Procrastination can be a big hinderance when attempting to be productive. All of us do it, in some form or fashion and some are much better at it than others. What exactly is procrastination? At its very foundation, it is poor impulse control. It is choosing what we want to do over what we need to do. Here is why we get caught in procrastination – we assume that when we decide we need to do something that we will always be that person that has resolutely decided to do that specific task, project, or goal. But we won’t always be that person. Let me explain. Last week, I decided I am finally going to get my next book written. It has been an idea brewing in my head for well over a year now. So I set a goal of writing for 30 minutes a day to get it started. However, on the day that I sat down to start working on this goal, I’m not the same person who made the goal – I’m a little tired from a fun weekend with the hubby and I’d really like to repaint a room upstairs and rearrange the furniture in my living room – tasks that don’t require actual thinking. This is where we get ourselves into trouble. As David McRaney so aptly stated in his book, You Are Not So Smart, “The trick is to accept that the now-you will not be the person facing those choices, it will be the future-you – a person who can’t be trusted.” In the example above, the now-me is not the past-me that made this commitment to write every day. However, because I have worked very hard these past few years on my self-awareness I know that I need to have a plan in place to make sure that I do what I committed to accomplish. So not only have I added it as a quarterly goal, I’ve also added it to my to do list (which I am obsessive about), I’ve told my accountability partner that I am going to do it and I’ve also told my coach I’m going to do it. So I’ve essentially set up four supporting mechanisms to make sure that I write every single day for 30 minutes. No matter how much I don’t feel like writing, the thought of not meeting a goal, not crossing something off my to do list, and then having to report that failure to two different people makes me at least want to get the task out of the way for the day so I can go do the “want” items.
Superachievers get things done – not because they have more will power than most, but because they understand that they will not be the same person each and every day. Instead, they are self-aware and know just how much their brains can hinder them and they have a plan put in place for their really important tasks and goals to ensure that they tackle them. This is why the ME² System for Super Productivity is so helpful. It allows you to become more aware of your energy and how it affects your achievement efforts. The lower your energy, the more apt you are to forego what needs to get done. So you plan your important tasks for those times you have high energy and you plan your days and weeks around maximizing that high energy. Wondering what the ME² System for Super Productivity is? Stay tuned… it will be out soon as I’ve been writing it for 30 minutes a day.
We all know a bad listener when we interact with one – they may be looking at you and responding to what you are saying; however, you know their mind is elsewhere. Or what about the person (or persons – there seem to be a lot of people in my life that do this as well) that are very engaged in what you are saying, so much so that they keep trying to finish your sentences as you speak? Unfortunately, at least in my experience, they are often finishing your sentences with words that are in a completely different direction than you intended to go. Even though the person is fully engaged with you (or appears to be), they are still exhibiting poor listening skills. They are not listening and responding to what you have to say, rather they are attempting to constantly jump ahead and figure out what you are trying or going to say. A couple of people that I spend a lot of time with really need to work on this particular skill and I found myself getting very frustrated with them, until I started paying attention to my listening skills.
See folks, we are quick to notice bad habits in others – not so quick to notice them in ourselves. I got fed up the other day after the 10th time my sentence was finished for me in a conversation. I decided that I would exaggerate my superb active listening skills to role model how respectful a good listener can be to the other person. Come on – I teach this stuff and had been working on my skills for the past five years or so. Lo and behold I found myself finishing their sentences a couple of times! This was a huge learning moment for me and one I hope you will take away as well.
First, I don’t need to go into just how important it is to be a good listener. Being a good listener puts you higher on the scale of emotional intelligence and the higher on the scale you are, the more successful you will be in your professional and personal life. So we won’t dive into that because you already know this. Next learning point – once you really start working on your active listening skills, you need to continue to work on them. They are not something that you learn and then that is that – you need to stay constantly vigilant to ensure you aren’t slipping back in to old habits or picking up new ones from those around you. And the final lesson from this reflection is to have some compassion for those around you. Sure they may have a few annoying habits that you can respectfully give them feedback on; however, remember that you have some pretty annoying habits too that they accept in order to be in your life as well.
For today’s homework assignment, do some quality self-reflection. First, focus on how well you are listening to others in your life and then widen your examination to include how accepting of other’s bad habits you are and perhaps becoming more aware of your own.
