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.

How To Escape The Overwhelm

3 Steps To Set Yourself Free

Choice is a good thing until you have too many and it isn’t.  Especially when those things have to do with what you have to do. Deciding then becomes difficult and leads to The Overwhelm. The psychological term for it is “Decision Fatigue”.

I love flexibility..…it’s one of my core values. Unfortunately, I often let it get out of hand and it gets the best of me.

I’ve learned the hard way that freedom and choice, without context and criteria, can quickly leave you in a puddle of Decision fatigue. In short: overwhelmed and unable to move anything on your agenda forward, let alone the stuff that matters most.

Peter Drucker said that looking back from a historical perspective, the most important change seen won’t be technology. Instead, it will be the unprecedented volume and level on which people had to self-manage…..and were totally unprepared to do so. Unless something changes, that doesn’t bode well for the accomplishment, work-life balance and sense of calm everyone is seeking these days.

So what’s the answer to escaping The Overwhelm that’s overwhelming us?

Before answering, keep in mind 2 key reasons we get overwhelmed in the first place (according to an Essentialist philosophy):

  • Too much social pressure
  • The idea that you can have it all.

Unlike yesteryear, the number of external voices and choices we have today is unprecedented as are our expectations, which have become inflated beyond all measure. The other is timing- we think we can have all we want all at the same time. Why not? Social media has lowered the bar for access, increasing the things that compete for our attention and constantly feed us illusions.

The result? Trying to cram an increasing number of infinite things into a discrete, limited and already overflowing schedule.

The impact? The Overwhelm.

Now, how to get out of it:

  1. First- Prepare. recognize and embrace the fact that you’re going to have to say “No” to some good opportunities. In fact, as you become more successful you’re going to have to say no to some really great opportunities. Easier said than done; it takes a cultivated attitude of the heart and mind.
  2. Second- Pause. Take a deep breath, squeeze or open both hands widely, or take some action that will center you attention. It seems moving your physiology is a key to interrupting your pattern in the moment. It provides a window to put a pause between stimulus and response.
  3. Third- Propose. Ask yourself the key question “What’s  most Important Now?”….as in, right now.  Write down all the other important stuff  on a list for later.  Then, take an immediate next step toward it, even if its as simple as shutting off your phone screen.

The result? Focus

The impact? Eliminating The Overwhelm.  And making progress on your priorities. Even…if….only….small.

You certainly can’t change all the stuff competing for your attention. You can change your mindset and what you do about it using three simple steps.

So,“What’s  most Important Now?” (WIN) for you?  Take a deep breath, and then take the next small step…..right now.

How To Get The Most Out Of Your Time

And The Secret To Transforming It

Our knowledge economy gives us the illusion exists that there just isn’t enough time. False.

The reality is that there is just as much time in our current, crazy-busy age as there has been in any other.  I know it doesn’t seem like it. In fact, I’ve complained far too often that there just isn’t enough time to get everything done. And I’m not alone. “I don’t have enough time” seems to be the mantra of our time.

Time is arguably is our most important resource, Time is non-renewable. Once a second is gone, that’s it….forever. We like to embrace the myth that we can manage time. We can’t, so forget about it: no one ever slowed a minute down….it’s still 60 seconds.

So how can we get the most out of time and why do some seem to get more out of it than others?

If there is one thing Einstein’s theory of relatively taught us, it’s that there is more to time than meets the eye. There was a lot we didn’t know about time then and that we still don’t know. One thing we do know about time is that our perspective can transform how we experience it.

2 Ways To View Time

The ancient Greeks looked at time through two lens: “Karios” and “Chronos”.

  • “Chronos” is a quantitative view. It is simply Father Time’s ticking of the clock and unrelenting wheel of 60/24/7/365. Examples of Chronos is when time seems to stand still, drag on OR when when you feel hurried and harried trying to beat the clock.
  • “Karios” is a qualitative view. While hard to define, it’s theologically related and refers to a favorable or advantageous moment. Being in “flow” is synonymous in many ways with karios and good way to think about it. Examples would be those moments when, because you were fully engaged and present, time seemed suspended or non-existent in a very pleasant way.

While we need both perspectives, Chronos is so predominate that our view of things has become tunnel-like and monchrome. We only seem to look back to the past or forward to the future. Life gets gray pretty quickly when you only focus on what you can’t change, re-experience or have yet to experience.

Transform Your View

The key difference between these two lenses is that Karios can only be experienced in the present, and that’s the secret to transforming it. When we focus on being fully in the moment, we can savor what we are doing, experiencing and are becoming in the process. And it doesn’t mean that we can’t enjoy good memories bring or the anticipation of what’s ahead, its just that you do it in the moment and recognize these for what they give you in the moment…..a subtle distinction I know, but a very real one.

How You Choose to Is Up To You

So how do you practice being present or “in the moment”?

