5:00 AM: Up And At ‘Em (How Incremental Change Made It Happen)

In 2011, I came face to face with a reality that all hard charging achievers encounter: there are only 24 hours in each day. Like many of you, I struggled to find an answer to the question, “How can I fit my ambitious expectations into those 24 hours?” The task seemed impossible. It was then that I decided the only solution was to get up earlier and rethink my morning routine in order to focus on key priority areas (thanks to Michael Hyatt and others). The next step was to figure out how to make that possible.
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In my last post, we dove into three compelling reasons why we should harness the power of incremental change to make great strides toward our goals and developing effective habits. Hopefully, you even identified an area in your life where incremental change could make a significant difference. However, you may have been left wondering how to get started.
Here are 4 steps that helped me get the ball rolling:
Step #1  Identify your goal: What is it you want to, accomplish, master, develop, achieve, finish?
One of my goals was to develop the routine of getting up at 5:00 AM. Reading the entire Bible is another goal that I am applying the power of incremental change to. The point is to be crystal clear about what it is you want to accomplish. Other examples may be to pay off all credit card debt, lose 15 pounds or improve your golf handicap by 2 shots.
Step #2  Identify your strategy of incremental change: What actions will you take on a regular basis?
Use the acronym S.M.A.R.T. to help set yourself up for success. It stands for Specific, Measurable, Action-Focused, Realistic and Time-Bound. For instance, if my goal is to run a half marathon, then my strategy of “run 5 days per week” could be changed to be more effective. If I decided to “run a total of 60 miles in 5 days each week, averaging 8:30 minute miles,” that is more S.M.A.R.T. Ultimately, the more clear I can be with the practices I need to execute to meet my goal, the more likely I will actually take those steps. Maybe its just me, but if I leave any wiggle room, I tend to procrastinate. So, having the strategy to complete 5 days of my one-year Bible reading plan per week keeps things simple and straight forward.
Step #3  Identify your tracking mechanism: Map out a tracking system for yourself to help you monitor your progress and see your transformation over time.
You may have heard the adage that you can’t expect to manage what you don’t measure. In my experience, this is huge for building momentum and setting yourself up for success. You’ve got to find a way to track progress. The good news is, this has never been easier. There are hundreds of tools to help you track goals, habits and the like. Two Apps I use are Way of Life and Endomono, which both help me to be disciplined and to track my progress in building new habits. Alternatively, a simple chart or calendar where you mark off whether or not you completed the necessary action for that day works just fine.
Step #4  Identify your checkpoints: Select short-term goals that serve as checkpoints along the way.
These help you stay the course, evaluate your progress and celebrate successes en route to something bigger. For example, as I work my way through reading the Bible, I have checkpoints each week and each month along the way. These help keep me focused. Without them, it would be easy to let a couple of days slip through the cracks here and there without realizing it and before I know it, I might be a month or two behind on my reading plan. When I hit my checkpoints on schedule, that boosts my confidence and energizes me to hit the next one.
This is the time of year when many of you have focused your efforts toward those easily derailed resolutions. We all start down that road with the best of intentions. However, if you’re after lasting change in 2014, changes that can pay huge dividends down the road, might I suggest recruiting the power of incremental change? To get your 2014 moving in the direction of big goals and lasting change, complete the 4 steps above and see where you end up before the ball drops again in Times Square.
 
Links: (posts, books, links, etc.)
•   App: Way of Life App
•   App: Endomondo
Question: What is your greatest hurdle to creating lasting change and achieving more in 2014? Please join the conversation in the comments below.

Please note: I encourage reader discussion, however, I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.