The Seven Habits of a Highly Effective Ryan

In March 2007, I undertook an experiment where I chose five daily habits and did them every day for the entire month. My goal was to see what kind of impact they would have on my life. I got the idea from Steve Pavlina’s post about 30-day trials. My five goals were:

  • Wake up at 5:30am
  • Exercise for at least 25 mins
  • Get all my inboxes to zero
  • Clean up for 15 mins
  • Pack lunch and prepare clothes before bed

I pushed very hard to accomplish these each day, and my track record was close to perfect by the end of the month. The result was incredible. Even though that was almost a year and a half ago, I can still remember it being one of the most productive, energetic, and positive periods of the last few years. And though I didn’t continue to do those five goals quite as religiously, the effects continued for several months. However, over the last year or so, I’ve let my daily habits slip. Around the beginning of this year, I put together another list of twelve daily habits, and I had some success with those, but it was just too much, especially all at once. So now I’ve got a new strategy. I’ve whittled my list down to just seven goals, which are:

  • Read my Bible
  • Morning pages
  • Do a goal review
  • Blog on one of the sites that I’m involved in
  • Exercise
  • Clean up for 15 mins
  • Inboxes to zero

Is seven a lot? Yep. However, I’m more organized and disciplined now than I was back then, and I have three strategies that I’m using to ensure I stick to these:

  1. Measure It – I’m a big fan of the saying that “what gets measured gets managed.” I believe strongly that you need to know how you’re doing to understand how you can improve. To that end, I’m using a program for the iPhone called GoalKeep. It’s based on an old trick that Jerry Seinfeld used to use where you get a big calendar and every day you accomplish your daily goal (writing jokes for him), you put a big checkmark there. After a few days, you’ve got a chain going, and you don’t want to break the chain. GoalKeep lets you simulate that same effect and keeps track of the length of your “chain.”
  2. Ease into it – I’m not starting with all seven habits out of the box. Rather, I’m taking 2-3 weeks and gradually introducing them one by one. The only rule is that once I start the chain for a daily habit, I can’t stop it. Right now, I’m only doing two: blogging and exercise. I’ll add a couple more over the next week.
  3. Stay accountable – Finally, I’m posting this here, and I’ll be asking a few people to keep me accountable in these areas.

Bonus daily habit: Getting up early. I used to get up every day at 9am or 10am (and occasionally I still do). I felt like I would never be one of those early morning people who get up at 5am or 6am every day, of their own accord. Keep in mind that I was in the Navy, so getting up at the butt-crack of dawn is nothing new, but I have always struggled to do it when no one was forcing me. However, over the last few months, something has changed. Until we got our puppies, I would get up every morning at 4:15am and be in my office working by 5am. Healthy? Well, that’s a topic for another day, but I *love* it. Now that we’ve had the puppies for a couple weeks and we’re starting to get into a routine, I’m working on getting back to that schedule, and I’m really excited. There is nothing like knocking out four or five hours of solid work before most people even get to their desk. I’ll write more about my transition from night owl to early riser later. My point is that this is a habit that used to be on every list, but it’s one that I feel like I have control over now, so I’m focusing on other things.

I’ll try and post progress updates on occasion for these goals if anyone is interested. Hey, I have to blog every day, so what else am I going to write about? 🙂