What I Learned from Working Toward my 2015 Goals

A year ago I wrote about my goal-setting process. My life plan, inspired by Michael Hyatt, is the guide I use to keep my life on track. I review it regularly and make minor revisions throughout the year. Near the end of the year I reflect on what I accomplished that year, make major revisions to my life plan, and set new goals that will help me carry out that plan.


2015 was an interesting year. I learned a lot as I worked toward my goals. In some areas I failed miserably on goals that should have been fairly easy, and in other areas I reached stretch goals that I didn’t really think were possible.

Here are 3 lessons I learned from working toward my goals this year.

1. Don’t look beyond the mark

In Old Testament times the House of Israel was given the Law of Moses. The Law of Moses was meant to clearly point them toward Jesus Christ. By the time Jesus was born, the Jewish leaders had so complicated and corrupted the law that they no longer recognized it for what it was.

The prophet Jacob in the Book of Mormon described this as "looking beyond the mark” (Jacob 4:14). The mark was Jesus, who was right in front of them, and they looked beyond that mark to a Jehovah who would deliver them from their political bondage.

This year I often found myself looking beyond the mark. When I didn’t feel like I was gaining as much traction in certain areas as I should, I tried to think of what more I should be doing. I would start outlining plans for working on areas in which I felt deficient in that moment.

However, I forgot that I already planned out what I need to do for that year. I would make the progress I was seeking if I would only follow my life plan and the goals and habits outlined in it. I didn’t need to look beyond that mark.

2. Try to be an essentialist

One of my favorite books of the year is Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg Mckeown. It is a quick and easy read, but it outlines an incredibly profound principle. It about cutting the non-essential from our lives so we can put all of our focus into activities that we feel deeply inspired by, are particularly talented at, and meet a significant need in the world.

I am not an Essentialist by nature. Most of us probably aren’t. I want to do it all, and find myself thinking that I can do it all if I just get up earlier and manage my time better. It takes discipline, effort, and courage to cut the non-essential from our lives.

3. Make more effort

Another of my favorite books this year is The 10X Rule: The Only Difference Between Success and Failure by Grant Cardone.

The author basically says we should consider the effort required to accomplish something, and then we should put in 10x that effort. In some cases, it will require 10x the effort we think it will, and we won’t accomplish it if we don’t put in that kind of effort. In other cases, we may be able to accomplish it with less effort, but 10x effort will set us apart from our competition and/or provide 10x the benefits.

The 10x principle may seem to contradict the essentialist principle. In reality, they go hand in hand. We should carefully choose the few essential areas to focus our time on, and then we should put intense effort into those few areas.

In some areas I failed to achieve my goals, and it was simply because I didn’t put in enough effort.

Make it a great 2016!

We all have more potential that we are taking advantage of. The new year is an opportunity to refresh our life vision and set goals that will get us there.

Question: What did you learn in 2015? 

How to Unwind for Holidays

Sometimes I have a hard time with holidays. Clifton StrengthsFinder is a type of personality test. Of the 34 talent themes, my top 3 explain why holidays and I don’t always get along.


Discipline. I like to impose structure on myself. I like routine and order. Holidays mess up my routine.

Achiever. I feel best when I am achieving something tangible. On holidays I should relax and enjoy time with family and not plow through my to-do list.

Focus. I like to have a plan and purpose for spending my day. Holidays are often unstructured and unpredictable, especially when extended family gets together.

However, my natural inclinations don't excuse me from taking time to rest my mind and build relationships with friends and family.

We all need time to unwind. We all need to build non-work relationships.

So how do we unwind for the holidays?

1. Wrap up loose ends before the holiday 

Use the day or days leading up to a holiday to wrap up loose ends on projects. Get to a good stopping point and make it easy for yourself to pick up where you left off. Make good notes so you’re not worried during the holiday about forgetting something.

Clean your desk off and email inbox out. Spend your time knocking out lots of little things that have been hanging over your head. Don’t jump into a major task that you would have to leave in the middle of.

2. Clear your to-do list

I use Remember the Milk to manage my to-dos. It reduces stress because I only look at to-dos I have scheduled for today. I don’t get overwhelmed with everything I need to do.

I usually put some of my to-dos on a holiday "just in case" I have extra time. I think getting ahead on a few things during the holiday will make upcoming work days less stressful.

However, this prevents me from enjoying my holiday. If I spend time getting things done, I missed my chance to relax and spend time with family. My reduced workload in the coming days is negligible. If I don’t get those things done, I feel like I didn’t have the discipline to focus and achieve what I planned to do.

I need to put off all my to-do’s off to future dates and not expect to accomplish anything during the holiday except relax and enjoy unstructured time with family. I should have the discipline to focus on my family and not achieve anything.

3. Make plans ahead of time

This may sound like the opposite of unwinding, but as my grandpa always said, “a change is as good as a rest.”

Enjoying a holiday doesn’t necessarily mean sitting around all day and doing nothing. I means spending quality time with friends and family.

Sometimes my family spends much of a holiday asking each other what we want to do, and because we can’t decide we end up not doing anything.

Take some time to make plans before the holiday, and be intentionally about making it memorable for your friends and family.

Make the most of holidays!

Holidays’ lack of structure and productivity can be tough for me. The desire to work hard is a good thing, but we all need time to unwind and build relationships. I’m still figuring out how to unwind on holidays, but it helps to wrap up loose ends, clear my to-do list, and make plans ahead of time.

Question: How do you unwind for the holidays? 

Should I Use Xero or Quickbooks Online?

Choosing the right accounting software for your business is an important exercise for small business owners. It may not be the most exciting exercise, but the choice will affect your business every day going forward. Plus, switching is difficult if you make the wrong decision. vs.

Your business runs on accounting software. How well the software fits your business will determine how much time and money you spend on separate products and processes. How well the software works will be a big factor in how productive (and sane) your team is. The information you rely on to make decisions needs to be accurate without taking too much extra work to generate.

I’m a big fan of online accounting software, or software as a service (SaaS), as opposed to desktop software. With SaaS you don’t have to manage software installations or data on your own equipment.

Two of the leading accounting SaaS products for small business are Xero and Quickbooks Online (QBO).

I wrote a post almost a year ago extolling the virtues of Xero. I criticized Intuit for how slow they were to release QBO and build out its features.

However, I recently noticed that QBO has rapidly improved. I think it’s time to update my opinion.

I still love Xero and use it for most of the companies I’m involved in. It was good when I started using it five years ago (much better than QBO), and it has improved since then. QBO was extremely bare bones at the time and didn't come close to having the features we needed, such as bank feeds and multi-currency.

I recently took another look at QBO, and it has come a long way in the last 5 years. As far as I can tell, it has all the features of the Quickbooks desktop version, and possibly more. It just added multi-currency support and redesigned many of its standard reports.

