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How to Stay Focused and Productive Like the CEO of American Express

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I spent the most of 2017 working my butt off to grow my business. But to be as honest as a mirror, very little of that translated into focused and intentional results. I was angry and disappointed. For days, I blamed others and was hell-bent on justifying why my failure wasn’t quite my fault.

I even ended up feeling completely burnt out. But then, after some introspection and soul searching, I soon came to realise that I failed at getting to where I wanted because all my efforts atrophied without deliberate planning and focus. Intrigued by my new discovery, I decided to take a step back to gain a new perspective.

And that’s when I discovered this simple planning routine that Mr Chenault – the CEO of American Express, leverages to succeed in his personal and professional life. Pursuing his strategy, made an incredible difference in my life as it made me more aware and focused on my goals and tasks.

Today, I want to share this very same approach with you so that you can use it to leapfrog your way through both business and life. Are you ready to shift gears and skyrocket your way into intentional growth and productivity?

How to stay intentionally focused on your goals and tasks?

Mr. Kenneth I. Chenault heads American Express (Amex) – A multinational corporation with over 70,000 employees worldwide. But how does he stay on top of his decisions and day-to-day affairs – every single day?

Well, one of the things Mr Chenault commits himself to is a straightforward planning routine. He simply spends some time every evening, planning and noting things for the new and upcoming day. That’s it! Simple enough? Yes, indeed. The most effective systems always are. But don’t let that fool you.

In fact, Mr Chenault lists just 3 of the most important things that he ought to do the very next day. And then he gets on to work on those tasks.

“Dedicate yourself to a core set of values. Without them, you will never be able to find personal fulfillment, and you will never be able to lead effectively.” – Kenneth I. Chenault

I started with 15 min of planning every evening before I hit bed

Seeing how quickly I could apply this system to my life, I decided to invest 15 minutes every night before I went to bed, writing and making plans for the upcoming day. Employing the Pomodoro technique, I’d set the ticking timer to 15 minutes, and then using a pen and a paper, list all the things I needed and wanted to get done the very next day.

Then, once I had them all down in ink, I prioritised and moved the items on the list, marking those that were especially important and urgent. Granted… some days took longer, and I ended up writing for almost 30 minutes. But guess what? Incredible things began happening.

Once I started planning and writing things out every evening, I’d wake up in the mornings with a renewed sense of purpose knowing exactly what I needed to accomplish that day. Unlike before, I didn’t have to waste any time thinking “should I do this or that today?” It was as if I’d suddenly begun experiencing an increased sense of self-awareness and an immersion in my work and goals.

Surprisingly this newfound focus provided me with the necessary fuel to fight my addiction of being constantly distracted by apps and notifications on my phone.

Moreover, writing your plans and tasks is a very immersive experience. And I found that a lot of my ideas and insights (that were hidden inside of my head) starting to come up to the surface of my consciousness as I poured them out on paper. And these brand-new ideas gave me some amazing insights into how I could grow my business.

A perfect method to help you sleep better

Did you know that planning your day the night before, and writing down your tasks on paper, is also an excellent strategy to help you relax your brain? No wonder, I found myself sleeping way better than I would before.

The thing is when you’ve recorded your priorities down on paper – you’re no longer relying on your brain to remember them for you. And you don’t need to worry about forgetting the crucial stuff that matters.

Giving your mind the permission to let go of thoughts and dropping the ball on your worries is such a huge relief. And your brain rewards you for it with a good night’s sleep. What’s great about this is that a relaxed and rejuvenating sleep helps increase your focus and productivity through the day.

Why this method works so well?

There’s a rather compelling reason why planning your day, ahead of time, is a brilliant approach. By now, you may have already recognized that writing down your plans, the night before is nothing more than a simple decision-making exercise. Evenings and nights are also the hours where you step back from work. And thus you have the added benefit of a renewed perspective in the absence of all the craziness that happens during the day.

Besides, psychologists confirm that each of us is endowed with only a limited supply of decision-making/cognitive energy to get us through our days. That means, by utilizing those cognitive resources timely and intelligently, we’re able to preserve our energies from being uselessly spent otherwise. With more energy for the actual tasks at your disposal, you’re able to get more deliberate work done.

“If you believe you’re successful and get arrogant, that success becomes a rut.” – Kenneth I. Chenault

A blueprint for resetting your life

In both business and life, you want to be focused and intentional about your growth. And, planning ahead of time sets the tone for the following day. It also takes away any immediate decision-making on your part (which saves you from wasting time!). And with a clear action plan, all that is left for you to do is stick with what you’ve already conceived.

A refreshed sleep experience, a proactive planning strategy and intentional work goals are the perfect foundations to build a successful life and career upon. Imagine thriving and living with such clarity and purpose day-in and day-out. That’s precisely what this system is designed to help you achieve.

What are some success habits you implement daily? Comment below!

