so easy to read, the language Mel uses is super casual, almost like she’s giving a piece of heartfelt advice to a friend and you happen to be this friend.

It opens your eyes to how the simplest choices can change your life and you’re 5 seconds away from taking the right step or staying in your comfort zone.

Here are the most valuable things I got from Mel Robbins’ The 5 second rule:

    • Trust your instincts
    • What is the 5 second rule?
    • Why does it work?
    • How can you use the 5 second rule?

Trust your instincts

Mel talks about how our brain subconsciously tries to work with us when we decide to reach a goal, it opens up a task and it will be on our mind until completion, everytime you’re near something that will get you closer to your goal, you’ll feel an instinct to act.

And that instinct can take different forms like excitement as in your first day of college or shame as when you pass near a gym knowing you made the promise to get in shape and you’re not doing it.

You have to act on those instincts before your brain convinces you to stay in your comfort zone. Remember, nothing great grows in a comfort zone.

The 5 second rule works as a starting ritual for breaking bad habits and creating new ones.

What is the 5 second rule?

“The moment you have an instinct to act on a goal you must 5-4-3-2-1 and physically move or your brain will stop you.”

We all know deep down what we have to do, but our brains constantly will try and sabotage us into staying in our comfort zone unless we act on that instinct faster than our excuses.

If you start counting backward, it will stop the default train of thoughts and you’ll recover control of the situation. Once you get to 1 there’s nothing else to do but to move towards that action, physically move, that first shot of energy is the biggest you’ll need when you try to do the hard stuff, then your body will follow along.

As simple as that, Mel describes it as a tool to help you get done what you know needs to be done, whether you feel like it or not (here’s a hint: you’ll never feel like it). You have to count backward, which activates your prefrontal cortex and gives you back control of the situation, and went you get to 1 start moving no matter what towards that action you need to complete.

Why does the 5 second rule work?

“The rule is a simple, research-backed Metacognition tool that creates immediate and lasting behavior change. Metacognition, by the way, is just a fancy word for any technique that allows you to beat your brain in order to accomplish bigger goals.”

It works on many levels of your life because the change is made on you, and then you are able to act on all these different levels that need improvement. It helps you shut down the negative self-talk, the paralyzing fear because it activates the rational part of your brain that knows what you should do to get you where you want to be.

It gives you back the power, the courage to start working towards your goals, no matter how small the action you decide to initiate. It can be as small as waking up on time, or as big as stepping up and asking for a raise at work, talking to your spouse about your silent issues, or saying “I love you” to that person you know you don’t say it enough.

How can you use the 5 second rule?

In the book she talks about 9 powerful ways to improve your life using the 5 second rule, I’ll just give you a hint about them but she goes detailed in how you can use it and gives you clear examples to follow

1. Use the 5 second rule to Improve your health

Getting healthy is hard; it will be hard because it requires your body to step out of your comfort zone, to deprive yourself of things you’re used to. And the rule can help you by beating what you feel, you’ll hardly ever feel like doing something that is hard, but the reward after that makes it worth it. So, whenever you find yourself giving too much thought to going for a run or chilling at the couch, just 5-4-3-2-1 and put on those shoes, start moving!

2. Use the 5 second rule to Increase productivity

I love how honest she is when she tells us that she hates mornings, and every day she has to push herself out of bed, it never gets easier. You don’t have to be a morning person to be the boss of your mornings, truth is, if you get done what’s more important for you before the daily errands take control you’ll be more productive than if you let the day go through you.

The advice for this is 5-4-3-2-1 get out of bed when the alarm rings, write down what’s important for you and get to do it before anything else.

Never hit the snooze button, because it screws up your sleeping cycle, it causes sleep inertia and you’ll need around 4 hours to get back to normal, this is the reason why so many of us go through mornings like zombies, feeling already tired before the day starts.

3. Use the 5 second rule to End procrastination

It’s interesting that she talks about the reason why we procrastinate is not to avoid work, but to release stress, and the stress can be related, or not to the activity you are delaying; not finishing your work on time builds up more stress and more reason to procrastinate trying to relieve it.

How do you end this cycle? Forgive yourself for procrastinating, don’t put any more pressure on yourself, and the moment you start looking for easier things to do instead of your work just 5-4-3-2-1 and get to work.

