6 Tips on How to ‘Treat Yo Self’ for Maximum Achievement

A few years into my doctoral studies, I began to bog down. I had already completed my foundational coursework which I had enjoyed very much. Each quarter, I felt like I was making consistent progress, and I was getting great feedback in the form of high marks. (Nerd.)

When it came time to start writing my dissertation, the wheels came off for me. I was a bit lost in terms of the overall process, and progress seemed slow. I had completed a few phases, but it had been really tough.

As much as I felt a burning desire to complete my mission, I knew that I needed to jump start my progress. I decided to make a deal with myself. If I could just get to the point where I had completed my research study and had data in hand, I would reward myself by taking my bride on a trip to Turks & Caicos to honor this major milestone.

Dangling that reward helped boost me to the other side of my struggle. Whenever the dissertation process got tough, I imagined how good it was going to feel to soak in that warm sun and stare down into that bluer-than-blue water. It worked really well! A few months later, I graduated on schedule, funny hat and all.

I’m a big believer that intrinsic goals – those goals that are derived from an internal motivating source rather than an external source – make the best goals. After years spent pursuing a variety of goals, I’ve found that setting a few extrinsic rewards for milestones I need to achieve along the way is a fun kicker and a way to keep me on the improvement path.

Consider these 6 tips if you want to make rewards work for you:

  • Make it special. When choosing a goal-related reward, try to choose a memorable activity to do or item to buy. The fact that you’re striving toward a big goal is awesome! Your reward should be, too.
  • Match the reward to the effort. Rewards are great, but don’t overdo them. Try not to treat yourself to a Caribbean vacation for going to the gym one time. Small victories should earn small rewards, but don’t be afraid to splurge following a big win.
  • Mix and match. If you’re pursuing a work goal, your “along-the-way” reward doesn’t have to be work-related. You could schedule a spa treatment or grab some tickets to a sporting event. As long you’ll enjoy the reward, it’s a great candidate.
  • Visualize obtaining the reward. Goals are often a lot of work. If you find that you’re slogging it out, try getting a clear picture of what it will be like to enjoy the reward. All it takes is a quick minute to get re-energized and then get back to work on that goal.
  • Stretch it out. In cases where your goal involves a long-term routine, try to stretch out your rewards. As an example, if you’re pursuing a daily meditation practice, consider rewarding yourself after your 10th successful session. After that, you could reward yourself after your 25th, 50th, and then 100th session.
  • Don’t cheat. If you’ve set something as a reward, don’t partake in it unless you’ve done the goal-related work first. Otherwise, you run the risk of watering down what real achievement requires.

You know your reward is working when your mindset and behavior are positively impacted by the thought of earning it. The bigger goal achievement is what matters most, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find and celebrate little wins along the way.

A Work|Life Warrior looks for every edge in the pursuit of victory. Could a simple reward system give you an unfair advantage when it comes to achieving your goals?

Need some inspiration when it comes to reward ideas? Download the 77 Ways to ‘Treat Yo Self’ tipsheet below!

tipsheet

(Featured image by Pexels.com)

##

What’s your favorite way to treat yourself? Share your thoughts and experiences in the Comments section below.

The Art of the Part Where You Start

This past weekend, I found myself attending a high school poetry recital. Having forgotten my trusty hip flask back at home, I resigned myself to what was sure to be a yawnfest.

My youngest daughter was selected as a regional finalist for this year’s Poetry Out Loud program. Billed as a “National Recitation Contest”, Poetry Out Loud includes a cavalcade of awkward teens from all 53 U.S. states and territories. Each contestant chooses from an approved list of poems, memorizes a few, and performs a dramatic reading in front of an audience of teachers, doting family members, and some random guy who doesn’t know how to silence his iPhone.

Some of the poems were written centuries ago and others are quite contemporary by comparison. Most poems touch on life’s dominant themes – aspiration, war, hope, family, struggle, perseverance, self-doubt, triumph, and other distinctly human phenomena.

As each contestant recited a chosen poem, I was drawn further into the proceedings. I was amazed at the heartfelt renditions put forth by these high schoolers. I was impressed by the participants, but increasingly my mind turned to the artists who had penned these spectacular works. Through these kids, the words of amazing poets including Maya Angelou, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Dorothy Parker, and other literary greats came to life.

