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Productivity

393: Freeing Up Extra Time Through Optimizing, Automating, and Outsourcing with Ari Meisel

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Ari Meisel breaks down his secrets to greater productivity…from virtual assistants, to the best productivity apps, to easier ways to make decisions.

You’ll Learn:

  1. How working at your peak time makes you many times more effective
  2. The power of the 20-second rule
  3. Why you should consider using virtual assistants

About Ari

Ari is the best-selling author of “The Art of Less Doing“, and “The Replaceable Founder.” He is a self-described Overwhelmologist whose insights into personal and professional productivity have earned him the title, “The Guru’s Guru.” He can be heard on the award-winning Less Doing Podcast, on international stages speaking to thought leaders and influencers, and for those who prefer the written word, Ari’s blog posts on Medium offer immediate and actionable advice for entrepreneurs seeking replaceability.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Ari Meisel Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Ari, thanks so much for joining us here on the How to be Awesome at Your Job podcast.

Ari Meisel
Well, thank you for having me Pete. It’s good to talk to you again.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh yeah. Well, I think we’re going to get into so much good stuff. I am all about less doing. But first I want to get your take on what’s the story behind you being on the cover of a Rage Against the Machine album?

Ari Meisel
Yeah, it’s the 20th anniversary of that. It’s funny. It’s been coming up a lot lately. The Evil Empire album from Rage Against the Machine, I was 11 years old and Mel Ramos, who is a famous artist and was a friend of my father’s, who’s an art dealer, made that painting for me as a birthday present when I was 11.

The band saw it a few years later in one of his books and they just liked it. They used it for their cover. I never met the band. I was never a fan of the band. I had a billboard of my face in Times Square when I was 15 years old.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, check you out. Well, and your fame has grown since then.

Ari Meisel
Yes, totally. I think it all stems back to that very moment.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, starting early, that’s good. Can you give us a little bit of a quick background on your company, Less Doing? What are you all about?

Ari Meisel
I empower entrepreneurs to become more replaceable. That’s what I do. That means a lot of different things to a lot of different people, but the ones that get excited by that are the ones that I usually do the best with. Essentially we’re teaching people how to optimize, automate and outsource everything in their business in order to be more effective. We do that through a number of systems that we teach and processes and methods, but essentially we teach people to be more effective.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, we love effectiveness here. Most of our listeners are not entrepreneurs, but I definitely thing that there are some applicable tidbits. Now, you unpack a number of these in your book called The Art of Less Doing. Is there a unique spin that the book takes?

Ari Meisel
Yeah. Originally when I got into this sort of world, the focus was on individual productivity for the most part. I was helping individuals be as effective as possible. Over the last several years, this has developed into much more of a business methodology for growing faster with less pain basically. The Replaceable Founder really takes that framework of optimize, automate, outsource and applies it to businesses.

The goal is to make people replaceable. The reason we do that is so they can have more focus, freedom and flexibility. The way that we do that is through looking at the way that they communicate, the way that they manage and execute processes, and the way that they have their project management system set up.

Pete Mockaitis
Interesting. I like your alliteration here. You’ve also got the three D’s. What are those?

Ari Meisel
That’s for email and decision making in general, which is to deal with it, delete it or defer it.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. Well, tell us, how do we navigate? When is it best to choose to do versus to delegate, to defer?

Ari Meisel
We use email to teach the concept, but it’s not about email. The email problem for most people is not an actual email problem, it’s a decision-making problem. The first thing here is to understand that the three of them are there because those are the only three choices that you should have to make.

Most people treat not just email but decisions in general as if it’s a unique opportunity to make a thousand different decisions every time. It’s not.

If you limit yourself in your choices to three, then you can say deleting is saying no, dealing with it means you can deal with it right now, which could include delegating it, so you get in that sort of habit as well. Then the third D is for deferral, which is the most interesting because that’s really taking into account how you use your time and when you’re best at different things.

Every one of us has a different time and sometimes place where we do different kinds of activities better, such as podcast interviews for example. You would not have gotten this energy from me a couple hours ago, which is why I try not to schedule a podcast interviews before noon my time. It’s something I’ve learned about myself.

Not to mention that my peak time, which is a period when any one of us is 2 to 100 times more effective than any other time of the day, that peak time for me is usually between ten and noon. I can’t do creative work before eight o’clock at night because there’s just too much going on in my head and I can’t write or be really creative.