Success Advice

5 Smart Goals to Make This Year Your Most Successful Ever

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Setting goals at the start of the year means you will know exactly what you need to do throughout the year to be successful. By setting goals, it forces you to build a plan about how you intend to achieve those goals. By having a plan in place, you will wake up every morning with a clear idea of what it is you need to do each day. Just by writing down your goals, there is a 42% greater chance you will achieve those goals than if they just stayed in your head. It may seem like a small thing but actually creating goals every year and then writing them down significantly improves your chances of success. (more…)

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7 Ways to Face Adversity Using the Power of Extreme Ownership

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Adversity is an inevitable part of our lives, and it is an important and defining factor of our personal story. The stories we build for ourselves in the face of adversity will either empower or discourage us emotionally, help us move forward or remain stuck in the past, allow us to grow or to decline. (more…)

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Why Your Confidence Needs to Match Your Competence

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Even if you produce amazing results at your job or in other areas of your life, others may still not see you as being competent if you lack the confidence to back it up. If you are good at your job, exuding confidence will ensure others also recognize your competence in your area of expertise. And research backs this up. (more…)

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5 Things You Can Learn From The 5am Club by Robin Sharma

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It has been said by Robin Sharma, “5 AM is the time of least distraction, highest human glory, and greatest peace.” This also happens to be the central idea or the core value he has discussed in his book, ‘The 5 Am Club.’ Speaking of early mornings, at what time do you wake up? Are you annoyed by the fact that you wake up on the edge of time and then rush to work in haste? 

The life lessons put forth by The 5 AM Club are exactly the learning and motivation you need to challenge your complacency. In your race against time, you may not have the time to read this fabulous book. So, we have summed up the key book’s takeaways for your convenience.

1. The vigor of waking up early

This is what the book’s most fundamental advice to everyone is. Waking up at 5 am every day can work wonders to avert failures and make success a natural habit. When we wake up at 5 am, we have more time on our hands than others. Besides, this is when we have minimum interruptions and maximum powerfulness of the mind. 

To add, the early morning peace is priceless! You can schedule your most important tasks of the day between 5am, and 8am. This book teaches us in the simplest way, how we can train our mind and strengthen it to deliver the highest productivity by waking up early. This energy that you have when you wake up in the morning and the few additional hours in your day are what serve as perfect ingredients for success.

“The secret to productivity is simplicity.” – Robin Sharma

2. The power of finding the right balance in life

The book talks about a precious lesson of finding the right balance within. We often talk about the need for mindfulness and achieving the right mindset to perceive things. But this book goes a few steps ahead of our usual approach to life. It highlights the vitality of mindset and introduces the concepts of heartset, healthset, and soulset.

These terms may seem new, but they are self-explanatory. The idea of heartset endorses the essentialness of emotional stability and well-being. Next, the perspective of healthset indicates the need to look after physical health. At last, soulset is an attribute of spirituality. As explained in this book, success prospects can be enhanced big time by achieving the right balance between these internal virtues.

3. The iconic 20/20/20 modus operandi

What is the first thing you will do if you start waking up at 5 am every day? Did you ever spare a thought about it? This book has the answer to this question, and you will be convinced that it is a great way to begin your day!. The author suggests that you should split the first hour of the day into three equal parts of 20 minutes each.

In the first 20 minutes of the day, you should prioritize your physical fitness and exercise. In the next 20 minutes, you should energize your soul and spirit via self-reflection and soulful meditation. This will prepare you for the rest of the day and will enable you to bolster your commitment and focus. In the last 20 minutes of the first hour, you should read and learn. But what are you going to read about in those 20 minutes? Read about successful people and their inspiring journeys to the pinnacle of success.

4. The significance of a proper sleep schedule

In this book, there is a mention of ‘a ferocious global sleep recession’, which is intriguing and enlightening. It hints at the state of sleep deprivation that this world is sinking into gradually. We often associate success and hard work with the notion of staying up all night and testing our endurance beyond limits. But that is not the right approach to accomplishing success, or rather, it is a flawed methodology.

Sometimes even if we do not have any critical work, we keep whiling our night time on social media or television. What are we gaining from it is the real question, and I am afraid the answer is nothing! We learn from this book that it is critical to look after your sleep cycle and start your day at 5 am afresh. Sleep and rest are indispensable for mental and physical well-being, or your productivity will decline.

“If you want to have the results only 5% have, you must be willing to do and think like only 5% do and think.” – Robin Sharma

5. The art of evolving

The book sheds light on the need to be spiritual and master self-reflection. However, do you realize the purpose that the routine of reflection each morning serves? The idea is to keep learning, keep reflecting on the mistakes and keep evolution an ongoing process. You should evolve every day and strive to be a better version of yourself every day. So, one of your primary goals after waking up should be to reflect on your actions and missed opportunities of the previous day.

To recapitulate, The 5 AM Club is a must-read book if you are a passionate reader. It has the prowess and charm to refurbish your perception of life altogether. Even if you cannot read the book for some reason, make sure you incorporate the above key takeaways into your life. By starting your day at 5 am, you can rediscover your lost soul and enthusiasm, and you would not have complaints to make about the lack of time. If you can own your mornings, you can go places on the ladder of success, for excuses are only for those who are not committed to their goals.

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