Similar to pretty much everyone else, I’ve lost close and distant family members, friends, colleagues, and beloved pets to the inevitable death we all face. However, unlike most people, I also lived in the world of law enforcement and violent crime for a number of years, which taught me just how fragile and temporary human life can truly be. We can be here one minute and gone the next – a little morbid and also very realistic. We each have our differing viewpoints on death and also how we cope with both thoughts of death and actual death. I treat it as an inevitable part of life, one that must not be avoided or feared.
I consider morbid thoughts and the idea of death a gift to our current relationships and also how we live our lives. Imagine if in every interaction you had with a human or furry loved one, friend, or colleague, that you reminded yourself this could be your last exchange with them. Not obsessively so, but a gentle reminder to yourself. How would you change the way you speak with them? Would you be more kind? Would you make sure to tell them how much they mean to you?
I do my best to remind myself of this as much as possible and it has made my relationships that much better for it. Having those morbid thoughts that I might not ever see this person again has changed what becomes a big deal and what doesn’t. For example, would you allow your spouse or partner to leave the house angry after an argument over something small if you thought that might be the last time you see them? What if it was your time to go – would you want that argument to be their last memory of you?
Here’s your call to action today – to achieve better relationships in your life (professional or personal), remind yourself that time with others is precious and never guaranteed. Identify what changes you want to make in how you behave towards others with this new perspective.
We all have stories… for EVERYTHING in our lives. We’ll call them stories, because that is exactly what they are – our version of a narrative about ourselves, our circumstances, or events that have occurred in our lives. Some of the stories we create are empowering and help us go after what we desire in life, such as the story, “I can do it, whatever it is.” This story provides the storyteller with a determination that if they want to accomplish something, they will figure out how to do so, learn what they need to learn, get the help that they need, and then obtain their goal (sometimes easily, sometimes not so easily.) Unfortunately, some of the stories we create limit us greatly in going after what we desire, such as, “I can’t do that [whatever “that” is].” We’ve created a story, for whatever reason, that limits how we see the ourselves, our circumstances, and the world around us.
Let’s dive a little deeper into these limiting stories that we create – believe it or not, we’ve created them because they benefit us in some way. For example, how does the story “all the good ones are taken” (meaning you’re single and there’s no one out there for you) – how does this story benefit you – if this is one that you have or had? If there aren’t any “good ones” out there – you don’t have to try. Might as well give up. Here’s another one I’ve heard, “I didn’t get the position or the promotion because they don’t like me” or “they already have someone in mind for the position so I might as well not apply.” There may be a hint of truth in some cases behind this story, but let’s look at what benefits it provides the storyteller. The person telling this story doesn’t have to try as hard because they are doomed from the start. In addition, they don’t need to do any self-reflection to see what areas they need to work on in their personal or professional development because it is beyond their control. All of these stories gives the storyteller an out – they don’t have to do anything to rectify the situation because it is beyond their control. Folks – this is not a powerful way to live! Behind all of this is a fear of failure. What if we pour our heart and soul into going after what we desire and we fail? What if we work on ourselves for years and that special someone doesn’t appear? What if we do everything we possibly can and still can’t obtain that position that we’ve wanted for years? A bit scary and we need to quit lying to ourselves because it’s taking away how truly powerful each of us can be.
How can we get that power that we’ve been giving away back? First, we have to identify that the story is limiting us. This is fairly easy to do because it comes out as an excuse or explanation for not doing or accomplishing something. Listen to your self-talk when you are feeling angry or sad – or the bitch fest you’re having with colleagues, friends, or loved ones. What words are you using? Once you identify a story that is holding you back, analyze how it is benefiting you. For example, if you feel that all the good ones are taken when you desire a relationship with someone, you realize that you don’t have to really put yourself out there and try. Then decide what story you’d like to replace it with – perhaps that there are several good ones out there, you just haven’t run into them yet. Every time you find yourself going down the negative self-talk or bitch fest with others rabbit hole, stop yourself and start stating the new story. You will eventually come to believe it and then take action based on the new story – like changing your routine, going to places where you can meet new people, figuring out where that special someone may hang out based on values or experiences you’d like to share with them – there are a world of possibilities that open up when you change your story.