Knowing that is really powerful because you can make an active decision. You’re not procrastinating; you’re saying, “No, I’m going to do this more effectively at this time, so that’s when I want to look at it.”

Pete Mockaitis
I really like that. We had Dr. Michael Breus on the show talked about the power of when and just some fascinating stuff associated with circadian rhythms and there’s actual biochemical things going on in your body at somewhat predictable regular times that point you to different states that let you be excellent at different sorts of tasks. Can you lay it on us again? What are your times and what are the capabilities you find you have uniquely available at those times?

Ari Meisel
Again, for me, the peak time for me is ten to noon.

Pete Mockaitis
When you say peak, you just mean, “I am unstoppably energetic,” or what’s peak mean for you?

Ari Meisel
The research basically says that for every person it’s different. There’s a time of the day that’s usually 90 minutes and you are 2 to 100 times more effective in that period. What they mean when they talk about effectiveness in that situation is that you’re most able to easily drop into a flow state.

Flow state for most people, that generally equates to a dilation of time. If you’ve ever found yourself in an activity where it felt like minutes had gone by, but it was an hour or two, that’s a flow state. We want that because our brain is just firing on all synapses in that moment.

My peak time is between ten and noon. In theory, I should be using that time for my highest and best use, which in my case is usually coming up with content or really interesting problem solving for whatever the problem might be.

Now, I know that I’m not good on the phone or podcasts before noon. That’s just something I’ve learned about myself. It’s not because I’m not a morning person, but maybe it just takes me a little while to sort of get in that mood or that mode.

Creatively, I can’t do creative work before eight o’clock at night because there’s a lot going on in my house first of all, but also we tend to be more creative when we’re tired because we’re less likely to sort of shoot down the bad ideas and things can flow a little more freely. But it’s different for every person. Some people, their peak time could be five in the morning. I’ve seen that. Some people it’s eleven o’clock at night and that’s when they do their best, best, best.

We all work out at different times or we should. We eat at different times. A lot of that you can see in Dr. Breus’s work. He’s been on my podcast three times because he’s so awesome. A lot of people think, “Oh, that’s interesting.” But you really can dial it in and use that timing to your advantage.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, I’m right with you there. The peak then is you’re most likely to drop into a flow state. The creativity is a different animal than the peak?

Ari Meisel
Right, right, absolutely.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, very good. That’s nice. I guess we’re already digging into a little bit. You talk about optimizing, automating, and outsourcing. One of the components of optimizing is knowing thyself. We’re already talking about some knowing thyself in terms of the times that you’re best for different sorts of activities. Are there any other key parameters you really recommend folks zero in on knowing thyself/themselves well?

Ari Meisel
Sleep I think is another one too. Not everybody needs to sleep eight hours a night in one block. Many people should, but not everybody needs to. That’s not the optimal thing for everybody.

In fact if you look back at old research, well even new research now, the natural pattern of human sleep seemed to be these sort of two different bulk sleeps, where you got this core amount of sleep, then you’d wake up for a little while in the middle of the night and do things, and then go back to sleep for what was then became known as beauty sleep.

Understanding that just because the rest of your team or your environment or your friends or family, whatever, might be on a nine to five work schedule and a ten to six or ten to seven sleep schedule, it doesn’t mean that that’s what you should be doing.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s great, so get clear on your real sleep needs and what’s optimal for you and not just sort of caving to the norms around you.

Ari Meisel
It’s so individual. It’s so, so individual. That’s the big thing. Understand that you can figure it out.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, very good. Any other knowing thyself things to know?

Ari Meisel
I think a lot of people are just generally unaware of how they use their time and their space and their resources and their money and everything. There’s usually a huge benefit in just tracking sort of anything that we do. You can track things like with RescueTime, you can track how you’re using your computer or your Apple watch and see how you’re moving around or not. That kind of information can be very powerful if you just take the data that you’re producing all day every day and actually look at it.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, could you give us an example of let’s say Apple watch or Fitbit, you’re looking at your steps or movement data and how that can inform a useful decision?

Ari Meisel
One thing I would say is just challenging what you might inherently think you know about yourself. There’s so many people – there’s a lot of people who when they use these tools, they can guess the number of steps they’ve taken in the day and they’re probably pretty accurate.

