Power Up Your Workday

Power Up Your Workday

How to get the most out of your day by having a Solid start-up Routine

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Tim Ferriss’ book, Tribe of Mentors, got me to thinking about how successful people get their day going with morning rituals. In his book, he interviews all types of successful people and asks each of them questions regarding their life. One of these questions is, How do you start your morning?

A few years ago I created a morning ritual for myself that has increased my productivity dramatically. When I make it a habit to follow-through on my morning ritual, the results at the end of the day are radically different than if I do not; regardless if it’s a workday or I’m on vacation.

As powerful as a morning ritual can be; another key to a productive day lies in what I call, my workday start-up routine. I believe the power of a consistent start to my workday handles so many issues that would eventually come back and haunt me had I not utilized this automation process.

Why is self-automation the key to success?

Like all rituals I utilize in my day, the Workday Start-up is an excellent way to take advantage of self-automation. Self-automation involves implementing routines, rituals, and habits to make it easier and more efficient to follow through on top priorities.

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There are 3 benefits of my Workday Start-up

First, it frees up my creativity by applying it to handling a specific problem. In other words, I don’t have to reinvent the wheel every workday, I just get it done.

Second, this routine helps to speed up my work. By always knowing what comes next I don’t have to spend time thinking about it. 1, 2, 3 all flow in order until I complete my Start-up.

Third, a proper routine cleans up my mistakes before they happen. When structured properly, I can anticipate what needs to be done and at least minimize any errors that I may make before my first block of in-depth work.

Here’s my Workday Start-up routine….

Inbox Zero

What’s an inbox? It’s anywhere that I receive information that needs to be processed. Digitally, my inbox locations are each of my e-mail addresses (I have 4 of these to date.), as well as my task manager, Nozbe. I also have a physical inbox where I place my mail and other documents that come my way.

The key to each of these inboxes is to take them down to zero every morning and not look at them again until the next ritual, my Workday shutdown. What in the world does “Inbox to zero” really mean?

For years David Allen has said the master key for managing email is the hardest habit for many to change – working from a regularly empty inbox. It takes less psychic effort to operate from a zero base than to leave anything sitting in the inbox. That doesn’t mean that the inbox email is kept to zero – just that it gets there on some regular basis. (At least once per week.) – Kelly Forrister

To see a system of how to get your inbox to zero, CLICK HERE FOR THE DOWNLOAD

Regarding my physical inbox, I use a Three-Tiered System. I keep a stacked set of drawers in my office, labeled “IN,” “Pending” and “Out.”

  1. IN, contains those items still to be looked at.
  2. Pending, includes those items which have been viewed at but cannot be dealt with immediately.
  3. Out, consists of those items which have been dealt with and are now ready for distribution to other people, or to file by scanning them into Evernote with an appropriate tag.

Review Today’s Calendar

Once I’ve taken my inbox to zero, then I review the upcoming day’s calendar to see what meetings and appointments are required of my time and what’s left in the day where I can handle top priorities.

Review My Goals

Next, I always review my annual goals. I have these written in my physical planner as well as on my Evernote program where I create a shortcut to review my goals quickly.

Finalize Today’s Big 3

I wrap up my Workday Start-up by deciding today’s Big 3 tasks. I just ask myself, “What’re the 3 most important things I can do to take steps forward in achieving my goals adequately. It’s vital that I get clear on the three tasks that’ll move me toward my goals and make today a win, no matter what else happens.

Take a deeper dive into the Workday Start-up process…

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How do you start your workday? I’d like to know if you have set up an automated plan for success that can let you focus on what’s most important. If so, please feel free to comment below.

Leave a reply and let me know!

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Optimizing Your Office Space

Optimizing Your Office Space

Set yourself up for high productivity

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As the season approaches, you’ll want to have an optimal environment to get work done in a high-quality fashion. Over the years I have worked in cubicles, open work environments, and individual offices. If you are fortunate to have your own office, I would like to share with you a process that I have gone through to create an optimal workspace. Either way, regardless of how you are set up, you can take any of these ideas and make them your own. Some of this information comes from my e-course, Propel Yourself Blueprint.

