Over the years, I've tested dozens of digital productivity tools for setting goals and managing to-do lists. Although digital tools are useful, paper-based daily planners are becoming more popular.
MiGoals is an example of an Australian company that sells these type of daily planners online.
Co-founder Adam Jelic and his team created a series of daily planners and journals to help entrepreneurs, executives creative professionals and executives accomplish more each day.
In this podcast episode, Jelic explains:
- What you can do to break a big project (like writing a book) down)
- How to plan your day as a writer and accomplish more
- What he's learnt about selling physical products like journals
And lots more.
If you'd like to learn more, check this article I wrote for Forbes based on my interview with Adam Jelic.
announcer: Welcome to the Become a Writer Today podcast with Bryan Collins. Here you'll find practical advice and interviews for all kinds of writers.
Bryan Collins: Over the years, I've used a number of different productivity tools to set goals and to decide on what I'm going to do each day.
Bryan Collins: Hi there, my name is Bryan Collins, and welcome to the Become a Writer Today podcast. In this podcast episode, I spoke to Adam Jelic of MiGoals. MiGoals is actually a creative series of journals and daily planners that you can use to decide on what you want to accomplish each day, each week, or month, or year. The MiGoals products are ideal for creative professionals, for writers, and for anybody who's feeling a little bit overwhelmed or needs to focus on their most important work.
Bryan Collins: MiGoals was set up in 2010, and I started by asking Adam how he came up with the idea of MiGoals with his co-founder, and how these products came into being.
Adam Jelic: MiGoals started back in 2010, but I guess the real story began 10 years earlier, when I was 16 years old. So growing up, I always wanted to be a professional athlete, professional soccer player to be precise, and at the point I was looking at ways to get the edge. And I also started to read books about entrepreneurship, about sporting individuals, and there was this commonality where they all talk about goal setting. And there was one particular book called The Hero's Journey by the late Jim Steins who was a professional AFL player here in Melbourne, and he wrote this book about the hero's journey, which was all about getting out of your comfort zone, going out, facing your fears, and doing the things that really mattered to you.
Adam Jelic: So, that was that first book that sort of resonated with the way I was feeling. So I had these big dreams of becoming this big soccer player and then I started setting goals from 16 years old and really taking it seriously. Unfortunately, I didn't make it as a professional athlete. I got to a point here in Melbourne or Australia, where I was playing in the youth team, or a national league team, but I didn't make that grade to the next level.
Adam Jelic: From that time, I was about 18, 19, and I got to a point where it was a really tough point in my life where I settled. I had people around me, my mom, my parents, that wanted me to go to university, settle for a corporate job, a nine to five, and that's what I did. I went in between jobs, but still there's something missing. There were set goals at the time, but I lost that sense of belief because I had that failure. I didn't make it as a professional athlete and I was sort of stuck.
Adam Jelic: So, for the next couple of years, I chopped and changed jobs. I went from being a personal trainer to seeling photocopiers, but there was this lingering thought in me that I could do more, and had all these ideas. I wanted to so something more and it sort of kept festering up and festering up and what turned out was turned to be anger, essentially. Where I was getting angry with myself. I was getting frustrated with the fact that I couldn't do anything about it. I was just struggling because I didn't have that self-belief.
Adam Jelic: Finally, as I mentioned, in 2010, I had this year where literally I get married, I get a mortgage, which is a [inaudible 00:02:48] here in Australia. So, with my wife and mortgage and then we found out we're having our first child as well, and that year also stopped my goals. I guess the light bulb moment for my goals was probably a year earlier, so back in 2009, where I was in a [inaudible 00:03:03] and one of the teachers said take a scrap piece of paper and write your goals on it and that moment then I had this light bulb moment. I write my goals down, always. I've been doing it since I was 16, but there was something different when you write them on a scrap piece of paper. What tended to happen with me was you lose that scrap piece of paper or it just doesn't mean anything.
Adam Jelic: So, in that moment, I said to myself, “I'm gonna actually print my own goal-setting diary,” something that was aesthetically appealing and that was well constructed so I could go through it and have it with me on a day-to-day process. That's why I decided to create the diary, essentially.
Bryan Collins: I'm looking at the diary here. It is very well crafted and has a place where you can explain what you're grateful for, what your goals are and your habits and so on. One thing I'm curious about is, why a paper-based goal setting journal or diary rather than let's say, creating a digital tool or productivity tool or something digital?
Adam Jelic: To be honest, at the time, it's the fact that I was always anti-tech. I'll go back to a story when I was in high school, and I was doing graphic design and the whole class decided to do their [inaudible 00:04:08] and present it using online programs or illustrator or design files, and I was the only one in the class that handed in my folio all hand drawn. It was just growing up, the technology just didn't go with me. Pen and paper always. I had multiple notebooks, and just putting pen to paper allowed me to focus more. Because, one of the issues, I guess, with myself, was that I had all these ideas. That's why I had to create this goals book for myself, because I needed that focus and clarity in my life.
