Life moves fast after you graduate. Many become so busy that they feel like are no longer steering their own lives. They find that their “prime” time vaporizes like a rain shower hitting the sunbaked Texas interstate on an August afternoon.
A college graduate recently asked me for three life-hacks that could really help him in the real world, three habits that I wished I had developed over the last decades, three disciplines that I’m 100% certain would have made a positive impact on my success.
It was a great question that really made my stop and think a bit. After sleeping on it, I came back with three that I believe in my heart would have made a remarkable difference:
1. Strategic-Big-Rock Progress: Pre-plan and then accomplish at least one task of long-term lasting strategic value each and every week.
Keep yourself on track and honest with yourself by writing it down on your calendar. Every Sunday evening or Monday morning, plan the #1 task you will accomplish this week that will have lasting value, that will serve you well, that will increase your momentum 90 days into the future. Then get it done as early in the week as possible, and most definitely before Friday, making notes in the calendar as well.
If you accomplish just one item of lasting value each week of your life, you will go much farther than most, because the world too often keeps you busy on items that are worthless in less than a month. Jim Rohn said that a person should “work harder on oneself than you do on your job” and there is a lot of truth in that observation. Improving your own capabilities is most definitely a task of strategic long-term value. What new asset did you create this week? Creating new stuff usually matters longer-term. I didn’t institutionalize this “one strategic-big-rock a week” habit in earnest until my late 40’s, but in hindsight, it would have made a remarkable difference had I started much earlier in my life.
2. Details-Matter: Write Three Details Down, without Fail
Writing details down, as they happen, is one core idea, but I would suggest implementing this life-hack with three separate email accounts, reserved exclusively for your own use. A person easily forgets 95% of their life’s details if he or she does not make daily notes. If you keep journal, you will be amazed at how much creative and wise you become over time. The act of writing it down makes it easier to remember, and when you don’t, you know where to look.
Go to Gmail and create three accounts like this (what you call them is up to you but you don’t want anyone to ever guess these addresses so you don’t get spam email):
I then suggest creating three accounts at outlook.com that match the Gmail accounts (so that you can have a second backup copy). For example:
Then, go into each gmail account and use the forwarding option to forward all received email from each account to the corresponding account in outlook:
firstname.lastname@example.org -> email@example.com
firstname.lastname@example.org -> email@example.com
firstname.lastname@example.org -> email@example.com
As a last step, create these three gmail email addresses as contacts in your smartphone. Now, when you send an email to the gmail version, a copy will also be forwarded to outlook. The idea is that if you ever lose access to gmail, you will still have the outlook copy, and vice-versa. If Google someday makes gmail no longer free, you would have a backup with their main competitor, Microsoft.
Use each of these accounts only for its one designed purpose:
- Send three emails to your perma.journal each day (an easy way to remember is to send one with every meal). Attach pictures. Create tags. A person forgets 95% of their lives if he or she does not make daily notes. If you keep a perma.journal, you will be amazed at how much creative and wise you become over time. Writing it down makes it easier to remember, and when you don’t, you know where to go. I started journalling electronically about 12 years ago, but had I started 30 years ago, I would have been so much better off.
- Send every idea that you ever have, as soon as you have it, to your perma.ideas account. Inspirations grow on top of each other, and connect in wondrous ways over time. Writing it down, and reviewing all your big ideas will make you much more creative over your lifetime.
- Send everything you learn about anyone you meet, in a conversation, to your perma.peoplenotes mailbox. Great relationships are the backbone of success. Remembering another person’s kids name, and that she plays soccer for the Solar Soccer Club in Dallas, matters immensely when you meet that person again two years later. We all forget 95% of what we learn about people, but the best genuine networking geniuses do not, because they write down details as they discover them. Nothing is more important than the little details – remembering those details shows that you truly care about a person as an individual.
Why email instead of apps? Email is a global standard that is far more likely to survive the test of the next 50 years while smartphone apps and the companies that publish them are way less likely to survive the test of time. Even if email changes a lot, I’m certain there will be universal import/export mechanisms to move the data forward if need be. If you want to create a secure, heavily encrypted mailbox, Switzerland based Protonmail is a smaller company alternative to Google and Microsoft. Lastly, it doesn’t hurt that email is mostly free at this time.
3. What Gets Measured, Gets Improved: Measure and log your progress on the fronts that matter most.
Measure your net worth (assets – liabilities) every month and write it down, without fail. What gets measures gets improved. A growing, positive net worth = freedom. Freedom is the most amazing of luxuries, far more amazing than anything you can buy at the mall.
Measure your health and fitness. I have successfully lost weight my simply taking the time to write down my foods and calories on the MyPlate app. The measurement help make you conscious of what you are consuming.
If it is important to you, measure it in writing. I find the easiest place for these notes is on my calendar, but where you store the logs is up to you.
My three life-hacks for the college graduate are all about writing it down. No matter if your are planning a project of strategic value, writing down the details about a new co-worker or customer that you just met, or tracking your net worth over time, the act of writing it down, even if you use the palest of ink, is still 1000% better than trying to keep it exclusively in your head.
Becoming all that you can be requires smart choices, thoughtful discipline, and unbridled optimism. Best of luck.