Why Your Powerful “Why” Doesn’t Always Work

The Key To Accomplishing Stuff You Can't Seem To Get Done

Why is it so hard to get stuff done sometimes, even easy stuff?  There can be a lot of reasons. Some are good and some are just dressed-up excuses. Sometimes, it’s simply because we are “Stuck”.  What isn’t so plain and simple is what to do about it.

Given our inability to sometimes get even simple, small tasks done as well as large, there seems to be an underlying principle at work. There’s probably a formal name for it, but I don’t know what it is. What I do know is that what’s easy to do is also easy not to do.  And this tendency can be incredibly difficult to overcome….I know it has been for me.

While “Silver Bullet” solutions are rare, in this case it’s about close as it gets:  accountability. Simply put, the power of accountability is critical and usually overlooked when it comes to getting the stuff done that matters most, both large and small.

2 Keys To Accountability

Here are 2 Keys to unlock the secret of accountability and making it work for you:

  • Know What
    • Small stuff-  Accountability for the mundane, monotonous or incremental actions that in aggregate really matter.  After all, success is merely a few disciplines, repeated every day. And failure is only a few errors in judgement, repeated everyday.
    • Big Stuff- Accountability for the big projects. It’s the numerous projects that make up the whole that give accountability it’s legs here. Know what the “thin slices” would look like for you.
  • Know How
    • Say it
      • Individually- Connect and ask someone else to hold you accountable to what you commit to do. Make sure the person you ask is both able and willing. 
      • Group- By saying what we are committing to in a group, we leverage peer pressure in a positive way.  Holding ourselves accountable to a group has the added benefit of generating creative approaches we may not have thought of.
    • Write it
      • Writing something down not only serves as a tangible reminder to us, it also activates our brain in a powerful way that simply can’t be tapped by just thinking and talking to ourself. This quote by Michael Hyatt’s sums it up best.
      • Whether it’s in the form of a SMARTER goal or daily checklist of important behaviors, writing it down is can be like flipping a switch when it comes to getting it done.

Why Accountability Works

There are many reason, these are the ones I think contribute the most:

  • It forces us to clearly definey what we are really saying we will do, especially when we write it out.
  • It makes us aware of what we are saying we will do, which helps us better weigh the risks, consequences and rewards.
  • It’s a form of “activation intent.” When we put accountability in place, we’ve actually taking a proactive step towards what we are after.
  • It keeps our commitment(s) front and center because we now have answer to someone or something besides our own rationalizing brain.
  • It brings positive peer pressure into play; no one wants to look bad or let someone down.

Whether it’s a BHAG goal or the small actions you want to transform into habits, sometimes your powerful “Why” just isn’t going to be enough for you to get it done. Your going to have to leverage the other side of that “Why” coin: accountability.

Accountability: It’s just as important as your powerful “Why” and sometimes more so.

What is it you want that your not experiencing or getting done these days?  Take a look. If you haven’t incorporated accountability into the equation, it’s very likely the key to making it happen.

Please leave a comment or share an accountability “hack” that you’ve found works for you. I’d love to learn.

The Secret Ingredient For Getting Stuff Done

How To Get Your GSD Degree!

Why is it so hard to get stuff done sometimes, even easy stuff?  There are a lot of reasons.

Some are good reasons and some are excuses disguised as good reasons. Sometimes, it’s because we are “Stuck”. Perhaps the most common reason is because it’s just as easy not to do something as it is to do it.

What most have an even harder time with is knowing how to change and get things done when they are not….even when they have a powerful “Why”.

Whether big tasks or small, there is an inertia we all have to overcome. If there seems to be an underlying principle working to keep us where we are at it’s because there is. And a secret to overcoming it is tapping the power of  accountability.

By  putting the following 3 accountability principles into action, you’ll be on the fast track to earning a GSD (getting stuff done) degree and getting more stuff done than you ever thought was possible:

The What

  • Small stuff–  Success is merely a few key disciplines, repeated every day. And failure is only a few errors in judgement, repeated everyday. Therefore, you have to hold yourself accountable for the mundane, monotonous and incremental actions that matter big-time over the long-haul.
  • Big Stuff- This “what” is obvious. The problem is that instead of “eating it small slices”, we try to choke the whole loaf down at once.

The How

Accountability can be incorporated several ways:

  • Say it
    • One-to-One- Share your commitment with another person. It’s best if that someone is a person you respect, who cares about you, and won’t let you off the hook.
    • Group or Team- When you make a commitment to a group, you leverage peer pressure in a positive way.  You may also get the benefit of hearing other creative approaches you  haven’t thought about.
  • Write it
    • Writing is a tangible reminder and activates our brain in a powerful way not done by thinking or talking alone. These words by  Michael Hyatt summarize it well:  “Thoughts disentangle themselves passing over the lips and through pencil tips”.
    • A list in the form of action items or daily behaviors that can be “checked off” can be powerful.
  • Incorporate structure
    • Putting hard stops in place can give you a sense of urgency. Examples would setting a task timer of some sort or telling someone to leave without you if your not there by a certain time (Ouch!).