Adam Jelic: There's people that you see something new and it's like, “Oh, that would be great. What about doing that? Oh, that's a great idea. When do I start that?” And in the process I wasn't doing much at all. So, I really needed something that would keep [inaudible 00:04:44], keep those goals in my mind and actually allow me to focus on them.
Bryan Collins: Do you think writing something down enables you, or maybe your customers, to focus more on what's important?
Adam Jelic: 100%, especially in this day and age. I hear the facts that 50,000 thoughts per day, scientists are saying we have on average, it's ridiculous. The fact is that we have so many things happening, we're so distracted, we're so inundated with information that by actually writing it down you can actually go back to focusing. It's that clarity, that process of, “OK, this is what I want to do. This is why I want to do it and this is how I'm going to do it.” It's just getting into that habit of actually executing those action points that you have to.
Adam Jelic: So, I definitely think the effect of writing something down, where you can actually see it and remind yourself of what is it that you need to be doing is so important.
Bryan Collins: Yeah, and that's the other takeaway I got from looking at your journals. There's actually a section for documenting your habits. So, I'm just wondering if you can maybe elaborate the importance of smart daily habits as opposed to goals, which you might work on over the medium or longer term?
Adam Jelic: I've got this thing that I say to myself and it's, “Long-term vision, short-term focus.” What that means in my head is it's really important to have that long-term vision, have that clarity, have that enticing vision that you sort of aiming towards, but then go back into that short-term focus and really, day to day take it. Get into good rituals, good habits, where you are taking action that takes you closer to that long-term vision. So, that's something I always remind myself of.
Adam Jelic: I sometimes hear people saying, “Don't think too far ahead,” or, “Be in the moment,” and sort of finding that balancing act between the two, because if you don't have that enticing vision, you've got nothing really that you're aiming towards. But, being disciplined enough to go, “Okay, that vision that we're after in my personal and professional life, what do I need to do today? What are the habits that I have to build up?” That's going to actually help me keep that plan.
Bryan Collins: Let's say I am a nonfiction writer and I said to myself, “I wanted to write a nonfiction book within the next six months,” how would I go about using the MiGoals journal to do that?
Adam Jelic: Well, first and foremost, you'd write the goal down. You would get clear on the goal that you want, and really understand why is it that you want to do something. Because, what tends to happen is we're driven by the why, and that feeling that we're after, this sense of accomplishment, that feeling of accomplishment, that feeling of progress or whatever it may be, or security or balance. Whatever that feeling is, that's what's essentially driving us. Not that end goal, but that feeling, that bridge that end goal gives us.
Adam Jelic: So, I would start by writing the goal down and just making it an enticing goal as well. What I've found out works with me is the more I'm passionate about something, and the easier it is for me to execute those goals, obviously there's going to be goals that you're not as passionate about. I use the 80/20 rule, where 80% of the goals I write, I'm actually quite passionate about and they're the things I want to do. 20% of those goals that they're part of life, keeping healthy, financially, being financially savvy as well. But, I would write the goal out first and then work backwards and develop a clear action plan on what is it I need to do, and then use the diary on a week-to-week basis or a day-to-day basis and constantly question, “What is it that I need to do to take me closer to that end goal that I set,” develop those habits.
Adam Jelic: Also, you'll see with one of the planners that we created, the gold digger planner, one of the things that we added was this monthly reflection part. The idea behind that was to get into the habit of actually reflecting on the month, reflecting and acknowledging the wins, the losses, the lessons learned and then replanning for the month ahead. The way we approach it is as if a coach was there. If you see a coach once a month, then you know they'll be asking, “So Brian, tell me how went this month? What were some of your wins? What were some of your losses? What can we improve on?” And getting to that habit of being self-aware and by being self-aware, actually creating better decisions and better action plans.
Bryan Collins: Yeah, I agree. I definitely found having a weekly review or a monthly review really does help if you feel like you're not making progress or if you're working on something long-term, like writing a book.
Adam Jelic: 100%.
Bryan Collins: One other thing I'm interested in is when I set goals before, I've got a bit greedy and set a lot of goals. So, have you come to an understanding of how many goals it makes sense to be working towards at any one point?
Adam Jelic: The way I do it, I split it up into certain sections of my life. Health and fitness, business, relationships, family, so these little segments. That's about four or five for me personally. Honestly, it goes back to inundated with information. We don't want to overwhelm ourselves. So, anywhere from three to five I think is a good number. But then again, you can be setting some short-term goals weekly, so that can increase the number to 10, 20 a year, whatever it may be.
