How Darryl Hicks Finally Hacked Tim Ferriss

Got me thinking...

Change your mornings, change your life.

I’m a big fan of journaling, so the 5 Minute Journal is one of my favorite gifts to share with friends and colleagues alike. Despite the journal’s awesomeness, however, my problem—up until three months ago—was that I was hit and miss with using it.

So I established a new morning routine.

Of course, I’d heard about the importance of morning routines for a long time. But because I love being a spontaneous, unscheduled person, it took twelve of Tim Ferriss’ podcasts to force a change in my behavior.

The Twelfth Time

A dozen podcasts in, a pattern hit me like a Mac truck as I was listening one rainy Thursday afternoon:

Every successful person that that Ferriss’ interviewed, religiously adheres to a morning routine, including time for meaningful meditation.

One interviewee told Ferriss “I approach my day with a sense of clarity and purpose.” Another revealed “I know what I want to get done, but just as importantly, I know what I want to eliminate, and distractions to avoid.” Still another mused “it gives me a sense of control over the otherwise chaotic hell we entrepreneurs deal with on a daily basis.”

Sensing the pattern, I figured “I have to get serious and try this.”

So I did.

BOOM!! The single most profound ‘upgrade’ I’ve done for my personal and professional life in thirteen years.

I found and applied a thought-provoking Lifehack article on rediscovering productivity at the start of your day. It gives five important reasons to incorporate morning rituals into your life and then follows with five ways to start doing so right away.

But as I put these suggestions to work, I became aware something was still missing: I wasn’t carving time out of my busy life regularly enough for this new routine to fully take hold.

I needed a tweak, a hack, an upgrade of sorts.

So I made one.

Goal Setting Burnout

I’ve long been a fan of clearly defined goals. I get it.

While it’s true that not everything can be measured, or easily defined, it’s also true that what isn’t measured cannot be managed.

To accomplish all of my goals, I started using the S.M.A.R.T. system ten years ago. It worked so well; I ended up using it with all of the stakeholders in my businesses, too. Twelve months ago, I made a change, and decided to upgrade my business team to using OKR‘s instead.

OKR’s organize your goals by [O]bjective, and [K]ey [R]esults.

ADVANCED TIP: Becoming an OKR ninja.

I was so impressed with the business-side results of OKR’s, that a few months later I decided to replace my personal SMART goals with OKR’s, too.

Great idea, right?

Wrong!

It was a complete disaster.

My brain went into total meltdown.

As it turns out, this is because goal setting is one of the hardest activities we ask our mind to do. Setting goals requires us to visualize who we want to be, to see something that’s not there yet, and weigh a ton of variables simultaneously to get it right.

To melt my brain more than usual, I break my goals into five unique categories: Personal, Spiritual, Business, Family, Charitable.

Under each category, I have as many as four Objectives, and an average of three Key Results per objective, so that each OKR looks like this:

(This is one of my actual “Personal” OKR’s below)

Objective #3:  To look and feel fit

Key Result:  Bike to work on days I don’t train with Sonia (2-3 times/wk)

Key Result:  Alcohol only on weekends and special occasions (2-3 days/wk)

Key Result:  Get and stay under 195 lbs by end of August 2015

Key Result:  Improve Beddit sleep score to consistently greater than 100

The problem I discovered is that processing, revising, and checking in on that much future thinking caused my brain to hurt! I’d have to stop before I could cover every category, and the result was that, as much as I loved them, I eventually stopped checking in on my goals.

In fact, I didn’t even finish converting them all to OKR’s, and in the end, I felt like my life was still drifting.

How I Hacked Ferriss

That’s when I decided to hack Tim Ferriss with an upgrade of my own: I broke these five OKR’s up and decided to make only one of them part of my morning ritual each day.

WHY IT WORKS:

  • Studies have shown you have finite daily brain power to make decisions, so dealing with more challenging tasks—like goal-setting—early in the morning, before choice fatigue sets in, is ideal.
  • Your mind is always fresh, energized, and clear of clutter after you’ve finished your morning journal, and meditation.
  • Focusing on just one category at a time allows you to deep-dive on what you want from just that one aspect of your life, rather than feeling rushed to get to the next important category.

HOW I DO IT

Since I have five categories, I go to the top of my Goals note in Evernote and write one next to each day, so it looks like this:

  • Monday: business
  • Tuesday: spiritual
  • Wednesday: family
  • Thursday: charitable
  • Friday: personal

Until this became the norm, I set a recurring reminder in my email for 7 AM each weekday, telling me not to leave the house until I’ve reviewed my goals for that day.

And guess what? It worked, and a powerful new habit was formed.

How to Avoid Getting Sabotaged By Cool

There’s another hidden advantage to this conscious deliberation. When I was hanging out with Tim Ferriss in Napa back in April, one of the guys with us asked him “How do you choose what you say yes or no to?”

In reply, Ferriss told a story of how he had to learn the hard way that the more successful we are, the more we’re presented with opportunities that are “pretty cool.” Early on, he seized tons of them, but before he knew it, his life was completely overwhelmed with “pretty cool,” while the critical stuff—like being happy—was crowded out.

He said he eventually felt like George Clooney’s character in the movie Up In The Air, always moving, but never satisfied.

So Ferriss crafted a new rule: the only way he adds something to his routine is if it’s a “Heck YES!”

Otherwise, it’s a flat “No!”

But how can you tell the difference between the two?

Every successful entrepreneur I know has a plan for their day/week/month/life, but the most challenging part of our days are when we’re suddenly presented with unplanned activities and opportunities.

In those moments, we need to make quick decisions, and don’t have time to analyze minutiae. Our ability to know whether we must say “Heck Yes” or “No Way” depends entirely on the clarity of our goals—and whether we’ve meditated enough on them—so that we can trust our gut instincts.

Happy Momentum

Myself, since adding only bite-sized chunks of OKR’s into my morning ritual, it’s become easier for me to know what to say Yes or No to, by orders of magnitude.

I feel a great sense of satisfaction in getting the right things done, I see myself making the progress that’s important to me, and since momentum begets momentum, I already see it turning into a positive feedback loop of checking things off my OKR’s, and then upgrading them to whole new levels.

Try out my Ferriss hack, you’ll love it.

If you get stuck, drop me a line, maybe I can help.

Cheers!

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