Changing a story takes a lot of time and effort, especially when you are very comfortable in the current story. Sometimes, however, you have to become the story in order to change it. What does this mean? Become it? Let’s explore two different areas I’ve seen this successfully implemented recently. The first one is the example that all the good ones are taken. Let’s say that you are having too much trouble changing it because it’s benefiting you too well. So you commit to fully becoming it – all the good ones are taken. So what does one do? They focus on loving themselves, enjoying time alone, building relationships with close friends and family, and/or bonding with a beloved pet. They immerse themselves in their communities and build connections with others. Hmmm… isn’t that also a great way to meet someone special? Here’s another example of a story I often hear – I can’t lose the weight. So to become this story, one would agree – I can’t lose the weight. As long as they are healthy, why do they feel that they need to lose that last 10 to 20 pounds? Own the story that was created. What does this look like? Learning how to be happy in your own skin, taking care of yourself, getting a flattering wardrobe at the weight you are at, work on building your confidence and self-satisfaction.
There you have it folks – your call to action for today is to identify those limiting stories you are telling yourself. (I can guarantee each and every one of us has several, so you better not be saying to yourself that you don’t have any!) Once you’ve identified those that are most limiting – decide you are going to take back your power and either change the story, or fully become it!
I saw a car commercial recently that led to some pretty deep reflection. The commercial used the vehicle’s GPS system as a metaphor for life. The car would drive along down its intended path, except when obstacles would appear and it was required to veer off course. The GPS would display “Recalculating…” and the vehicle would find a new path to take it to its desired destination. What a beautiful metaphor for one’s life – especially that of a resilient superachiever.
Superachievers decide what they want from life and then they go after it. Regardless of the number of obstacles that they find in their paths, they find ways to go around, under, or over the obstacle by “recalculating” to get to their final goal. What exactly is “recalculating?” It is an attitude – one that requires grit, resilience, perseverance – all that good stuff that helps us survive and even thrive in life. It is also a system, one that requires going through logical problem solving and developing multiple back-up plans so that one can quickly recalculate. Let’s look at each of these in detail.
First, the attitude. The dictionary defines grit as “courage and resolve; strength of character” and Angela Lee Duckworth calls it the key to success in her TED Talk. Grit is the single factor that determined the success of all of the individuals that participated in her research studies. What if you don’t believe you have grit? Well – the good news is that you can learn it. Learning grit is not easy as it requires a change in perspective. By attempting to learn or improve your grit, you are, in essence, practicing grit, so it is a win-win. The strategy I have found that works for building grit involves looking at the gifts that each adversity we face brings us. Yes, even the traumatic stuff that occurs to some of us. This can be really hard to do in the midst of adversity; however, it is so worth it. How does this play out? I’ll use a personal story for this one: the death of my father. I witnessed my father fight pancreatic cancer for many years until he finally succumbed. His passing brought me so many gifts – while he was still with us, it made me realize just how precious time with a loved one is when you’re not sure if you’ll ever see them again. The whole process taught me that life is short, you never know what tomorrow will bring, so to enjoy each and every moment. There are many more gifts I received by going through that adversity, but I shared enough to get the point across.
When I say adversity, I’m not just talking about the big stuff either. Let’s look at a small inconvenience and how you can use it to work on your grit. Let’s say you’re running late for a meeting or appointment and you’re in line at the grocery store because you needed a couple of items. The cashier and the older lady in front of you are taking their time talking, even showing photos of grandchildren. You feel the familiar impatience and frustration rise. Then you stop, remember you’re working on your grit, and ask yourself – what gifts is this moment bringing me? Perhaps it is a lesson that you need to better manage your time so you aren’t running late. Or maybe it’s a lesson on taking the time to connect with other human beings like the two ladies in front of you are doing. Or it could be that you are witnessing the only human connection the older lady in front of you gets on a daily basis and are chilling out so she can enjoy a moment with another human being. Whatever your lesson is, by focusing on it, you are building your grit.