Adam Jelic: For anyone that's starting out setting goals, I think just set one goal and then take action on that and start building that momentum and that belief in yourself. Because, what tended to happen with me, when I first started, the idea was I've created this book, and I was at a level where I was like, “Imagine I could get this into one bookstore.” That was the goal, “Imagine I could get into one bookstore.” I get into one bookstore, and then all of a sudden, the elation, that momentum starts building, and it's like, “What if I can get this into 10 bookstores?” Then it jumps to, “What if I can get this into interstate bookstores and then international?”
Adam Jelic: So, it's about building that momentum for yourself. So, you're not setting yourself up for failure, but setting a goal that you can actually reach, get the result, tick it off, and then work towards a bigger goal. Then, once you build that momentum and that belief, you'll be like, “Okay, let's go big here.” It's getting into the game a little bit and then sort of build up from there.
Bryan Collins: To get into the specifics of planning individual days, what mistakes do you see people sometimes making when they're working on what they're going to do on a particular day?
Adam Jelic: I think we put too much on the list. I think we overwhelm ourselves. We get excited and we get this list out and we just write as much … we just do a huge brain dump. But what tends to happen is, we end up just doing tasks that control the situation or control the environment. We get busy for the sake of being busy. So, one of the things I recommend people to do is to break your list down. You may have three to four things on the list, key things, and really work towards those things that actually build that progress as opposed to just being busy for the sake of being busy.
Adam Jelic: I've broken it down to three little sections and you could say that the first set of tasks the majority of people set are control-based tasks. So, these are the tasks that they tidy up their desk, they respond to emails, they do all the admin work, and they feel like they're being productive and busy. But, what tends to happen is they just get used to just controlling their situation around them.
Adam Jelic: Then the second set of tasks are the progress based tasks. These are when you go to the gym, you're making progress on your health. There's the one where you're progressing on certain projects.
Adam Jelic: The last set of tasks that I try to work on a lot is the belief tasks. These are the things that take me out of my comfort zone and help me actually grow as an individual. So, I think where people tend to get stuck is with the control-based tasks. They get into that habit of just being busy for the sake of being busy and then they don't really make progress or build that belief in themselves.
Bryan Collins: One other thing I've struggled with is I might set goals that are important to me personally or perhaps for my business, but then I might have other commitments that I have to meet and somebody might ask me to do something. Let's say I'm working for a large company and that might [crosstalk 00:11:42] with their goals. So, how do I balance my responsibilities, my commitments to other people, versus what I want to achieve, either personally or on a project that I'm working on myself.
Adam Jelic: Is that coming down to time that you're sort of … is that the issue, that you're spread too thin or is that what you're saying? Is that what you mean by that?
Bryan Collins: It could be, let's say, I feel overwhelmed by the demands that are coming at me from other people that I'm working with and then also what I want to achieve personally.
Adam Jelic: I think then it just comes down to being disciplined enough to say, “Okay, I can't commit to that,” and working at what's more important. When I started my goals, it started from a passion project and turned into a side hustle. One of the things I made a conscious decision to do was I decided at that point when it became a side hustle that I can't have a career and I can't build this business. It was just too much. It was too overwhelming to go to work and work on someone else's dream and vision and come home at 7:00 and try to work on this for two hours, three hours, or four hours a night. It was just burning me out.
Adam Jelic: So, I decided in that moment to say, “Okay, I'm going to find a job that can pay the bills, but gives me the flexibility and the time so I can actually work on my goals throughout the day and be a lot more flexible.” So, I decided I'm not going to have a career, but I'm going to actually pursue my goals. So, it's just about being conscious and making a better decision based on what's more important. If you want to grow your business, then that's where it should be at. You might have to decline some clients. It's just that time management, otherwise you will overwhelm yourself. You will get to a point where it's just like, “This is too much.”
Bryan Collins: Do you think it's important to sometimes take a step back from working towards goals to build in, whether it's a break or a vacation or decompressing?
Adam Jelic: 100%.
Bryan Collins: So, how would you go about doing that in using the MiGoals journal? Because I know that there's a section for each day of the year in one of your journals, so I'm just wondering how would you approach this?
Adam Jelic: It's funny, because you asked the question, but I haven't taken a proper break for the last 18 months. I'm actually trying to work it out myself in terms of finding that break in between, but I think it's super important. I'm planning a little bit of a getaway, two weeks, just to refresh and to recharge. I guess it's just setting your goal for personal well-being, because you can sometimes burn yourself out with anything. With the question before as well, you sort of take too much. You're excited by the prospects and excited at growing and all these opportunities, but sometimes you gotta step back and realize that your health and your well-being and also mental state is the most important thing. Because if you keep going, and I've realized this year, if you just keep going and keep going, you're not performing at your best. You're not performing at your peak.
