Focus On This Podcast

121. The First 90 Days: 2 Goals For New Planner Users



You’ve unboxed your first Full Focus Planner. But now, you’re starting to feel a bit overwhelmed. So many tools and terms—where should you start? You want to jump right in, but you don’t want to bite off more than you can chew. What should you do?

In this episode, Blake and Courtney walk through two goals every new planner user should set. Grab your planner—because by the end of this episode, you could have two Goal Detail pages completely filled out. It just might be the kickstart you need to make great gains on your goal achievement journey.

In this episode, you’ll discover—

  • Two perspectives on when to set your Daily Big 3
  • The most transformational tool of the Full Focus Planner
  • How to learn from the school of life
  • An answer to the FAQ: “How long does it take to form a habit?”
  • Tips for next steps on getting started with the Weekly Preview



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Episode Transcript

Courtney: Blake, I don’t know how often you’re on the Full Focus Planner Instagram account, but I love the Stories, because a lot of times, when people get their very first Full Focus Planner, it’s like a little bit of an unboxing or they share that they’re excited to get started. Do you remember when you got your first Full Focus Planner?

Blake: I do remember it. I, honestly, was kind of skeptical, because it was a physical planner and I hadn’t used one of those in a long time. I was thinking, “I’m pretty sure my iPhone can do all this. If it can be an app…” I have a zillion apps on my phone. But my friend Erik (shout-out Erik Fisher) said, “Hey, you should try it.” I did, and my skepticism… I probably started it out with still a little bit of skepticism, like, “Whatever. How’s this going to go?”

The interesting thing was I didn’t even do the whole system from the start, which we hear a lot from people. I don’t know. Especially the goal setting part I didn’t do at all for probably my first couple of planners, just because I get in my head a lot about “What goal should I set, and how should I set it?” and “Well, I pretty much know what I have to do anyway.” So I got kind of a slow start into it.

I think all I was doing was the Daily Pages, like, setting the Daily Big 3. I already had a habit of doing a weekly review-type of activity, so I would do that part as well. That was enough to make me… I was already promoting the planner and telling everyone, “I sleep through the night now. I have a lot more peace in general in my life,” and I hadn’t even done the Ideal Week and… If you can believe this, Courtney, I hadn’t even fully leveraged the Index and the Rolling Quarters yet.

Courtney: Really? That is shocking.

Blake: I know. We know those are the big X factors for most people, but I hadn’t touched them yet.

Courtney: The Full Focus Community may cancel you for that one right there, buddy.

Blake: I know. I’m being vulnerable. Be nice to me, everybody. This is a vulnerable moment. You know, it’s interesting. When I saw the topic for today’s episode, I was thinking, “This is so smart,” because maybe you are like me, and you may be on your first planner. You may even be on your third or fourth planner, and you still sometimes feel like, “I don’t really know exactly where to start with all this or how to even use the goal pages,” or something like that. So, I’m excited to talk about what we’re going to talk about today.

Courtney: Today, we’re really going to help outline, if you are relatively new or there are components you’ve never used with the planner… You’re just like, “This feels like a lot.” We’re going to give you a way to start. What do you need to do, what do you need to be good at, to be successful using the planner? That’s it. This episode is going to be really helpful, I think, for a lot of people.

Blake: And you maybe want to take these two actions we’ll give you and make them goals. We’ll frame this up as if you’re setting a goal for yourself to get the most leverage you can out of this tool we call the Full Focus Planner. So, in this episode, we are going to talk specifically to those of you who are brand new to using this tool we call the Full Focus Planner and those of you who are perhaps just brand new to taking goals seriously and want to up your productivity game in the new year.

We have two great habits, really, that will help your productivity game massively, help you get a ton of value from the Full Focus Planner. We’re going to frame them up, appropriately enough, as actual habit goals. So, if you want to do this, you can even follow along in your planner. In your Goal Detail pages, there are elements of how to set a fantastic goal you’ll actually follow through with, and I think you’re going to love it.

If you don’t have a planner or if you’re on the treadmill right now, you can still understand these concepts, and they will apply to whatever goal you want to set. Take these two habits and run with them, and it will make your upcoming year really successful. So, let’s do it. No. Just say, “Let’s do it,” Courtney.

Courtney: Let’s do it. It sounds much cooler when you do it.

Welcome to another episode of Focus on This, the most productive podcast on the Internet, so you can banish distractions, get the right stuff done, and finally start loving Mondays again. I’m Courtney Baker, here with Blake Stratton.

