Imagine for a moment that it’s one of your busiest days. You crossed off five items from your to-do list and yet you still feel miserable because of all the things that haven’t done. And now you have to race off to take the kids to soccer or piano practice.

As you sit in traffic, you blame yourself for not being more efficient. You curse the interruptions in your day, just like you curse the car in front of you for not using its left turn signal at the light.

Worse, you’re now taking that foul mood home. A black cloud hangs over your head while you’re with the kids, affecting your ability to be present with the ones you love—the ones you are doing ALL of this for.

How many times has that happened?

Too often? Today?

Listen, you’re not frustrated because you don’t work hard, or even because you don’t work smart.

The problem is that you hope to do too many things. You (or your boss?) believe you’re capable of inhuman amounts of productivity every day.

If there is some blame to fall on you, it’s because you naïvely believe that everything is going to go exactly as planned without a single hiccup. (C’mon, you really didn’t think at least ONE of those meetings was going to run long?)

That’s not how life goes.

Here’s the bottom line: You must stop being so hard on yourself.

Better yet, let’s switch from feelings to focusing on useful action items you can implement today and tomorrow to avoid feeling overwhelmed and overworked, and start ending your days feeling accomplished and successful.

This simply requires a few small steps—what I like to call the three “sets” for an overwhelmed life. 

Step 1: Set daily alarms for important items

Struggling to leave work on time?

Set an alarm for 15 minutes before “quitting time.” When it chimes, finish that final email, do your brain dump, and create your to-do list for tomorrow. Then, put on your favorite “transition song” (a great way to make the mental move from work to personal life). Play it loudly and put it on repeat as you drive home and prepare to switch off for a few hours with your family and friends.

Struggling to end meetings on time?

First, let all attendees know not only the start time, but the end time for the meeting. Then set an alarm to go off 10 minutes before the end so that the meeting can wrap up with a summary, marching orders for everyone, and a concise statement of next steps.

Struggling to get to bed on time?

Set a reverse alarm 1 hour before bedtime. When it chimes, shut down your electronics, get ready for tomorrow, spend time with your family, draw a bath, read a book, and go to sleep! 

Step 2: Set self-care appointments

When was the last time you missed a flight? 

Never! You always make it. That proves that you can be punctual, that you can leave work on time, that you can set aside a few hours for things that matter.

You need to put your workouts, massages, meditations, etc. on your calendar just like your next flight to a conference.

Put those big rocks on the weekly calendar first, and then respect the time you’ve made for what matters. Don’t miss an appointment. No excuses. No exceptions.

Step 3: Set significant consequences 

This is the missing accountability link in many people’s lives; without it, many of us just won’t follow through.

When you skipped your workouts or lunch breaks in the past, you didn’t have significant short-term consequences. Sure, there might have been long-term hell to pay, but in that moment, you thought, “So what?”

Without significant consequences, our subconscious minds surrender to the path of least resistance. That leads us down the slippery slope towards bad habits, stress, and anxiety. 

No mas.

It’s time for you to attach significant consequences to important actions. 

This step allowed me to quit cursing in just six days. Each dirty word cost me $20. Day one totaled $120 in fines, day two was down to $80, and day three was only $40. Soon, my mind-mouth connection was re-wired to stop swearing. It’s that simple. You can break almost any bad habits simply with the right consequence.

So for you… 

Did you work through lunch again? Consequence: Pay the bill for your co-workers who actually made the time to go.

Skip that all-important workout? Consequence: No Netflix for you for a week. 

You get the idea. Pick a proportional consequence for each good habit or routine you don’t stick to.

Before you know it, you’ll be back on track and rewiring your brain to automatically engage in your best habits.

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I promise that this 3-Set Solution will work for you. Soon, your “crazy busy days” will be fewer and further between. You’ll have more days filled with accomplishment rather than just activity.

As I like to remind my clients, this is not rocket science. Automate your actions; align them with your goals, and follow-through on your action plan. When you do, success (and work-life mastery) will come in every area of life.

You got this. I believe in you.

Keep your best habits strong by building an unfailing Morning Routine…

Sign up now to get our FREE Morning Routine guide—the #1 way to increase productivity, energy, and focus for profitable days. Used by thousands of fitness, business, and finance industry leaders to leapfrog the competition while making time for the people who really matter. Learn more here.

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Craig Ballantyne

Craig Ballantyne is the author of The Perfect Day Formula: How to Own the Day and Control Your Life. Craig has been a contributor to Men's Health magazine for over 17 years. Today he teaches his gift high-performing entrepreneurs how to squeeze more out of their days, increase their income, and make more quality time for their families in his Perfect Life Workshop and Work-Life Mastery programs. Craig used his own advice to overcome crippling anxiety attacks in 2006, and he'll teach you his 5 Pillars of Success so you can increase your income, decrease your work time, and live the life of your dreams. Learn more about Craig at craigballantyne.com

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