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

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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

20 Signs Your Team Needs Productivity Training

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Let’s be real. Productivity training can get a bad rap. Why?.... Well, let’s see…. 

Maybe productivity training gets misinterpreted as a subtle message that staff aren’t up to par. It’s received as veiled “feedback,” or worse, punishment. Oh, he’s taking that “productivity training”…. 

Maybe it puts staff on the defensive. Who, me? I don’t need productivity training….

Maybe it’s a little galling. Well, we wouldn’t need productivity training if things weren’t run this way…. 

Maybe it seems oddly counter-intuitive. Well, I could be productive if I didn’t have to spend time in a training about being productive.

Or maybe it deserves a bad rap. There’s definitely productivity training out there that’s not, well, productive.  It’s conceptual, out-of-touch perfectionism taught by those buttoned-up trainers who can’t conceive of how you wouldn’t always have a neat desk and your email under complete control. 

As a productivity trainer and coach (who isn’t buttoned-up or out-of-touch), I think there’s another way to look at it. 

Good productivity training should give people the means to greater agency, impact, and freedom.

The side effects of effective productivity training are staff who are:

Less overwhelmed and stressed

Less frustrated and stuck

More clear and agile

More decisive and proactive

More reliable and powerful

More engaged and happy

 

Here are 20 signs that your team might benefit from good, real-world productivity training. And might even thank you for it. 

These productivity symptoms are in escalating order – from initial presenting signs that, left untreated, can progress into more serious and tenacious productivity “disease.”

 

01| Emergency mode by default

With the accelerating pace and daily onslaught of information, many default to whatever grabs attention or the latest “emergency” as a way to prioritize. Over time, this MO degrades motivation, impact, and effectiveness.

02| Endless meetings 

Professionals spend a good portion of their precious workday gathered in conference rooms or on conference calls, yet few consider it time well spent. Meetings often feel like wheel-spinning exercises that don’t advance the work.

03| Email overwhelm 

So much work is shuttled back and forth and back again through email. Yet, few use the tool well. As a result, people are glued to their email and try to fashion it into a to-do list. Problem is: this approach (which may seem brilliant - I mean, that’s where the work is, right?) lays us bare to constant interruption and a big, unruly virtual pile with to-do’s buried inside. And who hasn’t gone down the email rabbit hole in an email trance, spending untold hours without much to show for it?

04| Constantly “on”

I have good news and bad news. The good news is: Technology makes it possible to reach anyone, anywhere, anytime. The bad news is: Technology makes it possible to reach anyone, anywhere, anytime. People need recovery time yet rarely get it. They are “on” 24/7. Reachable. Without recovery time, it’s difficult to focus, make decisions, communicate, and problem solve.

05| Always saying “yes”

It’s admirable to be a “yes,” can-do, person. A team player. The go-to person. But watch out when people only say yes. If “yes” is the unquestioned, default position, if they never say “no” to anything, they will likely succumb to the often crushing burden of overcommitment. Overcommitment eventually catches up and diminishes overall performance.

06| Relentless task switching, interruption, and multitasking 

A study from the University of California Irvine found that professionals are interrupted about every 11 minutes. So? What’s the big deal? The big deal is that the brain isn’t built for that. Task switching takes a cognitive toll.

It takes only about a minute to wipe out short-term memory, which is why people have to retrace their steps to re-remember what they were doing and where they left off. Today’s workplace runs on a heavy dose of interruption and multitasking and that takes a heavy toll on performance.

07| “Dialing it in” and low “engagement” scores on staff surveys

When people are in the emergency mode, when their default work method is to focus on whatever grabs their attention, they start to feel out of control. They get disconnected from their own agency and sense of meaning, which lowers motivation. They start “dialing it in,” going through the motions. They disengage. And that shows up in their performance and, eventually, on the staff survey.

08| Procrastination

When people are “fire-fighting” every day, it’s easy to procrastinate on the bigger, high impact projects. These projects never seem to score the day’s focus because they aren’t, well, on fire. Yet. Just procrastinate long enough and these big-ticket items eventually will burst into flames. But let’s face, that’s no way to live, or work.