Here is a comparison between Xero and QBO in a few key areas.

1. Data entry

Quick and easy data entry is essential, especially for high-volume businesses. Even a few extra seconds on each transaction adds up over time.

Both Xero and QBO have bank feeds, and the process for entering transactions from the bank feed is similar. Both allow you to create new transactions or match to existing transactions right from the feed.

Xero has a feature called cash coding. Cash coding puts all new and unmatched transactions in a list with fields that can be edited without going to a new screen. This allows you to quickly tab through and assign a name, account, and description to a long list of transactions.

Winner: Xero

2. Flexibility and ease of use

Xero is easy to use, but it is not very flexible. Usually there is only one way to do something. In addition, you can’t edit some transactions. Instead, you have to delete and re-enter if you make a mistake. For example, you can’t edit bank transfers or payments applied to bills/invoices.

Also, you can’t apply one payment to multiple bills denominated in a foreign currency. You have to pay each bill separately, and then match the separate payments to the actual payment in the bank statement.

QBO is extremely forgiving. As far as I can tell, any transaction can be edited. Further, any transaction can act as any other similar transaction. For example, you may add a bank feed withdrawal as an expense. After reconciling the bank account you may realize the withdrawal should have been a bill payment.

You can simply change the name on the expense to the vendor name and change the account to Accounts Payable. This creates a credit on the vendor account, and then you can apply the credit as a payment against the bill. No need to delete the expense, re-enter a bill payment, and re-reconcile the bank account (as you would have to do with Xero).

QBO also has familiarity going for it. Many accountants are familiar with Quickbooks desktop version, and the QBO functionality is similar.

Winner: QBO

3. Stability

Software bugs are frustrating. QBO seems to be more buggy to me. I don’t have specific examples, but often screen don’t load properly or features don’t work as expected. Sometimes the Xero site will go down for a few seconds, but I don’t remember coming across any bugs.

Winner: Xero

4. Reporting 

Neither product has the great reports compared to more expensive systems, such as Netsuite. Of course, you can find all of the standard reports like Income Statement, Balance Sheet, Aged Payables, Aged Receivables, General Ledger, etc. However, customization options are limited.

Xero has better options for customizing individual report layouts. You can group accounts together and create various detail and summary templates. It has the awesome feature of being able to use the same template across multiple companies. For example, I customize the layout of the income statement and balance sheet based on the range of account codes (from the chart of accounts). I use the same chart of account rules in most companies, which allows me to use the same template.

QBO has a wider range of reports and better ability to drill down into detail. They have also recently released a new set of nicely redesigned reports.

Winner: it’s a toss-up with a slight edge to Xero

5. Payroll integration 

Both products have integrated payroll. Xero’s service is relatively new and is being gradually rolled out to US states, but it still has a ways to go. I haven’t used Xero payroll so I can’t speak authoritatively, but it appears that state and federal filings are not automatic (a big drawback in my opinion).

QBO has both basic and full service options. I use Intuit full service payroll for several companies, and I find it extremely simple, easy to use, and inexpensive. Tax filings are completely automated. All you have to do is enter hours (if you have hourly employees) and press a button to submit payroll.

Winner: QBO

As you can see, Xero and QBO have their strengths and weaknesses. Until recently I would have recommended Xero hands-down. However, QBO, with its recent improvements, is now a contender.

Rather than recommending one over the other, I suggest signing up for a free trial and exploring the features that are most important to your business.

If you are moving from Quickbooks desktop, you can automatically convert the Quickbooks data file to either Xero or QBO. This will allow you to test the software with real data. You can re-import the data file when you make a decision and are ready to move forward.

Good luck with your accounting software search!

Question: What other accounting software should small businesses consider? 

Why I Haven't Been Sick For 3 Years

This is a "knock on wood" post. I really shouldn't put this out into the universe, but I will anyway because it’s had such a positive impact on my life. I haven't been sick for almost three years. I haven't even had a minor cold. Going back a little further, I've only been sick twice in about five years.



Before that, I probably caught a minor cold (or worse) at least every three to six months, especially in the winter. I thought getting sick a few times per year was part of life.

It’s been awesome not being forced to periodically slow down (or stop) my normal activities.

I obviously don’t know all the factors, and maybe I’ll get sick right after submitting this post. It would serve me right!

However, I did make a major lifestyle change almost 5 years ago, and I have to believe at least one of these changes have prevented me from getting sick.

In hopes of helping others improve their quality of life, here are the changes I made:

1. Eat nutrient dense foods

I’ve written before about my experience losing 30 lbs about 4 years ago. I believe the biggest factor was a change in my diet.

My typical day used to include cold cereal for breakfast (Life and Lucky Charms were my favorite), sandwich and chocolate bar for lunch, and heavy starches like pasta or potatoes for dinner (with dessert after, of course).

4 years ago I starting making 2 liters of green smoothie every morning, which would last through breakfast and lunch, and then I would usually eat a huge salad loaded with vegetables (with white wine vinegar as dressing) for dinner (with no dessert).

I haven’t been as strict since I lost the weight, but I still make sure I eat primarily nutrient dense foods (i.e. mostly vegetables and fruits). I drink at least a liter of green smoothie per day, and I regularly have a huge salad as a meal. I haven’t eaten much cold cereal over the last 4 years!

2. Limit refined sugar

I began limiting refined sugar at the same time I started focusing on nutrient dense foods. In fact, I don’t think I had any sweets while I was losing weight.

As I mentioned, I thought dessert had to be part of every meal. And snacks between meals. And bedtime snacks. I was definitely addicted to sugar. I blame it on my Grandpa Smith, who kept his work desk stocked with chocolate bars, and his mother, who we called “Candy Grandma” and was famous for her chocolates.

Limiting sugar has given me numerous benefits, and one of those benefits could be an improved immune system.

I haven’t been as strict since I lost the weight, and once in a while my addictive tendencies return. However, I make a conscious effort to eat far less sugar than I used to.

3. Exercise consistently 

I’ve always been fairly active, but about 5 years ago I started exercising almost every. I started lifting weights, and then I trained for and ran a half marathon. I continue the habit of lifting weights 2 times per week and running 3-4 times per week.

It’s good to have regular formal exercise sessions, but even moving more helps. I use a standing desk, which forces me to move more during the day. I also use my iPhone to track my steps, and I shoot for 10,000 steps every day. I try to go for a walk at the end of the day if I’m not quite there.

4. Get adequate sleep

This hasn’t been a major change because I’ve always made sure I get plenty of sleep. But I believe it’s important enough to add to the list.

I have trouble functioning on less than 7 hours, and I usually get at least 8. I would love to add an extra 2-3 hours to my day by getting less sleep, but I don’t think the trade-off is worth it.  I’d rather have a focused and productive 16 hours than a sluggish 18-20 hours.

