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Set Yourself Up for Success… by Doing Something Extra

In case you haven’t noticed yet, the theme around here is maximizing this moment, and I often think of it in terms of investing this moment. By that, I mean will you engage in this moment in a way that yields benefits (to you or someone else) for a long time to come, or will the reward of this moment die right here?

One way we can invest our moments is by using them to set ourselves up for success in the future.

For a very simple illustration, I always think about vacuuming the house. (It may sound odd, but stick with me.)

Vacuuming is one of the chores that falls under my domain at our house, and although it’s easy and just takes a few minutes, it’s still a “chore” — and one of my least favorite ones at that!

When I finish that last swath (a word that gives away my country/farm roots) of carpet, I can’t wait to put the vacuum back in the closet and move on to something more enjoyable. But I always make myself do one more thing before I put the vacuum away…

Our vacuum cleaner is one of those with a canister-style dirt collector — instead of collecting the dirt in a bag, it’s collected in a clear plastic compartment which you have to empty pretty frequently. When I finish vacuuming, I have a choice: I can empty the canister and put the vacuum away ready to go for next time, or I can leave the canister as-is and I’ll have to empty it when I start vacuuming next time.

I always make myself dump the canister before putting the vacuum away, and here’s why:

Psychologically, I know the fresh start will mean more to me the next time I vacuum than ending my vacuuming job 30 seconds earlier will mean to me right now.

Since vacuuming is already a chore for me, leaving the canister full of dirt would only put one more obstacle between me and getting started next time. By taking that extra step and emptying the canister when I finish vacuuming, I’m setting myself up to succeed the next time around. (I know it’s odd to talk about vacuuming and success in the same sentence, but you see what I’m talking about, right?)

In the grand scheme of things, it may appear that this one extra step in vacuuming doesn’t matter much, but it does… because my tendency — and the human tendency, unless we train ourselves otherwise — is to always take the easy way out. But what’s easy now will usually make things more difficult for us in the future. So we have to learn to consistently practice more successful behaviors. (Even while doing something as trivial as vacuuming.)

It would definitely be easier to put the vacuum away now and postpone the “pain” until later. But that bill will be due the next time I vacuum. I’ll fret even more about having to do that chore because I’ve given myself one more hurdle to jump over.

Now let’s get away from household chores and take this to a professional level.

At work, do you end your day having knocked out everything on your to-do list? For most of us, there are still a few things that are left over for tomorrow.

So what do you do? You can call it a day — I’ll take care of that tomorrow — or you can reorganize your list and set some things in place so you’re ready to hit the ground running at 8am tomorrow. Will you endure a slight amount of pain now or risk throwing off your entire day by starting the day disorganized and out of focus tomorrow?

Or what about this: Is there something about your life you’d like to change? Maybe you’d like to pursue a different career path? Start a new business? Eat healthier? Exercise regularly? Right now you know you want to do it and need to do it… but where do I begin?

You can either write out the first steps of your action plan so you’re ready to execute when you have a window of opportunity later today or tomorrow… Or you can put it off and when that window opens, you still won’t know where to begin… and you will have missed one more precious opportunity to begin that change.

So, here’s your assignment for this week: Look for one moment every day to invest in your success for tomorrow. Where can you invest a little extra time, attention or energy today that will make you better off tomorrow?

What could happen if you did this every day for a year? Forget that. Just start with this week. Let me know what happens!

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