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The Secret to Becoming a Peak Performance Leader The biggest difference between you and elite entrepreneurs is they plan better.

By Dan Dowling Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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Consider peak performance idols like Tony Robbins and Tim Ferriss. They accomplish more in a week than most do in a year, yet they have plenty of time to stay in excellent shape, pursue their passions and do all the adventurous and flat-out fun stuff they please. I've wondered why.

It could be that, once you reach a million bucks, you're finally able to afford the handy watch that reverses time at will. (I hear Emma Watson knows where to find them.) The productivity could even be a grand illusion of body doubles and elaborate schemes; once you can afford it, of course. But none of this explains how our peak performance leaders achieved their success to begin.

So, instead of applying my imagination to magical solutions, I searched for the easy answer.

Do you have a pen and paper?

If yes, you have everything it takes to be a performance genius. Whether you want to be a millionaire or not is up to you.

Related: 3 Reasons Why Taking a Vacation Beats Being a Workaholic Martyr

Effective planning is the secret to productivity.

High production is the result of consistent directed action. Everybody acts throughout the day -- surfing the internet, reading, breathing. But where we differ from the performance gurus is the direction of our action:

Ours is scattered amongst low-value habits; they are laser-focused on the most important things.

That's because they plan.

Average people don't plan effectively simply because they don't practice planning. Their desired results seem so far down the road, and they have so many distractions and instant gratifications between here and there, that they can't find motivation to sit down and use their frontal cortexes. But without specific action steps that lead to your desired outcome, you're actually planning to do a whole lot of nothing.

Where most of us hope to find success, performance experts know they will succeed: they've already lined out the steps. Which is called strategizing.

Here's how to do that.

Related: How to Strategize as an Entrepreneur

1. Get crystal clarity on your long-term goals.

Take a pen and paper or open up a notes tab on your computer and write out six headings:

  • Career
  • Health/Fitness
  • Financial
  • Fun/Self Love
  • Learning
  • And Giving

These are the categories that most of your yearlong goals are going to fit into.

Since you can't plan towards a goal unless you know exactly what it is, and since you won't be motivated to chase a goal unless it's your authentic desire, you gotta take a couple hours to really focus and work through exactly what you want in each of these categories. Then set it down for a day or two, come back and make revisions.

To reiterate: most people don't succeed at planning because they don't know what they're working towards. If you put in the time to gain clarity on this end, you're already lightyears ahead of 95 percent of would-be achievers.

During your yearly mastermind session, it's helpful to give thought to these questions:

  • What are my 10-20 biggest procrastinations? (Once you make an action plan for your procrastinations and complete them, all of your goals become 10 times easier.)
  • What are my biggest blocks to success? (Emotional, situational, health, etc.)
  • What low value habits will I sacrifice to achieve my goals? (Unlimited Facebook, social media, internet surfing, TV, etc. --anything that sucks up your time without a positive result.)

With these life insights and list of inspiring goals, you're ready for the next level of planning:

Related: 50 Inspirational Quotes to Help You Achieve Your Goals

2. Create a monthly strategy.

One day a month, you're going to reflect on your yearly goals sheet and any goal-related notes you've taken to determine what your course of action for the next 30 days. Your monthly strategy will be comprised of smaller goals that break up your elephant into smaller bites, so to speak.

For instance, if your yearlong financial goal is to become debt free (which is kinda hard to just do), your monthly strategy might involve X-number of financial podcasts per week, creating and sticking to a budget, attending a financial seminar, eliminating all needless income drains and choosing a sidehustle to diversify your income.

You'll repeat this brain exercise for each longterm goal you want to focus on in a month. Since much of this strategy will have to be broken down into smaller action steps, you'll be needing a weekly action plan.

Related: A Look at the Demanding Schedule of Elon Musk, Who Works in 5-Minute Slots, Skips Breakfast and Avoids Emails

3. Draft a weekly action plan.

Every Sunday you'll take 10-20 minutes and brainstorm a definitive list of action steps that will bring your monthly strategy to fruition.

Let's say you need help creating a budget. You'd need to hire a financial consultant, which can be broken down into researching qualified professionals in your area and arranging appointments. "Choosing a sidehustle" will need to be broken down into research and experimentation, so you'd need action steps for speaking with people who are experts in whatever field you're curious about, and you'd need to plan physical man hours for the creation of whichever physical or information product you'd need to start making money. Later action steps would involve the crafting of a webpage for your product and service, and investing time and money into marketing.

Put a checkbox next to each of these goals and they become true action steps that can be completed in a day. Which is the last step of planning like a peak performance guru.

Related: 7 Steps to Peak Performance in Business and in Life

4. Plan out your highest-priority goals.

Ever tried to start a daily planning habit but couldn't stick with it because you never really knew what to plan? Once you've brainstormed your weekly action plan, that will never again be a problem. You'll have a list of pre-made goals that just beg to be accomplished, and they're all connected to your bigger-picture purpose!

All you have to do is pick a consistent time to plan out your top five to eight goals.

My clients often like to do it the night before, after they've reflected on their day with a journal. But you can do it at the end of your morning routine if you prefer. The point is to be consistent. Definitely refer to your weekly planning page while you're planning so that you don't haphazardly guess at what you should be doing.

To achieve pure production, also known as "deep work," you'll want to schedule your email and text visits as separate goals -- that way your attention is 100 percent focused on your tasks at hand. (Most people get by just fine on three to five communication sessions per day.)

Related: Productivity Lifesaver: The 5-Sentence Email

Bonus tips:

  • Try keeping your phone off entirely until after you've accomplished two hours of real work.
  • Turn off all notifications (email, text, social, etc.) and instruct people to call you if they really, really need you. That way you're not worrying about needing to respond to trivial communications that will only distract you from doing work.
  • Get someone to keep you accountable to your new planning habits and your high productivity lifestyle.
Dan Dowling

Solopreneur, writer, and coach

As a former couch-surfing millennial turned solopreneur writer and coach, Dan Dowling writes on personal development. Visit and learn how to create your own solopreneur success story.

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