Episode: Our Double Win Nonnegotiables

Megan Hyatt Miller: Hi, I’m Megan Hyatt Miller.

Michael Hyatt: And I’m Michael Hyatt.

Megan: And this is Lead to Win, our weekly podcast to help you win at work and succeed at life. A couple of weeks ago, we talked about what nonnegotiables are with regard to getting the double win (winning at work and succeeding at life) and why they are so important. Today, my dad and I are going to jump in and tell you what we have chosen to prioritize on that list of nonnegotiables and what that has made possible for us.

Michael: This is going to be fun, because I’m not sure I know all of your nonnegotiables. I know some of them. I’m pretty confident you don’t know all of mine, so this will be the great reveal of the nonnegotiables.

Megan: When we think about this idea of nonnegotiables, it can be kind of abstract and people can struggle to figure out what their nonnegotiables are, because usually, we think about either nothing in our life is nonnegotiable…we don’t really have good boundaries; we kind of let everybody negotiate everything for us, whether that’s at work or at home or whatever…or in an effort to set good boundaries, we want to make everything a nonnegotiable and everything a hard-and-fast line.

The problem with that is there’s just not enough time for everything to be a nonnegotiable. Really, when we’re talking about helping people get this double win (winning at work and succeeding at life) in our book, we talk about nonnegotiables needing to be in three areas in priority order: self-care, relational priorities, and professional results.

The magic of this idea is that there’s not enough time for you to do everything you want, but there is enough time for you to do the things that are truly the most important, or nonnegotiable, as we think about it. So, hopefully, in hearing what our nonnegotiables are in those three categories, it’s going to help you guys conceptualize this and start to imagine what this might look like in your own life.

Michael: Okay. I have a question before we start. I want to ask you, and I’ll reveal mine too. Do you think, naturally, you tend toward fewer nonnegotiables or too many nonnegotiables? In other words, do you struggle with having boundaries or do you tend to have too many boundaries?

Megan: I think I would answer it this way. I’m not sure I know exactly… I think I’m pretty good at boundaries, but I don’t think I’m necessarily too rigid. I’m not necessarily a high-structure person. I kind of like a little bit of flying by the seat of my pants. My husband Joel and I both struggle with this sometimes, because we have kids who really like structure, especially our oldest kids. They really like a plan and kind of freak out a little bit when we deviate from the plan we’ve told them.

Like, if we tell them the menu for the weekend and then I flip things around, they’re like, “Wait. We were supposed to have hamburgers tonight. What are you doing?” What I have learned to love about this idea of nonnegotiables is that while I may not be given to this much structure naturally, it helps me make sure the most important things in my life are accounted for and scheduled for, which is the next step once you have these things in place.

Michael: For me, it has been a learned thing. Naturally, I do like structure, probably too much structure. If you look at StrengthsFinder, adaptability is number 34 out of 34 for me.

Megan: That’s true for me too.

Michael: I’m very weak on adaptability, but as it turns out, there’s something about aging, parenting, business failure…just life…that tends to make you more flexible, more adaptable. I do think it’s important that you have nonnegotiables, that you have boundaries, but that you have few of them. Most people cannot maintain a lot of nonnegotiables. If you try to do that, your life ends up looking pretty legalistic and you end up with a lot of stress.

Megan: And you end up in a lot of conflicts in relationship, because you’re like, “Oh, I can’t do that because that’s a nonnegotiable.” You don’t want to have to say that a lot. You really want to have that conversation with a few very important people and not be beating people over the head with your nonnegotiables all the time.

Michael: But the opposite of this… Your mother struggles with this, frankly, as an Enneagram Nine. She has had to grow in this too. She’s so interested in pleasing everybody it’s easy for her to abandon her nonnegotiables. (I guess by definition that wouldn’t make them a nonnegotiable.) She’ll abandon her boundaries in the service of other people. She has had to learn over time to hold firm to those boundaries, and that’s not easy.