Inevitably, each poet started his or her work by squaring off against a relentless foe: a blank sheet of paper. To create something from nothing is no meager feat. It humbles the most stalwart among us. Yet each artist began the labor, and each overcame what Steven Pressfield dubbed ‘resistance’ in his epic how-to book The War of Art. Now, the results of these poets’ efforts rang throughout the performance hall where I stood.

The same is true with the practice of goal setting. It can be hard for us to begin. We’re not sure where to start. I’ve known successful and confident achievers who would be reduced to rubble if I were to place a blank sheet of paper in front of them with the simple instruction to write down some of their most pressing life goals.

This combination of poetry and goal-oriented thinking reminded me of one my favorite verses. It comes from John Anster as inspired by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s Faust:

Are you in earnest? Seize this very minute –
What you can do, or dream you can, begin it,
Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.

Those artists who seized their opportunity to begin have been rewarded. Their art lives on, in some cases surviving for decades or centuries after they themselves have passed. Some young person – my young person – chose to represent their works based on a deeply personal connection to that poet’s words and their deeper meaning.

Standing in that hall, I was deeply moved. Through those kids, I received these poets’ divinely inspired messages, and I had a chance to reflect on what they meant in my own life. I’m so glad these poets started so I could benefit as a result of their boldness, genius, power, and magic.

If you’re not currently pursuing a goal, please start. Don’t let a blank sheet of paper create an impregnable wall between where you are and that better place where you might be. Swallow hard, and commit to push through the fear, pain, and doubt. Once you find yourself sufficiently motivated by a compelling personal goal, as a Warrior, you must will yourself to take that critical next step and begin it.

Be bold. Open yourself to the greater collective genius. Seize your power to make a lasting difference. Magic is sure to follow.

There’s never been a better time to start than right now.

(Featured image by Unsplash.com.)

##

How do you feel when you set out on a new goal pursuit? Share your thoughts and experiences in the Comments section below.

4 Things To Do When You Catch Your Kid in the Act

It was the perfect setup. I may have only been 5 years old at the time, but this plan was a surefire winner. I methodically locked every door in the house, and I sauntered outside where my unsuspecting parents were puttering about the yard in the midday sun.

After a brief while, my mother attempted to return indoors. She was surprised to find that the doorknob refused to turn. She called out to my father to inform him that we were locked out, and she asked if he had the key to the front door. Bewildered, he yelled back that he did not.

Cue the hero.

I held up a set of colorful, plastic oversized Fisher Price toy keys, and I proudly pronounced, “It’s okay, Dad. I’ve got my keys.”

I was busted. I had been a bit too clever for my own good.

Our kids make mistakes. Our kids make poor choices. Our kids don’t always do things the way we think they should. Sometimes we catch our kids red-handed. We catch them in the act.

Each of my three cherubs have fallen out of line countless times. They’re all teenagers now, so you can imagine how long those rap sheets unfurl.

Even so, I believe that in my pursuit of developing high-performing prodigy, my biggest missed opportunities haven’t come from failing to recognize their shortcomings but instead from having not properly celebrated their successes.

We can each look back on a time when a child did something well – a little thing or a big thing – yet we were too busy, too preoccupied, or too caught up in “our world” to recognize the win in “their world”.

Here’s how we should give positive feedback to our kids:

  • Provide immediate and specific recognition. If a child brings home a stellar report card, shares a toy, or helps out around the house without your having to ask, take the immediate opportunity to show your admiration. Are their achievements, yours at work, and those of the world-class athletes we celebrate all that different at their essence? Seize the opportunity in the moment to share your praise, but also say what precisely you admire most. Statements like “I’m really impressed how you overcame your low quiz result from a few weeks ago”, “I love how you took turns playing with that ball”, and “Thanks so much for putting away those dishes so I didn’t have to” may barely register externally, but internally they work their magic.
  • Applaud their effort, not ability. The research is clear in this area. Praise is good when it’s focused on effort that produces the win. Psychology researcher Carol Dweck highlighted a research study that found that when students were recognized for their work effort were more confident “when faced with the harder questions, and their performance improved markedly on the easier problems that followed”. By comparison, constantly praising kids for their natural abilities – athleticism, intelligence, etc. – becomes problematic in the long term.
  • Have fun with it. I’ve found that the more ridiculous and memorable you can make the recognition, the more kids appreciate it. One of my favorites is the celebration dinner. Preparing a favorite meal or visiting a favorite restaurant offers ample pre-event anticipation and a chance to call attention to the victory during the feast. Not a foodie? Make a cheesy award and really pour it on when you bestow it upon your deserving champion. Even the moodiest teenagers may feign embarrassment, but your appreciation of their achievement will stick with them.
  • Reinforce the win after the fact. It may be surprising, but our kids are as busy as we are these days. Their schedules are jam-packed with organized activities and increasing demands. Even if you’ve done the right thing by recognizing their achievement in the moment, they may be on to the next thing. After a day or two has passed, recall the achievement to let them relive their win and cement the memory of achievement.

