Potential. We all have it. But who really has the time to achieve it?
Living in 2019 can at times feel like a constant scramble. Scrambling between overwhelming workloads, incredibly tight schedules, impossible challenges, increased expectations, competing priorities, stressed work colleagues and stressed families. Whilst pressures on our time are not always negative pressures, they do always take up valuable time. What is needed are clear and practical ways to make progress in a busy world.
Whilst finding the time is not always easy, what will it cost you if you never find your A-Game? Your motivation? Your happiness? Your health? Relationships? Missed opportunities? Below is a Do-It-Yourself (DIY) Guide to help you focus on 7 forces that shape your rate of achievement.
1. Know Your Motive
A fundamental component of someone in their A-Game is the drive to achieve a specific goal they have set for themselves. A-Gamers are goal-setters – big goals, small goals, goals for the year, goals for the day. To be motivated, one needs a strong motive that drives you to achieve.
Start by thinking about areas in your life you want to achieve more. Do you want to improve your state of health, increase your income, pay off your debts, improve yourself as a leader at work, increase your sales results, improve the quality of relationships at work, improve the quality of relationships at home? Decide what area(s) are most important.
Now write down 3 core goals that will be your primary focus for the next 12 week period. Make sure the goals are meaningful to you, achievable and can be measured. For example:
Goal 1: Increase my pipeline of work by 20%
Goal 2: Achieve a goal body weight
Goal 3: Invest 3 x 30 mins per week of absolute quality time into my relationship
Make it a daily habit to review your goals. Each day set mini-goals, to be achieved that day, that lead to the achievement of your 12 week goals. Increasing the frequency and meaning of your goal-setting is a powerful way to build your A-game.
2. Reshape Your Routines and Habits
The next consistent component of people in their A-Game is the knowledge that large scale change is only ever achieved through small-scale changes in daily habits. A-Gamers understand that progress is a daily choice. What choices are you making?
Lets take a closer look at the topic of habits. Habits and routines happen on auto-pilot. I call them ‘habits without a thinker’ because you routinely do them without giving them much thought at all. But are your habits serving you well? Are they giving you the results you want? Finding your A-Game demands that we master the habits that shape us.
One powerful way to switch-off the autopilot is to complete your own ‘Habit Scorecard’. A habit score card is a detailed timeline of habits you perform over a set period of time.
Start with your morning routine. Your morning routine is a powerful primer that sets you up well for an A-Game kind of day. To ‘win the morning,’ start by making a detailed timeline for your standard weekday morning routine. Write down a timeline on the left (perhaps 10-minute intervals) and then write down the habits you do at each time point in your morning. Next, give each habit in your morning a score out of 10 (for how positive the behaviour is in supporting your goals). Then highlight habits you would like to change, substitute or eliminate. The goal here is to increase your average score on any given morning. Create greater alignment with your habits and the goals you wish to achieve.
You can repeat this exercise for your evening, for parts of your weekend, for time-blocks during your working day (for example, the first two hours at work on any given day). There are countless opportunities to examine your habits and reshape your pattern of results.
3. Collect Wins
One dominant pattern of thinking that drives the confident A-Game state is ‘searching for and collecting small wins throughout the day.’ A-Gamers search for anything positive, or anything that can be interpreted in a positive way, to give them the confidence of being on the right track. The A-Game preference is clearly about WHAT WENT WELL over what went wrong.
Over the next 2 weeks, start a what went well diary. Complete a diary entry at the end of each day for 2 weeks. In that diary you will record 3 simple things that went well that day. By repeating this exercise daily, you are conditioning your brain to search for wins as a matter of habit. Small successes build big success.
4. Choose Your Environment
The environment you spend time in can inhibit or inspire your goal achievement. A-Gamers are proactive about setting themselves up for success by managing their environments and/or choosing new environments that are better suited for their goals.
For example, do you prefer a quite space, a space with natural light, a space with the hum of people, a space with a view, a closed space, a tidy space, a corner space, an open space, a space with music, a space with inspiring visuals on the wall? Your ideal space could also be quite different depending on the goal you are working on at the time (e.g., creative tasks, analytical tasks, writing tasks).
Here are a couple of quick, practical tips to help you set yourself up for success with your environment:
• Write down key activities you would like to increase. Next to each activity, write 3 words that describe the best type of environment for that activity.
• Trial new spaces and notice how the space impacts your task-focus.
• Prepare your environment the way you like to work.
• Choose the right place for the right task.
• Be flexible in choosing new spaces on a regular basis.
5. Invest Time in Reading
An important and yet often overlooked aspect of A-Game thinking is the powerful role of ‘goal priming’. Goal priming refers to the time spent actively thinking about, studying, analysing, visualizing, problem-solving and researching the goal. Goal priming is effectively a very thorough mental preparation routine. A warmed-up and primed thinker beats a non-warmed up thinker every time. A-Gamers know this.
Try this out over the next 12-week goal cycle. Invest 20-minutes a day reading or listening to podcasts on topics related to your goals. Don’t get too caught up trying to decide what books or articles you should be reading. It is more important that you are reading more generally and consistently. Throw a variety of readings (a variety of perspectives) into the mix. If you like you can highlight points of interest, do little chapter summaries, keep a diary of important things you are reading. Read, read and read a little more.
6. Manage Energy, Not Time
A-Gamers are not necessarily a bundle of energy 24hrs/7days a week. They do however focus daily on managing their energy levels. Having the right energy for what you are doing beats having the right time. The A-Game mentality is deliberate about physical activity, nutrition and sleep. You need the energy to push through on your actions, sometimes against resistance, to achieve your goals. Master your energy system and watch your A-Game start to progress quickly.
This is not about achieving athlete levels of mastery over your health. What I want you to attempt over the coming weeks is to find 3 simple ways each week that you could improve your energy management. Each Sunday night, give yourself 3 energy improvement goals for the week. Then week after week, continue to find new ways to add healthy habits to your routine.
7. Choose Action Over Excuses
When it comes to taking action, A-Gamers carry the attitude: ‘do it or don’t do it, but don’t make excuses.’ There is a strong bias for action and an equally strong aversion to BS excuses. People crave a lot of things in their lives – more money, more love, more recognition, better health, nice things. While there are a lot of people who want these things, not everyone has the discipline to do what’s required to achieve these goals. A-Gamers know that a bias for taking action is a critical ingredient to goal achievement. It would be too easy to make excuses. Hard work, particularly when challenged, often produces life’s greatest accomplishments.
What have you been making excuses about? What are the reasons you have been using to justify your current state of health or the current state of your relationship? I want you to set yourself the challenge of overcoming your excuses – just for 1 day. One day is all I ask. See if you can beat your excuses with deliberate action, just for one day. Win the battle of a single day. Next, repeat often.
The secret to finding and achieving your A-Game is in the choices you make each and every day. I certainly acknowledge that life can be challenging. It can feel heavy. You may feel stuck in a pattern of responsibility and the scramble to do it all. This is not easy, but it is very achievable. You certainly can DIY, one day at a time, winning the small moments and repeating often.
You can achieve almost any goal you set for yourself if you have the discipline to do what you need to do. Fortunately, you can develop the habits of A-Gamers and accelerate your results.
Dr. Cory Middleton