Besides, if you don’t get enough sleep, your body may force you to rest by getting sick.

I have intentionally been light on science and details. It’s partly because I simply don’t know much, and it’s also because everyone is different.

I can’t guarantee that you’ll go 3 years without getting sick if you follow this list. I can’t guarantee I won’t get sick tomorrow and return to my pattern of getting sick several times per year.

All I know is these changes have worked for me so far!

Now it’s up to you to research and experiment to figure out how to improve your health. Improved health comes with many benefits, including less down time from being sick.

Question: What practices have improved your health? 

Why You Should Create Systems to Automate Your Business

In my last post, I wrote about why it’s important to keep your business books clean. Accounting is one of those mundane details that most business owners don’t like to deal with. They would rather spend time building and selling their product or service. However, it is important to invest some time, attention, and money in keeping your books clean. This will allow you to make better decisions and help you avoid costly and distracting tax nightmares and clean-up projects.



Hopefully I’ve convinced you that it’s important to invest in clean books.

Now where do you start? Unless you have an accounting background or lots of business experience, getting started may be intimidating.

The answer is to start by creating systems. Creating a system begins with defining roles that need to be filled and then building a team to fill those roles.

Before diving into accounting systems specifically, I want to talk about the importance of creating systems in all areas of your business.

In business and life, the key to creating order out of chaos is systems. Systems allow us to automate the mundane so we can focus our greatest efforts on fine tuning rather than cleaning up messes.

It doesn’t mean smart and skilled people aren’t required to carry out the system. It means these smart people don’t have to waste their brainpower trying to figure out the process each time. Instead, they can use their valuable mind to work on the business rather than in the business.

Those familiar with with The E-Myth will recognize the principle of working ON your business rather than IN your business. The author encourages business owners to look at a business like a system. That system needs various roles to be performed to operate smoothly. You start by defining what roles need to be filled and then plug people into those roles. The roles should be so well-defined that they can be performed by almost anyone (within the parameters of certain skills sets).

No role should be completely dependent on a specific person. People should be interchangeable. This may sound cold, but the reality is people come and go. Turnover is always somewhat disruptive, but having well-defined roles and systems will minimize the disruption.

Hopefully I’ve convinced you that you should create systems in all areas of your business, including accounting.

In my next post I will get into more detail about how to create accounting systems specifically.

Question: How have systems helped your business? 

How to Use Evernote As Your Digital Brain

Evernote is my digital brain. I dump almost everything digital I need to know or keep into Evernote. I take notes, jot down ideas, and keep a journal, for example. Evernote has saved me significant time, cost, and headache many times by giving me instant access to my entire life from anywhere. I was once clearing customs at an airport and realized I had forgotten something important for my visa. I would have been turned away without it, wasting the trip. Luckily, I had a picture of the document in Evernote, which I was able to show customs officials on my phone.


Evernote stores your data securely online and allows you to access it using a website and apps on almost every possible platform. I mostly use the Mac app (in which I’m writing this post now) and the iPhone app.

It would be impossible to cover in one post every way I use Evernote, but here are some of the highlights:

Get rid of paper

All the paper I keep fits in one small expanding file folder (birth certificates, passports, etc). Every other piece of paper from utility bills to receipts to kids’ report cards and drawings goes into a drawer for periodic scanning with my lightening fast Fujitsu ScanSnap iX500 Scanner. After scanning, the paper goes into the trash or shredder.

I drag every scanned PDF file into Evernote, which automatically creates a separate note for each file. I don’t do much tagging or file naming because Evernote can search text within PDFs and images (even handwritten text).

I do tag some things to make a group of related notes easier to find later, such as car maintenance invoices. This allows me to quickly put together maintenance records when I sell a vehicle.

Store information 

I record anything in Evernote that I think I’ll ever need to refer to again. I keep passport and drivers license pictures, account numbers, etc. I take care of the finances in my family, so I have a note called "Instructions for Jacki if Dave Dies” with anything my wife would need to know. That reminds me, I need to update it…

It may make you nervous to store sensitive information online, which is a legitimate concern. I set up two-factor authentication, meaning someone would need both my password and my phone (for a text verification code) to log into my account.

Anything stored on Evernote servers is encrypted (even Evernote employees can’t get into your data). You can also encrypt specific notes and parts of notes. If someone gets into your account (for example, you leave your computer open), they would need a separate password to decrypt those notes.

I also enabled Touch ID on the iPhone app. Even if someone gets into my phone, they would need my passcode or thumb to get into the Evernote app.

Take notes

Last, but not least, I use Evernote to take notes (funny thing, given the service name). I rarely write notes on paper. Any time I start a phone call or meeting, I open a new note in Evernote just in case I need to take notes. I often refer to past conversations and meetings using a simple search, which would be difficult using note pads.

I also keep track of the status of projects. I work with several different companies, and each one has a lot going on. Evernote is the only way I can keep it all straight.

I could fill several blog posts with how I use Evernote, but suffice to say, it’s awesome! I can access my entire life in seconds from anywhere.

Question: How do you use Evernote? 

Why You Should Consider Building a Virtual Team

Are you a business owner or manager who needs help to grow your business? Are you hesitating because you’re not ready for or can’t afford a full-time person sitting in your office? Hiring full-time employees to sit in an office you rent is not your only option for building a team.  In fact, before even thinking about local full-time employees, you should consider whether or not a virtual team would work for you.


“Virtual team" can describe a broad range of structures, but in short it refers to a team of people who work together from different locations and possibly at different times. Communication is facilitated by technology rather than face-to-face contact.

Many prominent organizations have been successful with virtual teams.

37Signals, now Basecamp, is an extremely successful software company with a team mostly working remotely throughout the world.

Michael Hyatt left the CEO post at Thomas Nelson Publishers to pursue writing and speaking full-time. Over the last few years he has built a virtual team to support his expanding product line.

The benefits of a virtual team include: 

Flexibility. You can start by hiring part-time contractors to help as needed, and you can quickly expand or contract as your needs change.

Cost. If you hire contractors, you don’t have the costs and obligations of employees. You don’t have the overhead of maintaining office space. You will also have access to areas of the world with lower cost of living, which translates to lower required pay. The Philippines and India are popular places to hire for virtual teams because of their skilled and low-cost labor.

Access to talent. Building a virtual team gives you access to a worldwide talent pool. This is especially beneficial for businesses based in rural areas, where the talent pool is small, and highly competitive markets, such as the San Francisco Bay Area, where talent is expensive and difficult to attract and retain.

Of course, building a virtual team is not for everyone and all situations.

Drawbacks of a virtual team include: 

Compatibility with the business. Some businesses simply require employees on site. You can’t build a virtual food services or landscaping team.