A Work|Life Warrior realizes that if you want to foster achievement in your family, you’ve got to seize the opportunity to recognize “what winning looks like”. You need to take the time to reward the right thing – effort that produces results – both on the spot and after a bit of time has passed.

Techniques like these are key to creating champions at home. They’re a lot more effective than plastic toy keys, that’s for sure.

(Featured image by Unsplash.com)

##

How do you like to provide recognition when a family member crushes it? Share your thoughts and experiences in the Comments section below.

3 Ways to Stay Focused for Proper Execution

I love shopping at the local warehouse club store. Where else can you buy a 1,000-count bottle of aspirin, a box of 50 hot dogs, and snow tires all at the same time? On a recent visit to the superstore, I navigated my oversized cart through the aisles. My eyes darted between my shopping list, my fistful of coupons, and the floor-to-ceiling overstocked shelves. I made light work of my list, and I loaded several boxes of goodies into the trunk of my car.

Remove the clutter

When I returned home, I began putting away the spoils. I grabbed a 3-pack of toothpaste and made my way to the bathroom closet. Yikes! I was confronted with a disorganized hodge podge of towels, cough and cold medicine, lightbulbs and – for some reason – a sole children’s house slipper.

I began organizing the closet to create a sensible space for the toothpaste. That’s when I uncovered 6 tubes of Crest still in their shrink wrapped packaging. There had been so much extra stuff in the way, I didn’t know what I already had!

I shouldn’t be surprised. I find that the same thing can happen to my to-do list, my calendar, and even my goals and long-term plans if I let it happen. With busy professional lives and busy home lives, I find that as Work|Life Warriors, we’re particularly vulnerable to cluttered living. We convince ourselves that we can do it all simply by pushing harder. This works right up until it doesn’t.

Here’s a 3-step plan you can use to keep yourself focused on proper execution:

  • Know what matters most. We pride ourselves on being incredibly busy all the time. We are quick to sign up for more, but each additional thing takes us further away from our most pressing goals and objectives. We have to be crystal clear about which life areas, values, and goals are most important to us.
  • Remove the clutter. Remember the Pareto Principle, also known as the 80/20 rule. In productivity terms, 80% of the value we produce comes from 20% of the things we’re doing. Start by identifying extraneous activities. What are you doing that you can stop doing? Every little bit extra is just an extra distraction. Move on to patterns of thinking that you can do without. Finally, tackle emotional responses that aren’t serving you well. If it doesn’t help you grow, it’s got to go.
  • Become a “Defensive Driver”. I’m not referring to the automotive sense of that phrase here. Instead, I’m talking about the combination of vigilantly preventing distractions while continuing to drive the results that matter. Both are essential. Both are equal parts of the Warrior’s mindset.

Like most people, you probably struggle to stay on the path to successful living. By following the 3-step plan above, you can increase your chances of proper execution as you charge toward your most important and closely held goals.

Incidents like my triple-buy toothpaste fiasco serve as a sort of canary in a coal mine – a clear warning signal that I need to get back to basics. On the plus side, it gave me an opportunity to call timeout and regroup. I suppose I can also take comfort in knowing that I’m well equipped in the battle against gingivitis.

(Featured image by Unsplash.com)

##

What techniques do you use to simplify your life? Share your thoughts and experiences in the Comments section below.

How to Help Your Kids GROW into Lifelong Achievers

During the summer months, the streets of my Cape Cod town become engorged with tourists and beachgoers. This becomes painfully obvious when you see a car with out-of-state plates attempting to make an ill-advised left turn, much to the chagrin of locals like myself.

parent and child on beach

This is why I’ve taken to use a variety of backroads to shave valuable minutes off my journey. I remember one fateful day when I estimated that I would have to spend an extra 10 minutes to get to the grocery store. I can’t waste that kind of time when I have Oreo Thins to purchase, so I veered onto one of my trusty shortcuts. Pure genius, I thought to myself as I whizzed along.