Optimizing Your Office Space: The Problem

What I am about to share with you is a bit “out of the box”. I am not an interior designer by any means – I had to get some professional help from my daughter, Meredith, who actually is an interior designer in her own right.

She walked into my office & work has never been the same…

So, one day Meredith came into my office as she was passing through town on her way to New York City. She looked at my office set-up and all of a sudden I was in the midst of the ‘Spanish Inquisition’.  Question after question after question kept coming my way…

A well-designed football office leads to outstanding results!

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Here’s what my office looked like…

Meredith asked me,

  • What are the criteria for a football coach’s office?
  • What type of creative work space do you need to draw plays & study opponents?
  • Do you have guests/players in your office, if so, how many?
  • How would you like to feel on a day-to-day basis when you enter and work in your office?
  • What keywords describe your style?

The questioning went on and on…

And, I started asking myself the following questions…

“I had so much “stuff” that I’d accumulated as a football coach. Videos, books, playbooks, files and folders. Is this all necessary? Does it all even fit into my office? How can I access the information quickly when I need it?”

Next, I was wondering how I could take a space of 13 by 10 feet and create the environment she had convinced me to develop. An environment where I could watch video with my players and assistant coaches, study material on my own and create teaching tools for our players? All the while having a high energy level to handle all the issues that come up during the season…

Optimizing Your Office Space: Planning the Layout

As we had our conversation, she was listening to me then all of a sudden…

She started a sketch on my whiteboard…

 Wow! A totally different set up than I could have imagined.

Optimizing Your Office Space: What I Learned

Meredith explained to me that I had to have three components in place to create a proper work environment. These areas were technology, structure and sensory. Here’s what she meant by that…

Technology. As I look at what I want to achieve, exactly what is needed from a standpoint of hardware, software, and peripherals.

Structure. These items would be everything from my desk, chair, bookshelves, seating and other items that would fit into my office space. The structure also deals with how everything is organized and the style in which it is put together.

Sensory. When technology and structure are put together an environment that stimulates your senses is what takes your office to the next level. These would be issues that affect your five senses… Hearing, vision, touch, smell and taste.

Once, I learned all this, here’s what we put in my office organized by these areas of focus:


  1. Desktop computer with a Big Screen. (PC or Mac)
  2. Logitech HD Webcam.
  3. Blue Microphone.
  4. HP LaserJet Printer.
  5. 3TB External Hard Drive.
  6. Sharp 50″ Flat screen TV.
  7. Apple TV.
  8. iPad.
  9. Wireless Bluetooth Speaker. (For Conference Calls)
  10. Fujitsu Scanner.
  11. HUDL Remote.
  12. Microsoft Office.
  13. Evernote for note taking & saving digital documents.
  14. Dropbox for document and file storage.
  15. Nozbe for task management.


  1. IKEA Adjustable Stand-up Desk.
  2. Bookcase & Storage Center.
  3. 2 File Cabinets.
  4. Reading Chair.
  5. Guest Couch.
  6. Magnetic Whiteboard.


  1. Lamp. (If no windows; I’d use a Phillips goLite Blu)
  2. Bose Speaker System.
  3. High-oxygen Office plants. (Recommend Peace Lily)
  4. Coffee Tea maker.
  5. Refrigerator.
  6. Certified Therapeutic Grade Essential Oils & Diffuser.

Now, let’s take a look at how I designed my office in the following…

Video Tour

(Source: Propel Yourself Blueprint)

Optimizing Your Office Space: Mission Accomplished

Since changing my work environment, I have noticed a generally more positive feel to my room. Players enjoy stopping by to get caught up and talk as they sit on my couch. I can watch video with 4 or 5 people comfortably in this space. My energy levels (due to the sensory aspects I’ve added) really help me to get higher quality work done in less time while enjoying the process. In fact, diffusing essential oils have made me considerably more productive. Wild Orange essential oil is just one of many oils I regularly diffuse in my office to help me focus better. I’ll be writing about using essential oils for greater productivity soon, in another blog post.

Enjoy the season!

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How is your office set up? What works for you in optimizing your work space?

Leave a reply and let me know!