Communication. Technology makes virtual communication more effective than ever, but technology isn’t as good as face-to-face conversations for reading body language, for example. Also, casual conversations in the office can lead to breakthroughs.

Relationships. Related to communication, it’s easier to build strong team bonds while working side by side, day after day.

Oversight. You are not able to see when people arrive at and leave the office, and you can’t see what they’re working on. You will have to be more concerned about the end result than how your team gets there. In my opinion, that’s a better way to lead anyway, but it’s a different mindset than the traditional model.

The teams I have worked with over the last few years have have been mostly virtual. Most team members are in the US and Canada, and we also use overseas bookkeepers. It is more difficult to communicate and build strong relationships with team members in other locations, but in our case the benefits outweigh the drawbacks.

Business owners and managers should at least consider whether or not a virtual team would work for them.

Question: How have you been successful building virtual team? 

5 Essential Software Tools for Your Personal Life

I love using software to boost my productivity and effectiveness. Innovative developers have created software solutions for almost any problem you can think of. Any time I have to do a repetitive task, I search for software to make it easier. coding-699318

In my last post I wrote about software for your business life. In this post I’ll describe 5 essential tools for your personal life.

1. News and educational content (read) 

All of us face information overload. How do we consume as much content as possible without getting overwhelming and spending too much time?

I use Flipboard to stay on top of the latest news and blog articles. It allows you to combine your Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and other social media accounts into one feed. The interface looks like a magazine and allows you to quickly flip through a lot of updates and read more in depth anything that catches your eye.

I also use the Kindle app for reading books.

2. News and educational content (listen)

I enjoy sitting down to read, but I consume more content by listening while I do other things. I can educate myself while driving, running, or cleaning out the garage.

I use the Downcast app to listen to podcasts and the Audible app to listen to books.

3. Social media

It’s good to consume content, but it’s also good to be a content creator. As you create and curate content, you serve those around you and build your reputation for expertise.

I use the Buffer app to post to social media. You can set a schedule for posting to each account and then send content to Buffer. Buffer will take care of the posting so you can create the content in batches but spread out the posts for your followers.

For example, when I find interest articles while flipping through Flipboard, I forward them to Buffer for posting on my social media accounts. This allows me to be a content curator without spending any extra time.

4. Personal finance

Budgeting and tracking your spending is important, but it’s not fun (unless you’re a nerd like me). Even though I enjoy it, I don’t want to spend a lot of time on it. Software allows you to automate managing your personal finances.

I use to track all of my financial accounts, transactions, and budgets. It connects to all my accounts and automatically download transactions. I spend some time at the beginning of the year setting up my budgets, and then it only takes a few minutes every few days to categorize the latest transactions.

I monitor my actual spending vs budget every week or so, and I take a little longer at the end of each month to review how I did that month.

5. Fitness

Software can be used to improve your fitness in a variety of ways, such as tracking steps, recording runs or bike rides, watching what you eat, and watching your weight.

I recently started using my phone to keep track of my steps every day, and it has motivated me be more active. If I don’t have my 10,000 steps near the end of a day, I’ll go for a walk. I consciously do things throughout the day to make myself walk more, such as parking further away from the store or taking the stairs instead of the elevator.

On an iPhone, the Health app tracks steps, but I don’t like the interface. Several apps use the Health data to display steps in a more useful format. I use the Withing app to both track steps and record my weight (using the Withings wireless scale).

I use the Nike Running app to record runs, and myfitnesspal for tracking calories.

Question: What software do you find essential for your personal life? 

5 Essential Software Tools for Your Business Life

I love using software to boost my productivity and effectiveness. Innovative developers have created software solutions for almost any problem you can think of. Any time I have to do a repetitive task, I search for software to make it easier. source-code-583537

I recently had to convert almost 100 Word files to PDF. It would have taken me at least an hour of mind-numbing work to convert them one at a time. Instead, I searched Google for “convert Word document to PDF,” and the first result was a website that converts multiple uploaded Word files to PDF. Less than 5 minutes later I had 100 PDFs.

Besides automating one-time jobs, software can make your daily routine much more efficient.

Here are 5 essential software tools for your business life.

1. Task list

You have a lot on your plate, and you can let important tasks fall through the cracks if you don’t have a good system for keeping track of to-dos. Sticky notes and scraps of paper may work fine for luddites, but paper gets lost, and you waste time rewriting prioritized lists. I recommend task management software that syncs between a website and mobile app and has good keyboard shortcuts.

My favorite task manager is Remember the Milk. The interface is clean and easy to use with an abundance of shortcuts for quick updates. It syncs reliably between the apps on various platforms. I use the web app for heavy lifting while I’m working at my computer and the iPhone app while on the go.

I have tried several l other programs, such as Omnifocus and Nozbe, but I keep coming back to RTM. I find its simplicity, effectiveness, and efficiency hard to beat.

2. Notes

You need to keep track of a lot of information, and that information needs to be available anytime, anywhere. You don’t have time to search through papers for that account number or utility bill or copy of your drivers license.

My favorite tool for keeping track of notes is Evernote. Its easy-to-use apps for any platform sync seamlessly so you have access to all of your information on your phone, tablet, or computer. Evernote is my digital brain, and I don’t know how I would function without it. Any piece of information I need is a quick search away.

3. Email 

If you’re reading this you probably use email, but are you using email in the most effective way?

I use Google Apps for all of my business email accounts. Google Apps combines email (Gmail), document storage (Drive), office applications (Docs, Sheets, etc), Calendar, and many other tools. It allows you to use your own domain name instead of, giving your business a more professional presence. It’s inexpensive and easy to set up.

Whether or not you use Google Apps, I recommend using email right in your web browser. I gave up Outlook a long time ago, and I haven’t missed it one bit. Keyboard shortcuts and powerful search capabilities make using email in the browser much more effective (in my opinion) than managing a separate piece of software that stores data on your computer.

4. Online document storage

I store online every document I need access to. I only keep paper if original documents are important.

I use Google Drive for archiving files that need to be structured into folders. For example, I have folders in my personal Google Drive for each year of tax documents.

I use Dropbox or Google Docs/Sheets for files I am actively working on. I use Google as much as possible because I can quickly access and edit on any device, I can easily share and collaborate, and I never have to worry about version control. For example, I use Google Sheets for cash flow projections and expense reports.

I dump into Evernote everything that doesn’t need to be in a structured file system. I use the Fujitsu ScanSnap iX500 Scanner to scan everything from utility bills to kids’ report cards.

5. Business finance

It’s important to keep your business and personal finances separate, and business financial software makes it easy to track the business side. Most businesses I work with use Xero, but I’ve also used Freshbooks, Quickbooks Online, and Netsuite.

