productivity

Power of the Pack

We celebrate independence and autonomy. 

We promote self-determination. 

We honor individuality.

And yet, there’s a pesky little fact you just can’t get around: we humans are herd animals. We thrive in packs. There is an inborn drive to affiliate, to connect, to join in. Even if you tell me you’re a loner: you affiliate, identify, fit in with others who identify as loners. Ironically, they’re your pack.

The people we hang out with influence our behavior and create a culture – the unspoken rules of engagement, the messages about what is permissible and expected start to operate. 

Studies continue to confirm that there is a significant likelihood that our weight, health, finances, relationships, fears, success, mindset will look similar to (be in the range of) the people we hang out with. Why? Because we unconsciously mimic, copy, align. It’s what herd animals do. 

This alignment in the group has served an important survival function. We’re stronger together against the _____ [Fill in the blank: tiger, monsoon, drought, encroaching tribe, government, political party, etc.] – against the “other.” We’re safe here in our community, our group. 

So we seek to fit in – somewhere. Culture is incredibly powerful and contagious. The behavior spurred by cultural norms bypasses the prefrontal cortex (that beautiful reasoning, rational part of your brain) and goes straight to the more primitive, instinctive regions. The power of culture is aptly expressed by the often-quoted sentiment of Peter Drucker: “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” 

Culture is incredibly powerful and contagious. The behavior spurred by cultural norms bypasses the prefrontal cortex (that beautiful reasoning, rational part of your brain) and goes straight to the more primitive, instinctive regions.

All this is to say, who you hang out with matters. If you are looking to create certain results or qualities in your life – you might want to affiliate with people with those results or qualities. Why? Because the power of culture, of groups, to boost your behavior in the direction you want to go. 

This is one of the reasons that I’m excited about the Power Start program that I’ll be offering for the first three months of 2019: The leveraging power of the group. 

When you affiliate with others 

who are up to something, 

who are focused on accomplishing a goal, 

who are taking productive action, 

you absorb that mindset, that focus, that behavior. 

It’s not magic. (You still have to show up and make an effort.) But it is magical. The leveraging power of the group. 

So if you would like start 2019 strong and benefit from the being part of a group of go-getters, doers, makers and shakers – like you, I hope you’ll join us. 

Beginning the week of January 14 through the week of March 25, I’ll be providing a weekly focus to help participants design the conditions of accomplishment as they pursue their goals. The result? By March 31, you’ll have made real-life progress toward goals that matter; and you’ll have the know-how to continue the momentum through the rest of the year and beyond.

If this sounds interesting, you can find more info here: 
https://productivity-power.teachable.com/p/power-start

PS And as a corollary: Our actions matter: not only to us, but to those around us. We have the power to impact the culture of the groups we’re in. Behavior is contagious. So, for example, when you do great work, it can elevate everyone’s game.

PPS And, all this talk about culture is NOT to say that valuing diversity doesn’t matter, or worse, isn’t possible. Au contraire. Instead, the culture, the unspoken rules of the group can be about valuing diversity, difference, innovation, quirkiness, etc. As the teacher, thinker, marketer Seth Godin describes the sentiment at the heart of culture : “People like us do things like this.” So, in a culture it could be: People like us value different cultures, etc. People like us value equality for all. People like us have compassion. You get the idea.

Goal Power

December 2018

It's that time again - when our minds start to wander to the new year and ponder what we want to accomplish or experience or create in those 12 months.

It's as if we have this socially-constructed and agreed-upon chapter of time....

to create something, 

to develop something, 

to make something,

to improve something,

to change something.... 

...whether in our work, families, relationships, communities, habits, health, or character. 

Now, let's be real. It's easy to turn the page of the calendar and let life happen.... You’ll be busy. You’ll have important things to do. You’ll have experiences. You’ll weather challenges. You’ll accomplish things. And you’ll make some mistakes. 

But one of the unique gifts humans are endowed with is the ability to imagine what they want to create in life (imagine the future) and then intentionally pursue it. Create it. Make it. Fashion it. Accomplish it. Do it. 