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A Football Coach’s Blueprint to Win the Day

A Football Coach’s Blueprint to Win the Day

The Morning Ritual: Kick-start Your Day

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How do you “Win the Day”? Football coaches are notorious for being early risers, in fact, Jon Gruden is known as “Jon 3:11,” because that’s what time he wakes up in the morning. As I have researched early morning risers in football, I’ve noticed that not all coaches have a routine to start the day that actually sets them up for success. It’s interesting to note that many coaches will head to the office early just to get started before their opponent because they feel the pressure and grind of the profession or to show their players that they are up before them. They get to work early to start grinding away at the demands of the day. But what if there was a better way?

"Your first ritual that you do during the day is the highest leveraged ritual, by far, because it has the effect of setting your mind, and setting the context, for the rest of the day."

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Win the Day: Why get up early?

Why does one bother to get out of bed in the morning? If you are like most football coaches, you drag yourself out of bed because you have somewhere to be or something to take care of at the office. Given the choice, most people would just continue sleeping. Hit the snooze button and then run to the office and react to the demands of the day.

The saying, “You Snooze, You Lose” may have a special meaning in our profession.

If you are just snoozing every day, when are you going to develop yourself into the football coach you want to become? All these dreams wasted into the world of slumber. What if your coaching career could finally be something that you can’t wait to be alert for? Take the reins of your dreams and be proactive in developing the career path you aspire.

"When you wake up each day with determination, you'll go to be with satisfaction."

When you wake up early each day, you join a small percentage of high achievers who are living their dreams. By simply changing your approach to becoming an early riser with purpose, you will literally change the path of your career. Don’t just take my word for it. Here are a few famous early risers: Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Albert Einstein and my fellow Greek, Aristotle. Here’s a list of 24 successful people in the business world that are known for being the “early bird, that catches the worm.”

Win the Day: The morning ritual.

What do you think of when you hear the phrase, “early morning ritual”? Don’t think of this in a religious context. I see it as a prescribed procedure for a particular result – a “recipe” if you may. Rituals do not always produce the intended results, but they do increase the probabilities. Before you design your morning ritual, here is an article on the 10 benefits of rising early, and how to do it.

ACTION: To get in the habit of waking up earlier. Set your alarm a half an hour sooner than you currently do. Repeat this for 3-4 weeks and you’ve gained 2 hours for yourself to win the day. Ease into it.

Win the Day: Designing your morning ritual.

Here are seven steps to developing your morning ritual.

Acknowledge that you already have a ritual.

You pretty much do the same things every day. Maybe it’s as simple as you hit the snooze button on your alarm clock three times before you get going. Then you make a cup of coffee, brush your teeth, take a shower…

Document your existing ritual.

You have a recipe that is producing the results you are already getting. What are the key components of your ritual? From the time you wake up until the time you start your day. Be honest and write it down.

Evaluate your existing ritual.

If your current ritual is achieving the results you want, don’t change it for the sake of changing. But, if you see an area to get that extra edge, then consider changing your routine.

Determine the result you want.

This is when it gets interesting. Begin with the end in mind, as Stephen Covey used to say. Fast forward to the end of the process. Ask yourself, “How do I want to feel when I’ve completed my early morning ritual?” What state do you wish to be in? This is the target you are trying to hit!

My target: "I want to feel connected spiritually. I want to be optimistic, strong and sure of myself. I want to be energized and devoid of stress. I want to be resourceful to accomplish my mission in life."

Re-engineer your current ritual.

This is my favorite part. Put it all in there. Brainstorm a list of everything you wish to include in your early morning ritual. Everything from drinking a cup of coffee, getting dressed, reading your Bible or an excellent book… it could be any number of things. Your list will be different than mine, I will share that with you later. Now, identify how much time each activity will take. Then arrange your list in the appropriate sequence, this will let the force of habit work for you.

Here is a sample a friend of mine uses…

Make the bed. (5 minutes) Make coffee. (5 minutes) Be Still. (15 minutes) Pray. (15 minutes) Read the Bible. (15 minutes) Journal. (15 minutes) Plan the day. (5 minutes) Exercise. (45 minutes) Eat breakfast. (10 minutes) Shower and dress. (20 minutes)

NOTE: My friend is in the season of his life where he can spend two and a half hours conducting his morning ritual. He doesn’t have small children and he is at a point in his career where he can benefit the most from this lengthy routine. I personally don’t spend this much time, but I just wanted to give you an example.

