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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!

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