Respect Your Non-Negotiables

“I don’t see how these Fortune 500 leaders have time to read thirty books a year or workout for an hour every day! How do they do that?”

My client and I were talking about his non-negotiables, those things he needed to do to be effective and content during a day of work. We’d discussed yoga and a protein-rich breakfast, and finding a way to make a ritual around those things so they could occur each morning.

Dedication to your own non-negotiables is necessary to get up and have a good day. Not a great day. Not even a better than average day. Just a good day of contented work where you feel in the flow, where you stay focused on your work and don’t question what you are doing.

“Over the next two weeks, identify those things that you do that support a good day,” I recommended.

He rebelled with the question about the Fortune 500 leaders.

The answer? Reading thirty books each year or working out for an hour each day are their non-negotiable items. These highly effective people discovered that if they take the time each day to read for an hour, it supports their productivity, their focus, their knowledge so that when they hit the next board meeting, they have a solution to a problem. The hour-long workout gives them space for their next big idea. The nap right after lunch allows them to be alert for those evening dinner meetings.

Shoot! If they thought it would make them more effective at achieving their goals, they would wear fairy wings and spin around three times before they entered any meeting!

While the activity described may be pleasurable, there’s always a reason that these activities stay in their lives.

Non-negotiables result in productivity. Effectiveness. A better life. They support your goals.

And highly effective people respect their goals, their work, and themselves. That’s why they enforce their non-negotiables.

By acknowledging your non-negotiables, you show yourself respect. You embrace the necessary work to finish your day’s work, your monthly goal, your full project.

Do you feel better if you take a walk in the morning? Take a walk in the morning.

Maybe you need a certain amount of protein for breakfast. Eat that. Take your time and make your breakfast. If you can’t make your breakfast in the morning, put it together at night. Make something you can put together quickly and enjoy.

Once your non-negotiables appear, embrace them. The most effective way to incorporate them into your day is to set up a ritual. Construct your ritual to propel you into work, and make your non-negotiables the steps. These little quirks, your magic tricks, are the things that people talk about after you finish the great artwork or build the amazing company.

Allow those actions to form the ritual of your work. Acknowledge when your ritual starts and celebrate the success that tumbles out of the ending.

For example, when I worked outside of my home, I made lunch for myself each day. In order to have the time to write in the morning, I packed my lunch each evening before I went to bed. My ritual started at least eight hours before I began to write. And my mornings would end with words on the page and me dancing to the shower in celebration.

Do what you need to do and be ruthless about it. Respect yourself. Respect your process.

Respect your non-negotiables.