Blake: That’s right. Do not hit that “skip” button. Please don’t hit that “unsubscribe” button. I have bad news. Our friend Verbs is not here today. He’s helping our clients win at work and succeed at life and scale their business right now, but he’s not here with us. Just stick with us. I promise we’ll do our best. Right, Courtney?

Courtney: Real deal. Oh my gosh. I can’t believe I said that word on an actual podcast episode, because you tease me so much for the way I pronounce real.

Blake: “Rill dill.” Yep. If you ever want to have your own line of pickles, you have the brand right there.

Courtney: Gosh. Brilliant. Our buddy Verbs gets all the great praise in our podcast review. I mean, I think he’s batting… What do you bat? One hundred? One thousand?

Blake: A million, I think. I think it’s you bat a million. That’s what Verbs is batting currently. You can’t blame… I mean, it’s pretty obvious. But Verbs isn’t here today. We’re going to do our best and give you… It’s kind of going back to basics a little bit. If you just got a new planner… Maybe you’re excited for your new year or maybe you haven’t gotten the planner yet, but you’re thinking, “Hey, I need to get my productivity game in order,” and that’s how you found this podcast. You’re just looking for “What are some really practical productivity tips I can implement?” You can take this and use it in your own life. So, let’s get it rolling, Courtney. What is the very first goal, official or unofficial, that every new Full Focus Planner user should set?

Courtney: The first one is to set your Daily Big 3. Blake, you kind of referenced this with your own story. This tool is so powerful that, in itself, you can yield a lot of results from it without going any farther than this very first goal. Basically, the Daily Big 3 are just the most important three tasks you’ll accomplish that day. Especially if you’re somebody who struggles with the never-ending to-do list… You just feel like, “I have so much stuff coming in, it’s coming in faster than I can actually accomplish things or check them off my to-do list,” this tool is made for you.

Basically, what it’s going to do is elevate the things that if you get these done during the day, you’re going to have accomplished something in that day. You’re basically determining, “What are those things that are so important that if I check these three things off, at the end of the day, I’m going to feel a sense of accomplishment; I’m going to know I got the right three things done?” Of course, there are other tasks you’re going to mark off, but those things are not going to be the most important three things. Your Daily Big 3 are those things.

Blake: It’s massive when you get ahold of this as a daily habit in your life, in your workdays, and even in your non-workdays. As I referenced earlier in the episode, I went years struggling to sleep through the night, because I would wake up at 3:00 in the morning, and then my brain just starts cooking with “Oh, do I do this? Do I do that?” If you struggle with something like that or if you struggle with ending your day because it feels like everything is unfinished, set a Daily Big 3, because it will define the win.

It will set a realistic expectation for your day of “Okay. There are a million things to do, perhaps, but what would I call a win for the day? One, two, three.” Hey, if you get more stuff done, great, but I promise you it’s going to help you rest easy. So, let’s take this one step farther for people, Courtney, because it’s a great tip, “Set a Daily Big 3,” but we know that just the ambition or the aspiration to build a habit is not very sticky. How can people take that idea and follow through with it? What can we give them from a structure standpoint?

Courtney: If you have the aspiration of “Yeah, I think that sounds really good. I think that would be really helpful for me, as I start the next year, to set a Daily Big 3…” That’s an aspiration. That’s great, but what we really want to give you is a goal to do that, because we know turning an aspiration and framing it as a goal will help you achieve it.

What that might sound like is “Select my Daily Big 3 each morning at 8:00 a.m. before checking email, beginning January 3.” Or maybe it’s going to be, “Select my Daily Big 3 each afternoon at 4:45 p.m. before packing up to head home, beginning January 3.” This goal would count as a habit goal, because it requires daily action.

Blake: Right. If you think about this… One of the things we have on our Goal Detail pages is “What life domain does this pertain to?” This one pertains to probably multiple ones. I mean, maybe just vocational, but, for me, it would go under intellectualemotional, even, to some extent. On this topic of when to set the Daily Big 3… Courtney, let’s pick this debate back up. When do you set your Daily Big 3, and why is it in the morning?

Courtney: It’s not in the morning. That’s why I have both examples of these goals. I pick my Daily Big 3 at the end of the day before. Blake, I’m going to add another argument in this debate, because you set yours in the morning. Recently, I had one of my Daily Big 3 that I realized the only time for me to be able to check that off was for me to do it first thing in the morning, so I needed to account for that. If I would have waited until in the morning to set my Daily Big 3, I would have missed it. Anyway, I’m a big fan of setting the next day’s Daily Big 3 at the end of my workday.