Most people before they do that kind of thing are very – they’re usually pretty off. Somebody might think that they were on their feet for ten hours; it turns out they were only on their feet for two hours. Or they think that they walked five miles, but they didn’t even walk a mile.

That in itself, being aware of the unawareness I think is huge and the discrepancies because once you get into this and you sort of get to know your body and you sort of inherently understand these things a little bit better. We can make better decisions or we can even understand when we shouldn’t be making decisions because if we’re tired or not in a good place to mentally do things, a lot of people just sort of power through it and then make bad choices. Then those sort of build on each other.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s true. Can you recall a particular bad choice you made when you were tired or poorly resourced?

Ari Meisel
I mean a lot of it usually comes out with my wife and arguments that I wouldn’t normally have. But there – it’s funny actually. I think about a month ago my wife and I had a fairly aggressive argument. It was so out of the norm that she actually stopped and she’s like, “You’re acting like one of the children right now. You should go take a nap.” I can usually operate on pretty low amount of sleep, but this was a bad few days for some reason. I stopped and I realized I was acting like a toddler.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. That’s well said. Cool, that’s a little bit about knowing thyself. Can you dig into a bit of the concept of the external brain? What is it and how should we tap into that power?

Ari Meisel
For the external brain is the idea that we really can’t use our brains the way that we think we can. The human brain is really, really bad at holding onto information. It’s great at coming up with it, but really not so good at keeping it. We try to use working memory for something that it really isn’t, which is long-term storage.

If we have systems in place – and when I say systems it’s important because a lot of people have tools or methods maybe or gadgets, but a lot of people lack systems. If you have a system in place to actually track your ideas, capture your ideas and put them in a place where not only you can save them, but actually act on them later, that makes life a lot less stressful and a lot more effective.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh yeah, I’m so with you there. I’m thinking back to David Allen, episode 15 here for us. He said it very well, I might not get it perfect, but says, “Your brain is for having ideas not for holding them or for remembering them.”

Ari Meisel
Right.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s been so huge for me is getting it out of my head and elsewhere. Personally, I love OmniFocus for the actionable things. Someone said, “Oh, this is a great restaurant,” “This is a great podcast.” “You should check out this church,” or place to go. I was like, “Oh cool. I will.”

It’s sort of like all those rich little life ideas don’t float away. They land somewhere and they can be acted upon in sometimes a year plus later, like, “Oh, I am going to watch that movie someone recommended a year ago. I’m so glad I had that recommendation ready to be accessed.” I dig OmniFocus for that and Evernote for more words basically in terms of maybe paragraphs plus. What do you dig for your external brain?

Ari Meisel
Trello.

Pete Mockaitis
Trello?

Ari Meisel
Yeah, I use Trello. I was a really big Evernote user for a long time, but I sort of fell away from it because with Trello it’s more speaking to that idea of having a system. I might capture things all day long from various sources, whether it’s a voice note to my Amazon Echo device or to Siri or a picture of something or a screenshot or I’ll forward an email, and they all go to one place. They all go to one list in Trello as an individual card, each one.

Then at the end of the day, it’s one of my sort of nightly routines is I look at that list and I can sort those ideas into various places. One might be for someone on my team to deal with, one might be for my wife to look at, one might be for me to read later, whatever it might be. But that sorting process is very important to me. You can’t really do that in something like Evernote. With Trello you have that sort of visual idea, like moving things around. It feels very congruent for me.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that’s intriguing. Can you unpack for us the categories? They start by getting dumped into a singular kind of inbox, collection bin. They then go to, “Hey, read this later.” They go to teammate or wife or another person. What are the other kind of categories that it might fall into?

Ari Meisel
Let me think. It could be assigned to a virtual assistant. That’s certainly one. It could be something that I want to talk about in one of my webinars. That would be like, I do a tech talk Tuesday webinar, so it could go to that. There’s not too many. That’s the thing is you don’t want to have too many different options.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, then I’m wondering over time I imagine, if you’re anything like me, you have way more ideas that you’re excited about than you can take action upon. Let’s talk about some of the automate components, the decision matrix. What is that and in particular how might you apply it to, “Hey, do I do this or do I not do this?”

Ari Meisel
Well, that decision matrix is the three D’s. Saying no, for example, there’s just a lot more things that we should say no to. If anything, for some people it needs to be the default is to say no. If it’s not a heck yes, then it’s a heck no kind of a thing.

