It all starts with a problem. Are you unhappy with your energy level? Your weight? Your job? Your available disposable income? Anything else?
In order to improve the situation or solve the problem in a discernable way, without wasting large amounts of effort and time, you need to follow some sort of methodical plan: in my case METER.
The first step in using METER to solve your life problem is measurement. I talked about this in the spending time and money post as well. You need to have a good picture of the size and scope of the problem before you can make any progress on it.
For instance, if you want to make real progress on your weight, you need to measure the size of your body: height, weight, waist and other circumferences as well as what you eat, when you eat and how much physical activity you get. If you have access to tests like body fat analysis, resting metabolic rate, etc. these will only improve your view of the situation. However, without these, anything you do to try to improve things will be no better than a blind stab in the dark: just as likely to completely miss as hit the target.
Another example of measuring. If you are looking to improve your disposable income (or figure out how to pay a mortgage higher than your existing rent), you would measure and track all of the movements of money in your life. All income, tax contributions, spending (includng cash) would get recorded in some way. If you're already a 3x5 card convert, these are a great way to do this.
The goal of the measurement phase is to completely understand all of the pieces of the problem before moving on. In all reality, this phase is probably the most important contributor to success using METER.
With your data in hand, it's time to figure out the biggest contributor to the problem and hopefully identify potential solutions. This phase is frequently best carried out using a spreadsheet or a calculator. With a spreadsheet, you can sort your data by the relevant column. For weight, you would identify the biggest source of calories or when you tend to eat the most. For financial situations, where does most of your money go? Where does most of it come from? This process in and of itself can be an enlightening experience (as I've said before).
Evaluation at this point in the process helps you avoid wasting time. There's a term in computer programming that refers to solving the wrong problem too early in the process because you haven't measured things properly: premature optimization. In software this shows up where a complete process can take 10 seconds. When measured, 8 of those seconds are working with the database and the other 2 in processing the results. Premature optimization would be spending 2 weeks trying to turn that 2 seconds into 1 instead of working on reducing the 8 to 5. The second is more likely to be possible (smaller percentage of improvement) and yields a greater overall increase (3x). The same applies here. Cutting your lunches at work, when they only are 50 or so calories too much, is a waste of time if you binge all weekend and eat 2000-3000 calories extra in those 2 days. Trying to reduce your electric bill of $80 when you buy a $4 coffee every day isn't going to yield the results you're looking for.
While you're figuring out where the biggest portion of the problem lies, your measurements may also indicate potential solutions. If you're able to exercise, but only on days when you get up before 7:00, moving your wakeup time on other days may be a way to increase your exercise. If you spend less on weekdays than on the weekends, making your weekends more like your weekdays (only in a spending sense. I don't want to work on Sunday either) might help.
As we leave the first evaluation phase, we have in hand a list of targets to optimize and possibly some solutions.
Now it's time to try some of those solutions. With specific targets in mind, this is much easier than it would be blindly trying stuff. We know for a FACT that these problem areas are the biggest contributors to our overall problem so effort spent on them is going to be our most effective use of time.
This phase is probably the simplest (aside from repeat, which isn't going to need any real explanation) as you try solutions. Make sure that any solution you do try in this phase is given a chance to work. Try things that require a daily change for 2 weeks or a month. For less frequent changes (like weekend changes or monthly changes) at least give them a few cycles before changing anything else. Make sure you continue to measure the relevant bits: continue weighing yourself, continue tracking your money, etc.
After a few cycles of your test solution, go through and evaluate again. Has your solution managed to make the adjustment you wanted? Are you eating less on the weekends? Are you losing weight? Are you spending less? Earning more? Has the problem been solved? Is there another area within the same big problem that you can move on to?
Repeat this process as needed. If you want to become a millionaire, you'll probably need to repeat the financial METER process hundreds of times. Each time, you'll find new ways to improve your financial situation. You'll also identify fairly quickly when old problems resurface.
Whereever possible, hand the measurement off to someone or something else. Make it as automatic as possible and you won't have to spend much time doing it. Rather, you'll be able to spend your time doing the part that the human brain is good at: analysis. Let your bank track your spending and retrieve it via spreadsheet. Put the scale right next to the shower and step onto it as you are climbing in in the morning. Keep your notecards in your pocket with a pen so you don't have to waste time looking for them when it's time to record something.