5 Reasons Why You Should Write Things Down

Reasons Why You Should Write Things Down 5 Reasons Why You Should Write Things Down

Why do I advocate writing things like goalsmission statements, fears, and plans out? Why not just  keep mental track? Why not jot quick notes down on your phone or leave a voice memo?

I’m a big believer in writing things down. Writing things out long hand instead of typing makes you slow down and allows your brain process what’s coming out a bit better than typing—but it’s not an absolute necessity. I’ll give in and say that typing them up is the next best thing to writing them on paper, and far better than nothing at all. The main point is that you turn thoughts into words your eyes can see.

So why do I advocate writing things down? Because memory—no matter how good—is faulty. It embarrasses me say that sometimes a high school classmate or some other friend connects with me via Facebook and my first thought is, “Who are you?”

If It’s Not Written Down, It Didn’t Happen

Very often during my years as a school teacher and minister, people would come up to me in a crowded hallway or foyer and tell me something important. After way too many episodes of forgetfulness I implemented a rule in my communication with other people: If it didn’t get written down it’s the same as not telling me, so the response you need from me won’t happen.

I didn’t put all the responsibility on the other person. If I had pen and paper on hand I would be sure to write a note and stick it in my pocket with my keys, ensuring I would see it again that same day. If I was unable to find something to write with, I would tell the person, “Please find a way to write me a note and bring it back ASAP so I don’t forget.” With the advent of smartphones, I would ask people to send me an email right that moment.

The final result was that if I or the other person wrote it down, you can be sure I’d take care of it. If it was never written down, there was a more than 50% chance that I’d forget what you just told me in the next five minutes.

Here are My Top 5 Reasons Why You Should Write Things Down

  • Concreteness: Writing something down takes an abstract thought and gives it concrete shape and form. Writing down your ideas or dreams also infuses them with a certain measure of sincerity—or at least helps you measure your own sincerity about what’s been in your head and heart.
  • Revisitability:  When you write something down you can go back and look at it again and again. There’s a reason why announcements get posted all over college campuses, and why advertisers spread their names and slogans as widely as they can. They know that repetition builds reinforcement. Repetition builds familiarity.
  • Editability: Written concepts and ideas are more easily edited if necessary. Not only that, but it gives more than a single individual the ability to contribute to the concept, expanding it far beyond the original.
  • Permanence: When something’s written down it can’t, or won’t, be changed on a whim. Written words also become a marker of sorts to help us keep track of milestones in our lives (think journaling).
  • Reliability: Written words don’t suffer from a faulty memory. There’s a reason why we pay a court transcriptionist to write every word spoken in a court room verbatim—we want a reliable account for the questions that will invariably arise: “Who said that?” “What did they say, exactly?

[My apologies to the grammar nazis and linguists for the made-up words in my list above.]

I challenge you to begin writing things down and see if it doesn’t make you more efficient, productive, and cut your stress levels  significantly. Pick three areas of your life where you think you could start writing things down and try it for a month to see what it does for you.

What do you think about the benefits of writing things down? What methods or tricks do you use to make keeping track of what’s going on in your head easier? How do you remember appointments and important information others share with you? Please share them with us in the comments.

How to Turn Your Goals Into an Actionable Plan

turn goals to actionable plans How to Turn Your Goals Into an Actionable Plan

The French writer Antoine de Saint-Exupery once said, “A goal without a plan is just a wish, a hope likely to fail and impossible to attain. Give passionate dreaming a structure, and reality moves to the tips of your fingers faster than you can click your heels and say, ‘there’s no dream like mine.’”

You’ve taken the time to figure out your dreams and turn those dreams into specific goals. Now it’s time to turn those goals into a plan. This is where you’ll meet your first significant challenge and begin to feel the first real doubts about your ability to achieve your goals. Don’t overthink things here, just keep it simple.

THIS is where life truly takes incremental shape.  You’ve already taken the time to write out your goals and determined your destination, as well as worked on crafting a goal that allows for measurability and actionability. Your task is to now look at what you’ve written out and shape it into a plan.

Dave Ramsey has helped millions of people break free from debt and find financial freedom through his seven Baby Steps. He’s taken a dream and broken it down into smaller goals with actionable steps all along the way. You can do the same thing by answering a few specific questions.

  • What’s my target deadline? When do you want to achieve my goal? (To answer these questions, you may have to work backwards, which you’ll see in my example below.)
  • What are the actions I need to take to get me to my goal?
  • What actions will I take DAILY that move me toward my goal?
  • How will I measure those actions?
  • How often will I measure those actions?
  • How can I keep myself accountable?
  • Are there incremental rewards I can give myself along the way?

