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Productivity: 3 pieces of advice and 1 proven hack

Updated: May 9, 2023

I recently came across this request for a coach:

My boss is super mellow about deadlines. While I appreciate this and don’t want to change it, I am also falling behind on my work due to distractions and struggling with willpower to focus in on getting my tasks done on time.

I would like to hire a coach to explore ways of aligning my intent with my behavior. At the top of the list is getting all of my assigned work done each week.

I am happy to explore simple approaches like accountability conversations and check-ins, or play with some exploratory tool.


And then, he included a list of 21 methods, apps, and tools he used or was “playing with.”


Ok, so first, I want to start with some compassion. Productivity can be a real challenge, even for the most motivated individuals. If it were easy, we would all be Steve Jobs or Oprah Winfrey. Researching productivity apps and seeking a coach to help you shows that you are committed to positively changing your work habits.


Now here is the tough love part. You owe it to yourself to produce your best work. It’s fantastic that you’re open to exploring different approaches, but remember that more tools and apps won’t necessarily make you more productive. In fact, they make it easier to hide behind being busy rather than getting any real work done.


We live in a culture of “hacks” and instant gratification. Getting caught up in the “overnight” success stories and the glitz and glam you see on your TikTok or Instagram feed is easy. Most of it is fake. Or doesn’t show the real tale of hard work, determination, failed attempts, or money spent.


The only reliable way to get your stuff done is to make commitments to yourself and honor them. It’s about finding what works for your energy level, building habits to fill in for “willpower,” the willingness to commit to change, and sticking with it over the long haul.


So how do you do that?


Habits trump willpower.


Let go of wanting to feel ready to start a task. I chased that muse for years, and I’m here to tell you, she a fickle biatch. You are drawing from the wrong well when you rely on your feelings or willpower. Willpower is fleeting. And it requires you to make decisions and “be good” even on bad days or when stressed or overwhelmed. That’s really hard to do!


Instead, take choice, decision-making, or ‘feeling like it” out of the equation and replace it with habits. When we develop positive habits, we make certain behaviors automatic and reduce the need for conscious decision-making. This frees up mental energy and makes it easier to take actions that support our goals consistently.


For example, if you want to write more, pick a time of day every day that you will commit to the practice. Put it on your schedule and honor it with the same weight you give your client work. Similarly, if your goal is to read more, establishing a habit of reading before bed can make it a natural part of your daily routine.


Habits help us create momentum and build on our successes, making staying motivated and committed to our goals more manageable. They also bring a sense of peace by not fighting with yourself to do the thing.


Accountability for the win.


Having an accountability buddy can be a game-changer in achieving your goals. Whether for personal or professional goals, having someone to hold you accountable can significantly increase your chances of success. They can help you stay focused and motivated and provide the necessary feedback, i.e., the gentle nudge or tough love you need to keep pushing forward.


An accountability buddy understands your goals, values, and vision and is committed to supporting and encouraging you. This might involve working with a coach or mentor who can help keep you on track and provide support and guidance when needed. It might also include partnering with a colleague or friend who shares your productivity goals.



Mindset can move mountains.


Another critical factor in productivity is mindset. Achieving your goals will be difficult if you constantly doubt your abilities or get bogged down in negative self-talk. Instead, focus on progress rather than perfection. Recognize that setbacks and mistakes are a natural part of the learning process and use them as opportunities to grow and improve. I ask all my clients to call their work “experiments” so there is no failure, just an opportunity to collect another data point.


I also want you to be brutally honest with yourself about whether or not there is some reason you are holding yourself back. Don't gloss over this work. You’ll always stay stuck in the same spot and pattern until you deal with that demon.


The real talk on getting stuff done.


When we get really serious about productivity, we find that we need to stop making excuses and start doing the work. This means setting clear goals and deadlines and holding yourself accountable to them. It means putting in the effort to eliminate distractions, building different habits, scheduling things we want to make time for (yes, family, exercise, writing, planning, etc.), and creating an environment conducive to productivity.


There are no hacks. Ok, except for one. If you are still looking for a hack...


Steal this simple 3 part framework for productivity.


The AIS framework is a simple but powerful tool to help you increase productivity and achieve your goals. It goes like this:


Put the Ass In the Seat and get to work.


(Hat tip to “Everybody Loves Raymond” for AIS in Lateness in 2004. It has stuck with me ever since!)


I offer AIS in jest, kind of. There is no secret formula. No framework to steal. Playing with apps and tools is just a way to procrastinate. If it were easy, we’d all have everything we wanted.


To reach your goals, you need habits, accountability, and the willingness to be uncomfortable for LONG periods of time. You gotta put the A in the S.


 

Maybe you've thought, "what does this person do?"


Remember all those things I just talked about? Ditching willpower, creating systems and habits, and defeating mindset demons-- that is how I help people like you achieve all the things you are unsure you can!

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