Megan: Before we get into the details of this, I just want to say one more thing that’s important as you’re thinking about this for yourself. The whole point of us sharing this is so you all are able to start to imagine what this looks like for you. When you’re thinking about whether something should be a nonnegotiable or not, you want to think about “Is this essential, like, I kind of can’t go on without it for my top performance?”

Think about what’s going to set you up to perform at your best at home and at work, in your marriage, in your parenting, spiritually, certainly in your professional results. We’ll get into all that. Think about that. Again, there’s not enough time for everything, but what sets you up for optimal performance? Then the second part I want to say is this is going to be not a one-and-done. This is evolving. You need to revisit these lists from time to time.

For example, what might be on your nonnegotiable self-care list is going to change as your kids’ ages change. When we first brought our youngest daughter home from the hospital, my list of nonnegotiables in terms of self-care was very short for a season when she was tiny and not sleeping. Now it’s much longer. It’s more robust. That’s okay. That’s just life. So, be kind to yourself and be flexible with this as you think about it.

Michael: That’s good.

Megan: Okay. Let’s jump in.

Michael: The first category is self-care. What are your nonnegotiables when it comes to self-care? Drum roll.

Megan: I have a few. The first one is sleep. This is right out of the book. I believe it. The last chapter is all about it. I am committed to getting eight hours of sleep at night. I go to bed at 9:00. I get up at 5:00. That is a nonnegotiable for me. What that means is I plan around that. I plan for that. If I could do nothing else on the list I’m going to share, this would be the absolute number one top thing, because it sets me up for a productive day the next day. It helps me make good decisions. It helps me be nice to people. It’s really, really, really important. So that is the first thing on my list.

Michael: My number one nonnegotiable on self-care is rest too. The only difference is 8:45 is my bedtime, because I’m getting up at 4:45, which leads me to my second nonnegotiable, which is my morning ritual. By the way, I want to say that by nonnegotiable, I’m probably 90 percent in compliance. There are times when I’m going to sleep in or I’m not going to get to bed on time because we have friends in from out of town, or whatever, but 90 percent of the time, that’s a nonnegotiable, that particular time schedule for getting to bed.

I find that managing what time I get to bed… If I do that one thing, everything else kind of takes care of itself. I’ll do my morning ritual because I’ll be able to get up in time. The morning ritual is where I take care of a lot of this other self-care stuff. That’s where I’m nurturing my spirit. That’s where I’m nurturing my intellectual life. That’s where I’m nurturing my physical body in the form of exercise and all that. All that’s happening in that block of time I call my morning ritual.

Megan: That’s really good. I didn’t list mine in that exact way, but certainly, that is part of it. I listed exercise separately. My morning ritual also would be a nonnegotiable. In that time I’m having coffee. Maybe that should have been the first one.

Michael: Hey, wait a second. Stop. That’s absolutely nonnegotiable.

Megan: That’s a prerequisite.

Michael: When I have to have some kind of blood test that requires that I have to fast beforehand…

Megan: Oh, it’s the worst.

Michael: I keep getting different answers on this too. Some healthcare professionals will say, “Black coffee is okay.” By the way, that’s the opinion I’m going with. Some will say, “Well, you have to even fast from black coffee.” I think those people are the devil. So, if you’re one of those, I’m sorry, but I’m not following your advice.

Megan: You need another podcast, not this one.

Nick: Hey, Megan, can I pop in real quick and ask you a question?

Megan: Yeah.

Nick: This is on air. Hi, everybody. It’s Nick. You have children.

Megan: I have children.

Nick: And you’re talking about a 9:00 bedtime. My question is: What is the expectation…? You know, you have to have time with your husband. You have to have time to yourself in the evening. What does the rest of this night look like that you have time for 9:00 to be in bed and asleep?