4. Use the 5 second rule to Stop worrying:

“Worrying is a default setting your mind goes to when you’re not paying attention, the key is catching yourself when you’re drifting into worry, and then regaining control by using the rule.”

We worry about things that we can’t control and that we think might happen (but most probably won’t) in the future, that’s when you have to stop your train of thoughts 5-4-3-2-1 and focus on the present, on the things you are grateful for, the positive things that you care about.

5. Use the 5 second rule to End anxiety:

Anxiety builds up when your body prepares for a situation of imminent danger, your heart races, you get sweaty, and if your mind can’t find an explanation to what triggered this reaction it will force you to start moving and leave the room, this is the protection system of your body.

When you know the reason why you are getting anxious, you need to reframe the feelings, for example: if you’re anxious about an exam, 5-4-3-2-1 and reframe it into excitement about finally getting to show your hard work and knowledge. It won’t make the feeling go away, because anxiety and excitement feel the same way but your brain won’t escalate into a full-blown panic attack.

6. Use the 5 second rule to Beat fear:

She advises to have an anchor image of you after the reason for your fear has passed, if you have a fear of flight create an anchor image of what you’ll do when you get to your destination, the places you’ll see the people you’ll meet.

When the fear starts to build up just go 5-4-3-2-1 take control of your thoughts and get that image of you getting to your destination and doing all these great things. If you’re already there the plane didn’t crash, your fear didn’t come true, so having this vision of success after you’ve gone through what makes you fearful reassures your brain and gives it some calm.

7. Use the 5 second rule to Build real confidence:

“Confidence means that you believe in yourself, your ideas and your capabilities. Anyone can learn how to become more confident, it’s not a personality trait. It’s a skill”

You build up confidence by doing little things for yourself, that you know will get you to a better place, the small acts of everyday courage are what make you feel confident, that you can trust yourself on getting things done. Pushing yourself to 5-4-3-2-1 read that chapter of the textbook before your lecture, in the long run, will give you the confidence that you have what it takes to be an A+ student.

8. Use the 5 second rule to Pursue your passion

Mel encourages us to explore, to let our curiosity lead us, pay attention to those things that intrigue us. If you can’t stop thinking about something make it a hobby, learn about it, take classes. This is how you’ll discover your passion, you 5-4-3-2-1, and let yourself explore and learn new things, amazing things can happen afterward.

9. Use the 5 second rule to Enrich your relationships

This is as simple as 5-4-3-2-1 and leave nothing important unsaid. You know what it is that you need to say, don’t think it too much. When you keep important things inside of you there’s a dissonance between what you feel and what you do, that is unhealthy for you and your relationships. Start saying how you feel when you feel it, talk about your problems, ask what’s wrong, say I love you every time you feel it, and you’ll see an improvement in your relationships just 5-4-3-2-1 and say it.

The 5 second decision that changed my life

Five years ago I made a decision that changed my life and looking through the pages of this book, I recognized that was the real everyday courage Mel was talking about.

My parents were having such a hard time paying for my university life away from home that I felt it was unfair, and my sewing side hustle wasn’t very helpful.

I made the decision to go out to the nearest market in my hometown and sell coffee to the vendors there; I’m talking about a small town in Venezuela where this is permitted and common. I remember standing in the mirror with my backpack and a thermo full of coffee and thinking to myself, am I really going to do this?

I took a deep breath in and just started walking out, that moment changed everything for me. Long story short, I was able to get enough money to fly away from my loved but chaotic country, start over in Buenos Aires, Argentina, financially support my dad with my waitress job and continue my studies here.

Courage can be seen in such small things, you can find examples everywhere, you can start small and grow big, the 5 second rule is just the push you need to make it happen.

Final thoughts

If you want to jump straight to the facts and skip the testimonials you can read this book very quickly. The main ideas are almost highlighted for you to digest and then reassured with social media posts of people who’ve followed the rule and succeeded in a certain aspect of their lives.

Do you need motivation? Read it all through with the social media posts and the writer’s comments about them, it’s encouraging to know how many people’s lives have changed with such a simple tool.

If you just need to know the facts, why the rule works and start applying it into your life skip the clearly pointed testimonials and use Mel’s tips to apply the rule on the desired aspect of your life that needs a change!