Pete Mockaitis
Thank you for the children who listen to the show.

Ari Meisel
Yeah, right. That’s one thing. Dealing with it means you can deal with it right now like in the next three minutes. If you can’t – and in dealing with it right now, that could include delegating it – but if you can’t do that right now, and you can’t say no, then you have to defer it. At that point you pick a more optimal time for you to do it. That’s the point of it is you don’t have to put too much thought into what, when and why.

Pete Mockaitis
I’m curious to hear then when it comes to the heck yes and heck no, it sounds like that’s kind of a visceral your whole person is resonating with something is what lands you at a heck yes or do you have a more systematic approach by which you are determining “Yes, I shall pursue that and no, I shall not pursue the other thing?”

Ari Meisel
One is just understanding your resources, knowing if something is even possible, which part of that comes honestly from having that clarity of thought that comes from having a system like this. It sounds very circular, but it’s true. That’s the big one.

But the other one is also having the places to sort of delegate into that can possibly deal with it. What I mean by that is I have a number of virtual assistants. I have people on my team that I might think it’s a yes, but I have a system in place to sort of send it over to one of them to then validate that idea or at least move it a little bit farther down the field.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, understood. You’ve also got a concept called set it and forget it. How does that work? Is this an infomercial?

Ari Meisel
Yeah. That’s how I think through automation. Automation to me should be something that we just sort of set up and then it just runs in the background and we just don’t have to think about it anymore. That could be simple things like a trigger through an IFTTT, for example, that if something happens here, then do something else over here. Or a process that is in place that people can go through a very detailed checklist, but it’s still that – that’s how you should be thinking about automation.

It’s not something that you should have to monitor or watch. I forgot who it is actually, but somebody, a friend of mine describes automation is just something that means he doesn’t have to do it.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, automation means I don’t have to do it, which is great because in a way, that expands your mindset or how you’re looking at it beyond that of software, robots. Automation can very much include people, people engaging processes, which include a high or low-tech application there. If you don’t have to do it, then that means it’s been automated as far as you’re concerned.

Ari Meisel
Right, exactly.

Pete Mockaitis
I dig it. Well, you mentioned IFTT, if this, then that. It’s so funny I’ve looked at this app several times and thinking, that’s just cool. I’m sure I could probably find some use for it and yet I haven’t. Tell me, what are the most game changingly useful things you’re using IFTT for?

Ari Meisel
First of all, any time you find yourself in a situation where you say ‘every,’ so like every time this happens, every time a customer signs up, every time I book a podcast or video, every time I record an interview, every time I send a Tweet, every time I hire or fire someone, that ‘every’ should be a trigger to think about automation because typically that should mean it’s something that’s repetitive.

That’s one way of thinking through it. All those things that we do on a regular basis, on a repetitive basis, those are things that should be automated. I’ve automated hiring processes, content dissemination, even using machine learning to segment out potential customers from people on my email list. All of those things can be done with automations.

But at a really simple level, if you want to look at the things that you know you should be doing, but not you’re not doing them, that’s a great case for automation, like, “I’m on Facebook and I know I should be on Twitter and Instagram, but I’m not.” Okay, well you can automatically at the very least post all the things you put on one place into all the others.

I know that I should have consistencies so that if I change my Facebook profile picture, I should probably change my Twitter one as well. But those are the kinds of things most people are just like, “Ah, I’m busy so I’ll just let that one go for now.” A lot of those things where you should be doing them and you’re not, you can pick up the slack with automation.

Pete Mockaitis
When you say things you should be doing, I think one of the first things that leap to mind could be exercise, meditation, and sort of things that are boosting your effectiveness across the board. You talked a bit about attaching a new habit to an existing one, how does this work?

Ari Meisel
There are a lot of people who are way better about habits than I am. My friend James Clear, who wrote Atomic Habits, is one of the better ones to be honest.

But if we have a good habit in place already, like most of us probably brush our teeth, then you – and you want to bring in a new habit, then you can associate it with the existing habit. That’s like an anchoring effect. It just makes it a lot easier to implement that habit.