Get started by answering those questions, then set up the tools you’ll need to track your progress. Set your target date on something like Google Calendar, and then set it to send you regular prompts along your new timeline. Set up some sort of to-do list that breaks your action plan into daily and weekly increments—action items that represent some sort of forward motion. If a step in your action plan doesn’t produce action, take it out. And set up how you’re going to keep yourself accountable, which may mean giving someone else permission to track your progress and lovingly get in your face when you get off track.

My mantra for good action plans is this: A good action plan is simple, specific, incremental, and effective.

Crafting a Plan of Action

Let’s take my weight loss method as an example. I’ve found great success in the past with this method, and I’m using it again right now:

My ultimate goal is to lose 35 pounds. My incremental goal is to lose 2 pounds per week. That breaks down to 17.5 weeks—assuming I keep myself on track. I’m going to give myself a few extra days of wiggle room and call it an even 18 weeks, which takes me out to February 28, 2015 as my ultimate time-limit for my goal.

OK, so I have a concrete goal and a time-line—the whatbut now I need to craft the how. The plan that gave me great success in the past is simple:

  1. Set a daily calorie limit using LoseIt.com. (This is calculated by my current weight, my weight goal, my age, and height, etc.)
  2. Track my daily calorie intake with LoseIt.com.
  3. Track my daily calories burned through exercise with LoseIt.com.
  4. Get up early at least 5 days per week and walk/jog for 30-45 minutes, burning 450-600 calories.
  5. Weigh myself each day immediately after exercise and track my daily weight on LoseIt.com.
  6. Allow myself to “cheat” on my calorie intake each Saturday if I’m on track for the week.

What makes this plan work is that it’s not only a simple and direct path from where I am to where I want to be, but each and every step is actionable. I have an incremental goal (2 pounds/week) to keep me on track and help me measure short-term progress. In addition, there are multiple ways of measuring my progress on a daily and weekly basis (calorie intake, calorie burn, exercise time, daily weigh-in).

Notice that I reward myself by giving myself a cheat day once a week. This reward is not automatic. I’m only allowed to have it if I’ve not only behaved myself by working the plan, but also if I’ve achieved my weekly weight loss goal of 2 pounds. If both are not true, then I don’t get a cheat day.

Are Your Goals Too Big?

If your action plan for reaching your goal becomes huge and complex, your goal is probably too big. I’m not saying your dream is too big, or that you should dream smaller—absolutely not! However, your incremental goals that will move you toward your dream may need to be broken down into even smaller pieces until your action plans to reach each of those goals is simple and workable.

Look at Dave Ramsey’s Baby Steps again. The ultimate dream is huge—financial peace—a term that encompasses a broad array of goals including debt freedom, financial responsibility, retirement and college preparedness, giving, and more. There are seven steps to Dave’s method, each one designed to take you toward a single, specific goal. Each one of these Baby Steps has a simple action plan to get you to that goal, and you don’t tackle goal #2 until you’ve completed goal #1. It’s a simple, specific, incremental, and effective method to work you toward a giant, and frankly audacious, dream.

A Marathon, Not a Sprint

The thing you need to realize about reaching a goal is that you’re most likely changing a habits along the way. You’re also likely radically changing something about yourself or your circumstances. These things take time, so you need to approach your goals like you’re training for a marathon. If you can sprint to your goal then your goal wasn’t big enough.

Think big and dream big! Go back and answer the question, “who do I want to become?”

So what’s your goal? Becoming debt free? Losing weight? Writing a book? Getting organized? Share it and your action steps with us in the comments.

Achieving Forward Motion by Facing Your Fears

face your fears1 Achieving Forward Motion by Facing Your Fears

I was listening to a past EntreLeadership podcast on my morning walk a few days ago and heard a guest co-host named Rory Vaden say, “Peace is about having a longer-term perspective…Any problem in relation to today is a big problem. Any problem in relation to our life-span, though, is a small problem, and any problem in relation to eternity is no problem.

That’s the truth, and having such a perspective really helps alleviate our fears. Having a long-term perspective helps us slow down and take a step back so we can rationally address our fears and craft solutions to overcome those fears.

Just like we’ve taken time to write out our goals and write out our mission statement/core value, fears should be written out as well. Writing out our fears not only offers clarity, but it helps us determine whether our fears are justified and rational. Writing out our fears takes away the mystery and uncertainty of “what if” which is usually what is fueling our fears in the first place.

When we write out our fears we can then craft plans to overcome and work through those fears, negating the “what if” factor. Uncertainty gives way to intentionality which blows fears away.

Choose to Be Brave and Face Your Fears

Let’s write out our fears AND a solution or two to allay those fears. Allay means to reduce or put to rest—literally laying those fears aside. You can only lay something down that you’ve been able to identify, and writing out your fears does just that.

So, I’ll lay out some of my own fears and my workable solutions to allay those fear. (I invite you to share yours in the comments.)