Megan: I am so glad you asked. My children will probably be in therapy for this someday. Actually, they’ll be in therapy for plenty. Put this on the list, kids. Our 2-year-old daughter goes to bed at 7:00 sharp, and our 10- and 12-year-old kids go to bed at 8:00, and our 17- and 20-year-old kids go to bed whenever they go to bed. We don’t worry about that.

I have intentionally set their bedtimes so I have an hour before bedtime to do my evening ritual, whether that’s take a bath or hang out with Joel and watch a show for a while or have some time to myself. There are different things depending on what’s going on that I include in that. But that’s really important. I think one of the reasons we don’t go to bed early enough is that, as parents anyway, we let our kids stay up too late, and then we’re like, “I’ve got to have a minute to myself,” so it ends up being 9:00 to 10:00 or 9:30 to 10:30.

I really think you have to plan with this nonnegotiable in mind. In other words, it’s not a nonnegotiable that my kids get to stay up later. It’s an absolute nonnegotiable that I’m going to bed at 9:00. So what else needs to happen in order to make that possible? Everything else is going to bend to that nonnegotiable in our house. I’m telling you, it’s worth it.

Michael: Okay. Let’s go to the second category. Great question, though, Nick.

Megan: Oh, I’m not done yet.

Michael: What?

Megan: Listen. This is granular. I’m telling the people the granular details of my life. Okay?

Michael: All right.

Megan: Y’all can skip forward if you don’t want to know.

Michael: Surprise me then.

Megan: So, I have my morning ritual. I get the coffee. I do my daily devotional. I fill out my Full Focus Planner, but after that, I also plan my food for the day. This is really important, and this is something I’ve been doing since last summer. I’m doing this because I’m one of those people who forgets to eat. I’m one of those people who can kind of be in the moment and let myself get too hungry and get hangry, and that’s not good for anyone, especially my kids or people who work for me.

I really want to be intentional about fueling my body to perform well, so I plan my food for 24 hours. It also removes decision fatigue, because I don’t have to make all of those decisions all day long. I love that self-care nonnegotiable. That’s literally a nonnegotiable, as in, I am not going to not do this. It is going to happen in my morning ritual. Then I exercise for 45 minutes, five days a week. I do three days of strength training and two days of cardio. I keep it short. I do it at home so I don’t have to drive anywhere. It’s really straightforward.

I also drink 64 ounces of water every day. These are really basic things, but this is the kind of stuff I’m going to do even on a really busy day, like our book launch day last week that we had on which we had a big live event and all that. This all has to be stuff I can do even on a crazy day, because if it’s this sort of idealistic thing that’s only possible when the stars align, that’s not helpful. So, when you think about these nonnegotiables, think about it with that in mind. But they are necessary for my performance.

Michael: Yeah. Somebody shared with me this idea several years ago of the minimum effective dose. What’s the minimum I can do and still make progress rather than the maximum I could do? I discovered this afresh a couple of weeks ago. I picked up the guitar again recently, and I wanted to take lessons. The guy I’m learning from said, “Hey, I want you to be practicing every day.” I thought, “Well, of course. Yeah.” I’m thinking to myself, “I’ve got to carve out an hour a day to practice.”

He said, “I want you to practice 10 minutes a day.” I was like, “What?” He said, “Consistency is more important than the amount of time you practice.” He said, “If you’ll do it 10 minutes a day, and on some days you may feel like doing more than that, and that’s fine, but a minimum of 10 minutes a day, and I don’t want you to break the streak.” Well, I love that concept, because 10 minutes…yeah, I can do that even on the busiest of days, and that’s what you want.

Megan: Right. If you’re in a different season of life than we’re in… Maybe you have a baby who’s not sleeping through the night or maybe you’re taking care of your elderly parents, or whatever. You have an irregular schedule. Think about what the minimum effective dose would be for you, that you could truly say, “These are my nonnegotiables.”