Research on life satisfaction shows that goals increase a person's sense of meaning, self-efficacy, confidence, happiness, and fulfillment. And it makes sense, right? Goals put you in the driver's seat - which is not to say that you can control everything. However, you can take the wheel, navigate the conditions, and make your way to your destination. 

Muhammad Ali once said, "What keeps me going is goals." 

People who have goals exhibit more hope and optimism, according to hope researcher, Rick Snyder. And who couldn't use some hope these days? 

If you study high performers, you'll find something that unites them: they have goals. They see something in their mind's eye they want to achieve and they take deliberate action toward it.

Edward Locke, one of the developers of goal-setting theory, has found that you're more likely to accomplish a goal that is difficult or challenging. Ironically, easy goals, or what are termed "low goals," are much less likely to be accomplished. They are ho-hum. They don’t engage you. 

Challenging goals... goals on the edge of the comfort zone, goals you're not sure you can achieve - increase your focus, attentiveness, and creativity. They cause you to rise to the occasion, access or develop new capabilities and habits. They challenge you forward - into new levels of performance. 

So skip trying to make goals that are "doable" or "realistic." Instead, make them big enough to be worthy of your energy, attention, aspiration, time, and skill. 

So as you think about 2019, think big. 

Another quality of goals that are more likely to be achieved is that they are "magnetic." They inspire you. You want goals that make you jump out of bed in the morning because you care about them. 

Now, let's say you have a deliverable for work - and it doesn't seem all that inspiring to you. Yet you see that it’s a goal you have to accomplish. How can you reframe the goal for yourself, so that it is more enticing? So that it connects to what inspires you, what is meaningful to you? 

So this goal thing is interesting. It's both science and art. Goals are stories. They weave a plotline that keeps the action going. So why not create a story through your goals in 2019 that is compelling, ambitious, heroic?

To design your goals for 2019, you can start by envisioning the future with this prompt: 

Wouldn't it be amazing if (by December 31) ...

Use this prompt for all the areas you want to design goals for - and brainstorm. No censoring, editing. Go for quantity. The more the merrier. 

Once you have your brainstorm list, you'll be able to see what stands out, what you want to make into goals for the year.

This is one of the brainstorm prompts in the Goal Starter Kit, which is the prep work for Power Start - an 11-week virtual program designed to help participants start strong in 2019. Each week, I'll be giving actionable expertise on the science of accomplishment and guiding the group to make progress on their own goals - so that by March 31, participants will have made tangible, real-world progress on their goals and can build on this momentum to make 2019 the most fulfilling year ever. 

If this sounds interesting to you, you can get the details here: Power Start.  I would LOVE to welcome you (and your goal-getter friends) to Power Start. (FYI: We Power Start beginning January 14, 2019.). Join us!

Goals and the Rise of the Resistance

cristian-escobar-297114-unsplash.jpg

January 1

It's the happy new year day and, I'm not gonna lie, I LOVE THE VIBE. The first day of the year has a distinct, awesome feel. It's rolling in possibilities. It's soaked in optimism. It's unencumbered by past failures. It's forward facing and promising. And people are wishing each other happiness. I mean, WHAT'S NOT TO LOVE about the first day of the year? 

And yet, I know some of you smart people may want to object to this kind of new year's naiveté. I mean, after all, it's just another day. Still has those 24 hours. The sun still rises and sets like all the other days. There's nothing to see here. Move along. 

While this may be a compelling argument, there is a difference. This difference is, in a word: perspective. Somehow, we've conspired to organize time into these (perhaps arbitrary) units of 365 (or 366) days. And when you're at the start of a unit (perspective), it feels good, expansive, hopeful. Yes, it's a mind game. But mind games matter. 

And as I've been partying with the possibility vibe, I've been thinking about goals. Today, my Instagram feed reflects basically two sides of the goal coin.

There is pretty post after post after post about resolutions and goals. People are posting their word for the year. Or their theme. Everyone and their cousin are offering courses on goal-setting. There are more planners than you could shake a stick at. And some planners have stickers. (Again, what's not to love?)