09| Compliance, rather than consent

When people start dialing it in, when they’re on auto-pilot, when they disengage, they go into compliance mode. They go along to get along. They may outwardly be agreeable, but their performance is compromised by this sneaky thief - compliance. But compliance is good, right? Not really. Not if you want a culture of responsibility, accountability, and leadership. Not if you want creativity, quality, and innovation.

Mere compliance is a lazy surrender of power - of the power to give consent - to be all in. Compliance often grows under the feet of fear and blame. Consent, on the other hand, is the potent driver of responsible action. It’s the engine of productivity. Compliance may stand in as a poor and costly imposter for consent. You may hobble along with compliance, but you’ll never win the race. You may survive - often at a cost - but you won’t thrive.

10| Slipping deadlines 

When people are running to keep up, overwhelmed by a steady stream of information and change, deadlines start to slip. Of course, it makes sense that timelines change with new information. But if slipping deadlines are the SOP, something is amiss.

11| Signs of stress 

When people are overloaded, when they aren’t productively engaged in their work, you begin to see the signs of stress: an uptick in sick days, moodiness, emotional volatility, exhaustion, poor concentration, workaholism, despondency, health problems, worry, anxiety.

12| Excuses

Want to know if people are productive? Listen to them. Do they speak in the language of accountability or the trendy talk of excuses? Excuses animate the victim mentality. Ironically, people end up becoming the victims of their own excusing habit. They drain their power through their fidelity to excuses.

13| Confusion

With so much input flying so fast, people can lose their bearings. They lose contact with their purpose, goals, meaning, priorities, values, roles, systems, discipline, craft. They operate helter-skelter and succumb to the numbing state of confusion. Sustained confusion becomes a drag factor on performance.

14| Gossip 

Can you hear the whispers of gossip in the halls? Then, you can make an educated guess that people may be disengaged, dissatisfied, or dialing it in. Gossip syphons off the energy of performance. It erodes trust quickly. And without trust, results are stunted.

15| Complaints about unreasonable demands or leaders

If you get wind of complaints about unreasonable demands or leaders, pay attention. It’s often a sign that the turbulence of change, of fire-fighting, of emergency mode is gaining steam and finding a target - and it’s probably not your quarterly goals.

16| Pockets of irritation and resentment

Is there a growing distance between groups of employees? Are people separating into “us” and “them” camps? While you may dismiss this as human nature or no big deal, this can quickly turn into the breeding ground for irritation and resentment, which can infect and impair performance.

17| Conflict that doesn’t get resolved

Conflict can be productive. It can spark new ideas. It can be the bridge to deeper understanding. However, conflict that doesn’t get resolved drains energy and time from productive, collaborative action. When conflict drags on and on, performance suffers.

18| Office politics 

It’s true: where there are people, there are politics. In it’s most benign or even benevolent form, politics is the skillful gathering and wielding of influence. It’s how you gain permission to exercise your power in a community. It’s the rules of engagement. It’s how you self-organize, anoint leaders, share ideas, work together.

However, when office politics rule with an iron fist, when they are the sole determinant of who gets a seat at the table, or who’s idea is heard, or who’s plan is shut out - then, Houston, we’ve got a (productivity) problem. In this type of toxic, hyper-politicized environment, team performance cedes to the self-serving rules of a powerful few. Eventually, this distorted, inbred power weakens results.

19| HR complaints

HR complaints are the urgent care of productivity disease. They are a screaming sign that productivity issues have been ignored and festered. And while you’ll need to triage and stabilize the immediate symptoms first, it’s important to take a holistic approach. What is the root of the HR complaints? What can you do to inoculate against these complaints. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself in a cycle of throwing time and money at a problem that you’ll never cure.

20| Turnover 

When the signs of productivity distress are ignored, they can eventually lead to turnover. We recognize that constant turnover has a significant financial cost. But there are auxilarly costs that debilitate a team or business. It takes a toll on morale, trust, teamwork, engagement, organizational knowledge, public relations, performance, and productivity.

The good news is these symptoms don’t have to be chronic, or a death sentence. There’s a remedy. In fact, there’s a cure: becoming expert in the mechanics, the techniques of work. 