Blake: I mean, truthfully, if you can do it, I actually do think that’s best. I think you sleep even better that night, knowing exactly what’s ahead. I’ll kind of pencil in “Hey, what are my priorities tomorrow?” and sort of get an idea, but I’m in a season of life where stuff can get put on my calendar last minute that’s really important or stuff can change last minute, and to be honest, I just think a lot more clearly in the morning.

At the end of my workday, I kind of have that decision fatigue that kicks in. It’s almost like I don’t trust my work, so I am truing up my Big 3 in the morning. Feel free to experiment with both of those, but for now, set a target. Just choose. There’s no bad choice in that, but decide specifically when you’re going to do it. That makes a difference when you’re writing down that goal.

Courtney: We are framing this up for if you’ve never used the planner before, but I also think this is really helpful if maybe you’ve fallen off. Maybe you’ve had a stressful few weeks and you kind of set your planner aside. This type of goal is really helpful for anybody who does not have picking a Daily Big 3 as part of their daily habit.

Blake: Once you’ve written that goal and you’ve been specific, you’ve chosen the time, whichever time you’ve chosen to do it, we want you to think about a few other components. Think of this as these enhancers. “Okay. I have this target. I’ve clarified what my goal is. How then, with this habit of doing the Daily Big 3, can I sweeten the pot? How can I make sure this increases my likelihood of following through on this habit?” In our planner, in the Goal Detail pages, we give you the sections to do this, but for now, for your listening ears, we’re going to just walk through these last few things with you.

The first is key motivations. This is important. You don’t want to do, as I call them, “should goals.” “Well, they say I should set a Daily Big 3, so I guess I will.” What we want to do is take a moment to identify, “Why is this important to me? What’s at stake for me if I actually do a Daily Big 3 every day?” Maybe it’s “My productivity is going to increase” or “I want to sleep through the night, like Blake said” or “I want to feel satisfied at the end of my day rather than exhausted and like I’m losing.” Put on your scuba gear and go deep if you have to, but tap into those key motivations and write them down. I promise it’ll help you.

Courtney: The next thing you want to think through with this goal is what your next steps are, what those might be. One of those next steps may be just writing the date in on your planner. That’s a great place to start. It’s a really easy one. The next one might be setting a calendar appointment with yourself each day to complete your Daily Big 3. If you know it’s going to be in the afternoon, go ahead and block that 15 minutes at the end of the day to set that for the next day. We say all the time, “What gets scheduled gets done.” That definitely applies for this.

Blake: Yep. So, you have your clarified goal of doing your Daily Big 3. You have your key motivations written down. You’ve thought through your next steps. The last thing you want to think about is a reward. Think through, “What could I treat myself to once I complete this goal?” this habit goal, in this instance.

For this habit goal we’re talking about of setting a Daily Big 3, your reward should probably be to send me a personal “thank you” card or maybe an Apple gift card or something like that. You could give Courtney a shout-out on Instagram if you want, but send me your cash direct. I can give you the account information later. No, seriously. Think through, “What’s something I could do to celebrate this?”

You want to think about this before the end, because by the time you finish your goal, it is going to feel so normal for you. It’s going to feel like, “Oh, this is no big deal.” That’s important, but right now, it’s not normal, so think through that reward. When you get to the end of it, you’ll be like, “Why would I reward myself? This is just what I do every day.”

So, maybe it’s setting a date right now with your significant other to go out to a nice restaurant, or something like that, or maybe you treat yourself to some fun accessories. Get one of those… I have one here, that little pen holder thing. When I first saw these, I was, just like the planner… Maybe this is just my personality. I was skeptical. I was like, “I don’t need one of these.” It’s pretty slick, my little pen holder. You can tell it’s worn in. There are grooves in there because I use it.

Courtney: That’s awesome.

Blake: Anyway, determine a reward, and that’s it. Right, Courtney?

Courtney: Yeah. That’s it. Basically, once you’ve gotten this one installed, it’s time to move toward the next goal. Again, this is a great goal if you’re starting using the planner for the first time or if it’s something you’ve kind of fallen off or you feel like, “I’ve just not been as consistent as I would like to be.” This is a great habit goal as you’re looking at 2022.