I highly recommend this book, it is an easy and light lecture, super inspiring, and invigorating.

The 12 Week Year Book Review

 

*This post contains affiliate links

Time is our most valuable asset, and The 12 Week Year gives us an approach to make the most out of every week, it’s a book that you need to read actively, implementing the steps and activities they give you in each chapter.

Imagine if you could maintain the focus of the first couple weeks of January for reaching your new year’s resolutions all the way through December, there would be amazing changes in your life if your motivation and actions weren’t diminished as time went by.

Pin_it_the_12_week_year_book_review

The 12 week year presents a system where you keep working on your goals, day in and day out without having to rely on the first peak of motivation of the beginning and the urgency we get to get things done in the last weeks of each year.

A program that has worked for companies to get more productivity can also be applied to any aspect of our lives that needs constant improvement.

It consists of creating a vision to work towards an ultimate goal that excites you, and deconstruct it into small pieces of daily actions that will sum up, packing these actions into a weekly plan, and review your performance every week.

The importance of periodization

Setting goals in an annual way of thinking, gives us the misconception that we have plenty of time to accomplish them and we keep pushing them, to start working towards them on the next Monday, next 1st day of the month, our next birthday, and so on, until the end of the year comes inevitably and we’ve done so little work on the changes we needed to implement to improve our lives.

The 12 week year makes us think in a shorter period of time to reach quarterly goals. In one year you’ll get 4 quarters, 4 opportunities to focus on different aspects of your life, and weekly reviews are a chance to measure the execution of those daily actions that contribute to your master vision of the life you desire.

In 12 weeks you only focus on the minimum number of actions that are most important to hit your goal.

The execution system of The 12 Week Year lies in 8 elements:

  1. Vision
  2. Planning
  3. Process control
  4. Measurement
  5. Time use
  6. Accountability
  7. Commitment
  8. Greatness in the moment

Crafting your vision

There are three time horizons that The 12 Week Year wants us to focus our vision on:

  • Long term aspirations
  • Mid-term goals, about three years into the future
  • 12 Weeks which will become our action plan.

Writing down Long term aspirations will give us the push and motivation we need when things start getting difficult, we remember why we are doing this in the first place, what is the life we want to live, it doesn’t matter how big our dreams are, we can always turn them into plans.

You can turn your dreams into plans in three steps:

  1. By thinking about your dreams that might seem impossible and asking yourself: What if…? How would it feel if that was true, how would your family’s life be if that was true? Once you start seeing your vision as possible you can move to the next step.
  2. Now you ask yourself: How might I? With this question you put your mind to work and turn that vision from possible to probable; it will be probable that you reach it by implementing some changes in your life.
  3. Take those changes you must implement into your life and turn them into a plan, those daily actions that you know you need to do in order to accomplish greatness, and with consistency, your vision will shift from probable to given.

Writing down mid-term goals, helps you get a clearer vision of what you need to work on and start creating your action plan: The 12 week plan.

The 12 Week Plan:

Start by choosing some goals to work towards that will get you closer to your vision. Then for each goal write down tactics that stretch you out of your comfort zone, these have to be actions, that you can implement daily or weekly and measure progress and execution of them.

The 12 week goal is the bridge between your vision and your 12 week plan; your 12 week goal should be a realistic stretch for you. Decide on the progress you are willing to commit to achieving in the next 12 weeks.

Following these criteria makes a great 12-week plan and tactics:

  1. Each goal and tactic must be specific and measurable.
  2. State them positively.
  3. Ensure they are a realistic stretch, not too hard but not too easy for you to not see any change.
  4. Assign accountability; be honest and make yourself accountable for the execution of those tactics.
  5. Be time-bound; you must assign a deadline to each tactic and goal.

Process control

“Process control is a set of tools and events that help you work your plan even when you get hit in the mouth”

You will not always be motivated, you will not always have willpower, process control is then the system that supports you to keep going and stick to the plan even when it’s cold outside, you’re tired or you just don’t feel like it.

Basically having a clear plan, that has the vital actions you have to take in order to reach your 12-week goal, meaning that having completed them equals progress and gives you that little push you need.

