How would you describe your life? Are you accomplishing things that are important to you? Are you achieving what you desire? Do you consider yourself a success?
If you and I were to spend the day together I would be able to tell you whether you will be successful. The reason for my ability to be able to determine where your life is heading is not based on a specific skill set that I possess but rather it is determined by your daily agenda. The great secret that successful people carry with them is rooted in their daily agenda.
They are extremely disciplined at focusing their daily actions around the most important priorities in their life. Brian Tracy referred to it as eating your frog. If you were told that you had to eat a frog before the end of the day, when would you eat your frog? Would you eat it first thing in the morning or would you wait until the end of the day? The frog represents the most important tasks that you need to focus on in order to move your agenda forward. Often it is the things we do not want to do. It's easier to start our day with tasks that are going to be easy or more enjoyable. Staring at your “frog” all day long knowing that you have to “eat it” only creates anxiety and stress which ultimately depletes your energy reserves and makes you more irritable and unproductive.
One of the privileges of working with leaders is that I get to learn and study their habits. When I am working with high performance leaders, I quickly realize that they do different daily actions that separates them from average leaders. For example, high performance leaders are successful because before they begin their day, they have already identified the one, two, or three big things (their “Frog”) they have to do in order to move closer to their 30 day, 60 day, or 90 day goal.
Once they identify what their big focus is for the day, they do nothing else until it is complete. They may never accomplish all the tasks on their “to do” list for that day, but as long as their prioritized tasks are complete, they will be able to continually move forward. Average leaders don't take the time to prioritize or strategize their day, week and month and therefore are at the beck and call of their feelings or the feelings of others. For example, when people are not clear on their highest priorities every single day, they tend to base their decisions on how they feel in the moment (“what I feel like doing”) or they live the priorities of other people (“hey, I need you to do this for me”).
When you consistently work your top priorities every single day your growth compounds. A great illustration of this is found in John Maxwell's book, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership and is based on the story of Anne Scheiber. Anne was 101 years old when she passed away in January 1995. She lived in a small, run-down apartment in Manhattan. Anne was an auditor for the IRS and although she had a law degree and did excellent work, she was never promoted. In 1943, she retired at the age of 51 making $3150 a year. Anne was a woman who did not spend money. She never updated her residence or bought new clothes. Once Anne retired she invested her savings of $5000 into the Schering-Plough Corporation. Anne made the decision to invest in the long haul. Whether her stocks went up or down she never cashed out. When she earned dividends which kept getting larger and larger she reinvested them into additional stocks. You can imagine the surprise of the president of Yeshiva University in New York City when he received a cheque from her estate after her passing that totaled $22 million. The secret of her success was that she spent most of her life building her worth. She allowed her money to compound over time. Successful people apply the same philosophy to their time and priorities. Becoming successful is about investing in your top priorities every single day. This allows your “assets” to compound which results in growth over time. When you identify what a person is doing every day over time you will know where that person is and what he or she is becoming.
Every day as leaders we choose one of two types of pain—the pain of regret or the pain of discipline. Successful people always choose the latter because they know and believe in paying now and playing later as opposed to playing now and paying later. Here are the big questions each of us must ask on a daily basis: How am I leading my day? What am I preparing for today? Success or failure? Am I willing to eat my frog first thing?