Hi, and WELCOME to my monthly blog post!
Normally I release a blog post on the 1st of the month, but at the beginning of this month we opened the doors to our new program (100k Factory Ultra Edition) so I was busy preparing content for that… and I’ve had a crazy-busy schedule ever since.
In fact, about 6 hours ago I landed in Hong Kong (after a marathon 56 hour trip from Argentina… missed one flight and got delayed 24 hours!!!). In a few hours time, I’m headed to Guangzhou with Steve. Here’s my foggy 6am morning view (not the most glamorous of photos… I’m literally wedged in amongst hundreds of skyscrapers!):
So anyway, the blog post is 20 days late… but better late than never though right!
Todays post is based on one of the most common questions I get, which is…
“Aidan, how do you stay organized?”
This is a great question, and one that I find myself asking other successful entrepreneurs all the time as well.
The process I use revolves around a 12-week planning methodology. I recently gave a live classroom presentation to our inner-circle members explaining in detail how this system work, to access this restricted training, click the orange button below.
I’m at my absolute best when I’m laser-focused on a small number of tasks… that’s when I’m in the zone.
So what I try to consciously do is ONLY focus on a small number of things at a time. I use a simple system to plan my weeks, and I do my best to be disciplined and stick to the plan.
Before diving into the details, remember that different people work differently. So what works for me, might not be best for you.
- Steve Clayton swears by a Trello + Evernote system
- Majid (who runs our China and Pakistan offices) uses Google Calendar and hand-written notes
- Matt Carter (software development business partner) uses Basecamp and Google docs
- Melissa (Manager of our Customer Support team) uses ToodleDo (an online task manager)
All 4 people mentioned above are incredibly effective at getting things done, and all 4 use slightly different approaches.
What works best for me might not be the absolute best fit for you.
While everyone above uses slightly different processes, there are 5 underlying habits we all share, I’ve listed these out for you at the end of this post.
One last thing before we move on…
No organizational system or software will fix laziness. At some point you gotta get off your ass and do something.
Over the years I’ve refined my own system which nowadays boils down to:
- Long term goals (5 – 15 years)
- Calendar year objectives (‘new years resolutions’)
- 12 week sprint goals (driven by the yearly goals)
- Weekly action items (driven by the 12 week objectives)
- Daily to-do list (driven by the weekly action items)
My tools of the trade include:
- Google Calendar
- Google Docs
- Notepad (on my computer)
- Notebook (physical book to scribble daily to-do lists and ideas into)
Side Note: I’ve tried everything under the sun… expensive monthly systems, dynamically updated plans etc. These days though, it’s bare bones simplicity for me, that’s what I find works best!
Before getting into the specifics of how to build an organizational system, here’s something else which is absolutely CRITICAL to my effectiveness…
You need to RUTHLESSLY eliminate anything that doesn’t move you closer to your goal… I call it fluff. Fluff are tasks that don’t get you closer to your goal. Kill fluff dead in it’s tracks and move on to what matters. That’s how you get ahead.
Eradicating fluff is difficult. It’s a daily thing I need to focus on… and I BET it’s the same for you.
You need to cut out the daily little tasks that don’t serve you, and focus on what DOES. This makes an astronomical difference over time… try it!
Click the button below to download my 12 week year planning presentation (this has only been seen by a handful of inner circle mastermind members):
Hopefully now you’re in the right mindset, so lets dive into the details!
NOTE: It’s a good idea to think BIG, and to think long term, but if this just isn’t for you, you’ll be able to get see great results by skipping directly to Step 3.
Step 1: Outline your long-term (or mid-term) goals…
For example, years ago one of my goals was to own 20 apartments by the year 2020. Easy to remember, and doable with the right plan over a long enough period of time.
Step 2: Outline your yearly goals
Choose 3-4 big objectives and write them down using the SMART goal setting system:
For example: “On December 31st 2016 I will have saved $20,000 for a house deposit”
For me personally, I divide my goals into three areas:
I normally have 1-2 big goals for each of the three areas.
Step 3: Define 12-week sprint goals
The role of the sprint goal is to get you focused and blasting through important milestones which are aligned with your yearly goals.
For example, if your yearly goal is to lose 50 pounds, you might have a sprint goal of losing 10lbs.
Once you’ve got a goal in place, you need to break it out into action items. For example, if a 12 week goal is to launch a new physical product on Amazon, then your action items (the things you absolutely MUST do in order to achieve your goal) might be to:
- Make a list of 20 product ideas
- Order samples for best 4 ideas
- Place bulk order for one product
- Get product photos
- Write product description
- Add listing to Amazon
Once you’ve decided on your 12 week goals and expanded each one out into a list of action items, you then need to assign due dates to each action item, as well as an ‘owner’ for each task, you can see how I do this below using a simple spreadsheet (Google doc):
Step 3 is the most time consuming part of the process, but it’s also possibly the most critical as well as it sets you up for taking huge action and getting results.
Step 4: Plan your weekly action items
Just like the 12-week sprint goals are aligned with the yearly objectives, your weekly plan should be driven by your 12-week plan.
Continuing with the weight loss example, if you’ve got a 12 week goal to lose 10lbs, the weekly action items for this might be to go to the gym 3 times.