  • I fear that no one will ever read this blog and that it won’t take off the way I hope. But I can allay this fear by refusing to give in and to work hard each day to produce better, more-useful content than the day before.
  • I fear that I’m in over my head and that I’m not qualified to speak on my chosen topics. But I can allay this fear by writing authentically and truthfully about what I do know and understand, and by staying intentional about my own growth.
  • As an introvert, I fear being vulnerable in social situations and letting people get to know the real me—I fear being rejected. But I can allay this fear by giving of myself in a genuine manner—not working to craft relationships for what I can get out of them, but what I can give.

Those are just three of my very real fears that I am working on daily. I must continually work through them and beyond them to find the success and results I want in my life.

What are some fears holding you back from accomplishing your goals? Face them by sharing in the comments—and don’t forget to offer yourself a written solution as well.

Why You Should Craft a Mission Statement

craft a mission statement FB Why You Should Craft a Mission Statement

If you’re an entrepreneur or some other type of self-starter, it’s likely that most of your goals revolve around your business or another sort of major undertaking. Now that you’ve spent some time writing out your goals, a practice you might consider is to take those goals and turn them into a written Mission Statement, or what Michael Hyatt calls your Core Value Proposition Statement.

Similar to writing out your goals, having a well-written Mission Statement or Core Value Proposition Statement puts you in a position to turn your vision into action. It does this primarily in two ways.

First, a statement gives you and your team a specific target by defining your goals and providing specific parameters in which to operate to reach those goals. These parameters are not limits rather than a statement of core values—a reflection of you and your company’s character and DNA. Second, a statement is your elevator pitch to potential customers and clients. It is here that you succinctly state not only your what you but also your why and how.

Elements of a Well-Conceived Mission Statement

A well-written and thoroughly thought-out mission statement answers these five important questions:

  • Who are we? (Your company’s name)
  • What do we do? (Part 1 of company’s unique solution)
  • How do we do it? (Part 2 of company’s unique solution)
  • Who do we do it for? (Your company’s target audience)
  • Why do we do it? (Your company’s promised transformation based on your values)

A well-written Mission Statement is also brief and to the point. It’s a statement, not a story. The Mission Statement isn’t the place to share company history or sell your product, it’s an attention grabber to answer your customer’s ultimate question: “Why should I care?” Don’t go on and on either, or you risk losing your customer’s attention.

A good Mission Statement also avoids being vague. Be concise and state what value you bring to your customer’s lives. Avoid broad statements that are too general or grandiose—the reader either won’t care or won’t believe you. Without explaining your systems, you need to share how you intend to get the customer from where they are now to where you perceive they want to be. What value do you add to their lives, and is it worth their time and/or money?

A Conversational Approach

There was a time in my life when I had the unfortunate experience of being a telemarketer. While I can’t say I look back on those months of my working life with any great fondness, I do remember the way we were trained to begin our sales pitch with the customer. We very quickly stated who we were, what company we were calling from, the purpose for our call, and how we could add value to the listener’s life. A Core Value Proposition Statement is similar, only without the annoyance of bothering your customers in the middle of dinner.

If you’re an entrepreneur who uses social media or blogging as an avenue for reaching your customers, I would highly consider crafting a Core Value Proposition Statement in addition to or in place of a Mission Statement. Why? Simply because it’s far more conversational than a Mission Statement could ever be.

Such a statement is personal while being a succinct reflection of you and what you bring to the table. Use the formula below and fill in the blanks to write your first Core Value Proposition Statement:

I am __________[your name], and I help ____________[target audience] do or understand __________[your unique solution] so that __________[your promised transformation].

Again, you can see from the outset that the Core Value Proposition Statement is more about you than your business. If you’d like, you can adapt the opening to include your company like this. “I am Joe Smith from A1 Company, and I help…” This way you quickly associate you and your company’s name without greatly extending the length of your statement.

Here’s what my current core value proposition statement for this blog looks like.

I am Jeff M. Miller and I help ordinary people who are stuck in a rut change their behaviors so they can be extraordinary.

My statement is short, pointed, and encompasses everything about my blog—both for me and my readers. In short, it lets my readers know what to expect from my blog and it defines for me what kinds of information I should and should not share on my blog.

It’s Your Turn

Now it’s time for you to sit and work on crafting your own Mission Statement and/or Core Value Proposition Statement. Don’t worry if this takes some time, especially if you only recently gave voice to your life’s goals. Spend some time writing several drafts and set them aside for a while if necessary. Coming back to your statement in a day or two can help bring clarity to your ability to state your vision.

If you can’t figure out how to write out your statement, it means your goals are still too nebulous and need some refinement. Go back and read How to Create Goals that Stick.

Once you’ve got a better handle on who you want to become, what you want to do, and how you intend to add value to other people’s lives—because you’ve successfully lined out your goals through your written statement—you’re better prepared to start charting the steps toward your goals.

Do you have a written Mission Statement or Core Value Proposition Statement? Please share it with us in the comments.