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Global Chief Compliance Officer, Morgan Stanley

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My Most Valuable Personal Habit

August 09, 20232 min read

What's your most valuable personal habit?

Which activity, practice, or behavior has contributed most to your success?

I have a few important ones.

Among them: exercise, prayer, and intermittent fasting.

But my most valuable? That's easy...

​👉 Weekly planning.

To be clear, this is more than just putting together a "to-do" list.

No, it's a 5-step approach that accelerates and protects my productivity, impact, and mental health for the week.

And the best thing? It only takes a few minutes to do.

My 5-Step Weekly Planning Process

Here's what it looks like...

1. Values Check ✅

I start my planning by re-writing my core values.

I want to keep my values in mind as I decide how best to allocate my time, energy, and resources in the coming week.

2. Highlights 🙌

This is my favorite part.

I review the past week, recalling and writing down (see image) every highlight, milestone, or victory. Big or small.

Since I’ve been doing this for the past 10 years, I now have a stack of notebooks within which exist every highlight of my life.

I can’t wait to share these notebooks with my kids.

3. Clarify Success 🎯

Next, I look at the coming week and determine what ‘great’ looks like.

What are the most important outcomes I need to create?

What are the actions I need to take, the relationships I need to invest in, the skills I need to build, and/or the events I need to be at, in order to make the next seven days incredible?

4. Protect My Time 🗓️

I love my calendar.

In this step, I map out when and where I will get my most important work done.

I call it ‘protecting’ my time because it massively increases the probability that my most important work won’t get crowded out by less important, but more ‘noisy,’ issues.

This is the single most important part of this planning process.

5. Financial Review 💰

Finally, I review my personal finances.

This is not a CFO-level audit. I simply review and categorize last week’s expenses and confirm that any future financial commitments are accounted for.

This review only takes me about 5 minutes but gives me a great deal of peace of mind.

What are your ‘most important’ habits?

So, that’s my weekly planning process. It's my most valuable habit and I swear by it.

How about you?

Do you have a planning process that works well for you? If not, what other ‘fundamental’ skills and habits do you depend on?

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Ben Sands is an executive coach and founder of Sands Leadership.

Ben Sands is the perfect mix of coach and consultant and he has been coaching me to higher levels of clarity and meaning for almost 10 years! In leadership and life, we all have a lot of big decisions to make and Ben has taught me is how to make those big decisions confidently, and in a values-aligned way. His coaching is an investment that has paid off exponentially.

Alex Budak

Professional Faculty,

UC Berkeley Haas School of Business & Author,

Becoming A Changemaker