The Why of accountability

There are many. Below are the ones I think factor in most:

  • We’re forced to clearly define what it is we are committing to, especially when we write it down.
  • We’re more aware of what we are committing to, which allows us to better weigh the risks, consequences and rewards.
  • It’s a form of “activation intent”. When we put accountability in place, we’ve actually taken a proactive step in moving toward what we are after.
  • Our commitment is kept front and center because we now have someone or something external to our own rationalizing brain to answer to.
  • It leverages positive peer pressure. No one wants to look bad or let someone down.

Whether it’s a BHAG goal or the small actions you want to transform into habits, sometimes your powerful “Why” isn’t going to be enough for you to get it done. Your going to have to leverage the other side of that “Why” coin: accountability. It’s just as important and sometimes more so.

Think of one thing you’ve wanted to get done and repeatedly haven’t. Now, what’s one way you could incorporate accountability into your efforts?

Give it a go, I have no doubt you’ll get a lot more done than you did without it. And if you do, please leave a comment and let me know how it goes (yes, feel free to write it down here and hold yourself accountable!).

How to Be An MVP at Getting Big Things Done

Why Doing The Minimum Gets You The Maximum

Plans are necessary, good and can be exciting. In fact, being an Enneagram 7 I love to plan and think of all the possibilities. So much so I can get totally derailed by the planning process…..and be faked out into thinking I’m making tangible progress!

What I really like to do is execute. I want to get stuff done, see the final product and reach the goal. After all, nothing breeds success like success. And nothing can sabotage it like trying to “go big” when your trying to achieve big things.

The Secret To Achieving Big Things

So what’s the secret to achieving big things? Starting small.

The most effective form of internal motivation is making progress….any type of progress.  Behavioral research and at least the last 50 yrs of experience in the business world has clearly demonstrated that to be the case.

The more I thought about it after reading through Greg McKeown’s book Essentialism for the third time, I realized the simple concept of incremental progress lies at the heart of most popular and highly effective productivity approaches. Here are a few:

It also underlies the foundation of the Solution Focused Coaching model, which is “small steps successively approximated lead to big change.”

How To Go Small To Go Big

So what’s the secret to “going small to get to big”? Using the MVP approach to get MVP results.

Minimal Viable Preparation (MVP): the key concept is to start early and small. Take a goal or project and ask yourself “What one small thing could I do right now to support it?” Here are some examples:

  • Writing a book: On day 1, just make the file folders that will contain each chapter’s content. Done
  • Big presentation coming up: Open and name the presentation file (or save a copy of the template file you use with the name of the presentation). Enter the title and jot down a few quick points. Done
  • Key stake holder meeting: once scheduled,  take 10 seconds to write down the main points you want to cover.  Done
  • Major project: Write down the first three action items you need to accomplish, then block time on your calendar to do the first one. Done

Minimal Viable Progress (MVP2):  It’s been said that “Done is better than Perfect”. How true, because perfect never really gets done! Instead of perfect or even grand, focus on the next small step by asking yourself this question: “What is the smallest thing I can achieve that will actually move me a bit closer to where I want to be with this?”

In addition to actually getting stuff done vs adding to the pile, we reap more enjoyment and satisfaction when we take small steps to make big change.

I have to admit I was tempted to bag writing a blog post this week, which is packed and includes travel. I took the MVP approach instead. At the end of Monday I just created a file, named it, and jotted a topic down. That’s it, done. A to-do item on my list for the next day was “open file”. The rest is what you’re reading here.

What’s one thing you’ve been putting off that taking an MVP approach would help you get started with?

Please leave a comment. I’d love to hear about your results.

Why Most Don’t Win At The Game Called Life

And 8 Ways You Can

Regardless of how you define “winning” in life, there are some common denominators that keep people from it. A lot of people it seems. Even a brief look at selected key indicators related to personal well-being and flourishing, especially America, can get you in a melancholy mood if not out-right depressed.

Simple Doesn’t Mean Easy

The other news is that there’s a lot we have within our control that we can leverage to Win. While it’s pretty simple stuff, it’s usually not easy….and not for the reasons most think. Why so difficult? Mainly because we just aren’t self-aware of what commonly trips us up.

Before I go further I have to give credit where credit is due. The stimulus for this post came to mind after re-listening to one of Tony Robbin’s “Get The Edge” lectures when my car hi-jacked my iPhone and auto-played the content…..which broke the technology rules.   Seven of the points below come from Tony’s experience with the millions he has interacted with. The other one comes the experience of my great-grandmother who lived to be 106 yrs. old. My contribution is simply context and some elaboration.