I was shocked and dismayed when I saw a flagman motioning for me to stop. I spent the next 20 minutes watching a team of construction workers discuss a very large hole in the ground. Finally, the mammoth yellow road machine that had blocked my path lurched to the right, and I was allowed to proceed.

My driving experience reminds me of a saying often employed by coaches and personal development gurus:

When it comes to people, fast is slow and slow is fast.

I’ve never found this maxim to be more true than when parenting. When I try to produce short-term changes in behavior (“Clean your room or you’re not going to the movies.”) or try to imprint my methods (“Just make a simple to-do list like I do.”) with one of my darling cherubs, we both end up frustrated and nothing changes.

A coaching approach eschews directive statements that fail to produce long-term results in favor of guidance and questions that do. The practice of coaching increases accountability, encourages action planning and follow through, and supports long-term behavior change in pursuit of a desired outcome. It’s naturally positive and solution-focused, and decades of research has proven that it works in a variety of personal and professional situations.

In his excellent book Coaching for Performance, Sir John Whitmore was the first to publish what’s known as the GROW model. GROW has become a popular coaching framework because it is simple and straightforward. I find that these qualities makes it great for use with kids.

The GROW model guides a 4-part coaching conversation:

Goal – What do you want?
Reality – Where are you now?
Options – What could you do?
Will – What will you do?

The key to becoming a parent-as-coach is developing an ability to ask instead of task. Asking the right questions in the right order unlocks accountability and long-term success in areas of academics, sports, relationships, and other important aspects of your kids’ lives.

If you’d like to help your kids GROW on their path to achievement, add these coaching questions to your repertoire:

GOAL

  • What do you want to achieve this week/month/semester?
    (Shoot for specifics here.)
  • How do you think you’ll feel when you succeed?
    (Builds motivation and helps envision a positive future state.)
  • What’s an example of a milestone you’ll achieve along the way?
    (Builds healthy goal-chunking and planning skills.)

REALITY

  • What’s working well for you right now in terms of achieving that result?
    (Inventory of constructive factors.)
  • What’s not working as well as it could be?
    (Inventory of preventive factors.)
  • What’s missing that might help you succeed?
    (Develops critical thinking skills.)

OPTIONS

  • What are some actions you could take to make progress toward your goal?
    (These don’t have to be realistic in this initial stage. The objective is idea generation.)
  • Would you like any additional suggestions from me?
    (If yes, offer a variety of suggestions including some silly ones just to demonstrate the importance of getting ideas onto the table.)
  • Which of these options feels right to you?
    (Encourages reflection and self-awareness.)

WILL

  • Which option or options do you choose?
    (Choices create personal accountability and empowerment.)
  • When will you get started?
    (More accountability.)
  • How can I support you?
    (Clarifies your role as a willing guide but not an owner of the effort and outcome.)

At its heart, coaching is about constructive conversation. Open doors for your kids, but be sure that they’re the ones who choose to walk through them. It’s never a fast or easy process, but it’s supremely rewarding when you can be a valued guide on their path to achievement.

(Featured image by Unsplash.com)

##

How have you prepared your kids to become high achievers? Share your thoughts and experiences in the Comments section below.

5 Time-Saving Tips to Power Your Productivity

Over the years, I’ve become something of a pack rat. Even a simple overnight getaway with my bride usually starts with a suitcase that looks like it ate a Volkswagen Beetle.

watch face

I shouldn’t be surprised that my luggage groans since I do the same thing with my daily to-do list. I’ve set some pretty lofty goals for myself, I work hard at my job, and I have a bustling family. This means that I’ve needed to develop systems and techniques to help me stay focused and maximize where my time goes.

If you want to boost your personal productivity, try a few of my time-saving tips:

Nighttime is the Right Time
I wake up super-early most days. Whether I’ll be headed to work or to the gym on a given morning, I make sure to lay out any gear I need the night before. I’m not going to be at my best at 4:30am if I’m rooting around the house for an errant shoe or a must-have file folder. This practice not only makes me more efficient, it ensures a stress-free start to my day.