Also having a weekly accountability meeting (WAM) with a team, or partner willing to do this side by side will help you stay on track, sharing your progress, your weekly execution score, what worked, what didn’t, and how to improve the plan.

Then scoring your week based on execution of the tactics, planning your next week accordingly, and participating in a weekly accountability meeting will be your weekly routine that keeps you on track and focused on your objectives.

Measurement

We need to start keeping scores of not only the achievements but the execution of the tactics that lead to them. Only this way we’ll make sure that the actions we are taking are working or not. To measure progress we are presented to Lead and Lag indicators which we need to keep track of.

  • Lag indicators are the end result, the weight you want to reach, the grade you want to score, etc. Your 12 week goals are your ultimate lag indicators, these are what we usually measure.
  • Lead indicators are the things that happen early in the execution process, the miles you run, the amount of hours you spend studying, etc.  Whatever indicator you decide to measure make sure to track and record your progress each week for every goal.

On the 12 Week Year they present us a Weekly Scorecard which shows the percentage of tactics that you completed in the previous week, aim to reach 85% or more, but if you reach less than that don’t be discouraged and keep striking for progress and getting better week by week.

Don’t be afraid to confront what the numbers are telling you, remember that a weekly scorecard of less than 85% isn’t necessarily bad if you’ve been having an improvement from previous weeks, just commit to making progress each week.

Time use

On The 12 Week Year we are encouraged to take control of our time and make it the most valuable resource we have, therefore, reducing interruptions by blocking your time and setting timeframes to specific actions instead of multitasking and trying to do it all at the same time.

There are three primary components of performance time: strategic blocks, buffer blocks, and breakout blocks, after you’ve saved time for those you can plan around the remaining time and your progress will keep up.

  1. Strategic block: 3 hours of uninterrupted time scheduled each week, you will focus all your energy in producing breakthrough results. These will be high-value activities that contribute to your long term vision.
  2. Buffer blocks: 30 minute, to an hour daily; designed to deal with all the unplanned and low-value activities like emails, phone-calls, etc. The power of these blocks comes from grouping together activities that tend to be unproductive but have to be done, therefore, placing them in a defined block of time you will gain great control of your day, not having to deal with them every couple of hours distracting you from high value activities.
  3. Breakout blocks: at least 3 hours long weekly break from anything related to work, this is to release stress, do different activities to refresh, and reinvigorate yourself so when you return to work, you can engage with more focus and energy.

Accountability as Ownership

We need to let go of the negative tag that accountability has, you can’t hold someone else accountable because it is a matter of oneself; accountability is being responsible, honest, and taking ownership of our acts and their immediate and future results.

Interest vs. Commitment

When you’re interested in doing something, you’ll only do it when circumstances permit it, you’ll find excuses not to do it, and sometimes those excuses will make total sense for you and for anyone else.

When you’re committed to something you will do whatever it takes to reach it, you’ll accept no excuses, no change of circumstances will take you away from your commitment, you will only accept results.

In this book we are highly encouraged to make commitments, and to be successful in keeping them you need to have:

  • A strong desire: it has to be personal and meaningful to you, otherwise, you’ll find excuses not to push through hard times.
  • Clear keystone actions to follow
  • Awareness of the costs, the downsides of what taking these actions might have on your life, it could be time, money, loss of comfort. Identifying the costs before you commit allows you to consciously choose whether you are willing to pay the price of your commitment.

Greatness in the Moment

The moment you decide to change and start implementing keystone daily actions in order to reach your goals you are already reaching greatness.

In the book they give the example of Michael Phelps, he didn’t achieve greatness when he won his eighteenth gold medal or when he won his first. But every day he went to the pool and made his practices, every workout, meal choose, every action he took that lead him to winning from day one is what made him great from the start.

Results are not the attainment of greatness, but simply the confirmation of it. You become great long before the results show it.

Final thoughts

This system of a 12 Week Year with quarterly goals to reach and look up to, it made me change the way I approach my goals, I’m truly motivated to implement these tactics into my life and I’m ready for the improvement it will bring.

I will be sharing the crafting of my vision and my 12-week plan, because I know it might seem overwhelming at first, I had to re-read some chapters to understand the system and how to implement the tactics.

Overall, this is a great book, if you’re willing to reinstall your “operating system” and are open to change and improve your life with a different approach.

