2012 was officially the “Year of Changes” for me.

What incredible changes could you this year that you will be writing about next year?
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Below are the five biggest changes I made and the lessons I learned from them…that you can learn too.

  1. Became an early riser. I started studying what successful people do and one of the glaring things that stood out to me was that they all wake up before the sunrise. Prior to the summer of last year, I usually woke up either when I felt like it or at the last possible second before I had to get ready. By the end of the year, I was waking up at 5:30 A.M. with purpose. Everything else positive that happened this year is a result of this one change. For more on rising early, check out Andy Traub’s Early to Rise Challenge.
  2. Ran a 10k. I wrote about the most valuable lesson I learned running a 10k last year. The training for it was great. I woke up before 6:00 most days and immediately got out and ran. I would arrive home before 8:00 most days already having done a great workout and listened to some great podcasts or audiobooks. This was my time and it became somewhat sacred. I am already looking forward to the warm weather again. Whatever your fitness goals are, I highly suggest finding some way to make it competitive. Competition is one of the greatest forms of motivation.
  3. Started this blog. Oh yeah, that little thing. 95% of starting and maintaining this blog was possible because of change #1. 95% of my writing is done before the sun comes up. 95% of the promotion is done before the sun comes up. In less than five months, this blog has:
    • Attracted an audience of more than one hundred views per day.
    • Averaged more than twenty-two comments per post.
    • Had more than one hundred subscribers via email and RSS.
    • Impacted lives in ways I could never have imagined. From the Thank You Revolution (especially Jon Stole’s story) to inspiring people, I’ve been blown away by the impact this thing has had in the past few months.
    • All because I started it.
  4. Took naps. I started taking semi-frequent naps mid-day as a way to decompress and recharge my batteries for the second half of the workday. There is a lot of science to naps. But I think it’s a pretty simple concept. Sometime approximately halfway through your workday (for most people that will be five to seven hours after awaking), you lie down, close your eyes, think of nothing, and relax completely for twenty to twenty-five minutes. No more or less. Try it for thirty days and I can almost promise you that you will thank me.
  5. Let me be me. Professionally, I made a decision mid-year to let me be me. This meant showing a bit of my goofy side. It also meant prioritizing the things in my life that matter most to me, like customer service and creativity. When I wrote, I wrote in my style. And people liked it. Numerous affiliate marketers told me that my emails were the only ones they opened. One told me that she reads my emails to her daughters. That is crazy. All because I let me be me. And it paid it off as I came one step closer to one of my major goals this year: winning the Pinnacle Award for Affiliate Manager of the Year. I was recently named one of three finalists.

Are you letting you be you? What incredible changes could you this year that you will be writing about next year?

30 thoughts on “The Five Biggest Changes I Made in 2012, That You Can Make Too

  1. Dan Erickson says:

    I like #5: being ourselves is key to becoming better, more successful and productive individuals at whatever it is we are meant to be/do. And kudos on the 10K!

  2. MrTravisScott says:

    It sounds like you had a great year and I love it! Waking up early is a great habit and I love your let me be idea! Good luck in 2013!

  3. Aaron Nelson says:

    I really enjoy reading what you have to say, and today was no exception. I always wake up early – thanks to growing up on a farm. But you’re right: waking up early is pointless if you don’t fill that time with things that matter. I’m working to redesign my wakeup and what I do at this time because I know it matters.

    Have a great one Matt.

  4. Bret Wortman says:

    I’d love to find a way to rise early and have some “me” time. Unfortunately, I currently get up around 4:30 so I can be out the door by 5:00 and at my office by 6 (trust me, after then, that 60 minute commute goes to 90 minutes or longer). And by that point, I just want to get my day started and over with so I can beat the traffic home between 3 and 4. And not be too beat down to spend quality time with the kids, and a little time after they’re in bed for my wife.

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      Yeah D.C. sucks for that.

      My advice…use the commute. I know you know this, but you can learn the equivalent (I’d say even better) of a four-year degree in five years with that kind of a commute.

      Spend half the time learning about your business objectives on the way, the other half thinking and planning.

      On the way home, spend half the time learning about being a better family man, then half the time thinking and planning.

      Take a recorder with you to record thoughts and ideas.

      You may be doing that already…well then you ARE using your time this way.

      1. Bret Wortman says:

        I tried doing the voice recorder thing once and almost caused a 9-car wreck.
        These days, I do Audible both ways. And podcasts. But nothing that causes me to think too hard; I’m too adept at focusing completely, to the detriment of the trunk of the car in front of me.

      2. Matt McWilliams says:

        OK, now that was funny.