Batch It Up
My to do list typically includes a variety of work and home related items. In a recent post, I shared that Todoist is my preferred go-to app for managing my recurring and one-off tasks. I’ve found that I can dramatically improve my efficiency by grouping similar items. I make sure to tag each item with where it will take place. Two popular examples are “Computer” and “Town” (meaning something I can do online or somewhere that I have to drive to in order to get it done). Then I simply drag and drop my to do list items into their order. Nothing is forgotten, and when driving, I can map the most efficient route through the mean streets of Cape Cod ahead of time.

Tame That Email
Like most people, I get way too much email. It occurred to me that I kept deleting messages from the same sources over and over. Now, I use Unroll.me, an email management system. It scans my inbox, and it tells me which companies/organizations are sending me mail. For each sender, I can choose to roll it up into a daily digest, unsubscribe from that list, or keep those messages coming to my Inbox. It’s been a huge timesaver for me.

unrollme

Example from Unroll.me

Save It for Later
I often come across an article or a website that I want to dive into, but I just don’t have enough time to do so at the moment. I used to keep dozens of tabs open in my browser, but I’ve had enough crashes and reboots to know this doesn’t work well. Now I use Google Keep to manage a few different “later” stashes like articles, blog ideas, podcasts, and websites. The Pocket app is another good choice for this. When I get a spare moment – at the end of the day, between meetings, or while waiting in line on the weekend – I can refer back to my list.

Grocery Grid
In full disclosure, my bride thinks that this practice of mine is completely ridiculous. Even so, I love it, so here you go. When I’m making out my grocery list, I write down the items in their spatial order based on the store’s layout. For the store where I do most of my shopping, it’s basically produce, deli, international, canned veggies, meat, etc. Having my list laid out the right way means fewer times backtracking to places I’ve already been. You know, the way I do when the love of my life makes the shopping list.

Those are just a few of the tools and techniques that I use to find efficiencies in a life that’s chock full of goal pursuits. There are many great time-saving suggestions on the web, but I believe the most important change is in your mindset. Your time is very precious, and you need to be hyper-diligent about how you spend it.

If you need a bit of extra motivation, run the numbers on how much you earn per hour at work. If that pile of cash were sitting on the table in front of you, wouldn’t you want to maximize your return if you were going to invest it?

(Featured image by Unsplash.com)

##

What tools or techniques do you use to maximize your efficiency and productivity? Share them below in the comments section.

Family Meeting #01: Personal Values Bracketology

In a recent post, I shared a blueprint for how to run a great Family Meeting. Some of you have asked me to share some of the actual exercises I’ve used to cover a variety of personal development topics over the years. I’m hoping you’ll use these meeting templates with your family. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed!

basketball bracket frames values

My history with the game of basketball is spotty at best. The pinnacle of my career was the 8th grade. There I stood, 5’ 0”, sporting a bowl cut and white tube socks pulled up to my knees.

My signature move was to hurl myself at the opposing point guard in order to make a magnificent steal. I would quickly scoop up the ball, charge down the court for an easy uncontested layup, and then throw up a brick that would clang off the bottom of the rim.

Despite my basketball challenges, I’ve always been a big fan of March Madness. Each year, I download my NCAA bracket and forecast which of the competing teams will move onto each progressive round until a single champion is left standing.

I began to wonder, what other uses could the simple head-to-head bracket serve? For example, I’ve seen achievers struggle to get clear about their personal values. This is unfortunate as living inline with our personal values is key to our fulfillment, success, and happiness. Could a simple bracket help us get clear about what matter most to us?

I decided to create my own brand of bracketology: a round-by-round competition to determine which personal value would rule them all. I was pleased with the result, so I decided to incorporate it into a Family Meeting. Now it’s your turn!

Personal Values Bracket

Personal Values Bracket

Meeting Preparation

  • Download the Personal Values Bracketology worksheet (PDF)
  • Print 1 bracket for each family member
  • Bring 1 pen or pencil for each family member

Meeting Setup

Say something like:
“Personal values are our perceptions of what is good, important, useful, and more in the world and in our lives. Our values help us choose goals and make decisions. This exercise will help us determine our most important personal values and learn about what each other value. There are no wrong answers.”

Activity Instructions

  • Ask each family member to complete a bracket by starting with Round 1 and progressing round-by-round through the championship.

Meeting Debrief

  • “Which was easier, choosing winners in Round 1 or in the Finals? Why?”
  • “Give an example of somebody (a historical figure, a famous person, or somebody you know) who has demonstrated your highest value in his or her life.”
  • “Share an experience or an example from your own life when you were able to demonstrate your highest value.”
  • “In the next 30 days, what could you do to bring more of your highest value into your life?”