Question: What software do you find essential for your business life?

4 Ways to Become More Resilient

Have you ever wanted to give up? I have. Many times. Any time I face challenges and the end result is unclear, I am tempted to quit. Any time I am tempted to quit, I think about the importance of resilience.


No business, no family, no cause, nothing worthwhile is easy. All worthwhile endeavors have periods of challenge that make us wonder if it’s worth it. We won’t accomplish anything worthwhile without resilience.

I’m blessed to be surrounded by incredible examples of resilience. Many of my colleagues have faced and continue to face incredible resistance to their goals. But they don’t give up. They keep pushing. They inspire me to keep pushing.

Like any character trait, resilience comes more easily to some than others, but it can be learned.  Chances are, the most resilient people you’ve observed built their resilience over time as they faced and overcame challenges.

Here are 4 ways to become more resilient:

1. Gain experience over time (and start young)

You can build resilience at any stage of your life, but it helps to start young. Over time, whether or not you’ve always been a model of resilience, you will recognize patterns. You will notice good things only come into people’s lives after pushing through challenges.

Why do many parents spend so much time and money on youth sports? Only a small percentage of athletes get college sports scholarships, and an even smaller percentage are able to retire on pro earnings.

Sports give kids something fun to do and keep them out of trouble, but I believe building resilience is one of the biggest benefits of youth sports. This resilience can benefit the rest of their lives.

I distinctly remember being at the end of close high school basketball and football games. I’m so exhausted I can hardly see straight. I want it to be over, but I can’t give up. I have to play my heart out until the buzzer goes, or I will let down my team and our fans. If I give up, the coach probably won’t give me the chance to play in a close game again (or any game!).

Parents who want to raise kids to become great adults should look for ways to teach their kids resilience. Sports aren’t the only way. Music, theater, service, school work, and part-time employment, for example, can all help.

2. Level your emotions

Sometimes we want to give up because we can’t handle the emotional roller coaster. I wrote a previous post about how to level the roller coaster.

Life is never as bad as we feel during down moments and never as good as we feel during high moments.

Our emotions are coded for survival. The fight or flight response is meant to keep us alive in life or death moments. In our day we rarely face such moments, but our ingrained emotional response can make tough situations feel like life and death. This is a good thing if it motivates us to do all we can to get through the situation, but we shouldn’t let fear become debilitating.

Controlling our emotions can be difficult, but it helps to take a step back and think about why we’re feeling a certain way at a given moment.

3. Talk about your feelings

It can help to talk through our feelings.

We can talk to someone removed from the situation. Whoever you talk to might have some objective advice for handling the situation. They may give you the encouragement you need to keep going. Just having a listening ear might be enough. Sometimes expressing our thoughts out loud helps us recognize when we’re thinking irrationally.

Talking  to someone involved in the situation can help provide perspective. They may correct misconceptions you have about the situation. They may have additional information or insight that you weren’t aware of.

We should be careful not to discourage those around us, especially if we are in a leadership position, but healthy relationships and a healthy culture should allow for free expression of our feelings.

4. Intentionally practice resilience 

Michael Hyatt has mentioned on his podcast the story of his friend who runs marathons. He ran the Boston Marathon with his daughter, who asked at mile 21, “Dad, please remind me: why are we running this stupid race?” He replied, "Because we are practicing not quitting."

We can choose to participate in activities that allow us to practice resilience. Maybe marathons are not your thing, but you can find other ways to practice resilience. Choose to take on a challenge in your career that scares you. Commit to a demanding role in a non-profit organization.

Resilience is an essential character trait for those who want to accomplish important things in their life. Nothing worthwhile comes without challenges, and the resilient push through challenges and enjoy the rewards.

Question: How do you build resilience?

4 Ways to Pull Yourself Out of a Motivation Slump

Do you ever have days when you can’t seem to get yourself moving? Days when your energy and motivation are shorter than your to-list? Days that you look back on and wonder if you accomplished anything? I am normally highly self-motivated, but I experience maddening stretches when my motivation doesn’t live up to my expectations. I recently struggled to motivate myself to be productive through two days in a row, which got me thinking about how to lift myself out of a motivational slump.


Self motivation is extremely important. One big difference between leaders and followers is that followers need leaders to motivate them. Leaders can’t depend on others to motivate them.

Here are some ideas for getting out of a motivational slump:

1. Exercise regularly

Regular exercise has a long list of benefits, many of which directly contribute to increased motivation. For example, exercise causes our bodies to release endorphins, which triggers positive feelings. Counterintuitively, exercise actually increases energy levels. High energy combined with positive feelings is a nice recipe for motivation.

I find a noticeable difference in motivation between days I exercise in the morning and days I don’t.

I wrote a post relating my experience of stopping running for a year and then starting again. After a few years of running led to widespread improvements to my life, I listened to “experts” who said that “chronic cardio” (i.e. frequent running) is bad for you. I became convinced that I would be better off with less frequent, more intense weight training.

During the year I stopped running I gained weight and noticed a significant drop in energy and motivation. In the few months since I resumed running 3-4 times per week (while still weight training twice a week), I have lost weight and regained my energy and motivation.

Exercise doesn’t have to be rigorous every time. The subdivision I live in surrounds a large man-made lake with a network of asphalt trails. A brisk walk around this lakes feels almost as good as a run.

2. Structure your schedule

I find the strength of my motivation to be correlated with how effectively I plan my time. I struggle on days that are wide open without a clear plan. On these days I spend more time reacting to email and checking social media than proactively tackling my to-do list.

I like to plan my next day on the night before. I review my to-do list, identify my top priorities, and decide the order in which I will tackle them. In this way I avoid wasting precious morning brainpower trying to figure out what I’m going to do that day.

It helps to tackle the most difficult or least enjoyable tasks first. I struggle with motivation when I have dreaded tasks hanging over my head throughout the day. It’s better to knock them out first when I have the most energy and willpower, and then I can spend the rest of the day on more enjoyable tasks.

Whenever possible I prefer to block out certain days or periods of time for related tasks. Rapid task switching is unavoidable at times when running startups, but it is draining and unproductive, especially when those tasks use different parts of the brain. It’s difficult to solve a customer problem on the phone and then go into a strategic planning meeting and then build a financial model.

For example, I try to schedule conference calls for Tuesday, focus on technical tasks Wednesday, have on-site meetings on Thursday, and tie up loose ends on Friday.

Everyone has a different situation, but you can experiment with structuring your schedule for maximum motivation.

3. Set short-term milestones

I struggle to motivate myself when the tasks I work on today don’t get me noticeably closer to an end result.

I learned this through an experience I had while going to university. I took a PhD prep track within my masters degree because I was considering an academic career. During one summer I worked part time researching for a professor and part time programming for a startup software company.

