Do You Have a List of Non-Negotiables?

Recently, my friend and coach, Dan Meub, challenged me to identify my list of top ten, non-negotiable disciplines. He said, “View this list as the ten disciplines that if practiced faithfully would make the biggest impact on the quality of your life this year.”

A Runner Jumping

So, after a little thought, I came up with this list:

My Top Ten Non-Negotiable Disciplines
Discipline Description Frequency
Bible Reading Read the Bible, using a plan that covers the whole Bible in a year. Daily, first thing when I get up
Prayer Pray for my life, my family, my church, my work, etc. Daily, on my commute into the office or, on the weekends, immediately after reading the Bible
Aerobic Exercise Run 4–5 miles, four days a week. Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday at 5:30 a.m.
Strength Training Train at the YMCA, twice a week for an hour with a trainer. Tuesday and Friday at 5:30 a.m.
Eating Five Meals Eat the traditional three meals a day with lean protein and slow-burning carbs. Eat two snacks a day, mid-morning and mid-afternoon to keep my metabolism up. Daily
Taking Vitamins Take a good liquid multivitamin, mineral, and antioxidant. Daily, 1 oz. after breakfast
General Reading Listen to books on my iPod while I am running. Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday at 5:30 a.m.
Life Plan Review Review my written life plan (a seven-page document) Weekly, on Sunday evening with my weekly review
Solo Retreats Get off-site for 36 hours a quarter to review my business vision, business plan, master task list, and time block. Quarterly, scheduled off-site
Financial Review Review my personal budget, statements, and investment portfolio with Gail. Monthly, scheduled on a Saturday morning

I’ve asked Dan to hold me accountable to this list. He’s my “accountability partner.” We have a scheduled call every two weeks. But this could have as easily been a friend or co-worker. The key thing is to formulate your list, give a copy to your partner, and then schedule a time to check in and check up. I have found that every two weeks is about right. But you must get it on your calendar.

Like you, I’m sure, I often go through periods when I struggle to find the motivation to stick with it. That’s why you have an accountability partner. Knowing I will have to give Dan an account is sometimes just the leverage I need to get up and get with it.

I have also found that if I can get the first couple of disciplines knocked out first thing in the morning, the rest of them will follow like beads on a string.

Or to use another metaphor, my friend Steve Arterburn once exhorted me, “slay your dragons before breakfast, so they don’t eat your lunch.” My two biggest dragons are spiritual and physical lethargy. So, the first thing I do upon rising in the morning is read my Bible. (Well, actually I get a cup of coffee, but that’s not really a discipline!) Then, I head to the gym. If I can get these two items knocked off my list, it’s downhill from there.

Question: So, before two much of the new year slips by, how about identifying what’s on your list. And, just as important, who’s going to keep you accountable?
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  • FMF

    Good stuff from someone who knows what he’s talking about! Well done!

  • Michael Hyatt

    I just stumbled across an online application that allows you to track daily goals. It’s called Joe’s Goals. It’s worth a look.

  • Bonnie Calhoun

    1, 2, 6 and 10 an non-negotiable, but the rest are up for grabs. You are very disciplined! I’m lucky if I breath on a regular basis!

  • Michael Covington

    Thanks for this Mike. Very helpful to see it in writing, I forwarded this on to a pastor friend of mine, he may even find it useful for his congregation if you so allow.

  • djchuang

    This is a phenomenal list of personal disciplines and taking care of yourself as well as active learning. Having recently taken a life management study that involved quite a bit of time management too, I’m wondering if you work an average 40 hour week, and how many hours of sleep you get on average?

  • Michael Hyatt

    I typically work about 55 hours a week. I usually get about six-and-a-half hours of sleep a night on weekdays and seven on weekend. Thanks.

  • dbswriter

    How do you input the daily "must-do's" into the GTD outlook add-in? I seem to remember you writing about this once before. A list of those things that had to be done every day.__I think you are amazing :) … and truly appreciate what I've read on your blog. I first discovered you in the GTD forums… and have now signed up for an RSS feed from you. Thank you for sharing so much.

    • Michael Hyatt

      Unfortunately, the GTD add-in is not available for the Mac. I simply use Entourage, following the advice in the David Allen Co. White Paper on the subject. They are available for both Outlook and Entourage.

  • matthewdbenson

    Michael – the 'Master task list' link on this page is broken. Can you repair? Thx, Matt

  • Joshua Hood

    It amazes me how many people have vague, undefined goals, and no practical plan for reaching them. “You will not change until you change something you do every day.”

    Joshua Hood

  • Mark McDonald

    Michael, I thought I would have a look at some of your older posts. I have followed you for about a year so it was interesting to read this post from 2007. How are you going today with these non negotiables? From my perspective many of these are still the things that you stick to in your blogs, so I admire your commitment.

    I thought the most interesting part was that you review your life plan weekly. I suppose that helps confine the day dreaming and the “one day” thoughts. Looking at my life plan would help me stop dreaming about all the things I could do and get on with what God has called me to do.

    Great post.

  • W. Mark Thompson

    Awesome list. So much great content on your blog.
    Gonna use this and make my own.


  • Kola

    did you have a specific reason for choosing to take 36 hours for your solo retreats? I’m really curious to know more detail about what you do during that time

    • Michael Hyatt

      Here is the agenda for my Quarterly Review.

  • Brooke924

    I love this! I find that I’m already implimenting many into my daily routine, but would anyone care to elaborate on how to write a written life plan? I’ve written out long-term goals and all that, but not 7 pages worth! I’m intrigued!

    • Joe Lalonde

       Hi Brooke!

      Michael actually wrote a blog post and released a how to create a lifeplan eBook. You can find it for free at