Why This Meeting Works

  • Our values ground us. Knowing our values serves as a type of compass for goal setting and decisions about where we should spend our precious energy and attention.
  • It’s hard to start with a blank sheet of paper. Starting with a list of examples makes it much easier.
  • The bracket format forces choices. This makes it tough – particularly in the later rounds – but the end result is a prioritized list of our highest values.
  • We get to compare our own value choices to those of other family members. This is my favorite part! Some will be the same and others will be different. Learning deepens our love for one another.

(Featured image by Unsplash.com.)

##

How did your bracket turn out? Share your meeting experience and what you learned about yourself and/or your family members in the comments section below.

3 Goal-Setting Mistakes That Will Derail your 2017

I’ve studied subjects ranging from linguistics to gender studies to abnormal psychology during my many years of schoolwork. Surprisingly, I’ve never seen a class dedicated to goal-setting.

rusted car symbolizing failures in goal-setting

Everything I’ve learned about this topic has been through a process of trial and error. I often write about what works when it comes to personal development, but it’s also helpful to look at those “oh crap” moments.

Here are 3 goal-setting mistakes that will derail your year if you let them:

1. Pursuing Goals That Aren’t Clear

Aspirations such as lose weight, spend more time with family, or increase savings are great starting points, but these loose notions aren’t goals just yet. Got a bit further to make your goals crystal clear in your mind.

How much weight do you plan to lose and by when? What does “more time with family” look like exactly and how will you make it so? We’ve all heard of the SMART goals convention – goals should be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-Based – but we need to apply this rubric to our goal pursuits if we’re going to make them a reality.

2. Setting Too many goals

I used to make this mistake. I was supremely motivated, and I made sure to capitalize on the natural renewal that comes with the beginning of a new year. One year, I schemed and schemed, and I developed a roster of 53 personal goals. As the year progressed, there were points where I felt I was investing as much time in managing my goals as achieving them.

Especially if you’re just starting out, choose a manageable number of goals to chase. I recommend 5-8 across a few parts of your life. If things are going well, you can always stack on new goals later.

3. Starting Too Many New Things at Once

Changing behaviors and habits is one of the most difficult parts of goal attainment, second only to changing your mindset. It’s tempting to start a new year strong by introducing several new behaviors at once. Drive by the parking lot of any health club during the first two weeks of January, and you’ll see that they’re bursting with eager goal seekers.

Life can get in the way without focus, though, and if you take on too much change, you may soon find yourself off track. This year, I’ve decided that I’d like to meditate every day. I’ve given myself permission, however, not to begin until April so I can make room for new fitness and writing goals until then.

Fortunately, these common problems don’t have to derail your year. Take this opportunity to check in on your 2017 goals. If you haven’t set any yet, this is the perfect time!

Get clear about what you want to accomplish and who you want to become this year. Set a few goals that really resonate with you, and focus on the mindset and behavior changes it will take to achieve them. Accept that growing into your goals is better than putting them at risk by taking on too much at once.

(Featured image by Unsplash.com.)

##

What poses the greatest threat to your goal pursuits this year, and how do you plan to overcome it? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

How to Run a Kick-Ass Family Meeting

“Ok, guys! 20 minutes until Family Meeting!” Those words have rung through the halls of our home countless times over the years. A few minutes later, the shadowy figures of three children would emerge from various places and make their way to the dinner table or living room couch.

Family meetings have become an institution in the Poepsel home. Whether your current family consists of a pair of newlyweds, a single mother with two kids under 8 years old, or a married couple with three kids in High School, Family Meetings can strengthen family bonds while teaching invaluable life lessons.

Here are some tips to help you run a kick-ass family meeting:

1. Do the Prep Work
When leading a Family Meeting, don’t try to wing it. Before lining up the troops, be sure to have a loose agenda built around a specific theme, exercise, or thought-provoking question. Your up-front investment will be noticed, and it will ensure that everybody is at their best during the meeting.

2. Keep it Short
You may be into personal goals and achievement, but remember that not all of your family members are wired the same way. You should shoot for a Family Meeting that lasts 20 minutes or less. If you find that you’re losing them, it’s better to wrap it up and let the Family Meeting concept live to fight another day.