The other thing that I like is generally if you make something 20 seconds easier or 20 seconds harder, you can make or break a habit that way as well. The most obvious example of that is if you want to drink more water throughout the day, have a big thing of water at your desk, you don’t have to get up and go get water. If you don’t want to eat cookies, don’t have cookies in your house.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s nice, so 20 seconds easier or 20 seconds harder can make or break it. Well, then I’m wondering then if there’s a threshold number of seconds that’s like beyond that, “Ah, it’s just too much,” like “If it’s 35 seconds, okay, okay, fine, but if it’s 55, forget about it. Ain’t going to happen.”

Ari Meisel
Yeah, all the research I’ve seen is around 20 seconds.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Good. That’s helpful. Okay, cool. That’s a bit about the automation side.

Now let’s talk about the outsourcing. You mentioned virtual assistants a number of times. Most of our listeners are employees and not entrepreneurs or business owners, but I can tell you that when I was an employee, I used virtual assistants to great effect. Can you unpack a little behind this? Virtual assistants, what are they really, really good for and where do people go wrong when they try to make good use of them?

Ari Meisel
Even in your personal life you should be using virtual assistants because it allows you to focus on what you do best and delegate the rest as has been said before. I use the VAs for over 100 hours a week in my personal life with my four kids and booking travel for me and my family and signing up for after school things and insurance.

You have to understand the return on investment there is not necessarily something that you’re going to be able to directly measure in dollars. It’s just going to make your life better.

The biggest problem with outsourcing in general is if people try to do it as a first step and they can’t. If you take an ineffective problem and you just hand it over to somebody else who has less information, less context than you and expect some magical result, it’s just not going to happen. You have to start with the optimizing first, then the automating, then you can get to the outsourcing.

Because also if you give work to a human being that an automation could do, then you’re effectively dehumanizing them, which doesn’t work either. We have to get better at communicating what our needs are. A lot of that comes from going through and creating an optimized process to begin with.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s a great point in terms of “I don’t like this. You handle it,” often doesn’t give you some great results on the other side.

Tell me a little bit when you talk about that optimization, what I found is some of the hardest thinking that I do, which has been just tremendously rewarding in terms of the return has been how do I take this gut feel type decision and turn that almost into an algorithm that we can use to determine – to get pretty far.

For example, I get tons of incoming podcast guest pitches. It’s like, “Oh my gosh.” One by one by one, I was sort of looking at them is like this is nuts, but every once in a while there were some really amazing people who came in. I thought “Well, I can’t just ignore them all.”

I really had to stop and think. It’s like, I want guests who are relevant, who are authorities, and who are engaging. Now, what exactly do I mean by relevant? What exactly do I mean by authoritative? How would I assess or measure or evaluate that? What exactly do I mean by engaging? Now, I can have that – it just goes in terms of the pitch lands and someone evaluates it per all my parameters and then I only look at a small set of finalists.

That’s been huge for me. Is there a particular way that you think about turning things from, “Okay, I can handle this,” until it’s so darn clear that someone else can handle it repeatedly?

Ari Meisel
Delegation is a muscle. You need to practice it and do it and it becomes a lot more natural. It’s not necessarily even so much that there’s an algorithm. But if you say there’s only three choices in these situations and that’s it. There’s only three choices. You sort of create innovation by artificially restricting your options.

Pete Mockaitis
All right, I dig. Can you give us an example of that in practice?

Ari Meisel
I mean, that’s one, the three options. If you say there’s 20 different things you could do, but you say, no, you only have three options. That’s a good one.

For me, if you artificially restrict time. A lot of people say “There’s no time in the day. There’s no time in the day.” It’s just not true. It’s just that priorities are messed up and people don’t have good systems.

If I told somebody that works a nine to five job what would you do if you could only work till four, you had to leave at four? For most people that’s pretty straightforward. That’s a fairly easy way to think through it. “Oh, I would skip lunch,” or “I’d take one less meeting,” or something.

But if you say to the same person, “What would you do if you could only work an hour a day?” that’s a very different question. That creates a whole different – you need a totally different way of thinking to make that work.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. You’re already getting the wheels turning for me. It’s like, “Well, I would have to figure out how to have other people do the things that I’m no longer doing,” is what I would do with that hour, kind of like wishing for more wishes, if you will.

Ari Meisel
Yeah, right.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s good. When it comes to these virtual assistants, boy, how does someone find them? Where would you recommend they go, they research, they explore? What are some first steps there?

Ari Meisel
I’ve worked with over 20 different virtual assistant companies over the years, including owning one myself. In that time my favorite one is a company called Magic. People can go to Less.do/Magic to get connected with them. There’s a reason for that. There’s dedicated assistants, which I think create just another bottleneck that you give to somebody else. Then this is what’s more of an on demand model.