Maybe it’s a 15-minute walk every day when you get home from work. Maybe you’re going to have a morning ritual that is only 10 minutes long because of the season of your life. That’s totally fine. There are so many things you could do. Sometimes we make the standard so high that we could never reach it, and that’s not helpful. You can always build on something, though. Start small if you need to.

Michael: Psychologically, it’s important to have a sense that you’re winning and that you’re making progress. If it’s constantly start, stop, start, stop, I’m constantly failing, I’m not consistent, that affects your self-image. It affects your ability to perform, and it’s just not psychologically healthy. So, again, to get back to the minimum effective dose is an important idea.

Megan: Okay. Let’s talk about the second category of nonnegotiables, which are relational priorities. Again, these are in hierarchical order. You’re going to take care of yourself first, because if you don’t take care of yourself you can’t take care of anybody else, but then we want to ask the question…With regard to the people you love, what are the things that are nonnegotiable for you?

Michael: I have two. One is that I’m going to have a date night. We don’t really have to plan for that so much anymore, because it’s just kind of happening because we’re empty nesters.

Megan: You don’t have to get babysitters anymore.

Michael: Yeah, exactly. Almost every night we’re eating together anyway. But we try to make a point to go out to eat and spend focused time with each other at least once a week, and we’ve recently got into playing Qwirkle, which has been really fun too. That has been a great relationship tool.

The second nonnegotiable is to rotate having lunch with my daughters, one per week on a rotating basis. I always have lunch with you every week because we’re in business together, but… Like, this week it’s Madeline. She’s my fourth daughter. We’re having lunch together on Wednesday or Thursday. I really enjoy that. I want to make them a priority, so that’s how I do it.

Megan: I love that. I have three. You probably have the third one in common as well. The first one is date night with Joel. We do that on Tuesday night. We have the babysitter set up. We make it really easy. Even the restaurant and all that stuff is planned in advance, so we don’t have any excuses not to do it. It feels like the easy thing to do, the fun thing to do. We love spending time together.

We’re really excited because we’re now both vaccinated, which means we’re going to be back in restaurants, and we’re so pumped about that, instead of eating takeout or sitting in our car. We’re excited to get going on some of that stuff soon. So, that’s the first one: date night. The second one is I want to sit down with my kids and Joel and have dinner five nights a week at the table.

What is not nonnegotiable is what we’re eating. That could be pizza or Chick-fil-A on paper plates. It doesn’t really matter. That’s not the main idea. We are intentional about what we’re eating most of the time, but it’s important to say that’s not the main point of it. The point is I want to sit down. I want to look at my kids. I want to hear about their day. I want to hear what they’re grateful for, what their best thing was. We call that the gratitude report. We go around every night.

Now we have little Naomi sitting at the table with us who’s mostly throwing food at this stage, so it’s a little more chaotic than it used to be, but eventually, she’ll learn how to fold into that as well. She’s learning from her older siblings by watching at this point. But that’s really special. There’s so much great research on the benefits of sitting down and having dinner as a family. So, that has been true for almost our whole marriage, which is now 12-plus years.

Then the last one is that we go to church together as a family on Sunday. Again, we’re excited to be able to do that in person now again. That’s just something we feel like is both relational and spiritual that is a really important aspect of our family life together.

Michael: Yeah, that third one is one for us too. I didn’t think of it as a nonnegotiable, but it is sort of, de facto. We love going to church on the weekends, and that’s just part of who we are.

Megan: It’s kind of cool, even as we’ve only gotten so far in this… This is not that complicated of a list. You guys may be thinking, “Wow. There are a lot of things I thought you were going to say that you didn’t say.” That’s because there’s not time for everything, but there is enough time to do these things, and hopefully, as you’re listening, you’re like, “Okay. I can see how that might work. That doesn’t sound so overwhelming after all.”