3. Make it Fun
Personal development can be dry for some, but it doesn’t have to be. Try to incorporate fun activities into your Family Meetings. In our house, we’ve led each other blindfolded through a makeshift obstacle course (trust), formed a human pyramid to secure a sticky note high on a tree (teamwork), and filled out NCAA-style brackets (personal values). Who says achievement has to be boring?

4. Play Along
Even if you’re leading the meeting, you need to participate in the festivities. Be prepared to demonstrate leadership by going first. This may include sharing first if you’ve asked a question such as, “When was a time you tried really hard but came up short, and what did you learn as a result?” In the same way, the more ridiculous the meeting activity, the more important it is that you go first if you don’t have any eager volunteers.

5. Stay On Target
Avoid any temptation to go off course during your Family Meeting. A meeting that starts with a theme of teamwork shouldn’t end with a lecture about how the kids aren’t doing a good job of keeping their rooms clean. A couple’s meeting that starts with fitness goals shouldn’t end with “that’s because your work is more important to you than I am.” Stick to the plan.

6. Act Their Age
Personal development discussions can lead to some heavy duty life lessons. If you have kids, you need to make these concepts relatable to your younger meeting members. This has always been a big problem area for me. I get so excited to talk about a development topic that I begin to talk over their heads. Every time I do, my well-intentioned message is lost.

7. Don’t Be Afraid to Tackle the Big Topics
Even younger kids can handle more than you think. Seemingly adult topics such as goal setting, frustration, roadbloacks, and dealing with negative people are very much a part of young peoples’ lives. Future success starts at a very early age. Other family members’ lives may be different than yours, but the overarching themes are quite similar. The trick is finding a way to make these topics safe and accessible as part of the Family Meeting.

8. Be Consistent
Especially when starting out, it’s important to demonstrate that your newfound dedication to holding Family Meetings isn’t a passing fad like your shake weight or cutting back on Facebook. If possible, establish a regular cadence for your Family Meetings with a regular day, time, and place each week. At first, you may be met with groans. “Are we still doing this?” Over time, your meeting attendees will have a series of positive experiences, and they’ll look forward to the next meeting (even if they won’t always admit it).

9. Share the Load
After you’ve built up some momentum, you can ask your partner or older kids to lead a Family Meeting. They’ll have your examples and templates to guide them. Don’t be surprised if the kids especially experience a sense of pride at the offer to take the reins. I’ve been surprised at the creativity and leadership my young meeting organizers have shown over the years.

10. Go Around the Horn
I’ve found that the best way to wrap up a successful Family Meeting is to go around the table and ask each family member to share something of interest. Great examples include questions such as “What was your favorite moment this past week?” or “What’s coming up that you’re really excited about?” These questions are powerful when we answer them, but they’re unusual thought patterns in our daily lives. That’s what makes them great for a Family Meeting!

We spend so much time in meetings in our work, and to be fair, many are a colossal waste of time. The problem isn’t the meeting format but rather how they’re executed. When led properly, a well-organized meeting is a powerful tool in helping organizations perform to their full potential. The same is true for our families.

Commit to making Family Meetings a new tradition in your home. Your achievers will thank you for it in the long run.

##

How do you make the most of your family time together? Share your thoughts using the comments below.

(Featured image by Unsplash.)

10 Simple Tools to Crush Your Goals in 2017

When I first became a homeowner, my toolbox consisted of a hammer, a few random screwdrivers, and a paint scraper. Every home improvement project meant another trip to the hardware store to pick up a new tool.

Me: “Can you tell me where to find your most powerful blowtorch?”
Clerk: “Um … can I ask what you’re working on?”

Since then, I’ve amassed a collection of tools that’s sufficient for most any job.

Just as the right tool is essential when working around the house, we need tools to reach our most important personal goals.

Here are 10 simple tools you can use to power your 2017 goal pursuits.

[1] Mind Map
A mind map is a diagram that helps you visually organize information. When I set personal goals, I like to make sure they cover multiple areas in my life. A mind map helps me quickly take a “big picture” view of my goals, drill down into the details, and make adjustments as necessary. You can make a mind map using a single sheet of paper, but because you’re going to want to make frequent changes, a down-and-dirty set of sticky notes is a better option.

I like to have my mind map with me at all times, so I use an app called MindNode. Other mind mapping software options include Mindjet, Mindmeister, and XMind. In a pinch, you can use Microsoft PowerPoint or Lucidchart for mind mapping, as well.