Magic has 15 people. Half of them are in the States. Half of them are in the Philippines. They work seamlessly as like one giant entity that really knows your preferences, understands what you need, and their response time is about 30 seconds 24/7. They can do all the different things. They charge I think it’s like 51 cents per minute or something like that.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. That’s cool. I’ve seen ads for Magic, but I’m like, okay, well, I’ve used a lot myself. Are they any good? It sounds like you’ve been around the block. You say, “Oh yes, Pete. They are legit.”

Ari Meisel
Oh yes, Pete. They are ….

Pete Mockaitis
That’s valuable information. One of my favorite places I’ve gone to is OnlineJobs.ph, which is for hiring people in the Philippines, but you’re going to significantly more work upfront in order to select that winner. That is a bit of work, but I found that on the backend it’s oh so rewarding when you have those champions.

Ari Meisel
Right, yeah. Absolutely.

Pete Mockaitis
Cool. You also talk about outsourcing your outsourcing. What does this mean?

Ari Meisel
I’ve had Magic manage other outsource reliers. In outsourcing we generally have the generalist and we have specialist. Generalist would be the admin sort of VA. The specialist is more like the graphic designers and the programmers and stuff like that. I’ve had Magic manage them in some cases, so then I’m not even having to deal with them. I can have sort of one point of contact.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool. That’s cool. Well, Ari, tell me, anything else you really want to make sure to mention before we shift gears and hear about some of your favorite things?

Ari Meisel
No, that’s the main thing. We have a couple different programs that we offer. We have something called a Replaceable Founder, which is a really great online course and now a one-day intensive workshop that we actually offer here in New York City. That’s something that I would recommend people checking out at Replaceable.fr.

Pete Mockaitis
Cool. All right. Now could you share with us a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Ari Meisel
Yeah, I sure can. I just have to pull this up. Too long, but it’s long enough that I can’t remember it. It’s a Robert Heinlein quote, if you’ve heard of Robert Heinlein.

Pete Mockaitis
I think I see his name in text in my mind’s eye, but I don’t recall anything more.

Ari Meisel
He wrote Tunnel in the Sky. He wrote some of the – he was sort of an Isaac Asimov contemporary.

But anyway, he said, “A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, con a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.”

Pete Mockaitis
All right, thank you. How about a favorite study or experiment or bit of research?

Ari Meisel
Oh, that’s a good one. The Zeigarnik Effect probably. Bluma Zeigarnik in the 1920s in Berlin was a Russian doctoral student. She discovered this part of the brain that not only pushes us to complete the uncompleted, so it’s like the voice in our heads that pushes us to complete the uncompleted, but it’s also where we sort of process open-ended information.

Pete Mockaitis
So we know that that part of the brain exists. Are there any kind of key implications for how we live our lives differently knowing that?

Ari Meisel
Yeah. Yeah, it’s a really important understanding for us because we actually are more able to recall that kind of information than in any other setting.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool. Thank you. How about a favorite book?

Ari Meisel
My favorite book ever is Emergency by Neil Strauss.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s fun. How about a favorite tool, something that helps you be awesome at your job?

Ari Meisel
Favorite tool. That would be Trello, really Trello.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. And a favorite habit?

Ari Meisel
Favorite habit. My nightly sort of brain dump, sorting of ideas that I do in Trello. It’s huge for me.

Pete Mockaitis
Is there a particular nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate with your folks, that gets them nodding their heads and retweeting and telling you how brilliant you are?

Ari Meisel
Well, I hope so. I think just this concept of being replaceable. It opens up a lot of ideas and philosophies and emotions for some people to understand that that’s a really good thing. It’s not just about replacing yourself in terms of the functions that you do and bringing other people to do them and empowering them, it’s also about re-placing you to the sort of glory and comfort and happiness that you once had.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, that’s clever. Re-placing, to place again yourself.

Ari Meisel
That’s right.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s profound. Thank you.

Ari Meisel
Thank you. There we go.

Pete Mockaitis
If folks want to learn more or get in touch, where would you point them?

Ari Meisel
They should go to LessDoing.com. We’ve got this really cool little free mini course that people can go through. That’s a bunch of videos. Actually, if they go to Less.do/Foundations, they can get into that.