15 Things I learned from Atomic Habits by James Clear

My Book of the Month, August 2020: Atomic Habits – James Clear

*This post contains affiliate links

He caught me since page one, his story about the brain injury and how he had to learn everything again was incredible, if someone can recover from a comma, start from zero and be so successful, there is definitely something I can learn from them. 

This book deconstructed everything I think I knew about habits and how to build them, I am more patient with myself and I’ve learned to look at the big picture the right way. Here’s a summary of the most relevant points I learned from this book.

Right now you can get this hardcover for only $11.98 it’s 56% off, that’s cheaper than the paperback option! It is also available on Kindle, but I always prefer my favorite books on paper, and this one is definitely worth having on the shelf.

1. What is an atomic habit?

As atoms are the fundamental bricks of all matter, tiny habits are the bricks of every individual. The things that you do consistently every day are what define you, whether they are good or bad habits. 

Therefore an atomic habit is that behavior you reproduce daily without you putting much thought on it.

2. Build habits to become the person you want to be, not for the goals you want to reach

We focus so much on the goals that we miss the whole point, and by focusing on the goals we lose motivation very easily. Instead, we should ask ourselves who is the person that constantly achieves those goals and what would that person do every day.

To me this is actually seeing the big picture, not focusing on the accomplishments at the top of the mountain, but becoming the person who successfully climbs and reaches the top of the mountain.

He gives a pretty clear example, if a basketball team wants to win a game, it would be absurd if they only focus on the score chart and not on the things the players do while in the game.

3. Pointing and calling to raise self-awareness of your bad habits.

This may sound silly but I spent a whole day pointing and calling every action I made through the day, as recommended by James and giving each action a score to tell if this particular action was taking me closer to the person I wanted to be, pulling me back, or made no difference. 

I found that most of the actions were bad habits, I check my phone way too often for my productivity goals to be reached for example.

This is a golden piece of advice, pointing out every action you do in autopilot will give yourself a sense of awareness, write it down on paper and evaluate whether it is good or bad, better said, does it take you closer to the person you want to become or does it pull you back?

4. Stacking new habits on top of current ones.

If you find yourself having a hard time building a particular habit, commit yourself to do it after you finish doing something you do every day on autopilot. Make it as specific as possible, for example, the smell of coffee could be the trigger to sit and study.

If every morning you make yourself a cup of coffee, right after you pour the coffee on the cup and feel that delicious smell, go with the cup in hand to your desk and start studying at least for 30 minutes, you can make it longer with time.

5. Environment shapes your behavior

If you live in an unhealthy environment and this doesn’t have to be obvious, you will have a hard time having healthy habits. For example, the more visible a jar of cookies is, the more you’ll choose them for a snack instead of the apples laying in the bottom of the refrigerator, if you can see them easily you’ll probably choose it.

Same goes for every habit you want to build, you can modify your environment in order to have more access to this new habit. Want to drink more water? Have a bottle in the common places of your house. Want to watch less TV? Have the remote away from the bed or take the TV out of your bedroom.

You can link yourself to a particular habit in a particular context, set a little corner of your room with a comfy arm chair, and a shelf with the books you want to read daily, eventually you’ll associate that corner with reading.

6. Temptation bundling to make habits more attractive.

While exercise doesn’t seem as enjoyable as scrolling through social media for some; if you really want to build a habit that brings you out of your comfort zone, place it before something you enjoy doing.

This way the anticipation of that thing you enjoy doing will give you the spike of dopamine needed to get you on track and start doing what you need to do. It’s pretty simple, the temptation of that thing you want to do will push you to do what you need to do in order to get what you want.

So, if you are an Instagram junkie, and want to exercise more, put yourself the challenge to only be able to check out Instagram after you’ve completed a quick 5-minute work out session, start small, and keep on moving forward. 

7. Surround yourself by people who have your desired habit as normal

We internally and unconsciously want to fit in, it’s very difficult to avoid the crowd. But, what if you found a tribe that had all your desired behaviors, the habits you want to implement in your life are normal to them? You’ll push yourself to reach the same level or become even better to be recognized and praised.

Even if you don’t do it to be recognized, you can always find a tribe, a support group, people with similar goals and interests; this is another way to make the habits attractive and you’ll find it easier to stick to them. 

