Sharing goals at the end of January? Seems a little late, right?
We’ve spent the last month making some big changes in our business and life, and now that it’s been thirty days of our new routine, we can say with confidence that it’s making a significant difference in our productivity, fulfillment, effectiveness and overall health and happiness! But let’s back up for a second.
If we’re being honest, for a lot of 2015, we were tired, sleep-deprived zombies. We were working ourselves ragged. We have so many great memories from that season in our life, but we also weren’t living at a sustainable pace. Maybe you even remember 2015 as the year #mywifethetravelcat became a theme on Instagram. That’s what 40 weddings, six workshops, launching a new brand, and saying “Yes” to everything (except ourselves) did.
It almost killed us.
So, at the beginning of 2016, we had a pretty simple New Year’s goal: sleep eight hours every night. No matter what. We knew we had to commit to making less commitments! By the beginning of last year, we knew the feeling of compound sleep deprivation all too well and had a hunch that if we continued that way, it’d be bad for our bodies and business — because you can only run on fumes and rev the engine on red for so long.
We’re happy to report that (with a few exceptions) we actually did hit last year’s goal! We slept 8 hours every night, and made so many less commitments overall. Our lives (and business) have been happier, healthier and more successful because of it!
But there was still one problem: we didn’t put a start and end time on those eight hours. We just got eight hours whenever we could. So, while some nights we’d be on a healthy scheudle, we have to admit that there’d be others where we’d be up until the wee hours of the morning, and then sleep in too late. Even though we weren’t tired anymore, it led to a whole new set of problems: waking up feeling behind; not having groceries in the house; wasting time and money eating out, forgoing regular exercise; the list goes on and on. We made some micro changes along the way, but overall, we really needed a bit of an overhaul.
So, this year, we took a lot of time off in December to reflect on 2016 and not just set goals that would be linger around for a few weeks like a cold, but would structurally and systemically change our daily life (for the better).
We came up with one word: foundation.
We thought about a pyramid, and how, without a wide foundation, nothing could support the top. We realized that unless our foundation was built strong on a regular basis, none of the business goals we set for 2017 would matter in the first place; because we believe with our whole heart that you can’t run a successful business (at least not for long) if your marriage, children, family, health or spirit are hanging by a thread.
We know that only a few percent of Americans write down goals, on paper, on purpose, that are specific and measurable and touch every area of their life. We also know that only a few percent of Americans are super successful. We believe there’s a correlation.
So, we went to work, and wrote down real, practical, actionable steps that, if we stick to them, will build the foundation we need to have the mental, physical, emotional and spiritual stamina to do anything we want in our personal or professional life.
The list below isn’t a set of business goals. It’s not how many weddings we want to shoot or what courses we want to develop and teach this year. It’s our daily schedule that’s become the building blocks for our life — and we wanted to share it with you in case you’re looking to do the same this year.
We’re only a few weeks in, and even though it’s simple, it’s hard! It feels like we’re going through a detox in every area of our life, but it also feels like we’re on the verge of living the life we’ve always wanted and knew would be better for us, but didn’t have the daily discipline to even dream! Like the Bible, says, “No disciple is pleasant at the time, but painful, yet it produces a harvest of righteousness.”
Here’s our new normal:
We haven’t had a consistent wake-up time since we taught elementary school, but we know that if you don’t wake up at the same time, it’s hard to fall asleep at the same time. Our bodies need a schedule. Our trick for getting up and not hitting snooze? We turn on the lights as soon as our alarm goes off. It helps our bodies adjust.
7:00 – 7:45 Read the Bible & Business Books
As Christ-followers, we’ve dropped the ball (big time) in the past by not making intentional time for God’s word and wisdom in a scheduled way. Starting the day this way has really helped us fix our eyes and focus our mind on what’s truly important, so no matter what else happens during that day, we have peace knowing that we’re in His hands and part of His plan.
We’re also each reading a business book (blog posts on those to come!) for two reasons: First, as cheesy as it sounds, just like we used to tell our 4th and 5th graders, readers are leaders, and we find that when we’re reading business books regularly, our minds are stimulated with new thoughts, ideas and creativity that we can apply to our own business. Second, by doing this in the morning, we get excited to seize the day; if we read them at night, it’s harder to fall asleep.