I just remembered I almost forgot my fourth relational nonnegotiable priority (which shows you this is so ingrained in my life I don’t even think about it anymore), which is that I’m done with work every day at 3:00 p.m. If you’ve read Win At Work and Succeed At Life, I tell the whole story of how I ended up making this decision to be done every day, back at the beginning, at 3:30 so I can pick up my kids at school. In fact, right now it’s 2:25 p.m., and I’ll be headed out at 3:00 to get the kids from school.

That’s just how I have oriented my work for so long, but it’s not a professional result. It doesn’t fall into that category, because this is a constraint, a relational priority nonnegotiable that ultimately dictates how I work, but it’s driven by my commitment to my family. So, this would be something you could consider too. What is your start and/or end time for your day? What are the constraints you’re going to put on your workday?

Michael: Okay. Let’s go to the third category, which is professional results. Again, we’re advocates of what we call the double win, winning at work and succeeding at life, and there’s no true success in our definition unless you’re doing both. It’s not enough just to win the self-care game or to win the relational game. As important as those are, we also have to win at work. That sort of makes possible everything else. They’re all interrelated. So, Megan, what are your nonnegotiable professional results?

Megan: This is really helpful, especially as you may feel overwhelmed when you’re thinking about work, like, there’s too much to do. If you take your focus on what there is to do and move it to “What results am I responsible to deliver?” that can be really helpful, because all of a sudden, it starts sorting your tasks into at least two categories: the ones that are helping to drive the professional results that are nonnegotiable for you and the ones that maybe aren’t, and those all become candidates for elimination, automation, and delegation, like, Dad, you talk about in your book Free to Focus.

For me, the first thing is delivering our annual budget. As the CEO of the company, before anything else I have to deliver the budget. That’s mission critical to our longevity and success as a company and, certainly, to honoring the people who are on our payroll who we are taking care of and all of the things that are part of our future vision. So that’s the first one for me.

Michael: The first one for me is that I’m going to be spending 95 percent of my time in my Desire Zone. The Desire Zone is another concept we talk about in Free to Focus, and it means I’m working where I have my greatest proficiency and my greatest passion. So, I’m not working in any areas where I don’t have passion, and I’m not working in areas where I don’t have proficiency 95 percent of the time.

Five percent… That’ll fluctuate from week to week. Some weeks I don’t have any of my time outside of my Desire Zone. Occasionally, I may have more than 5 percent, but most of the time it’s 95 percent of the time in my Desire Zone. What that means for me is that I’m doing work that’s high leverage that really moves the company forward that makes the best use of my gifts and my capabilities and gives me the most satisfaction at work. So I’m always happy at work. I enjoy the work I’m doing.

Megan: I love that. It’s probably important to say that didn’t happen all at once for you. That was a process, a multi-year process of moving incrementally toward that. Now at your season of life it’s something you get to enjoy, but if you’re not there yet, don’t be discouraged, because you are always able to make progress toward that.

Michael: Yeah. Just up it a little bit more each year until you get where you’re doing most of the stuff in your Desire Zone. Did you have another professional result?

Megan: I do. I have three. My next one is that I am responsible to develop the executive team to make their greatest contributions. They’re my direct reports. If I’m taking care of them and coaching them and developing them, then they’re going to help to drive the company forward, so one of the results I am most focused on is developing their potential.

Michael: The second one for me is the whole idea of growth. That’s one of our values as a company: continuous growth. I see this in a lot of different categories. Certainly personal and professional growth, but more than that, I want the company to grow. I don’t want it to grow because I need to make more money or want to make more money. I want it to grow so that we create more opportunity for our employees and so we also continue to reach more and more people.

So, growth is a nonnegotiable. I can’t imagine ever planning a year where we stayed level or went backward, because to do that means you kind of have to say to everybody on the team, “I hope you appreciate the status quo, because nobody is getting a promotion this year. Nobody is getting a raise this year. We’re just going to kind of tread water.” That, to me, is unacceptable.