Then, there are those few posts that disparage the futility of resolutions and declare goals are dead (or something akin). 

Perhaps trying to distinguish themselves amongst the crowd of new year's goal-getters, there are those who strike a maverick, rebellious tone. One person posted that they are not a Resolution Person. They are more of a Choices Person. Whatever it takes . . . 🥳🤗Some posts use sad statistics about the likelihood you will not fulfill your new year's resolutions and goals as scare tactics - perhaps so more people join the ranks of the jaded. 

This is why I love Instagram. Especially at the beginning of the year when we're all basically taking about the same thing (which again, tells me the beginning of the new year has some power. Just sayin')

So here are my two cents. Goals have become so commonplace in the modern lexicon that they almost seem passé. But the truth is, when you really think about it: goals are radical. Goals are the language of the hero, of the creator, of the maker. I would even say, of the maverick.

Goals are imagining - conjuring up - a new reality and then deliberately taking actions to make it happen. Goals are a sneaky, little way to disrupt the status quo. Goals = Change. You cannot pursue goals while clutching your current reality. 

Goals are a sneaky, little way to disrupt the status quo. Goals = Change. You cannot pursue goals while clutching your current reality. 

And here's where the story of goals gets super tricky. Goals are, by nature, a commitment to change. And so, they are inevitably met with resistance. 

We are wired to secure our safety at every turn. Change is unknown, risky. There could be mistakes or failure involved. And so the prospect of change - however positively it is spun (such as a goal you want to achieve) - still makes some secret part of your psyche a little, well, uncomfortable, triggering a whole stealth army of defenses. 

You get bored. Or sidetracked. Or doubtful. Or confused. Or distracted. Competing rationales arise out of nowhere. Business as usual takes over and you forget. Or you decide that goals are so 2018. This is the resistance at work. Goals are revolutionary. Goals change life (or work) as you know it - in ways small or large. And there are no guarantees. 

So when thinking about goals, it's important to get smart to the resistance it will inevitably stir - either from others or, more insidiously, from yourself. 

And this is why goals are the language of the hero. The hero must anticipate and meet the challenges of the journey. The hero is not daunted by resistance but fueled by it. Challenged by it. 

Goals = Change. And this change is not only in creating a new measurable reality. The change is in you. To create something new - to achieve a goal - however material it may be - inevitably requires trading the security of autopilot with the demands of presence and responsbility.

And this may be the greatest feature of goals. While creating the change, the creator changes. 

As you cook up your goals for 2019, consider how you will meet the resistance. What might the resistance look like? And what will you do when you come face to face with it? What will you change and how will you change?

Oh, and
Happy New Year! 


PS If you would like to test out ways to make progress on your goals (and disarm the resistance), consider joining me and some other goal-getters in the online Power Start program that beings the week of January 14. You can get information here: https://productivity-power.teachable.com/p/power-start

Do You Have a Spine? 15 Ways to Exercise the Posture of Productivity

ballet-dancer-back_4460x4460.jpg

Ever think about your spine?

Well, whether you think about it or not, the spine sure is a nifty feat of engineering we rely on. For starters, it allows us to stand upright despite the forces of gravity. It supports the head (with that big brain inside) and that alone may be worth its weight in gold. With the head perched on top of the spine, we can see into the distance, which does come in handy, even though we’re mostly looking at our phones these days.

The spine makes it possible for us to move, navigate space, change direction, and reach for that low-hanging fruit or for the stars. And that’s just what meets the eye. 

Under the hood, the spine protects the spinal column, a kind of switching station for the nervous system – sending important (often life-saving) messages where needed.

In short, the spine supports agency, the capacity to act.

When people euphemistically refer to having a spine or backbone, they're speaking of this posture of self-agency, of impact.

 

It's easy to surrender to the sometimes crushing weight of demands, expectations, emails, meetings, commitments, obligations, interruptions, and distractions. We can end up ricocheting our way through another busy day, only to end up unsatisfied, or defeated, or wondering what we actually accomplished.