Pete Mockaitis
Do you have a final challenge or call to action for folks seeking to be awesome at their jobs?

Ari Meisel
Seek replaceability in everything that you do. If you can’t be replaced, you can’t be promoted.

Pete Mockaitis
Beautiful. Well Ari, this has been a real treat. Thank you for taking the time and good luck in all you’re up to.

Ari Meisel
Thank you.

389: Recharging Your Career with Beth Benatti Kennedy

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Coach Beth Benatti Kennedy shares actionable ways to recharge your career and beat burnout.

You’ll Learn:

  1. The five focus areas for recharging your career
  2. How to use a Purpose Mind Map
  3. A more exciting way to introduce yourself

About Beth

Beth Benatti Kennedy, MS LMFT brings more than twenty years of experience to her role as a leadership and executive coach, resiliency-training expert, and speaker. With an extensive background in career development, she coaches high-potential individuals on how to use their influence strategically, collaborate effectively, and focus on innovation. Her clients include Gillette Company, Nike, Converse, and many others. Her new book, Career Recharge: Five Strategies to boost Resilience and Beat Burnout, was published in October.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Beth Benatti Kennedy Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Beth, thanks so much for joining us here on the How to be Awesome at Your Job podcast.

Beth Benatti Kennedy
Thank you for having me.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’m excited to hear your story. I want to start when you were eight years old working at the family moving company. Were you hauling some furniture? What were you doing at eight years old there?

Beth Benatti Kennedy
I was one of these kids growing up, my dad came from an entrepreneur family, Steinway Movers. As a little girl I would always – I was always very interested in like whenever the truck would come to our house and asking him a lot of questions and what are you doing Saturday morning because he was definitely a workaholic.

I used to get to on Saturdays go to some of his big jobs. He used to – it’s in New York, so he used to move really big companies. One of them is Pan American airlines when they used to be around, which was one of my favorites. I used to go with him.

He would always bring breakfast for all of the workers, so they would get these fresh New York rolls and soft butter. I would be in charge of making sure they were cut in half because he didn’t want the guys being messy when they’re touching the equipment etcetera, etcetera.

Pete Mockaitis

That is attention to detail.

Beth Benatti Kennedy
Yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
No crumbs on the client’s goods.

Beth Benatti Kennedy
Exactly, exactly. His trucks were so clean; you could have a picnic on the floor. He is the word passion till – he’s passed away – but was the work passion 100% plus, plus, plus for his career. Anyway, I got to see – that was my job. I’d go around make sure everyone if they needed coffee, would have their coffee and get their rolls.

But I got to do a lot of observing and I got to see a big piece of my model – the Benatti Resiliency model – is connection. A lot of that came from him because he had this gift of connecting with everyone whether it was the gentleman driving the elevator or whether it was the person in the hallway cleaning the garbage. He connected with everyone. It didn’t matter what level you were. I think that was a big, huge part of the success of his business.

Pete Mockaitis
Absolutely. Well, just taking the time to provide the rolls and the coffee is pretty cool. At the times, we’ve had movers just two or three people showed up. It’s like, okay, I guess it’s on. Yeah, a little extra touch.

Beth Benatti Kennedy
These were like giant, giant moves, where they had just like five trucks and lots of men, lots of different directions, so it was super exciting for me.

Pete Mockaitis
Beautiful. Well, so I want to hear a little bit about this model and your book, Career ReCharge. What’s sort of the main thesis here?

Beth Benatti Kennedy
I’ve been a leadership coach for 20-something years. I started off as a career coach for the first 10 years. One of the things that I learned being – mostly doing corporate work was that people could – they so wanted to move on with their career or do something different, but what I found was many people were just completely exhausted or burnt out or bored. I had to recharge them so that they had the enthusiasm and the energy to really make that career change.

It’s a model that has developed over the years. That’s where the book came out was actually about four years ago I had a few clients that said you have to share this. I hesitated because it’s really hard being self-employed writing a book.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah.

Beth Benatti Kennedy
I hesitated the first year and then the second year I really got involved in a very committed program. It was so exciting to share my clients’ stories who really were even fine with me using their name because they really wanted to share the success of the model.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that’s cool. Well, could you give us a success story right now?