That was attitude, now let’s look at the system you can put into place for being able to quickly recalculate when an obstacle appears in your path. The system is fairly simple as it involves some logical problem solving and then developing a plan for each potential obstacle identified. This involves looking at what you want to achieve, identifying the potential obstacles that may arise and then developing “If, Then” contingency plans. Let’s go through this process for a simple goal, such as sitting down to write something (like a blog, paper, memo, whatever you have to write on a regular basis). We’ll look at the most feasible obstacles for the sake of brevity (just enough to understand the process.) The two most common obstacles to writing are potential interruptions by external forces and inability to focus. So we ask ourselves, IF an outside interruption or inability to focus occurs, THEN I will ask myself if it is worth diverting my attention; since it most likely is not, I will focus on writing. So the first part of the plan is to minimize all distractions. For example, when I sit down to write, I will do it in my living room or dining room on my laptop, without my phone nearby. I also, turn off everything on my laptop, but the writing program. So Plan A is to sit with my laptop, only with the writing program open, in an environment where I will not see my “to do” pile on my desk or have other potential distractions nearby. Plan B is if a distraction does occur, whether it is external or an inability to focus on my part, I will ask myself it is more important that the writing. Let’s say the doorbell rings and I see that it is someone with a clipboard. I will not answer the door unless it is a police officer or fire fighter. I will also not answer the phone unless they call two times in a row (so I can make sure it’s not an emergency.)
Let’s recap – to practice “recalculating” at the superachiever level, we will work on our grit, by practicing the gift of adversity strategy. We will ask ourselves what gift the adversity we are currently experiencing is bringing us. Then we will also set up a “recalculating” system in which we engage in logical problem solving for potential obstacles and devise back-up plans that can be immediately implemented in the event that one of the obstacles appears. Your call to action is to reflect on how well you are “recalculating” in your life and to develop a plan to improve it.
“You don’t have time to hurry.” I learned this phrase in one of the Quit Bleeping Around Podcast interviews and I have reminded myself about this awesome superachiever tip ever since. See folks, us superachievers love to be productive. The more we get done, the more satisfied we feel, and it gives us even more drive and energy to tackle the next task, goal, or dream.
Here’s the thing though – sometimes we rush through things to mark them off the list. What is often the result when we rush through something to get that satisfying line that crosses the task off of our to do list? Whatever we produced during that task is not our best work. Please notice that I didn’t say it wasn’t a perfect product – because perfect doesn’t exist. However, if we are rushing to get something done, then we are not doing our best work. We may not notice it right then, but this affects the trust others have in us to do quality work. Do you want to be known as the person who gets things done, but in a half-assed manner, or the person who churns out quality work quickly?
I learned this lesson several years ago and still have to remind myself on a regular basis when I feel that familiar urge to get the darn task marked off my list. In the office I worked in, we were switching to a new database system which required us to send letters out to every agency that had a case in our system to get their permission to transfer the case to the new system. I figured out a way to churn out hundreds of letters very quickly and sent them out. What I didn’t realize until I got the first one back was that I had made a mistake – all of the letters had a significant typo that would require me to send out new letters in order for their permission to be valid. So, even though I sent out the letters and started receiving them back in record time in the office, I ended up having to redo all of the letters and personally calling all those agencies that had submitted the permission form that I goofed on. I wanted to be the first analyst that got 100% compliance from my assigned agencies, so I rushed, and ended up paying the price.
The superachiever drive to achieve is powerful force – so the question for you is this – are you using your powers for good or evil? Seriously though – think back to when you’ve rushed and had to pay the price. Then, when you feel that familiar build up within your body – that need to check things off your list – remind yourself that you don’t have time to rush.
Since I talk about reflective writing all the time, I thought I would share what I wrote so you could see it in action:
Yesterday, my husband and I were in the grocery store. I won’t name which one, but I am very proud to say that I recently did a motivational speech at one of their corporate events. Anyway, weaving our way through the aisles grabbing items for our list, we had made it to the paper aisle (tissue, plates, toilet paper, paper towels). I looked down and noticed that the toilet paper we normally get was not there, and I said to my husband, “Oh man – they switched it on us.” A gentleman, or I’d rather just call him a man because he certainly did not act like a gentleman, started chuckling. At first I thought he was chuckling along with us because he had experienced the same thing – a store not having the product that you expected. However, as he proceeded to walk near the end of the aisle and go around the corner, his chuckling turned into a roaring laugh and he said loudly to himself, “it’s all the same!” in a tone that implied “you f’ing idiots.”