Adam Jelic: It sort of ends up being this groundhog day. So, I think it's super important to find those breaks, even if it's a two week break. Get away from technology. The first thing I do is when I get home from work, I make a conscious decision, I've got two young daughters. I check my emails before I'm about to head off and then when I get here, I put my phone away and I decide to be more present, and it's really challenging. It's definitely challenging. It's always in the back of your head, “I want to send an email. Do I want to check my phone?” But, it's a simple thing that helps me recharge and rejuvenate, otherwise you're always looking on Instagram, you're seeing what other people are doing in terms of their businesses, and it's a never ending cycle in your head.
Adam Jelic: So, having a break and working out solutions in the interim, if you can't have a holiday, then work at solutions. “Okay, can I break up the environment? Can I go for a walk? Can I play a sport or catch up with friends?” I think it's super important.
Bryan Collins: Yeah, I definitely agree. One other thing that struck me is actually the design and quality of the MiGoals journals themselves. It looks to me that you've gone through a lot of thought when you're considering what to put on each page. So, I'm just wondering, how you came to the final print design of the MiGoals journal or if this is something you went backwards and forward with a designer.
Adam Jelic: I'm fortunate my business partner is the creative director and designer, so we sort of worked hand-in-hand and all the products that we create, like the first product was this is the format that I made for myself. I created the perfect product for myself to actually help me. The format hasn't changed, so the format that you see, in terms of the goals diary, your goals at the front, the way its structured, that hasn't really changed from years ago when I first started. But, in terms of what was really important with the brand was not only to create these tools and products, but to create a brand around them and we always look at the companies like Nike, Apple, who've created these brands, but they have aesthetically pleasing products that you actually want to put on, that you want to use and that's the ultimate goal and vision for my goal. If we can continue to create these products that look good and feel good and people actually are proud to carry around with them, that's huge.
Adam Jelic: It's not just about the tool, but we understand people resonate when they've got something they're proud to wear or proud to use, they're going to be more inclined to use it as opposed to being, “It's got good information, but I don't like the design of it. It's not really my cup of tea.” So, combining design and structure is super important in terms of how we grow and what we do is my goals.
Bryan Collins: What's working for you right now in terms of selling more actual copies of the MiGoals journals? The reason I ask, I work with some nonfiction authors who may have print books that they're trying to sell more copies of, and while that might be slightly different to a journal, I'm just wondering is there anything they can learn from your experiences?
Adam Jelic: In terms of selling? Online's definitely, as a market, the online market is definitely growing. We're up 100% the same time from last year, which is amazing. It's just putting out content and developing that following around the brand, the value things that we can add. So, tweets onto the websites in terms of adding value. The post emails that we send them, just tweaking these one percenters that make a big difference in terms of people going, “Okay, these guys actually created these. These guys understand my pain when I'm shopping,” and trying to think of the customer as much as we can.
Adam Jelic: Also, thinking of what can we do that's remarkable? Obviously, most people would have read Seth Godin's The Purple Cow. It's become so noisy out there and it's really hard to stand out, so you're always going to be [inaudible 00:17:42] complacent and go, “Are the products good enough? What can we do that's different? What can we do that's going to get people's attention?” So, we're always thinking at the back of our heads, is it a specific collab? We've got some collaboration coming up in the next few weeks with some of the leading companies in Australia, which is fantastic, but it's always thinking, “What can we do and how can we add value to our customers?” If we can answer those questions for ourselves, then that's a good thing. So, putting customers first and also thinking of how we can make remarkable things.
Bryan Collins: Do you rely on print on demand, or do you keep inventory?
Adam Jelic: No.
Bryan Collins: You keep an inventory?
Adam Jelic: Yeah, it's definitely a challenge with dated products. Businesses essentially right now, a majority of the sales come through dated products, which is our diaries and planners. So, that's a little bit of a tricky one. You have to settle with a number quite early on in the year and say, “We're going to print so much diaries,” and sometimes you can get it wrong. You can sort of forecast and you can have your expectations, but sometimes you might be off slightly. You might be off in a negative way or you might be off in a positive way. So, it's a little bit tricky. It'll be great to have a print on demand, but we're not at that stage yet.
Adam Jelic: If we had the factory locally here, and we could produce it locally and manage that whole process, that would be different.
Bryan Collins: Okay, Adam, where can people find you or buy your MiGoals journal if they're interested?
Adam Jelic: The website is migoals.com. We're expanding internationally. We've got a European distributor now, so you will see our products popping up throughout the UK and Europe. We have Selfridges I think who are going to take on the product, which is fantastic. Predominantly online, so migoals.com.au, throughout sort of select bookstores, gift stores throughout Australia and also Europe as well.
Bryan Collins: I hope you enjoyed this podcast episode. If you did, please leave a rating on the iTunes store. And if you want to accomplish more with your writing, please visit becomeawritertoday.com/join and I'll send you a free email course. Thanks for listening.
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