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How to Finally Get Over Your BS Excuses and Always Give Your Best Effort It all comes down to one routine.

By Dan Dowling Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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Success is the number of days you felt your worst but did your best anyway.

Makes sense, right? It's just that most people don't have the presence of mind or the structure in their day to pull off a best effort when they're feeling bad.

They'll indulge in all kinds of distractions that aren't part of their plan. Then they look back at the end of a zero-effort day and say, "Ah, I was just having a bad day." And when they're feeling kinda "meh" they'll use the same excuse for a less-than-best effort: "Ah, I just kinda felt "meh' today -- wasn't really inspired to do what I needed."

It's only on rare occasions when they wake up feeling like solid gold that the average person will give it their all. And that's not enough.

If your path lies outside the scope of corporate America, where you follow others' orders to earn a comfortable living, then making excuses for your effort becomes unacceptable. Because you are the only one responsible for living out your dreams. And those dreams are only a set number of best efforts away.

So you have to manage your life so that you end every day knowing that you did your absolute best despite how you feel. And that starts with one goal.

Related: The 5 Golden Rules of Goal-Setting

1. Create a daily goal: "Do Your Best" (DYB)

Seems like a strategy straight out of Barney the purple dinosaur's playbook. But this facile-seeming goal is the only thing that will remind you of the truth: If you want to reach the finish line, you gotta do your best today.

The DYB goal unlocks a tenacious mindset that inspires you to give your best when it feels like you've got nothing to give. As someone who has achieved success, I'm telling you that those days are the majority when you're getting started. So at the end of your daily planning page (if you don't have a daily planning habit, what are you waiting for?), draw out a big checkbox next to the words "Do Your Best."

When you end the day and reflect on your goals, this one checkbox will tell the whole story -- it's a gut-shot honesty check. And if you didn't put in the effort to check it off, you'll feel the visceral gut punch that happens when you know you let yourself down.

If you anwwer "no" when you ask yourself the question "Did I do my best?" you'll feel so disgusted with yourself that you refuse to give anything less than your best the next day. You'll also commit to eliminating the things that prevented your best effort. (Always excess social media and messaging, for me.)

Commit to this daily goal/nightly question and you'll notice that your bad days aren't a quarter as frequent, and that when they do happen you come out swinging with a 110 percent effort the next day. That's how it's worked for me. Excuses = obliterated.

Related: Don't Let These 5 Excuses Stop You From Networking

2. Have non-negotiable daily routines.

Giving your best effort daily depends as much on your habits as your attitude. If you wake up and automatically think how dismal life is, then lay shivering in a pool of self-disgust while checking Facebook, your worst effort is guaranteed. But if you automatically roll into a series of successful habits that fuel a crazy successful day -- like working out, practicing affirmations, meditating gratefully on all the awesome things and people in your life, and not checking Facebook or messages -- then you're going to automatically give your best effort, despite feeling like excrement. You just have to practice your inspired morning routine every day for a month to make it natural.

When you get it in your head that you're capable of knocking out all these incredible things for yourself even when you feel bad, that's when all of your most challenging daily goals become realistic. If you can get up and diametrically shift your attitude and energy, and pull gratitude and purpose out of your derriere, you can do eh-nee-thing. Then you kick ass and check off your last goal -- "I did my best!"

So pick out your morning, afternoon and evening routines for the next month. You don't have to go crazy and meditate for two hours every morning or run a half marathon -- just include enough exercise, positive self-talk and gratitude to start your day proactively and reflectively. Plan out your day each morning, or night. Meditate after lunch to break up your afternoon and get your mind right. Then include nighttime reflection with a journal.

Related: The 24-Minute Morning Routine That Will Make You an Entrepreneurial Rock Star

3. Accomplish at least one project before you check social media, email or text messages.

You know those days when you go to bed thinking, I just sat and checked social media, email and texts all damn day while accomplishing absolutely nothing? Well...stop doing that. Any reactive activity where you're getting direction or validation from an external source will suck up your time and impossify your best effort. (Yes, impossify is a new word.)

The best way to squash your email/text/social morning habit is to automatically jump into a project or some kind of real work after your morning routine, and to reserve your first communications until afterward. This takes discipline. But if you do it for even a day, you'll feel so focused and so confident in your ability to make stuff happen that you won't want to go back to being a dodo text checker who pulls at his/her pocket for Instagram every time you have a spare 10 seconds. Your productivity and enjoyment of life will increase by at least 100 percent.

Then, if you want to take this focused, undistracted life to the next level, you'll schedule out all your social/email/text check-ins to the minute. I've had sales people who were certain they'd go back to dear God if they didn't check their phone every five minutes. But, after assessing priorities with these people, they all independently determined that they don't actually need to check anything more than five times per day. Which gave them their lives back.

Related: 6 Ways to Break a Tech Addiction


Success is the number of days you did your best when you felt your worst. You can increase those days to nearly 100 percent if you adopt the fail-safe strategies laid out in this article:

1. Start planning the goal "Do Your Best!" at the bottom of every daily planning page.
2. Stick to your success rituals come hell or high water.
3. Accomplish a couple hours of real work before you check messages/social.

Or you could...ummm...keep living life like normal. Cough. Please don't do that. End cough.

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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