Implement your ritual.

You’re never going to get it perfect. Get in the game and just start.

Tweak your new ritual as necessary.

You don’t have to be a slave to your morning ritual. Keep adjusting to align with your goal. Don’t just go through the motions. Be intentional about it. You should never dread this routine.

Win the Day: Jump-start your morning ritual

Every night before you go to bed here are three important tasks to reduce distractions that may show up when you awake…

  1. Shut down every application on your computer. You don’t want to awaken and have e-mails showing up or various social media alerts to distract your attention.
  2. Set out your clothing. If exercise is part of the routine, put out everything you need so you aren’t wasting time searching for what to wear.
  3. Set your Sleep Cycle app on your smartphone. Sleep Cycle is a secret weapon of mine that I use to feel much more energized every morning.

Here’s how it works:

As you sleep, you go through different phases, ranging from deep sleep to light sleep. The phase you are in when your alarm goes off is critical for how tired you will feel when you wake up. Since you move differently in bed during the different phases, Sleep Cycle can use the microphone or accelerometer in your smartphone to monitor your movements and determine which sleep phase you are in. Sleep Cycle wakes you when you are in your lightest sleep phase. Sleep Cycle was developed using proven sleep science and years of research and development. (Excerpt: Sleep Cycle App)

Here are a couple of links for the iPhone and Android. Try it, you’ll be surprised as to its effectiveness.

Win the Day: My morning ritual

In this season of my life, I have a three-year-old son so conducting my morning ritual at the office works best.

As promised here is how I currently conduct my morning ritual…

  1. Put on my clothes & brush my teeth. (5 minutes)
  2. Drive to the office. (5 minutes)
  3. Centering. (10 minutes) I sit in silence and eliminate thoughts when they enter my mind. Then I finish with a breathing exercise I learned from Tony Robbins designed to oxygenate the body. The routine is to inhale for 4 seconds. Hold the breath for 16 seconds. Exhale for 8 seconds. This is repeated 10 times.
  4. Set the Compass. (10 minutes) I review my goals with flashcards that contain the goal and deadline on one side and the purpose of the target on the other side. This is a visualization exercise.
  5. Bulletproof Coffee. I make this concoction to accelerate my energy during my last two phases of the morning routine. It brews during my next phase. Here is a link to the recipe.
  6. Priming Exercise. (10 minutes) I do a series of “basic” exercises I learned from Pete Egoscue followed by a quick bounding exercise (i.e., Jumping jacks) to get the blood flowing.
  7. Reading. (20 minutes) I read something spiritual or inspirational to set my mind in an optimistic tone.
  8. Scribing. (15 minutes) I write in my journal the thoughts of where I am and the direction I would like to move toward. I make sure to list achievements and challenges along the way.
  9. Plan the day. To conclude the morning, I review and prioritize the top 3 projects for my day. I check my schedule and adjust the tasks with Nozbe. Nozbe is my task management tool.

This routine takes an hour and a half once I get to my office.

Now it’s time for you to get started. Make the effort to adjust your current morning ritual so you can win the day!

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What is your morning routine? How can implementing the advice above improve your morning ritual?

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A Football Coach’s Guide to Using Your Calendar

A Football Coach’s Guide to Using Your Calendar

The Coach's Calendar: Your Secret Weapon

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In 1995, taking over the reigns of the football program at Emporia State I had the opportunity to create the first of four turnarounds in my head coaching career. These processes all had one thing in common…

Discovering Bill Snyder’s Calendar

Strategic planning was paramount for success at every stop along the way. I had been exposed to a process that Bill Snyder utilized in my years as an assistant coach at K-State. Bill conducted daily staff meetings year round (sometimes twice a day) to impart his vision of the program.

Coach Snyder would “course-correct” each area of his program in those staff meetings. He did this by creating notes of what he wanted done by the assistant coaches. In fact, he would fill out various steno-pads with “to-do” lists and always had one of our initials next to the task.