Eight Reasons

These are eight big reasons why many people don’t win at the game called life and how you can instead:

  1. Don’t know the purpose of the game- how can you win if you haven’t defined what winning is? Decide what it is you really want. This takes time and ongoing reflection so schedule it; lather, rinse and repeat at least once a year.  Determining your purpose in a way that can expand and grow with you is part of it. The other part is pondering the questions of life’s origin, meaning, morality and destiny……even if answers don’t come right away or aren’t as clear as you like.
  2. Have too many rules- most of the rules you have for your boss, friends, spouse and yourself result in you “shoulding” way too much on yourself and others. The reality is that the majority of these can be jettisoned and all of us would be much better off. Rules are important and they can also be toxic, especially when you impose your rules on someone else.  If arguably the greatest person to ever walk the face of the earth said only two rules are paramount, how many more do we need?
  3. Refusing to work with people who have the “wrong” rules (i.e. their own)- with 7.125 billion people on a planet that is growing more connected all the time, this is going to be a problem for you if you can’t. Recognize they have as many messed up rules for themselves and others as you do and cut them some slack. Remind yourself that listening and being friends with them doesn’t necessarily mean you agree with them. It also gives you the freedom to do just that.
  4. Have rules in conflict- this is a natural result of items 2 & 3 above. The more rules you have the more mental and emotional dissonance you’re going to experience. Of course, we’re brilliant at working around conflicting rules and letting  ourselves off the hook with our own personal in-field fly rules. Even with our work-arounds, we still never quite get rid of the self-imposed residue of guilt. Losing 1/2 your rules now will go a long way in avoiding this one.
  5. Play by the rules and “lose”- sometimes your unrealistic expectations cause your disappointment. And sometimes, truly bad things do happen in life regardless of what you do. You get the trip to Iceland during winter instead of the one to Hawaii you had planned…..like, having a child with special needs instead of one born healthy. Recognize that there is meaning beyond the moment. Asking yourself self-defeating questions that have no answer, like “Why me?” will only cause a mental loop and keep you stuck. Instead, ask yourself empowering questions like “What can I learn from this pain to help myself and others?” and you may find a gift you never dreamed of. As Jim Rohn said, “never lose the good out of a bad experience.”
  6. Break the rules and win!- so, you violated what you hold sacred and your values….and you get a win! Well, maybe not so much. Now you now have to reconcile that short-term pleasure with your long-term interests and higher purpose. Remind yourself that ultimate pleasure isn’t what you get in life, it’s who you become and what you contribute in the process.
  7. Take life too seriously or not seriously enough-  I get that our life is no practice session.  I also know that life is filled with rhythms of all kinds and to live every situation out as if it were life-and-death is just as much a denial of reality as someone who is pollyanna all the time. The former is to live in fear and anxiety; the latter is to live with blinders on and ultimately disappointment.
  8. Take life on your terms instead of how it is- just because you feel or think something should be a certain way doesn’t mean it is, regardless of what color glassed you have on or how far down your head is in the sand.  Learn to reframe any situation and stay positive while being able to accept and handle the negative.

Winning in life requires we know what we want and are aware of the obstacles that often keep us from it.  Being aware of these 8 common pitfalls can maximize your opportunity to win

What’s working to get past one of these eight that’s showing up most often for you right now?

Please leave a comment, I’d love hear.

Stuck?! Ask Yourself These 3 Questions To Get Going Again

Stuck is a place where your caught or held in a position where you can’t move or get away from. It’s also a place where you can’t solve a problem and make forward progress.

The good news is that “stuck” is normal; the other news is that it doesn’t feel good and it’s hard to get out of.

If you’ve ever been stuck physically, like in a truck, car or perhaps some other off-road sporting vehicle then you know it can be frustrating and messy. The thrill and exhilaration of what your doing goes away and it’s often replaced by a combination of surprise, determination, anxiety and quite possibly fear.

For those of you with “stuck” experience, you know that rocking back and forth, putting stuff under the wheels for traction and all kinds of other fall back maneuvers will often get you out of the rut.  And to get out when you’re really stuck (the up-to-your-fender-well, can’t get out kind of stuck), you have to take another step and make that embarrassing call. It means eating some humble pie, tasting even more disappointment, sadness, anger and if you’re really out in the boonies, despair.

Being stuck personally and professionally is a lot like that too…both the self service variety as well as the “I-can’t-get-out-gotta-make-a-call” kind.   And unlike being physically stuck, there isn’t a rescue hotline or towing service to call for this one when you can’t get out on your own.