I found myself struggling to motivate myself to work on the long-term research project while looking forward to tackling the short-term projects at the fast-paced software company. After that summer I abandoned the academic path and for the last several years have worked with startups.

Looking back, I don’t think an academic path was necessarily the problem (although I’m happy with the direction I chose). Rather, I should have broken down the long-term project into short-term milestones.

Milestones should be set so that the work on any given day will bring you noticeably closer to it.

4. Make a change

So far I have focused on how to motivate yourself in your current circumstances. However, sometimes extended lack of motivation is an indicator that it’s time for a change. Sometimes the path we set out on is not the best one to continue on.

Before making a change, we should carefully consider our motives. We should consider whether or not the previous steps will get us back on track. The grass usually isn’t really greener on the other side, and any worthwhile pursuit will have periods of boredom and difficulty and seemingly impossible obstacles.

Self-motivation is an essential trait for leaders. But even the best leaders face periods of time where they struggle to motivate themselves. However, what makes them leaders is the ability to pull themselves out of motivational slumps.

Question: How do you motivate yourself?

Procrastinate on Purpose Book Review

I want to accomplish a lot in my life. As a result, I’m always looking for new time management strategies. I’ve written previous posts about prioritizing time and cutting out the unnecessary. There are many tools and tricks for being more efficient with time, such as task management apps and audiobook or podcast apps for consuming content while doing other things.


By piecing all of this information together, we can learn and experiment with how to make the most of our time. All of this is good, but I haven’t found what I feel is a comprehensive framework for thinking about time management.

That is, until now. I recently read the book Procrastinate on Purpose by Rory Vaden.

Vaden addresses perfectly what I felt was missing from other frameworks but couldn’t identify.

Other time management strategies focus on efficiency and prioritization. It is about allocating our 168 hours per week to get as much of your most important activities done as possible.

Instead of efficiency and prioritization, Vaden describes how to multiply our time. In essence, it’s about spending time on things today that will give us more time tomorrow.

To help us think about what will give us more time tomorrow, he adds a dimension missing from other time management strategies. Other strategies, such as Stephen R. Covey’s Time Management Matrix, manage time by weighing urgency (when does it matter) and importance (how much does it matter). Vaden adds significance (how long does it matter).

Significance addresses how what we do today affects us in the future.

What can I do today that will add more time in the future? How do I multiply my time?

Vaden suggests that we run tasks through the following funnel:

1. Eliminate. This is the fastest way to free up more time in the future!

2. Automate. Sometimes it takes an investment in time and/or money to automate tasks, but automation frees up more time in the future. It may be an investment of time and money to set up a software system, such as Infusionsoft to automate customer interactions. It may be an investment of time to set up bills on auto-pay.

3. Delegate. This is also an investment because it takes time to train someone to do a task, but it will free up time in the future. He suggests the 30x rule. Even if it takes 30x as long to train someone as it does to do the task, it’s still worth the investment.

For tasks that make it through the funnel, we can choose to:

1. Procrastinate, or

2. Concentrate

I’ve always thought of procrastinating as a bad thing. Vaden calls me a Worry Wart. I like to get things done the first possible moment they can be done.

However, getting things done early exposes us to what he calls change risk. Between the time we complete a task and when it needs to be done, something might change. Maybe that task didn’t have to be done at all, or maybe the change means you have to redo the task.

I’ve been too busy congratulating myself for usually being ahead of schedule to recognize the wisdom in this principle. I have to admit that there have been many cases where getting things done early has actually taken more of my time later. I have filed tax returns early only to get another slip that I wasn’t expecting. I have responded to group emails right away even though someone else on the email was in a better position to address the issue. I could go on with examples.

Gun Slingers are on the other side of the procrastination spectrum. They leave everything to the last minute, and they risk missing important deadlines.

The challenge is to find a happy medium. Do a task early enough that you don’t risk being late, but not so early that you risk something changing.

In summary, time management is really about self management. It is about taking time now to make sure I live the life I want to live in the future. It’s about being successful in the way I define success.

Question: What do you to today that creates more time in the future?

Why I Stopped Running (And Then Started Again)

In a previous post I wrote about holding the ground we have already won. I related my experience of losing 30 pounds (winning ground) and then gaining 25 of it back (losing the ground I had gained). Holding the ground we have won is tough, particularly when we forget (or even don’t realize) the major factors that helped us gain ground in the first place.


Running was a major catalyst for gaining ground in all areas of my life. When I starting training for a half marathon and eating better about four years ago, I lost weight and gained more mental clarity, motivation, and energy. This led to better performance and therefore more advancement in my career. More energy meant more quality time with my family. Better health meant almost no down time due to illness. Life was better overall.

Over time I forgot what got me to that place. By January 2014 I had gained some weight back, especially after letting go during Christmas. I embarked on a month of running 25-30 miles per week, no sugar, and no diet soda. At the end of that month my weight hadn't budged.

At the same time I had been listening to health podcasts and reading health books. I became convinced that “chronic cardio” (i.e. running) was bad for you. I was sold on the idea that a Paleo diet, combined with 10-15 minutes of high intensity strength training twice per week, would pack on muscle and melt away fat. I went to a holistic practitioner who recommended a large assortment of vitamins and supplements. I had to buy one of those Sunday through Saturday pill holders to keep it all straight (which made me feel very old)!

It all made perfect sense (and was appealing). I liked that I didn’t have to get up early on cold mornings and run for 4-5 hours per week. I liked that I could eat as much fruits, vegetables, meat, and even butter as I wanted. I liked that I could cheat on my diet once in a while (which became more often than once in a while).

It was great! Except that it didn’t work.

6 months later I had gained 10 pounds. I had a hard time getting going in the morning and lacked my usual motivation during the day. Instead of using the extra 4-5 hours per week (plus prep and cool-down time) to get more done, I slept more than I needed to.

It took me 12 months to replace the missing piece. I guess I’m a little slow. I guess I trusted the “experts” a little too much. And I can’t even take much credit for replacing that piece. Some of our friends had the crazy idea of running Ragnar this June, and my wife had the crazy idea of taking their idea seriously.

2 months ago, soon after starting to run several times per week, I realized running was the missing piece.

The results have been amazing.

I've lost 5 pounds, and I’m not even back to eating as well as I should be (those Easter treats are a little too appealing). More importantly, I have regained the mental clarity, motivation, and energy that I lost a year ago.

In the process I have learned a few things that apply to all areas of our life, including business:

  1. Don’t be afraid to experiment with new ideas, but don’t stray too far from what has worked well in the past.
  2. The "experts" aren't always right, or at least their advice doesn't always apply universally.
  3. Be skeptical of promised shortcuts. I’m a big fan of trying life hacks, and a few small hacks have dramatically improved my life. But there are very few effective shortcuts. Improvement in life generally comes with a lot of hard work and discipline.
  4. Listen to your body. Our bodies are incredible at giving us feedback. Feel great after a run? There’s a reason. Feel sick after eating a donut? There’s also a reason.