7:45 – 8:15 Walk Together
This helps wake us up even more, grab some exercise and get our metabolism moving. But, most importantly, it’s us time, as a married couple where we can talk about everything from nothing to anything. It helps us get out any fears we’ve been having (walking just does that) and also gets us on the same page for the workday.
8:15 – 9:00 Breakfast & Get Ready
We’re reading a book right now that one of of our best friends, Melissa Jill, recommended called The Truth About Cancer, and it’s really encouraged us to cut out as many toxins as we can and increase our nutrition through a better diet — and that starts with the most important meal of the day.
In past years, sometimes we just didn’t eat until lunchtime; and a lot of coffee on an empty stomach is a baaad idea. So, this year, Jordan makes a full breakfast while Amy’s getting ready for the day, and we eat together at the table. Two things: in past years, since we work from home, sometimes we didn’t “get ready” for the day. We’d just roll from bed straight to our phones or laptops. This year, we’ve tried to be more intentional about not only not checking our phones until after 9:00 a.m. but also getting just a little more cleaned/dressed up in the morning. It’s really helped out mental attitude make the shift from home to work — even though it’s in the same place.
9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. Work. Hard.
Not too long ago, we read a statistic that during a typical 8-hour work day, most Americans are only actually productive for two hours. TWO HOURS! The distractions of texts, emails, social media and colleagues kill our effectiveness — ands we don’t even realize it. As soon as we read that, we couldn’t even start to point the finger, because we knew it could be true for us too. Both of us. Maybe not to the extreme cited in the study, but in the past we’ve certainly been guilty of rolling over in bed, scrolling through Instagram, getting through everything in our feed, refreshing again before realizing it’d been thirty minutes. Or, during the day, getting on Facebook to post about our blog for the day, and then getting lost in the rabbit hole of one click after the next until we snapped out of it and realized we’d been lost in cyberspace. Not. Good.
So, this year, we put some strict parameters in place as a team to try and get as much focused, intentional work done as possible during work hours, so that we can accomplish more in less time. A few of them? No cell phones out while we’re working. No notifications on our computers. We only check email once in the morning and maybe in the afternoon — but not always. Most important things can wait twenty-four hours. They really can. And it’s been incredible. The most efficient (and balanced) fifteen days of our career. It’s almost like a game, or challenge, of how much we can accomplish in seven hours. And we hold each other accountable (in a loving way) because we feel the pressure of the ticking clock, because we’ve agreed to stop working at 4:00 p.m. sharp. Every day. Emergencies or very special occasions being the only exception (of which there are few).
4:00 – 6:00 p.m. Exercise
We’re off the clock at 4:00 p.m. sharp because we have fitness classes we take Monday -Friday from 4:30 – 5:30 p.m. Exercising in the afternoon has helped us get over the tired, afternoon slump, and be motivated in that window after lunch before we have to leave. At the same time, a workout is the perfect way to end the day. It feels like a reward and a way to clear our heads and get healthier. Plus, we read that because working out raises our internal body temperatures, our bodies spend the next 4-6 hours cooling our bodies down, even slightly overcorrecting near bedtime so we’re slightly cooler than normal — which helps us both sleep better. Thanks, Michael Hyatt!
6:00 – 11:00 p.m. Dinner & Household Things
We shower up, make dinner, eat together (at the table), clean up and get any household-type things we need to get done before 8:00 p.m. That way, we still have 90 minutes to watch something together (Parenthood re-runs for the win!) and still have plenty of time to read and fall asleep. We’ve found that as we’ve cut back (and we hate to say this) on cookie butter and ice cream in favor of no dessert and hot, herbal tea, Jordan especially who has trouble falling asleep, has been getting to bed comfortably and consistently by 11:00 p.m. This might not seem life altering to most people, but to us, it’s huge!
Well, friends, we KNOW that was a long post, so if you read to the bottom, we’re sending you a new car as a thank you. Just kidding. But thanks for getting through it all! We could write so much more on this topic and the changes we’ve made this year to build that firm foundation to take our marriage and business to then next level without sacrificing our heath or the people and things we love most, but these are the main ones — and we really hope they reinforced some of what you’re already doing and maybe gave you some inspiration in some areas you need to refine too.
Either way, we can assure that even though it’s a little painful at first (like most change in life), we feel so much better after a few weeks of commitment that we don’t want to stop, and we hope sharing this will be encouraging for you, too!
(Photo by the lovely Annamarie Akins)
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