To be productive in today's world, there's no way around it: you must stand up to these daily forces. You have to have a strong spine to navigate the day. 

Here are 15 ways to keep your spine strong, and maintain the ready posture of productivity. 

 

 1| Know What You Want and Why 

Purpose is the clarifying engine of productivity. I'm not talking about life purpose or the big goals - those are important, though sometimes they stay too conceptual or pie-in-the-sky. 

I'm talking about purpose translated on the ground in your day-to-day work and life. Where purpose meets the road. Where purpose shows up in your actions and tells the truth.

Understanding your intent gives you a new center of gravity, so that you don't get pulled in a million directions, or confused or coerced by outside forces.

When you plan your day, get clear about what you want to achieve out of each task - and why that is important. I know this sounds basic, or understood - but it's so easy to leave this out of the daily equation.

For example, look at your meetings. Why are you attending? Seriously, why? What is something you want to gain or achieve from the meeting? Do you want to contribute an idea you've had? Do you want to clear up confusion?  Do you want to learn about a topic? Do you want to demonstrate your support? Specifying in advance exactly what you want to get out of the meeting - and why that is important to you - will amplify your attention and results.

Make it a habit to pause periodically for a split second to confirm "the why" behind what you're doing. This simple technique alone will help you move through your day productively, intentionally, upright. 

And if there are activities in your day that the reason you come up with is "because I have to," dig a little deeper. If you truly do "have to," how can you find something that would restore its value for you? What's a reason that would enable you to give your full consent to it? You may be surprised how this simple "head game" can re-up your motivation and impact.

Note: "Because I have to" is not the language of agency and is a red flag that you're headed into spineless territory.

 

 2| Believe something

What is your perspective? What matters to you? What do you care about? What do you stand for? What do you stand against? What do you believe? What is your opinion?

Understanding your values, point of view, and what is important to you will give you clarity to navigate the day. 

Here's a super-simple way to access greater conviction and clarity: Brainstorm a list of what matters to you in your professional and personal life. Revisit and revise. Keep it alive. It will help you make the small and large decisions.

People often assume they, of course, know what they believe, or their opinion. However, it's a noisy, loud world out there. It's easy to lose touch with your own voice when everyone else is speaking.

ballet-posture_4460x4460.jpg

Do you have a strong belief about the direction of a project? Stand up for it and see what happens. Your stand may draw new information or creative solutions from others. And maybe, you'll change your stand (remember, the spine is not rigid. It is incredibly flexible.) But the important thing is: you will be standing, moving, progressing.

Wishy washy is not the posture of productivity. 

 

 3| Follow a Method

Look to the highly accomplished in any field - whether athletes, artists, authors, academics, or entrepreneurs  - and you'll likely find they follow a method of some kind. They have a systematic way to approach their craft, their work. They don't wait on inspiration, perfect conditions, or feeling like it. They don't leave their efforts to chance.

Instead, they use the architecture of regular disciplines to construct and propel their day. Their method is their spine. It allows them to move forward, shift directions, bend, reach, and not succumb to the fickle fury of mood or that constant stream of email.

What disciplines do you have (or can you adopt) that will protect your focus, time, and efforts? Do you have an exercise routine? Do you go to sleep by a certain time? Do you have a method for defining and prioritizing your work? Do you have rules you follow related to email or to meetings? How do you determine what to do, when - for your best performance? How do you organize your week? 

With a clear method, you can move your way through the madness, and make daily progress.

You likely have a method - perhaps without realizing. Strengthen it by making it a deliberate way that you work. And then, test and tweak your method. Find the habits that make the most of your day and energy - and make them your method.

two-dancers-on-their-toes_4460x4460.jpg

 

4| Make Decisions

Decisions are the meter of progress. Want to move forward? Then, make a decision. Every day, you're confronted with so many decisions. Yet, it's easy to put them off for another day.

I've found that people often avoid making decisions for two main reasons: 1) They don't want to limit their options; or 2) They don't want to make a mistake.  

Here's the interesting thing about decisions. They almost always help you move forward, even if the decision is "wrong." It is far easier to redirect when you're moving than when you're standing still, paralyzed. 