Take everything you prepared in step 3, and break it all out into a weekly action chart. You can see how I do these in the image below:
This is also where I add it all to my Google calendar:
TIP: Color code your calendar items to make it even more powerful .
It’s important to get everything written down as this gets it out of your head. I find this process actually frees my mind and relieves stress. It also means you put priority on what matters… once it’s set in your calendar, you’ll feel more obliged to get it done.
Step 5: Build your daily to-do list
The final step is your daily to-do list. This is a simple list of things you need to do to ensure your get through all your weekly tasks.
For example, your daily to-do list might include a meeting with your business partner (business), to go to the gym (fitness), and to investigate hotel options for an upcoming family vacation (family). It’ll be driven by what’s in your weekly action plan.
Over the years I’ve alternated between lists in notepads on my computer, and lists written by hand in notebooks. Both work fine… the key is just that you see them and actively update them.
If I had to recommend just one, it’d be a physical note book because it’s hard to beat the feeling of crossing things off a list with pen and paper…
In a recent Mastermind meeting in Las Vegas, I dived into MUCH more detail about the planning process I use, click the button below to access that training replay:
Weekly Plan Maintenance
A quick revision of where you’re at each week will help you stay on track. If you see you’re getting behind, you can adjust accordingly.
I normally check how I’m doing on a Friday or a Sunday afternoon. This way I can prepare my mind for the coming week.
Strategic Time Blocks & Buffers
Another thing I add into my weekly plans are Strategic Time Blocks and Buffer Time Blocks.
Strategic time blocks are 3 hour chunks of uninterrupted time. These are three hour periods that I use to work on specific tasks. Each week I normally have 1-2 strategic time blocks in my plan.
Buffer blocks are 30 minute time blocks that I use to get miscellaneous tasks done like replying to emails and taking care of things which come up which you can’t plan for. I normally have 2 buffer blocks each day, one in the morning, and one in the afternoon.
NOTE: you can see examples of Strategic Time Blocks and Buffer Blocks on the Google Calendar image further up this page.
Acuity Meeting Planner
For 1 on 1 consulting (which we do with members of our Blueprint Academy mastermind program), I use Acuity meeting planner.
Acuity lets me pre-load my available time into a calendar, and then 1 on 1 customers can reserve time slots whenever they want to without needing to contact me personally to reserve a meeting time. This simple tool also sends out reminder email to customers (and to me) prior to the meeting start time.
iPhone Notes App
When I need to write something down but I’m not at the office, I use the Notes app on my iPhone.
This syncs with my computers and I can then transfer the idea or note onto my daily to-do list, or allocate time for it in my 12 week plan.
Do it, Defer it, Delegate it, or Delete it.
When something new comes in that you need to get done, you have 4 options available:
- Do it right away
- Defer it (do it later)
- Delegate it to someone else
- Delete it
The idea here is to avoid letting things just pile up, as this will eventually overwhelm you.
Here’s an example of how this might work…
Imagine you get an email you’re your accountant saying that it’s time to send her an earnings/expenditure report so that she can complete your tax return. You can either do it right away and get it off the list, plan to do it later, ask your assistant to do it (delegate), or just delete it and not do it.
Outsource as much as you can!
One way I look at what I should and shouldn’t outsource, is by gauging the value of my time.
For example, imagine that you earn $100,000/year from your online business. Let’s assume you work 46 weeks per year, and 40 hours per week. This gives you an hourly earning rate of $54.
- $100,000 / 46 weeks = $2174 per week
- $2174 / 40 hours = $54 per hour
If you can pay someone LESS than $54/hour to get the job done at the same quality level (or better), then you can outsource it.
If you’re not used to outsourcing, it can be quite challenging to embrace this concept, as $54/hour seems like a lot of money to be paying someone… but that’s your hourly worth, so anything under that should be outsourced (otherwise you’re pulling your earning rate down).
The simple outsourcing process I use is for training employees is:
I do it.
We do it.
You do it.
First, I do the job so that I know exactly how to do it.
Then my employee and I do it together step by step so that they can master the process.
Finally I hand the job over to the employee and let them run with it.
It’s simple, and it works.
The 5 Things EVERYONE Does
I mentioned earlier that some of the most effective people I know use different organizational methods. While the specific systems we use are different, there are a few commonalities we all share, here they are…
- We all use a calendar to plan meetings
- We all understand the value of our time and the importance of delegation
- We all create some kind of to-do lists
- We all eliminate the tasks that aren’t absolutely mission critical
- We all set specific goal
Success leaves clues… and the 5 things above are all HUGE clues as what seems to work for everyone across the board. Try to master these 5 things and you’ll go a long way to improving the quality your work and family life.
So that’s the process I use to run my business and to get personal things done.
At the end of the day, you need to find out what works best for you.
If you have done so yet, take 10 seconds to download my mastermind 12-week planning presentation: click here to download the video now
How do you organize yourself?
I’d love to hear what YOU use to organize your work or personal life, so leave a comment ☺
Thanks for reading!
P.S. My favorite organization books are ‘The 12 Week Year’ by Brian P. Moran and ‘Getting Things Done’ by David Allen.