Coming into a staff meeting, everyone (Bob Stoops, Del Miller, Sheahon Zenger, Mike Stoops, Nick Quartaro, John Latina, Dana Dimel, Myself, and others) would look for our initials on these notes. We understood that these actions must be completed to stay the course (Of course, he wrote with a purple pen!). It was sort of an inside joke as to who had the most to get done on a particular day.

Yes, Bill was a micro-manager extraordinaire!

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One day I walked into Coach Snyder’s office and noticed a stack of those steno-pads about a foot high and it dawned on me that they were categorized into the areas of focus in his program. More importantly, his calendar was laid out for the whole year with an overview of where we were heading in this monumental endeavor at Kansas State.

As I’ve moved along in my career, I am often reminded of a quote I read back in those days…

"The greatest thing in the world is not so much where we are, but in what direction we are moving."

At Emporia State, I mimicked everything I had learned from Bill Snyder. From staff meetings to planning and organization. I know my young coaches were working at a breakneck pace to keep up with the master plan. I still get comments from them about putting those initials next to tasks.

But there was just one problem…

In my inexperience, I thought it was all about that “to-do” list. As a result, we found ourselves always reacting to the demands of the day as opposed to strategically setting ourselves up for success.

I had been using my calendar to set important dates and appointments as reminders for myself and the staff – and that’s all I used it for.

The Coach’s Calendar

Take a look at your calendar. Is it optimized for your master plan? Do you have a master plan? How is it aligned with the goals you are trying to achieve?

After my first season, I started asking myself some questions that changed our course at Emporia State and propelled us to a Top 10 program at the Division II level.

From my journal entry on December, 11th, 1995

  1. How will our program be remembered?
  2. What kind of coaches am I developing?
  3. Who am I, as the head football coach?
  4. Is this program a reflection of who I really am?
  5. What type of players am I developing?
  6. What life lessons are players & coaches taking forward?
  7. Am I empowering our team to be successful on and off the field?
  8. Where can I learn more to propel others to extraordinary levels?
  9. How can we sell out our stadium?
  10. How can we engage the student body to support the football program & enjoy the game day experience?
  11. How can we increase funding to be more competitive in the MIAA?
  12. What resources do our players need to become better students & graduate?

Then I discovered the power of the coach’s calendar. It gave me a strategic tool to answer all those questions and gain momentum for the Emporia State Hornets. This tool was an outstanding way to develop the growth of everyone in the program professionally and personally.

Using a Calendar to Create Focus

It’s all about focus. If you don’t know the target you are trying to hit, you’ll just be shooting arrows into the air hoping they land somewhere that’s better than where you are.

I have found that focus for a coach to create a balanced life is based on four distinct areas:

You hit what you aim for!

Skill Development. This pertains to the following: Improving the fundamental process of developing players at your position of expertise. Becoming a better teacher of the game, based on your role in the program. To help you in this process, I believe journaling is beneficial. I’ve been doing this for more than two decades and I refer to these on a regular basis.

Health. In the high-pressure environment that we deal with year round, a football coach needs to take care of his personal health. If you don’t take care of that, I’ve noticed other areas of life will eventually break down. I categorize my health in the fields of diet, exercise and physical structure. Find what works for you and move in that direction.

Fun. Let’s not kid ourselves, we have the greatest job in the world. My son, Eli often will say that I want to go to the office and play football with daddy. He’s right! I can’t imagine going back into the business world and sitting at a desk all day.

On a serious note, sometimes coaching football is not fun for a variety of reasons. Maybe the job you are in is not aligned with your belief system, or you are around people that you just don’t see “eye-to-eye” with on the staff or administration. You might be so focused on your profession that you don’t take time out for you and the relationships in your life. This all needs to be handled and planned out in your calendar.

Mastery Challenges. Mastery is best described to me in a book I read years ago by George Leonard, called Mastery. I’ve read this book every year in the off-season and I would highly recommend this to you. It’s a great read for all coaches. A mastery challenge is designed to develop an individual in an area that is of the utmost importance to one’s growth. I have actually stumbled upon a source that I use. I’ll write about in the future. It’s a way to propel myself so I can lead others to extraordinary heights – my “unfair” advantage.