Okay. The second goal you may want to consider is a goal around leveraging the Weekly Preview. Now, disclaimer here. You probably don’t want to do both of these goals together at the exact same time. You certainly could. Our own goal methodology says up to three goals per quarter. By the way, two is probably a good place to start with when you’re new to the Full Focus System. So, again, if you’re like, “Goal number one. That’s it. I’m going to do my Daily Big 3,” maybe put this one off to the second quarter or the third quarter, later in the year. So, back to the goal. Let’s make this a SMARTER goal. Do you have any ideas, Blake?

Blake: I’ve got this. Yes. If you want to implement a Weekly Preview, maybe it would sound something like this: “Complete my Weekly Preview every Friday at 4:30 p.m. before leaving the office, beginning February 18 and continuing on to March 18” or “April 18.” You know, pick a date in the future and set a duration, set a target, really, for that habit. Just like the Daily Big 3, choose a specific time. You notice I said a specific day and a specific time of day, even a specific location.

For me, personally, I think there’s huge advantage to doing the Weekly Preview before you end your week. Just like what you said, Courtney, if I can set my Daily Big 3 the day before, I’m cued up really well. It works the same with the Weekly Preview. Just like that side of the argument, I actually like doing it at the beginning of the week, just because my brain is fresher. Sometimes at the end of the week I’m just toast. I’m like, “Listen. Is there leftover eggnog in the fridge? I’m going to kick back and watch The Great British Baking Show. I can’t think critically right now.”

Courtney: Yes! I’m with you on this. Actually, Blake, I feel like you described me on a Friday afternoon 1,000 percent, which is why I set my Weekly Preview on Sunday evening in direct combat with the Sunday scaries. It is my time. So, are you saying you do yours on Monday morning?

Blake: No. I try to do mine on Sunday as well. I typically will try to do it on a Sunday morning, though, just because my brain tends to work better earlier in the day, but same idea.

Courtney: I’m seeing a pattern here.

Blake: Yeah. In about 15 minutes, I will be unintelligible on the podcast if we kick into the afternoon with this recording. But let’s talk about the Weekly Preview. Why would we even talk about this as worthy of somebody’s Goal Detail page in their new planner? Why is it so important?

Courtney: I feel like there is nothing more powerful in the Full Focus System. This is a bold statement I’m making right now. I would think most people would say the goals are the most powerful thing. In essence, they are, but I think it has to be neck and neck with the Weekly Preview. There is something so powerful in going into the week with clarity, knowing what needs my focus this week.

I just feel like so much of our culture is more, more, more, go, go, go, just keep all of the plates spinning as fast as possible. Like, “You can do it. More plates, better.” It’s even something we kind of brag about. So, when you can clear all that clutter and say, “No. This is what I have to do to live the life I want to have,” it’s a really, really powerful thing.

Blake: It’s true. The Weekly Preview helps you feel connected to your life. Life is done on a daily basis. Goals are achieved in a week-by-week rhythm. If you’ve ever had the experience of “Oh man! This is happening again” or “She’s always like this” or “This always happens when we try to do a project” or “Oh my goodness! I fell behind again,” or whatever it is… Your life is talking to you all the time.

Your “negative experiences” are talking to you all the time. Life is school, and you need to learn. The trouble is we often are in such a rush we don’t take the time to extract the value that our setbacks are presenting to us. The Weekly Preview is an opportunity to extract that value. So, we’re not going to go into step-by-step depth of how to do a Weekly Preview. If you’ve never done one before, it’s worth looking at some past episodes, or check it out on our tutorial page,

The Weekly Preview… I agree. It’s super, super helpful if you’ve ever felt overwhelmed on a week-to-week basis or unclear. Maybe you get surprised. “Oh! I have 90 minutes of time today that I didn’t expect. What should I do?” Then you kind of are frozen because there are too many things you could do, and you aren’t sure what’s most important. The Weekly Preview is that clarity you’re looking for. Just like the first habit goal we did, with this habit goal, we want to cover motivations, next steps, and a reward. So, how could people think about those things?

Courtney: For key motivations, I think we just gave you a whole lot of those. The next thing we look at is next steps, like, actually getting this habit going. Again, we’ve talked about this. It’s getting it scheduled on your calendar. When are you going to do it? Is it going to be Sunday evening, Friday afternoon, first thing Monday morning? Literally get it on your calendar. Make it a reoccurring appointment with yourself.