8. Reprogramming yourself to enjoy hard habits

This is another way to make habits attractive, as a way to motivate yourself to do hard stuff, change the perspective on how you see it, instead of saying “I have to study” change it for “I get to study what I love” it is a privilege that not many people have. 

Have a little motivational routine before having your hard habit done. Whether it is listening to your favorite music or having a big cup of tea, do it before starting to work on the hard stuff and it will be more enjoyable with time.

9. Being in Motion is different from taking action

We spend way too much time in motion, preparing ourselves, researching to make things perfect, and eventually, this search for perfection becomes procrastination. 

We feel like achieving something when doing this, but the actual progress is made when we take action, even if it’s a little step you take further, it won’t be perfect but it will be progress.

10. Making the right little choices

James says that any habit can start with 2 minutes, you have to make it super simple to take the first step. Even if it is just writing one sentence, if you do it every day consistently, you’ll soon find yourself writing more; one good action can lead to a succession of good actions towards the good habits you want to build.

11. Choosing long term gratification over short term gratification is not in our brains’ nature

We are biologically built to prefer the instant gratification, is a survival instinct, for our ancestors the food was scarce they had to look for it constantly and it felt satisfying, they had to be running from predators and looking for places to hide the instant gratification was the safe place, and so on.

In modern life, the choices we make for long term gratification are not as satisfying but are the ones that’ll get us where we want to be. Therefore, to make a habit stick it has to feel like a little victory every time you repeat it. An example, if you want to stop buying fast food and start cooking at home, every time you avoid buying fast food put the money you would’ve spent there in a savings account for something nice you want to buy.

12. Habit trackers are super effective:

They give us that sense of instant gratification, checking off a little square for one more day of consistently working out, practicing a language, or writing 300 words are great ways to see the progress made on a certain amount of time.

Habit tracking can be done as journals of exercise, for example, it doesn’t matter how small the amount, of exercise you did one day, if it’s only 5 squats, that already counts, 5 is more than 0. Showing up for your habit, going to the gym for 5 minutes, it builds up to the person you want to become.

In those days when you’re feeling demotivated look at your habit journal, is it really worth it to break your streak?

13. The Habit Contract

Making a commitment to stick to a habit with stated consequences if you fail to do so will help you stay motivated; there has to be a punishment of some sort involved and someone else willing to be a part of the punishment. 

He gives the example of Thomas Frank, who wakes up every morning at 5:55 a.m. and he has a scheduled tweet that says: “It’s 6:10 and I’m not up because I’m lazy! Reply to this for $5 via PayPal (limit 5), assuming my alarm didn’t malfunction.” 

If you have an instant punishment for not maintaining your habit you’ll avoid the punishment by sticking to the habit as most as you can.

14. The Goldilocks Zone

This is the right spot where a challenge is not easy enough to be boring or difficult enough to be disappointing. It’s the exact amount of hard work you need to make some progress and feel motivated by the small victories you can achieve without forgetting there’s so much more to grow.

While your brain is working on the right challenge you might experience being in a flow state, time flies and you are completely immersed in the activity you’re performing, this is when real progress is made. Get small new challenges achievable but not so easy not to improve your skills, this will keep you motivated.

15. Why is reviewing your habits important

Once we establish the desired habit and we act on autopilot is very easy to forget to keep challenging ourselves to become better at something greater. 

To actually master a habit we need to reflect from time to time how our habits are taking us to where we want to be, who we want to become, and if we haven’t made progress more than being good at something, try and challenge ourselves to become better, to specialize, find new things to learn from our field of expertise, this way the habits stay interesting and satisfying, it’s a never-ending cycle.

Final Thoughts 

This book opened my mind to a whole new level, I used to take on so many habits at the same time and pushed myself so hard, that the impulse lasted short, I got tired in a week or less when trying to build most habits, I needed those instant results, and when I didn’t get them… the disappointment, the failure.

Now I have the techniques to trick my mind into making hard habits instantly satisfying and I’m definitely going to apply some of this into my life, to become the person I want to be.

I highly recommend this book to anyone wanting to improve and grow, develop new skills and habits but getting frustrated everytime they try, it will open your understanding on human behavior and how to control it in your favor to build new habits.