I stopped running because I forgot how I had gained ground in the first place. I started again because of my wife’s encouragement, but I have continued because it is helping me win that ground back.

Question: What have you stopped that is causing you to lose ground, and what can you do to start again? 

4 Ways to Automate Your Accounting

I try to use systems in all areas of my life. Systems automate routine tasks that lead to important outcomes. Systems maximize consistency and minimize time and energy. Systems allow us to focus more on the outcome than the routine tasks that get us there. In business, these systems can take the form of processes. Accounting is a business function particularly conducive to structured processes. The value in accounting comes with the ability to analyze timely and accurate numbers that your processes generate and not in the processes themselves.


Of course, all large business have complex accounting software and processes to make sure their transactions are recorded accurately and their financial statements prepared timely.

I will focus on on 4 ways freelancers and small business owners can automate their accounting:

1. Use checklists

The less you have to think about routine tasks, the more brainpower is freed up for more important activities. Checklists are a great way to minimize the thinking required.

Checklists can be used for any repetitive task, which includes most of the activities a business engages in. Examples include:

  • Onboarding a new employee
  • Setting up a new vendor
  • Setting up a new customer
  • Closing the store or restaurant at night
  • Preparing an order for shipment

Checklists are especially helpful in nailing the month-end end accounting close, which brings me to my next point…

2. Nail your month-end close 

"Month-end close” or the “financial statement close process” might sound like a complicated activity that only big companies worry about, but it simply refers to the activities that provide accurate financials after the end of a month.

The sooner you can get financial statements after the end of the month, and the more accurate those financials are, the better decisions you will be able to make.

This process should be so well defined and refined that it’s automatic. It doesn’t mean smart and skilled people aren’t required to carry out the system, but it means these people don’t have to figure out the process every month. Instead, they can use their valuable time and brainpower to analyze the financials and identify areas for improving the business.

Checklists in a Google Sheet have worked well for me. A tab lists all the tasks required to close out month end, when each task needs to be done, and who is responsible for each. Those responsible sign off on each task, giving me a real-time status.

Setting up bank feeds helps to automate month end. Most accounting software packages, such as Xero and Quickbooks Online, connect directly to bank accounts and credit cards and download new transactions every day. Bookkeepers only have to assign the correct account code to each transaction before reconciling the account.

Software that doesn’t support bank feeds should at least support transaction import, which allows you to download the transactions from your bank account and import the downloaded file into your accounting software.

3. Use dashboards and scheduled reports

It’s good to review a full set of financial statements monthly, but you’ll often need information sooner to make decisions. While it’s not practical to perform the full accounting process more than monthly, important transactions such as sales should be recorded in real time.

As a business owner, you should have access to as much real-time information as possible. Some accounting software will email you reports on a set schedule. For example, for one company I get a daily automated email with customer payments received, new orders received, and orders shipped. This allows me to keep a daily pulse on the business.

4. Outsource your bookkeeping

It doesn’t make sense for many freelancers and small businesses to hire full-time bookkeepers. In some small businesses, employees wear multiple hats, and the office manager, for example, may double as a bookkeeper. This may work out okay if you have team members with sufficient time and are comfortable with bookkeeping.

However, in most cases it’s better to outsource your bookkeeping. This allows you to hire for specific skills needed to add value to your business. You can outsource to accounting firms, but this is often quite expensive. I recommend finding offshore bookkeepers though a service like Elance.

All of the companies I work with have used offshore bookkeepers for several years, and it works great. We pay between $6 and $12 per hour, depending on the complexity, and the bookkeepers are accurate and dependable. For example, we forward any invoices we receive, and they do the accounting software entry and file the digital copy. They also complete most of the month-end checklist.

Automate Your Business

Accounting is an obvious candidate for automation, but you can automate any area of your business. It can help to recognize anything that is done on a regular basis and think about how it can be automated.

Question: What other tips do you have for automating accounting? 

5 Ways to Love What You Do

I began my career with a Big 4 accounting firm in its IT and financial audit departments. I loved the experience and people I worked with, but at the same time I wrestled with the direction I wanted to take my career. I’ve always had an entrepreneurial itch, but I wasn’t in a position to start my own company. Gradually I came to the conclusion that I would love to follow my passion for business, finance, and entrepreneurship by supporting startups in a CFO or similar role.

smile sign

Soon after coming to that conclusion, I took the opportunity to join a startup as their CFO. Since then, I have filled the CFO role for several startups. I have been very blessed to be able to make a good living while following my passion.

However, just because I’m doing what I love doesn’t mean I always love what I do. I have days and sometimes longer periods of time when I feel bored, stressed, and/or stuck. Sometimes I feel that I’m not advancing in my career quickly enough. Sometimes I feel like I’m in over my head.

On this journey of ups and downs I have realized that it’s first important to do what you love. Doing what you love starts you down a good path. But it’s even more important to love what you do. There’s a difference.

In this way, a career is like marriage. We marry who we fall in love with, but that event is only the beginning. We have to choose to stay in love by our thoughts and actions every day. We marry who we love, and then we need to love who we marry.

Here are 5 things to do when we find ourselves no longer passionate about our passion.

1. Create a vision 

Some days are more enjoyable than others. To consistently love what we do, we need to have a clear vision of where we want our daily activities to take us. According to Simon Sinek, we need to "Start with Why." We need a "why” that goes beyond today.

2. Set short-term goals

It’s important to have a vision for what we want to accomplish, but it’s easy to get sidetracked and frustrated if we don’t have a more concrete plan for getting from here to there. Setting short-term goals helps us focus on how our daily activities contribute to our grand vision.

3. Celebrate milestones

It helps to recognize the progress we have made, no matter how slow it seems to be. Levi King, CEO of Creditera, warns that there can be danger to celebrating too much, too early, such as celebrating a fundraising closing with a lavish party. However, celebrating milestones in simple, yet meaningful ways reminds us of the progress we are making.

4. Get over ourselves

Sometimes our daily lives get mundane or difficult because we are too focused on ourselves. We are worried about what we are getting out of our careers and what other people are doing for us. We should instead focus on how we can make our customers, team members, vendors, owners, etc more successful. As we lose ourselves in serving others, our success and happiness will take care of itself.  Like Zig Ziglar says, "You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help enough other people get what they want."

5. Make a change

So far I have focused on how to maintain love for the path you are on. However, sometimes it’s simply time for a change. Sometimes the path we set out on is not the best one to continue on. Before making a change, we should carefully consider our motives. We should consider whether or not the previous four steps will get us back on track. The grass usually isn’t really greener on the other side, and any worthwhile pursuit will have periods of boredom and difficulty and seemingly impossible obstacles.