Making decisions magnifies your sense of impact, which turns the biochemical dial of motivation. When you're stuck or apathetic, the hormonal chemistry of motivation drains - only compounding your inertia. 

How to get better at being decisive? Start small. Really small. Start in your inbox.

Don't read an email and then move on to the next. Decide your next move. Will you respond? Will you decline? Will you delete? Will you accept? Or agree? What do you need to do? If you aren't in a frame of mind or setting to make decisions, don't look at your email. Email should be about making a decisions and moving on.

If you do this with you inbox, you'll build your decisive muscle, which will give you the spine and support you need for those big decisions. You will be moving forward, pivoting when necessary, redirecting if needed - progressing all the while. 

 

5| Work with Your Mindset

Do you know where your mind is set?

Action follows thought. And so thoughts are powerful levers of action and performance. 

Thoughts direct how you see the world and, therefore, the options for action. Think differently and you can see new options.

Think something is impossible? Or that you'll never change? Or they'll never change? Or this is the only way to do something? Or this is the problem? Well, it might as well be true, because other realities will be hidden from you. You're confined to the field of your thinking. 

Understanding your own thinking and refining your mindset is a linchpin of productive performance. Being creative with the story you tell yourself about a situation, problem, or person, will help you move in the direction you desire.

I love the art of reframing - taking a situation that has all the indicators of being stuck one way - and considering how to frame it so that it features something else that opens up another perspective, another reality.

Let's be clear: reframing is not lying, nor is it glossing over or magical thinking. Reframing is rigorously questioning assumptions and considering what else may be true. As a result, It can set a new course, uncover new solutions, and prompt effective action. 

Here are some questions to uncover and adjust your mindset related to a situation or challenge:

What is the story I'm telling myself about this situation?

What is another story I could tell myself about this situation that would be more productive? 

How might someone else look at this situation productively? 

How might this situation be beneficial? 

What assumptions do I have related to this situation? What if they are not true?

How might I see this situation as an opportunity?

What might I be missing in this situation?

 

6| Say No

If you only say yes, I'm going to take a wild guess that you may be overcommitted, overstretched, and possibly suffering from a weak spine. 

Confronted with so many daily decisions combined with the desire to participate, help, be seen as a team player or good friend, it's easy for the go-to response to get stuck on "Yes."

But here's the irony: "No" gives your "Yes" power. If you don't have a "No," you really don't have a "Yes." 

If you are yes-person, if the only response you're comfortable with is "Yes,"  eventually you will end up disappointing other people or yourself. When everything is a "Yes," at some point, you will not be able to keep up with all those yeses, all those commitments. Even if you show up and are counted - the toll may be felt in other corners - in your relationships, your health, your mood, your energy. 

If the thought of saying "No" makes you sick, nervous, or break out in hives, try this: Identify what your "No" is a "Yes" to. Every "No" is a "Yes" to something else. For example, maybe saying "No" to helping a colleague this time is a "Yes" to giving your full focus to a priority project.

When you have the capacity to say "No," and use it, you are able to stand confident in your "Yes." Your "Yes" actually means something.

 

7| Establish Boundaries

To stand tall in work and life requires boundaries. Boundaries direct and protect your attention, time, and energy. Without boundaries, you're vulnerable to a thousand whims and fancies.

What do you care about or need to protect?

Your attention? Shut down social media.

Your energy? Instate an end time to your work day.

Your relationships? Put the phone away during meals.

The quality of your work? Keep the distractions away.

Your positive outlook? Limit the time you spend with negative people. 

ballet-dancer-forward-stretch_4460x4460.jpg

Do you know Parkinson's Principle? The shorthand is: Work fills available time. With this in mind, if you install an end time to your work day, you are likely to get more done than if you leave it open-ended. You may think it's a sign of productivity that you work around the clock. But instead, you lack the limits (the boundaries) that intensify focus, efficiency, creativity, and innovation. 

 

8| Do hard things

The posture of the courageous is depicted as upright, strong, bold. The stance of the coward is, well, cowering - bent over, hiding, hovering, scampering, spineless. 