[2] Vision Board
A vision board is a collection of images or graphics that relate to your goals and aspirations. Saving your pennies for a shiny new car? Why not grab a pic of the model you want? You can collect symbolic pictures related to fitness, career, or family goals … whatever you’d like to make a part of your life. Any time you need a boost of motivation, have a satisfying look at your vision board.

If you want to learn more, check out productivity legend Jack Canfied’s tips on creating a vision board.

[3] Inspirational Quotes
I love to read the inspirational words of historical figures, philosophers, artists, and other accomplished people. Their quotes can instill wisdom, enthusiasm, and commitment. Each week, I choose a new inspirational quote, and I post it outside my office for myself and my co-workers.

You can find inspirational quotes using keyword search terms at one of any number of quote sites. One of my favorites is BrainyQuote. I’ve also started using GoodReads for quotes from book passages. If you’re a visual person, there are also gobs of photo-and-quote pins on Pinterest and at Quotographed.

[4] Blogs
There are several great blogs covering the topics of motivation, success, productivity, and other important goal-related topics. While I consume a variety of books, audiobooks, and magazines on these topics, I particularly like following bloggers. They post frequently on a wide variety of subjects, and you can easily make a personal connection with them through social media.

Some of my favorite follows are Michael Hyatt, James Clear, and Leo Babauta’s Zen Habits. I also enjoy posts featured on The Muse and Lifehack.

[5] Calendar
The best goals are framed as time-based goals, so a calendar is an essential goal-setting tool. I use a combination of print and online calendars to manage my goal pursuits. I have different versions representing different time periods.

Like most people, I use Outlook and Apple’s Calendar app to manage my daily and weekly appointments. At home, my bride and I use a weekly planner drawn onto a 4’ x 6’ whiteboard mounted in our kitchen. It helps us manage a household that includes three busy teenagers, a horse, a dog, and a cat. In my office, I’ve posted long-range calendars that cover 3-month, 1-year, and 2-year planning periods.

If I miss a deadline, it won’t be because I don’t have enough calendars!

[6] To Do App
I am an unapologetic To Do List junkie. For years, I maintained a written log of my To Do lists in a bright pink notebook. I chose pink because it was easy to locate anywhere in the house. A few years ago, I went high-tech by downloading a to do app that runs on my phone, my tablet, my laptop, and the family iMac. I use it to track my progress, auto-schedule recurring tasks, group and label activities, set reminders, and more.

My to do app of choice is Todoist, but there are many including Wunderlist, Remember The Milk, and Any.do among others.

[7] Visible Reminders
For too many people, goals are “out of sight, out of mind”. Once you’ve put in the effort to set a great goal, make sure you keep it front-and-center. It’s easy to write your goal on a sticky note and post it on your bathroom mirror, the dashboard of your car, or your refrigerator.

Any place that reminds you that a better you awaits is the right place. If you find that your goal reminder is fading into the background after a while, simply move it to a new location.

[8] Spreadsheet
Spreadsheets aren’t just for finance nerds. You can create a simple spreadsheet that clearly lays out your goal intentions. Then you can use it to track your progress toward making your goals a reality. Thanks to online tools like Google Sheets, you can always have your goals spreadsheet at your fingertips. That makes this tool particularly powerful for daily progress tracking.

If you want to tap into the behavior-changing power of spreadsheets, check out my recent blog post that explains how.

[9] Journal
When we pursue our goals – particularly challenging ones – we have to develop new skills, conjure up new ideas, and confront emotional trials and tribulations. A personal journal can serve as a key ally in this process of personal development. Capturing your thoughts and feelings may sound a bit new age to some, but just a few minutes a day can make a dramatic shift if you’re willing to give it a go.

One of the best instructional guides I’ve seen on how to keep a journal is this audiobook from my virtual mentor Jim Rohn. It’s an easy, breezy listen for high achievers.

[10] Accountability Partner
A great way to ensure that you follow through on a goal is to tell someone close to you about your intentions. Whether you tap your spouse, a friend, or a co-worker, a bit of added accountability can go a long way. If your goal buddy is pursuing a similar goal – think healthy eating habits, reading for professional development, or cleaning out the clutter – all the better as you can push one another on to victory.

If you’d like to learn more about the benefits of recruiting an accountability partner, check out Jessica Stillman’s article on this topic.

##

What do you think? Are there any tools I’ve missed? Please share your suggestions using the comments section below.

(Featured image by Unsplash.)