In summary, start by doing what you love, and then work to continue loving what you do. Loving what you do is a conscious choice.

Question: What helps you love what you do?

The Illusion of Balance

Do you strive for a balanced life? What does a balanced life look like to you? Zig Ziglar’s Wheel of Life is a good representation of a balanced life. It identifies seven areas of life we should pay attention to. Our wheel will be flat if we neglect any of these areas, giving us a bumpy ride.

zig ziglar wheel of life

I believe balance is important. The Wheel of Life has strongly influenced how I set my goals and prioritize my time.

However, I believe the way we look at balance can cause us to miss the mark. To me, the illusion of balance is not that balance isn’t important or possible. The illusion is that we have to be (or even can be) perfectly balanced every day.

Our ideal day may be to wake up early for exercise (physical) followed by prayer or meditation (spiritual). We go to work and make a valuable contribution (career) with a break to have lunch with a friend (social). On the way home we think about picking up dinner to go, but we first check our carefully-planned budget (financial). We eat dinner as a family, followed by games or talking (family). After the kids are in bed we read a good book (intellectual).

It’s a great day - we nailed all seven areas of life! Not a bad ideal to shoot for.

I don’t know about you, but most of my days don’t go like this. And I think that’s okay. We don’t have to be balanced every day or even every week to live a balanced life.

So what does a balanced life look like?

Balance over time

To me, it’s about balance over time. The acceptable time period will be different for everyone and for each area of life. Only you know how long you can neglect an area before the damage becomes difficult to repair.

Life has its seasons.

Having a new baby or caring for a sick family member may lead you to spend more time on family and less time on socializing, working, or exercising for a season.

A demanding work project might take you away from your family for a few weeks. Most families will be fine, knowing the project is temporary. However, the damage to your family may not be worth the career advancement if neglect turns into the norm.

To be balanced over time requires us to be intentional. Prioritizing and setting goals can help us find balance over time:


A leader in my church gave an address titled Good, Better, Best. He encourages us to consider what is good, better, and best in our lives and prioritize accordingly. Sometimes good is the enemy of best.

I wrote a post reviewing the book The ONE Thing by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan. The authors ask, “What’s the one thing I can do such that by doing it everything else I do will be easier or unnecessary?”

To me, physical health, including exercise and nutrition, is The ONE Thing that gives me the energy and clarity of mind I need to perform my best in other areas of my life.

Set Goals

I wrote about my goal-setting process here and how I work towards goals here.

We can decide what our priorities are, set goals that move us toward our priorities, and evaluate our progress.

Finding balance in our lives over time requires us to be intentional about our actions.

Question: How do you find balance in your life?

4 Ways to Make Steady Progress Toward Goals

Jim Rohn said, "Success is steady progress towards one's personal goals.” I find the most happiness and fulfillment as I make progress to my goals. I find that making progress toward a goal is even more rewarding than achieving the goal. It’s the journey, not the destination, that matters. In my last post I wrote about how to set goals. In this post I’ll describe 4 practices for working toward goals.


1. Be consistent

Another Jim Rohn quote is, “discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment."

Achieving worthy goals takes disciplined, consistent effort over a long period of time.

Darren Hardy teaches this principle in his book, The Compound Effect (see my post on the topic here). The main premise is that small efforts, compounded over a long period of time, can yield amazing results.

2. Review goals regularly 

A common New Years resolution practice is to think of some goals, go to the gym a few times, and then slip back into old habits.

One way to avoid that pattern is to write down goals and review them regularly. I review my goals at least weekly.

Every Sunday morning I set aside some time for a review of the past week. I review each of my main goals, evaluate my progress, and make plans to improve. I always review my top goals, and most weeks I also read through my entire life plan to make sure I’m not deviating significantly from my ideal in any area of my life.

3. Don’t give up

It’s easy to get excited about a goal when first setting it, and at the end we get to bask in the glory of accomplishing something great. But the middle can get pretty messy. It can be long, boring, and difficult.

Steven Pressfield describes a force he calls the Resistance. Michael Hyatt also talks about it in one of his podcasts.

The Resistance basically describes feelings like opposition, discouragement, and self-loathing as we work toward challenging goals. We all experience this force, but the difference between the successful and mediocre is how we react to this force.

Having a clear purpose, or why, helps sustain motivation through Resistance in the messy middle. How many of us have quit something because we asked ourselves, "why am I doing this?” and couldn’t think of a good answer?

As I’ve written about before, one of my goals 3 years ago was to run a half marathon. I set the goal because I wanted to lose weight, but I soon found that weight loss alone is not a strong motivator. Any given run only burns a small fraction of a pound of fat. That is hardly motivation to get out of my warm bed on a cold morning.

However, after struggling to get started I discovered an even stronger why. I found that running boosted my mood, energy, and brain function. The “runner’s high" sometimes lasted an entire day after a good run. It was those benefits that kept me going through the training. I happened to reach my weight loss goal in the process, but the weight loss was a side benefit, and not my primary motivator.

4. Give up

Wait, what? I just said don’t give up. But quitting doesn’t always make us a quitter. Sometimes our refusal to quit halts our progress. Sometimes we need to give up on one pursuit to free our time, energy, and money to pursue something better.

It’s not easy to know whether or not to quit. It can be hard to distinguish Resistance against a worthy goal from legitimate realization that we would be better off focusing on something else.

This dilemma is common with startup companies. The history of any successful company that I’m aware of includes many ups and downs and even near-death experiences.

Most of us know the basics of Apple’s history. Michael Dell famously said in 1997, when asked what he would do to fix the struggling company, that he would shut it down and give the money back to shareholders. If Steve Jobs hadn’t stepped in and saved the company against significant Resistance, we probably wouldn’t have the Mac, iPod, iPhone, and iPad as we know them today.

On the other hand, in many cases founders and investors need to stop throwing good money and time after bad. It’s never easy to distinguish the best path, but sometimes giving up is the noble one.

Having a yearly goal-setting process doesn’t mean waiting for the end of the year before making changes. Don’t be afraid to adjust your priorities throughout the year.

Shoot High

As a final thought: don’t be afraid of failure. It sounds counterintuitive, but I don’t feel like a success if I achieve all of my goals. If I reach all my goals, I probably wasn’t shooting high enough. Even if I don’t completely achieve a goal, intentionally working toward it will put me in a better place than if I hadn’t set it in the first place.

So shoot high, consistently work toward your goals, review them regularly, don’t give up just because it’s difficult, but don’t be afraid to give up if your priorities change. Make this a great 2015!

Question: How do you make progress toward your goals?