Now, as you strategize in each of these areas it’s time for the “rubber to meet the road”. I will show you how I use my calendar to set up for success.

Calendar Optimization

I optimize my calendar with a strategic plan for life balance. This starts with creating Categories of Improvement. A Category of Improvement is an area I will focus on over the long term to propel myself to the type of football coach I aspire. These are broken up into professional and personal areas. These categories are unique to you and they can change in different seasons of your career.

I never could have done without the habits of punctuality, order and diligence...The determination to concentrate myself on one subject at a time.

My current Categories of Improvement


  1. Health
  2. Relationships
  3. Family
  4. Finances
  5. Spirituality
  6. Contribution


  1. Career Development
  2. Offensive Coordinator
  3. Public Relations
  4. Recruiting

Once these have been established, I follow a process called OPA. 


The process works like this…

I take each Category of Improvement and apply the OPA paradigm.

  1. What is my ultimate vision in this area? My Outcome.
  2. Why do I want this? My Purpose.
  3. What must I do to achieve this result? My Actions.

I also write up the following…

  1. What 3 areas do I need to focus on to create this change?
  2. What resources are at my disposal?
  3. What are my 1-year goals?
  4. What are my quarterly goals?

Armed with my Categories of Improvement, I move on to a long & short term planning sequence.

Long Term. I view the landscape from my current situation to address where I want to be in five years. Looking at things from a 5-year standpoint puts less pressure on the current situation yet it gives me an opportunity to dream about what is on the horizon.

The next long range view I take is a 2-year approach. In doing so, I can feel pretty confident of where I want to be in 24 months as I sketch out my short term plan. When I do this, I set broad ranging goals that help me work toward my short term planning.

Short Term. This process addresses the next 12 months. My annual review is conducted every December. This is when I set up my next year. However, you can start this at any time.

I set concrete and measurable goals for this period of time that are aligned with my ultimate vision of each Category of Improvement. I write these goals on index cards to review every day I am at the office. On one side of the card is the goal. The other side contains my deadline to achieve the goal… Think Flashcards.

Once the upcoming year has been planned out, I’ll prepare each quarter (3-months). In our profession, each quarter is significantly different from the next. Projects to focus on are then set up in 6-week modules.

Next is the weekly planning process.

In planning a week, I keep everything aligned with the direction I am heading toward. This planning process works best for me at the end of a week, on a Thursday or Friday.

It generally takes an hour to complete this weekly review and it’s important to capture ideas leading up to this time as I progress through my day to day schedule.

It looks like this…

Connect to my Categories of Improvement (15 minutes). Even if I am not focusing on a particular category in the upcoming week, I will take a look at these in case I get any ideas that I’d like to act upon in the future. I keep a running “capture” list for my ideas.

Create a Master Plan for the week (30 minutes). I begin this by evaluating my previous week. I always make a list of the 10-12 things I’ve accomplished or achieved, or I was proud of from that last week. From that point, I review my projects and decide which ones I want to work on in the upcoming week. I create a plan for each of these projects.

Set up Victory (15 minutes). This is when I schedule everything into the types of days that I’ve set up for the next week using my task management tool. In planning each day, I use a concept I’ve created called my “Power Parthenon.” I’ve designated each day in advance as one of three types of days: Foundation, Concentration, and Freedom. More on this in another article…

Daily planning is another process of its own. It works similarly to the regular process & I do it before I wrap up my previous day.

All in all. I believe that you have to be the CEO of your life. The role of an executive is to plan, supervise and follow things to an end. You need to see where you are within alignment to the vision you have set for yourself and the program. It’s important to learn how to cultivate the tension between vision & reality.

"To propel your career, you need to create a strategic plan for where you want to be."

I am here to help you develop new strategies to create the life you want coaching football. Take a look at some of these concepts, give them a try and if they work for you, great. If not, take a look at some others as you work to establish the ‘work – life’ balance that is rare in our profession.

I believe you can happily achieve and live the life you desire by optimizing each aspect of your life.

Let’s work together to Propel Yourself to Raise Others to Extraordinary Levels!

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Have you optimized your calendar? In what ways has or can this method help improve your career?

Leave a reply and let me know!

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