Just because there isn’t a hotline doesn’t mean there isn’t help when your really stuck.  You can get moving forward again by asking yourself these 3 fundamental questions:

  • Where am I now and where do I want to go? By answering yourself honestly, you can develop discrepancy or a gap to focus on and address.  This is fundamental and sometimes requires asking for outside input in order to get extremely clear about the rut your in and where the high road for you might be.
  • What do I want to change?  Notice the question isn’t what do I “need” to change, it’s what do I “want” to change.   We may know we need something to change to get unstuck but until we want to change we won’t. Sometimes this question makes you aware of a discrepancy between what needs to change and what your willing to change.  Until your willing, nothing will change for you. When you’re willing to change, then it’s possible for things to change for you.
  • What’s my powerful Why? It’s been said “You lose your way when you lose your why”. We are hard-wired to resist being pushed into doing stuff and it’s no different here. All the “I should’s”, “I have to’s” and “I need to’s” aren’t going to work for you in the long-run. Instead of a push we need to be pulled by something we can really latch on to. That something is the powerful “Why” we have for what we want to be different.  Keep revisiting (or fine-tuning) your “Why” until you’re able to get on the other side of ambivalence.

In summary, getting unstuck involves knowing where your at, what needs to change, and why you want to change.  Sounds easy, and it is…..unless you’re “stuck”!

Getting stuck is normal, staying stuck long-term is not.  When you feel stuck, asking yourself (literally) and reflecting on these 3 fundamental elements can get you moving again in the right direction. Likewise, getting unstuck requires intentional, conscious effort and staying unstuck will require self-awareness and intermittent course correction.

If you’re currently stuck or in a rut, which of these 3 questions do you need to focus on right now to get moving again? If you’re not, put them in your emergency kit because you’ll need them at some point; we all do.

Please leave a comment, especially if your currently “stuck”!

6 Ways You Don’t Listen And What To Do Instead

How To Have Effective Holiday Conversations!

Have you thought about how many conversations you’ll be engaged in between now and the New Year? A lot!  While the people and conversations will vary, one thing they all share in common is that they will have some level of impact on you, the other person and often a wider circle of people you aren’t even aware of.   How you show-up for these and listen matters more than you think.

I was reminded recently of my own faux pas in this area when someone one asked my opinion about something they had just shared with me in long-winded fashioned.  The truth was that I had started daydreaming at some point and couldn’t. Instead, I apologized and we had to start over. Awkward.

While I bet you can recall a conversation faux pas of your own, I also bet none of us can fully realize what these kind of moments cost us in both relationship and opportunity.

An effective conversation starts with how you listen…..really listen.

6 Ways You Don’t Listen and How To Recognize them

Here are six ways we fool ourselves when it comes to listening:

  1. Judgmental listening- You come to conclusions before you’ve heard 5% of what the other person has to say OR you find yourself passing sentence on someone in order to self-justify and self-elevate.
  2. Selective listening- You tune in to only what you want to hear (“channel surfing”), which includes tuning out all together.
  3. Impatient listening-  You finish someone’s word or sentence before they do.
  4. Egocentric listening- You think about what you’re going to say while they talking.
  5. Patronizing listening- You think about something else when the other person talking.
  6. Stubborn listening- Your listening but not openly; your mind is made up.

The trouble for us is that we don’t fool anyone else.

How should you listen instead?

Listen actively and with focus.  Unlike the ways of listening listed above, the key element in active or reflective listening is what you say in response to what the speaker offers. That’s why Thomas Gordon labeled it active listening back in 1970.

When I do talk, what should I do and say?

Use the five key communication skills below, which are the expressive part of the invisible activity calle active listening:

  • Ask open ended questions. Start your questions with with What and How. This is the easiest and most effective way from the closed question habit. When and Where are also good. Use “Why” limitedly and with the right tone, otherwise you may come off to as aggressive, demanding or explanation, which will make the other person defensive. Michael Hyatt has some specific questions and guidance in the context of the holidays and the dinner table that are excellent.
  • Affirm- cultivate a mindset that consciously looks for the other person’s strengths, positive actions and unique value and perspectives. Accentuate these.
  • Reflect- Repeat back key parts of what the other person has said for better understanding and clarification.  Making a guess about what they mean and asking if you’re on target is also important. It lets you know if you’re following them accurately, shows them you’re actively listening and it may just jolt them in a way that allows them to gain clarity and better awareness about what they are really trying to say.
  • Summarize- Essentially a summary of earlier reflections offered back to the person in a basket.  It demonstrates that you’ve been listening carefully, remembering and valuing what they say. It also can help paint a picture of what they really mean in way that allows them to look at it from a new perspective.
  • Permission- Ask first before providing information and advice.

Knowing how you don’t listen, how to catch yourself when you’re doing it and what communication skills to use instead is a good start. If you want to be effective though, you have to practice. The holiday season will give you plenty of opportunity.

What’s got you most excited about your upcoming practice opportunities?

Please leave a comment, I’d love to know and am ready to listen (actively).