Because I’ve done lots of work on overcoming simply reacting and instead responding to situations through reflective journaling, I have been able to become a third-person observer to my thoughts. Here is the process my thoughts went through. First, the initial human response: Wow! What an a-hole! How dare he judge us – he had no idea what I was talking about – we actually wanted the toilet paper that was a smaller roll and only two high in the package instead of three high, otherwise it wouldn’t fit in our storage closet. I need to go explain this to him so he’ll realize his mistake and that he’s being an arrogant a-hole. Reflecting on my initial response, I don’t beat myself up for allowing my thoughts to go down that road because, guess what?, I’m human! Instead, I am very proud of myself that I stopped my internal dialogue right there. I quickly ran through a number of scenarios to potentially explain his behavior (which is the typical 2nd response I have) and then decided that none of them mattered. My learning in this situation is two-fold: 1. not to take others’ behavior personally because it has nothing to do with me and everything to do with them and the demons they are fighting and 2. being judgey is also human and something I need to be aware of when judging others (even when I’m doing it internally and not externally like our fellow shopper).
What’s the learning in the situation? First, I will understand that when I am feeling judged by another that I will go through a natural reaction of getting offended and that I will make sure it is an internal reaction because it’s not worth getting into it with another person because they are fighting their own demons. I’ll give myself time to work through it mentally and remind myself that their issue has nothing to do with me. Second, the next time I find myself being judgey about someone’s characteristics or behavior, I am going to remind myself how it feels to be judged and remember that, much like that fellow shopper in aisle 20, I don’t have all the information to even be in a position to judge.
This, my friends, is essentially the reflective writing process, which helped me understand the event and my learning from it – a description of the event, what I learned, and what I am going to do about it. This whole process took less than 15 minutes of my day and now my brain is able to let the situation go (in other words, I won’t be mulling over this all day) and, I am better able to respond the next time this happens rather than react, letting my emotions control me instead of the other way around.
Isn’t a little reflective writing worth less than 15 minutes of your day?
One of the focus areas for superachieving is Self-Care. We cannot do anything in life, mentally or physically, if we do not take care of our bodies. And if we don’t take care of our bodies well, we cannot expect it to assist us in our achievement efforts, at least for a sustained amount of time.
So, we need our bodies to be well rested, nourished, and exercised in order to fully realize our potential. We all “know” this, but most of us “forget” it when we get really focused on a particular goal. Self-care is usually the first thing to fly out the window when we get busy as we claim we don’t have time to exercise or prepare a healthy meal or get enough sleep. Well, if you’ve listened to any of my podcasts, read my books or blogs, you know how I feel about that – saying I don’t have enough time is absolute bullshit.
On to this new strategy I’ve incorporated into my life that I hope will be one you can use as well. Essentially, in my mind, I have separated myself from my body. That sounds a little weird, so let me explain. I now state – “my body feels good” instead of “I feel good” or “my body is tired” instead of “I am tired.” Do you see the shift in perspective here and the implications around that?
Let’s take “I’m hungry” versus “my body is hungry” as an example. If I were to say “I’m hungry” I would think about what I want to eat – what would help me feel satiated. That could be a number of things – I love cookies, so I might grab one to quell the hunger until I can get a full meal. Essentially though, I’d probably grab whatever is closest, not thinking too much about whether it is good for my body or not (because it’s all about me and what I want.) However, if I say “my body is hungry,” my perspective changes. It’s no longer about me – it’s about fueling my body. What does my body need in this moment? That would lead me to hunt around and take some time to find something that would fuel it – perhaps a few carrots, an apple, something with protein.
Do you see the difference here? So here is your call to action – for the next five days, switch your thinking (and your language) to “my body” instead of “I” or “me.” Then pay attention to the different solutions your brain comes up with to whatever your body needs – sleep, exercise, nutrition, or whatever else. So – what does your body need right now?
Change is hard – for a number of reasons! Let’s first set the ground work with a few words about your brain. Our brain is incredibly efficient in helping us conserve energy and go about our days with the least amount of effort. Depending on which studies you reference, about 90-95% of our behaviors are based on programs we’ve developed in our subconscious mind. This means that 90-95% of the time we are reacting to people and situations on auto-pilot without even realizing that we’re doing it.