  1. Recognize when you’re out of it and living in the past or future- This can show up in number of ways. Regrets and “shoulda/woulda/couldas” are signals you’re in the past while the “want to/have to/need to” and “can’t wait to” are signals you’re in living in the future.
  2. Get in touch with yourself- Close your eyes, take a breath and at the same time a physiologic and emotional pulse-check. If you can’t name your current state then you’re likely less self-aware than you could be (It takes practice).
  3. Focus on what you can control- Your energy and priorities will give you the most leverage. Remind yourself you can’t control a single second of the clock. (it takes discipline and can become a habit).
  4. Focus on the task at hand- Ask yourself what is the most important thing you need to be doing right now, this moment.  You first may need to get the the bazillion and one other things out of your head and on to paper (it will take some planning and ongoing writing).

What we get from our time depends on our perspective. And thinking about time differently can transform how you experience it.

How is your perspective of time working for you? If you want more fulfillment and less frustration it may be a clue.

Take a minute and leave a comment, I’d love to know how it’s going for you.

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.

5 Seconds To Change Anything

Why It Starts In The Morning And How To Make It Happen

Your alarm rings. You reach over and hit the snooze button. Repeat(edly). Is this you? According to Sleep Review, that’s the case for over half of you reading this post.

In their 2014 survey they found that 57% of Americans (and 70% of Brits) were snoozers, admit to staying in bed more than 5 minutes every morning and were still tired when they finally woke up.

Prior to 2013, that would have described me in the morning.  Not anymore.

Because I had been a serious life-long snooze-button-hitter up to that time (often 30 minutes), deciding to change was daunting.   I think it gave me an idea of what it must be like for a smoker when he or she decides to quit- a little bit of nervous excitement and a lot of fear…..of failing yet again.

You Snooze, You Lose

The motivation to make a switch came after reading the chapter in Rabbi Daniel Lapin’s book Buried Treasure entitled “The Dangers of the Snooze Button” .  There’s a lot there and the two realities that struck me the most about hitting the snooze button were that we:

  • make our first action of the day to procrastinate.
  • limit our day by surrendering to our physical desires.

Ouch.

To my surprise, I was successfully made the change from hitting the snooze button to jumping out of bed immediately from day 1. It was much easier than I thought and I’ve only hit my snooze button twice in the last 3.5 yrs.

I hadn’t thought too much about why I was successful with it and failed all the other times until l read Mel Robbins’ book “The 5 Second Rule: Transform Your Life, Work, and Confidence with Everyday Courage.” I saw right away that I had used the 5 Second Rule without knowing what it was, which shows how simple and effective it can be.  The other good news is that works with about anything we want to take action on or change in our life. Jumping out of bed first thing in the morning is a good place to start.

What’s the 5 Second Rule?

Simply this: the moment the time comes or you have an instinct to act on a goal or item, you count backwards “5-4-3-2-1” and then move.  Both counting as well as moving are critical.  Counting backwards (forward doesn’t work) interrupts your default self-preservation and pleasure mode of thinking and opens a channel for your mind to think in a different direction. When you couple backward counting with movement your physiology changes, your mind falls in line and you get the activation energy you need to make things that are tough for you happen.

Unlike planning and contemplative executive decision making, our decision to buy as well as act in the moment are driven predominately by emotion and not cognition. In fact, once you’ve planned and decided to do something courageous or difficult, thinking about it more when it comes time to take action makes it less likely you’ll actually do it! Instead, you’ll hesitate, have just enough time to go into flight, fight, faint or freeze mode which then gives your brain enough time to think of a million ways to justify not doing it (i.e. make excuses).  It’s the kiss of death to change efforts.

How Does It work?

There are over 10 cognitive behavioral principles related to change that are leveraged in some for or fashion for any change effort to be successful. If you want the detail, Mel Robbins’ blog does a great job of elucidating these change principles with brief text and diagrams as well as a video if you have time to watch.  The great thing about the 5 Second Rule is that it’s a simple, single technique that impacts all of these. In essence, it’s a “starting ritual” that allows us to leverage our neurophysiology in a way that serves instead of sabotages our own best interests.

The Reward

Here are two other beautiful things about the 5 Second Rule:

  • Repeat it often enough and your change efforts become habit, so no more backward counting to get off the dime.
  • It has an overflow effect and begins to show up almost automatically in other areas you hadn’t thought of as well as when you need to take action most.

Using the 5-second rule first thing in the morning can help you overcome the resistance that holds you in bed and that holds you back in the other moments that matter most.

We all have our own “Why’s” for what we want to change. Nike’s “Just Do It” slogan gave us the What. The 5 Second Rule gives the “How” to get moving. And while the Rule doesn’t necessarily make things easy, it does make things happen. Especially first thing in the morning, which is a great place to start.

If you used the 5-second rule to pop out of bed tomorrow morning, how much more time and energy would you gain?  If you’re one of the ~25% who don’t hit the snooze button at all, what’s your greatest challenge or opportunity to leverage the Rule with?

Please leave a comment and let me know how it’s going for you….count backward from 5 if you need to.