      3. Mark Sieverkropp says:

        Yeah, you better put a disclaimer on your blog that you are not responsble for any rear-end collisions caused by the advice given on this site….

      4. Jon Stolpe says:

        I listen to podcasts on the was to work. Such a great use of time!

  5. Dan Black says:

    Great changes! I’m starting to get into shape so I can run a 5k this year(Thanksgiving). I have always been a night owl. I feel most productive during the night time after my wife and son have gone to bed. I have tried and failed to rise early but might consider trying to make it a habit.

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      I think it is psychological for me. I used to be the same way (very productive after 9pm) but I’ve found that I am even more productive before 9am.

      I just went through a bout with a cold and it was weird sleeping until 7 or 8 but I know my body needed it.

      Today, I was back to getting up before 6 and by the end of the month I will be up by 5:00! I love that 3-4 hours I get before my daughter wakes up to kill my big projects, knowing that if I accomplished nothing else, I had a great work day. Then I can focus on family for a bit.

      That’s why I like getting up early.

      1. Jon Stolpe says:

        4:30 AM this morning. At the gym at 5 AM. At home by 6 AM. Breakfast, some reading, and final prep for work. Leave the house at 7AM for work by 7:30 AM. After a while your body adjusts.

      2. Matt McWilliams says:

        I’ll be writing about it, but one of my “secrets” was that I woke up 1-2 minutes earlier every day for a while. I eased right in.

    2. Jon Stolpe says:

      You can do it, Dan. Consider looking up a good C25K plan (Couch to 5K). I’ve been upping my running again starting in December, and it has felt great to be back in the swing of things. I’m not sure yet what my goal race will be, but it could be another marathon. We’ll see.

      1. Carol Dublin says:

        Good advice Jon – I’m training for my first marathon in April – funny how it feels different (better) to be training FOR something instead of just running. Great post on Thank You Thursday, by the way.

      2. Matt McWilliams says:

        If I weren’t training for something, there is no way I could run. Sure, I enjoy the time and once I get going, the endorphins kick in. But the only thing that gets me going is the upcoming race.

      3. Jon Stolpe says:

        That’s cool. I’ve run 3 marathons so far. It’s quite a challenge and accomplishment.

        Matt…As for TYT, I’ve thought about sending you over another guest post idea. I just received my first Thank You Thursday note from a colleague of mine who was inspired by my story. His note read:
        “Jon, I did not want to use up another thank you card just to return the one I borrowed (from you). The one I attached is blank for your use to another worthy person. I have another worthy person for my Thursday Thank You for Today. I do still want to thank you for the loan too. Bud”

        When Thank You Thursday comes back to you…! Pretty cool!

      4. Matt McWilliams says:

        Let me think about it…yes please. Send it!

      5. Jon Stolpe says:

        Thanks, Carol!

  6. Mark Sieverkropp says:

    Man, your acomplishments on your blog make me feel like I should just pack up my blog and go home 😉 haha. What an awesome exercise to look back on the year and determine the biggest changes you made! I think I might do that! and if I can’t come up with five, I guess I’m not being focused enough on improving! Thanks for the encouragement! And thanks so much for all your wisdom, advice, friendship and unicorns!

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      I pull out the unicorns one time and never hear the end of it 🙂

      1. Mark Sieverkropp says:

        you’re right. let that be a lesson to you to mind what you write! haha. (and Im pretty sure its been more than once…but i may be including comments you’ve made elsewhere)

      2. Jon Stolpe says:

        I must have missed the unicorns. But I must agree with Mark. Kudos on the great things going on here this year. I’m so glad I hooked up with you. (Thanks also for the opportunity to guest post. It was definitely a highlight in my blogging year.)

  7. Jon Stolpe says:

    I went to Guatemala in 2012 as a big leap of faith. This year, I’m planning to return to the same place with my whole family. I see this as a huge opportunity for change.

  8. Carol Dublin says:

    I love my morning time – devotions, prayer, writing, running, then ready to face the day. You are right about easing into it by just a few minutes a day until you wake up before the alarm. I’m learning to use evenings as productive time now too – instead of turning on mindless tv, I’m reading, listening to podcasts or catching up on blogs. Makes a huge difference in my productivity. Thanks for a great year of inspiration and I can’t wait to see what you bring in 2013!

  9. Tom Dixon says:

    I like #5 the best – I think being yourself is key to the whole thing – looking for more goofy in 2013. I have always been an early riser, usually at my desk at work by 6:30, but have found lately I get more done late at night…I think its a matter of finding what works best for you and how much sleep you need.

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      More goofy on the way 🙂

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