This makes sense – could you imagine having to consciously think about all of the behaviors that get you through your day – getting dressed, how to brush your teeth or even chew your food, how to start the car and put it in reverse – we’d be exhausted by the time we had to leave for work! So we need our brains to work this way, but there are times when it gets in our way – when we want to think outside the box, get creative, or even change a habit that no longer serves us – basically any time we want to make a change.
Back to your brain – it associates your environment with certain behaviors. For example, when you’re in your closet, it knows that this is generally where you need to get dressed (or where ever you do it). If you’re in the bathroom and you’ve just woken up, it prepares itself to get your teeth brushed. If you’re in the kitchen, it knows where everything is and depending on the time of day and the biological need, it will go to the easiest route to get what you need – all of this without you being completely consciously aware of every thought going through your brain. Again, this is great unless you want to make a change.
So what is the strategy for addressing this? Change your environment! Let’s go over some examples for this, first using creativity and innovation as the reason for needing to change your environment. Writers and inventors are familiar with this process – if you’re having trouble getting that chapter written or coming up with that next idea – go somewhere your brain is not familiar with. Take your laptop to the nearest park, or even to another room in the house. If you need your team at work to get creative in solving a problem – take them to a different environment. Meet at the local park or museum (or any place different) and hold a brainstorming session there. Let’s look at getting rid of a bad habit as an example. Let’s say that you want to improve your eating habits and you tend to grab sweets any time you’re passing through the kitchen. Change up how you move through your house; remove the sweets from the kitchen and put them in another room if you must have them in the house; load up a cache of healthy snacks in the room that you spend most of your time in.
You get the idea – make some sort of change in your environment. Let’s look at the science behind this – when there is a change, especially in the environment, the brain pushes the thoughts about it up to the conscious level so that you can consciously adjust your behavior in the new environment (it’s a survival mechanism). Once you’ve successfully navigated the new environment or new routine, it will work on pushing it down in the subconscious so you don’t have to expend energy on it any longer. Make sense?
So here is your call to action today – look at areas in your life that you want to change and identify ways you change your environment to overcome the obstacles your brain has created for you.
There is a finished project and there is a perfect project and they are not the same thing, nor with they ever be. I’m using the word “project” but you can insert whatever you want – paper, work assignment, clean house, whatever. Both knowing and understanding this is half the battle. Whatever you need to do to get this into your belief system do it – repeating it like a mantra, writing it down, reflecting on it – whatever works for you when you are trying to take on a new perspective.
Just-in-time development, a strategy that will help you finish what you need to in the most effective manner possible, originated from the training and development world. I have been practicing this for years; however, it has never become more apparent how important it is until I became an entrepreneur. This means that you don’t fully create, write, or develop something until you are sure that it is the path you need to go down. For example, if I have a course idea or a keynote speech idea, I will write it up in a paragraph, in general terms, so I have plenty of wiggle room when I’m ready to create it. Let’s say I have a client that has asked I do a keynote speech at their annual event and they would like an idea of the different services I can provide. I will generally provide them three options that I think would work with the event. So I will submit three speech ideas, each with a paragraph description. They then choose which one they would like. Most of the time it is a speech I have already developed and delivered for another client and I simply need to tweak it to fit their specific needs. If it hasn’t been done already, I then take the time to fully develop it for the big delivery. Could you imagine if I had taken days, or even weeks to fully develop the speech or even a course, and then it is never picked by a client? What a waste of my time!
Let’s look at how you can use just-in-time development for other things. You have a report idea at work – do you spend hours or even days working on it, present it to the boss only to find out it isn’t what was needed? Or do you have an idea for a book, spend a year writing it, and then are upset that no one buys it? Or do you decide to throw an amazing dinner party, come up with a menu, buy all the related stuff, and then no one finishes their meal because they didn’t like what was on the menu? Okay, those were examples you may or may not relate to – however, the point is this – if there is something that will take a lot of your time and energy doing – don’t allow the perfectionist inside you go through the whole process of doing it before you at least float the idea to affected parties. Using just-in-time development as an achievement strategy, you would have written a summary of the report to see if your boss wanted you to do the full report or written a summary of the book and run it past a few people to gauge their interest, or create a sample menu to run it past your dinner party guests first to see if it is something they would be interested in. You get the idea right?
So your call-to-action today is to think about where you may be going all in when, at least initially, you could be doing some just-in-time development.