Anyone living in the millennial era has ridiculous advantages that our parents would’ve killed for. We can drop ten applications in ten minutes, we have every conceivable business question answered on demand (thanks, Google), and for every skill we need to master, there’s a YouTube guru to guide us.

But without a proactive mindset and time management skills, we actually have nothing.

Because along with all the opportunity that technology provides, we have a billion distractions our parents didn’t face which keep us from making progress.

This article is about managing those distractions, managing your time, and reaching your success potential.

Millennials are in a crux because our success depends on so many things that thwart our proactivity. We need email to even breath in business, but we don’t need to check it every five minutes and constantly interrupt our focus. We also need social media to connect with our audiences, but we don’t need little red notifications distracting us from real work all day.

It’s just that no one ever taught us how to use technology responsibly.

That was definitely my case.

How I learned responsible technology use and time management

In my early 20s, I struggled to succeed because I was locked in reactivity–I had zero time management skills. The first thing I did each morning was check email and social media because nobody taught me any better. But that one habit made me crave more distractions to occupy my focus instead of accomplishment.

So my first email and social media checks led to my first texts, and my first blog posts and articles, then back to social media and email, and on and on and on until the day was done and I’d accomplished nothing.

Any surprise that I still lived with my parents?

Today’s a different story though. I’m getting paid more and more for the value I provide, and I’m continually publishing my work on bigger and bigger sites and making more money. Though I’m grateful for my good fortune, I’m not surprised at my success…because I work my little Irish ass off! I do everything I can to eliminate distractions and be as proactive as possible in reaching my goals, which means sacrificing those easy distractions that keep me from making the most of my time. It’s a lifestyle.

And now I want you to have this proactive lifestyle and all the success it brings for yourself.

If you’ve found yourself struggling to break through to the next level in whatever business you pursue, all you need is a plan for proactivity. My plan was good enough to get me off of my parents couch and into the work I’d always dreamed of. It’ll work for you!

Your new time management and productivity plan

1-Forget about electronics until 12:00pm, nail your morning routine, and accomplish 2 hours of real work.

This can seem impossible, since most of us depend on our smartphones like they were a pocket Jesus. But, before 12:00pm, smartphones, computers, and TVs are all the devil.

Instead of gathering your messages right out of bed, gather your thoughts. Focus on your breathing. Think about yesterday’s accomplishments and feel grateful for them. Think about the moves you can make to become better at what you do, to share value with more people, and write those things down in a daily planner. Nail down a reflective and energizing morning routine.

Then after you’ve mentally prepared yourself for an ass-kicking day, jump right into work. Shoot for two hours of pure accomplishment. Whatever you do…

don’t check your phone or computer!!! (They’re the devil!)

Your hands might be shaking from information withdrawals—that’s okay. It’s part of the process. You’re training your brain to avoid distraction and to favor real work, which leads to accomplishments, progress, and confidence. Distractions lead nowhere. So this new lifestyle change is worth suffering a little bit for at first.

Then after you’ve knocked off some substantial goals, check your email. Catch up on your texts and social media, but don’t let the incoming information control your day—you gotta limit that shit to no more that what’s necessary. Stay proactive, not reactive. I limit myself to between to and three tech checks per day and schedule them as independent goals. I recommend the same for you.

2-Keep referring to your daily planner and checking off goals

I always carry a blank-paged notebook that has my top 5-10 goals written with a little checkbox next to each. And it doesn’t matter how big or small the goal is: when I accomplish something, I know I’m doing the right thing so I celebrate. I encourage myself for every ounce of effort I put toward creating the success I desire, and this keeps me locked on my targets all day long.

Checking off goals helps you stay focused and on task when you could just as easily be lured in by Facebook or YouTube surfing. But you have to have the goals written down on a notebook or planner that you physically have on your person all day; otherwise you won’t flip it open and be reminded of the several goals that are way more important than checking your phone.

So write down your most important goals each morning or the evening before, and keep checking off those goals all day.

3. Do what you love

Part of the reason we get pulled into reactivity is that we feel bad and want to feel better.

It doesn’t feel good to be 100% focused on work without time to relax, so we seek relief by mentally checking out through our phones. Social media and videos gives us a little hit of instant gratification, but it doesn’t really satisfy, so we feel more driven to keep going back and back and back; and then poof!—the whole day is gone!

This isn’t healthy. But still, you have to have time away from work to relax and recharge. Otherwise you won’t feel well or work well. So make time to do the things you love. Could be lunch with a friend, thirty minutes of meditation, an hour of basketball or cycling—doesn’t matter. You need it.

Write these fun/relaxing things down in your daily planner and make time for them like you would any other work goal. Even though quality time to yourself can feel like a waste of time—you do have a lot to do, after all—it’s insanely important to keep you present, present, joyful and satisfied while you’re working, which keeps you from mentally bonking and looking for reasons to distract yourself.


Stay accountable to this three-step productivity plan for at least one week straight. It’s challenging at first, because your habit of distracting yourself as soon as you wake up is deeply engrained–but you’ll get over it! And once you do, once you’ve trained yourself to see work and accomplishment over distractions, you’ll have overcome the biggest obstacle between you and your goals:


So keep away from texts, emails, social media and the zillion other distractions until after 12:00pm, or at least until after your first major accomplishments of the day. Limit your email/text checks to between 2 and 5 per day. Keep your daily planner handy so that you always know the next step, and so you’re not looking for a distraction to occupy your time. Finally, plan on doing some fun shit throughout the day that relaxes and makes you feel consistently good enough to not automatically seek distractions.

This should be enough to change your life forever. Seriously. I owe my writing and coaching career to these steps, so use this knowledge and improve your life with it!!!

And if you need guidance and accountability, consider my coaching program. I’ve got two spots left till the end of the year!

Originally published at


  • Daniel Dowling

    Performance Coach, Writer for Greatist,, Mindbodygreen, and FastCompany.

    Dan Dowling, here. I was the poster child for lost millennials - couldn’t keep a job…addicted to relationships…constantly checking social media and email. But when I got hungry enough for success as a writer, I gave up my distracted lifestyle and adopted one daily goal that changed my life forever: Do. Your. Best. Today, five years later, I’m a productivity coach who’s published on the world’s biggest sites (including Entrepreneur, Fast Company and Mindbodygreen), and I’m transforming lives through the best-effort, zero-distraction lifestyle that worked so well for me. Come and and learn how to always give your best at Millennial Success!