I know you talked about episodes that we’ve covered the Weekly Preview, but that might be a next step. Episode 73, which is Crash Course: 5 Steps to Start Loving Mondays, is a great one to listen to. Blake, you also… We hear so many people love this tool. You did a guided Weekly Preview that walks you through. It’s audio you listen to as you’re actually doing your Weekly Preview. That’s another great next step.

Blake: People said, “Hey, this is just like listening to Verbs except a little bit more abrasive.” Yes, absolutely. I recommend everyone… They may want to set a goal, “How can I listen to more of Blake’s voice on a daily basis?” That’s a great tool, Courtney. So, your reward for completing a Weekly Preview habit goal… I mean, if you’re like me, the habit is the reward, in some sense.

You’ll feel that sense of reward every single week as you establish more clarity, as you get caught in fewer difficult situations because you’ve avoided them before you’ve hit them. But you may want to think through something special, something that’s not productivity related for a reward for this one. You know, something that’s not like, “Oh! Then I’m doing better” or “Then I’m hitting a goal,” but think of something that’s different.

Maybe it’s purchasing a really nice journal. What I noticed is I started doing the Weekly Preview, and I would do this habit, and I would get through all of my life logistics, and once I established that habit and I had a little bit more peace of mind, I was like, “You know what? I really like this whole reflection thing I do every week,” and it turned into a lot of journaling. So, right now, as part of my Weekly Preview, I actually start by doing probably 30-plus minutes worth of just journaling. I put on scuba gear myself, and I like to go deep with my feelings. It’s very therapeutic.

Courtney: You, Verbs, and I just did some special bonus sessions to Your Best Year Ever, which, if you don’t know about our goal course, it really helps you get all of your goals set up in your Full Focus Planner. We did just do that. We did not plan to talk about that.

Blake: And yet here we are.

Courtney: You can find out about Your Best Year Ever at Look at me. There you go.

Blake: There you go. So, set a reward for that goal. Again, these two goals we’re talking about are habit goals. Think of them as foundational habits for life-changing productivity. Foundational habits for using the planner, yes, but the point isn’t to just get great at using a tool. The point is to leverage that tool to get what you want out of your work and out of your life. So, habit goal #1: set a Daily Big 3. Every day, decide the three most important things you’re going to do. Habit goal #2: leverage the Weekly Preview. Okay, Courtney. Any final thoughts for our Focus on This listeners?

Courtney: Well, I think anytime we talk about habit goals, we get a reoccurring question, and that is, “How long is this habit goal going to take to become innate, like, I don’t have to think about it anymore?” There is a lot of research out there, and there are a lot of different opinions, but what I would say is it takes a lot more than 30 days. I think you know when a habit goal has changed from you have to put some effort, some thought into it to it being automatic, when you’ve just done it without thinking about it.

We would recommend at least a quarter is the best place to start. It always takes longer than we think with habit goals. What was it, Blake? It used to be, like, 27 days to install a habit. Based on the people we’ve worked with on goals, that is never the case. It’s almost laughable to think, “All right. I’m going to have this totally set in 27 days.” Unfortunately, it is longer than that. Again, I think starting with 90 days is a really good place to start.

Blake: Exactly. Habit goals are great.

Courtney: They really are.

Blake: What’s the word I’m looking for? It’s like compound interest.

Courtney: They’re like fuel. They’re fuel for any other goal you’re going to do. It’s like foundations that make achievement goals possible.

Blake: Right. Habit goals are great because all the work… It may feel like a lot of work, a lot of change to install the habit, but the power of a habit… The reason to do it is because, ultimately, it takes almost no willpower or discipline or heavy lifting to do the habit because it’s just what you do.

I can’t stress the amount of heavy lifting it is to get my daughter Felicity to brush her teeth at night, but one day (at least this is what people tell me), she will do it effortlessly. She won’t think about it. There’s no heavy lifting for me. I don’t even remember if I’ve done it half the time. Your brain is amazing. So, what we’re doing with a habit goal is exactly that. We’re leveraging that autopilot power you have in your noggin there. I just said “noggin.”

Courtney: I like it.

Blake: Let’s end this thing, because, clearly, I’m drifting. Thank you for joining us on Focus on This, especially because our good friend Verbs isn’t here with us today. We appreciate you sticking around. Right, Courtney? Thank you.

Courtney: That’s right. And we’ll be here next week with another great episode. Until then…

Both: Stay focused!