When you venture out of your comfort zone, courage ignites and you find yourself standing up a little taller. Courage takes vulnerability, but builds confidence. 

What have you been avoiding because it feels too hard? A conversation? A project? A fledgling skill? A creative expression? A declaration? Just do it. Do the hard thing and watch your energy and self-respect rise. Stand up to the hard stuff and things become easy.

 

9| Determine Your day

Determine your day or someone else will. Gird yourself with a plan. Know what is most essential to achieve and keep your eyes on that target through the day. Without this compass, this focal point, you're lost in the chaotic, alluring headwinds of email and meetings and interruptions. A plan keeps you on the ground, moving toward your destination. 

And sure, you can choose to change your plan. But that is different than simply showing up and being tossed around aimlessly. When you make conscious choices about each thing you do, you build the stature to navigate the day responsibly. 

 

10|ADmit Mistakes

Mistakes are not the worst thing that ever happened. In fact, they often are part of getting to the best thing that ever happened.

Mistakes happen. Don't make them worse by avoiding responsibility or, worse, blaming your mistakes on others, your dog, or the weather. Don't indulge in blaming yourself (which is different than taking responsibility). 

Use your beautiful mistakes to rise higher, become better. Own your mistakes. Otherwise, they'll own you.

Get curious about your mistakes. They may hold the secret to your future success. But if you are running away from them or so cautious that you never make them, you'll never know.

 

11|Communicate with Candor

Candor is defined as "the state or quality of being frank, open, honest, and sincere in speech or expression; freedom from bias; fairness; impartiality." It comes from the Latin word for "to shine."

Candor is refreshing, straightforward, clear, kind, true. Candor lacks pretense and hidden agendas. It promotes connection and responsibility. 

Sometimes it's easier to avoid that elephant in the room, but that usually only compounds the problem. Candor helps you name the elephant and forge a productive path. It keeps you honest and invested. 

 

12|Exercise

For me, the early twenties was just plain awkward. I was starting to work and figure stuff out. I was tentative and unsure. But something changed that: I joined a gym and started lifting weights. Strength in the body somehow translated into greater steadiness and confidence.

Take a walk, do yoga, run, stretch. The body, mind, and emotions are a package deal. When you build lung capacity, physical strength and flexibility, you experience your own sense of agency and confidence. You literally - and figuratively -  improve your posture.

 

13|Cultivate Competence 

Many people tell me that they want more confidence. There's one way to get that: cultivate competence. Learn, explore, refine, and practice, practice, practice. 

If you want to stay in the game, then work on your skills. Identify the weak parts, and work those. Often people rely on their strength, which, in turn, they overdevelop, while ignoring their weaknesses, which may sabotage their strength.

A masterful musician doesn't just practice the part she has down. She practices the hard part, the place she struggles or stumbles. The frustrating passage. Over and over and over again. She diligently earns her way to the performance she seeks. 

What skill do you want to cultivate? What do you want to learn?

 

14|Abstain from People pleasing

The cold hard truth is: not everyone will like you or what you do all the time. Darn. People-pleasing is a trap that has ensnared many, but never turns out well in the end. It weakens your spine, abdicates responsibility (your power), undermines confidence, and is just plain exhausting. 

What to do instead? Any of the other 14 tactics in this article. 

 

15|Give and Get Help 

two-dancers-kick-high_4460x4460.jpg

The posture of generosity and receptivity creates the equilibrium needed for a productive posture. 

Give too much and you may lose your own footing. Give too little and you may shrink into self-absorption.

Get help all the time and you may become dependent. Never ask for help and you may limit your capacity. 

When giving and getting help - ebb and flow in dynamic balance, you are buoyant. You rise to the occasion and accomplish your goals. 

 

 

15 ways to exercise the posture of productivity. Experiment with one and see what happens. You may find yourself standing a bit taller, with a strong center of gravity, and a clear vision for how you want to navigate the day and what you want to reach for.

ballet-dancer-open-arms_4460x4460.jpg