In today’s highly dynamic and fast-changing environment, you need a solid, reliable method for triaging information, making decisions, directing attention, prioritizing, and taking action.

That’s what good productivity training can deliver: a kind of productivity “wellness” regime that builds a productivity “immune” system - a system that delivers the clarity, agility, control, confidence, impact, and engagement that leads to high-level productivity and healthy, robust performance.


If your team could use some real-world, real-good productivity training, check out productivity training and coaching services here.

In particular, the flagship course, Workflow Mastery: The Disciplines of Accomplishment may be just the ticket for your team. This is an in-person course offered in businesses and organizations.

Or, if you want to take the self-paced, online version of the course, you can find out information here: Workflow Mastery: The Disciplines of Accomplishment.

Overwhelm Your Overwhelm

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One thing I hear a lot from my clients, friends, colleagues (and, truth be told, from myself) is, "I'm overwhelmed." Or variations on that theme like, "I can't keep up," "It's just too much."

It's fashionable, really. Shows you're really in the game, you're a player, right? In fact, some people outright flaunt their frenzy as they flit from thing to thing. 

People defend their overwhelm: I mean, there's...

so much to do, 

so many emails, 

so many commitments, 

so many demands, 

so many interruptions, 

so many inconveniences,

so many frustrations,

so many expectations, 

so much noise, 

so much information, 

so many opinions, 

so many options, 

so much fury,

so many changes,

so many channels....

It takes no special effort to be overwhelmed. No degree, no innate talent, no specialized skill.

What it does take (for all of us) is a willingness to be overwhelmed. A belief that it's inevitable. Or, out of our hands.

And while I get why everyone is overwhelmed and definitely have empathy for it (after all, overwhelm is what often prompts people to seek out my work), I'd like to call it out a bit. I'd like to take it's power down a peg. I'd like to puncture the propaganda for a minute. 

In a sense, overwhelm is the false belief that you have no power. Overwhelm is a denial of agency. A shirking of responsibility. 

Overwhelm is the false belief that you’re not up to the task of your work and your life. It's basically, a lie. 

Now this is not to say that there isn't a good, understandable case for overwhelm. Yet, the only reason the score turns in favor of overwhelm is because we're playing without rules. 

Without rules to the game: overwhelm will likely win. With rules, you play on your terms (which should always be favorable to your "winning" or success, right??! I mean you can rig the game, you know...)... 

What are rules? They are the boundaries you put in place to protect your mind, body, and spirit - to protect your performance and peace of mind. They cure the pain of overwhelm. 

How to chose your rules? Figure out first the game you want to play. What are you after? What is important to you? Rules are the friendly fences you erect to protect what you care about. 

Then, follow the pain, follow the overwhelm and figure out a rule that will protect you from it, keep it away.

Are you overwhelmed by tiredness? Then, maybe a new rule for the time you go to sleep. 

Are you overwhelmed by your inbox? Then, maybe a rule that specifies the timeframe for managing your email. 

Are you overwhelmed by political rhetoric? Then, maybe some rules about the sources and frequency of exposure. 

Are you overwhelmed by all the social events? Then, maybe some rules about what to say yes to and what to say no to. 

The definition of the word "overwhelm" is: "to bury or drown beneath a huge mass of something. To give too much of something to, inundate. To defeat completely. To be too strong for; overpower."

It's interesting (and revealing) that we mostly use the passive form of "overwhelm" - we are the objects of some invisible player doing the overwhelm. And what's also interesting is the dictionary doesn't include a noun form of the word. We've adopted that because "being overwhelmed" has become "a thing," a reactive feeling when someone or something out there is overwhelming us. 

So let's turn things around and take back the power from this overwhelming phantom. Let's overwhelm overwhelm with some good rules. Let's call it out, see it for what it is - and keep it at bay with some basic boundaries. 

What has been overwhelming you? And what rules can protect you and keep you on your productive path?

PS Want to get some good, solid, tested, easy rules for managing your commitments on the daily? Then, I encourage you to check out the self-paced, online course: Workflow Mastery: The Disciplines of Accomplishment. This course will help you say goodbye to overwhelm.