Megan: That’s really good. I love how we thought about these lists differently, but both are really good ways to think about it, so, it’s fun to hear yours. I don’t think we’ve actually shared these with each other before.

Michael: We haven’t.

Megan: My final one is to set the vision for the future. You and I do that a lot collaboratively together, but my responsibility pretty much exclusively is to align the team around our future vision and then to drive our execution of that vision. So, vision is a big part of the professional results I’m responsible for. I always have to be out in the future, looking ahead, charting a course to help us see and realize our vision.

Michael: Fortunately for you, as it is for me, futuristic is one of your top five strengths, so it comes naturally to you.

Megan: Yeah. My number one.

Michael: That’s cool. So, my last one is customer transformation or client transformation. That’s a nonnegotiable for me. Just to sell stuff doesn’t get me excited at all. It doesn’t even move the needle. But when I see our coaching clients or our Full Focus Planner clients report back to us… In fact, I have a letter from one of our clients that I have stuck next to me here on the desk. She sent it to me, and she talked about all the transformation she’d experienced over the last three years.

I have it here. I don’t want to discard it, because it’s so meaningful to me, because that’s what I live for. I’m not happy until people get the transformation they want in their professional and personal lives. That’s a nonnegotiable. Okay. Before we wrap this up, Megan, one of the questions I have is: What do you think people think would be on your nonnegotiable list but isn’t on that list?

Megan: There’s probably a whole list of things, actually, that almost made the cut, but when I’m thinking about this list, I’m thinking about truly nonnegotiables. I am going to bend over backward to make these things happen. I am going to expect my team to help support these things. I’m going to expect my family to be on board. This is a high bar in terms of how committed I am to this list. For example, some things people might assume would be on my list would be all four of the daily rituals we talk about in the Full Focus Planner.

Michael: What?

Megan: I know. Don’t fall out of your chair. Don’t break anything.

Michael: This is heresy.

Megan: I know. The morning ritual, the workday startup ritual, the workday shutdown ritual, the evening ritual. Those are really important, and on most days I’m doing those things. The Ideal Week, which is also in the Full Focus Planner, you know, my adherence to the Ideal Week. The Weekly Preview…

I mean, these are all things I’m doing almost all the time, but I wouldn’t say they’re absolutely nonnegotiable for me. They’re almost nonnegotiable, and they’re habitually integrated into my life, but I’m talking about… You know, the whole “You’re on a deserted island and you can only take three things. What are those three things?” That’s kind of what we’re talking about here. I think that has to necessarily be a very, very short list.

Michael: Well, here’s why I like that. It would be sad if somebody listening to this episode got all excited about coming up with this long list of nonnegotiables. And I’ve done that before. Let me just tell you something: Don’t try it. That will not work. When you’re adding habits to your life… Because that’s essentially what we’re talking about: building in these different kinds of habits. They have to be few, and you have to do them one at a time. We’re playing the long game. Even in my morning ritual, the things I do… You have to add those one at a time, and you have to start small.

Here’s why. We’ve talked about this. We’ve dedicated episodes to this before. There’s huge power in incremental progress over time. In other words, it’s kind of like what I was talking about practicing the guitar 10 minutes a day. That doesn’t sound like much, but if you can do that 250 days a year, that’s amazing. That will lead somewhere. I just think, again, small is better. Fewer is better. Grow and build toward the future. It can change your life and change the lives of the people around you.

Megan: As a guideline, you want to identify two to four nonnegotiables in each of these three categories: self-care, relational priorities, and professional results. If you get much more or much less than that, you’re probably on the wrong side in one way or the other. But that’s about right from what we’ve seen.

Michael: That’s good. Okay. To wrap this up, if you want to get that double win, it’s helpful (and we explain this in our book) to establish nonnegotiables in three areas…that’s what we’ve walked through in this episode…self-care, relational priorities, and professional results. So what are yours? I hope you leave us some comments on social media. Until next time, lead to win.