Beth Benatti Kennedy
Sure, sure. One of my favorites is a gentleman named Eliot, who was an engineer and I coached him many, many years ago. He was – actually designed razorblades. I was in this company in Boston coaching a lot of employees. Again, a lot of my internal coaching was just helping them be more successful in their job.

At the time he really liked what he was doing. It was exciting, cutting edge company. They get bought by another company. He gets moved to another department. At that point, I actually am not coaching him anymore. I get a call from him. He’s in this new position for about two years and just miserable, not using his strengths. He says to me, “I need to meet with you again. I need to start up coaching again.”

We start up coaching and I realize he is completely burnt out. It was amazing for me to see this gentleman who used to be so – like one of the top in the company as it’s called a modeling simulation engineer, so he could actually design the razorblades – seeing someone who used to be so phenomenal just completely affect flat and just exhausted. Basically he really wanted to start the whole process.

It begins by this five areas. The first one is I zero in on their wellbeing, taking a look at physically, emotionally what’s going on and then starting to offer some – having them actually figure out some good strategies that will work for them.

Then we go into self-awareness, which is really getting clear on what their purpose is, how is their mindset, because we all know if you have that awful mindset, it’s not going to really help you if you’re trying to do a career change. Then one of the my expertise is personality types, so really looking at how is your type showing up and do you need to do any tweaking. We started with those two areas.

One of the things we found when we did his purpose was he was really ready for a change, but it’s scary. He wasn’t even 50 and he’s like, “Am I crazy to leave the golden Hancocks?” With my support and with working through the rest of the model, getting – which the next piece is brand, so we figured out when he did my brand exercises that he could take this amazing skillset he has and market it as a consultant.

The exciting part of the story is he did leave this Fortune 100 Company and now has his own consulting business. He’s actually – one of the organizations that he consults for is the US Olympic Skating Committee. He used his-

Pete Mockaitis
How clever.

Beth Benatti Kennedy
Yeah, he used his passion of ice skating to now he was actually able to predict what pairs in the Olympics – what country was going to have a better chance of winning from analyzing their strokes on the ice.

Pete Mockaitis
Huh?

Beth Benatti Kennedy
Yup.

Pete Mockaitis
So once you know who has a better chance of winning, what do you do with that?

Beth Benatti Kennedy
Basically what the US Olympic Skating Committee is doing with his kind of research is to be able to say, “Okay, let’s figure out who are the skaters we really want to work on for next year? What are the things – why is this particular country doing so well? Oh, we need to – the ice skaters need to work on this to really make it to that first or second or third place.”

Pete Mockaitis
It’s so fascinating, when you said ice skating, I was like, okay, I can see the carryover, like the blade going to the skates, but no, you went in a totally different direction.

Beth Benatti Kennedy
He went a totally – his doctorate degree was in this – now it’s a big thing, this modeling simulation, I guess like baseball players. He could actually if he wanted to work for like a professional football team or a professional baseball team, where they do this modeling simulation and they can predict “Okay, you’re holding a bat this way, this is what will happen.”

It was really exciting because till this – I still coach him and he weekly goes through the five areas. The two areas that I didn’t get to talk about – the fourth one is called connection. That’s why I have all my clients every week really take a look at are you proactively connecting with people that nourish you, excite you, enrich you.

This was a huge piece of him being able to make this transition to a whole new career field. He just surrounded himself – I call it ‘who’s in your boat’ – getting really great people to support you. One of them was back to working with a coach because sometimes you can’t do a huge – that is such a huge change he made, you just can’t do it by yourself, even with the most supportive partner.

Then the fifth one is innovation. That’s when you challenge yourself to kind of really just learn and do different things. This is – the innovation for him was he actually had to go back to Northeastern University and take some more courses on some of this technical modeling stuff, I couldn’t even explain to you because I don’t even understand it.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that’s intriguing. It’s called the Resiliency model, but it seems like it’s bigger than just being able to weather the difficulties that come your way.

Beth Benatti Kennedy
Yes, yeah, yeah. My definition of resiliency is a little bit different. I think a lot of people think of resiliency as just bouncing back, but my – I really see resiliency also as being proactive in your career because I think a big issue right now is people – we get kind of set in our ways and we forget that we can’t just start working on career development once we hate our job. We have to proactively be doing things for our career on a weekly basis, even little tiny things.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’d love to hear, what are some of those little tiny things that make a real big difference?

Beth Benatti Kennedy
Basically what I’ve done in my book, I have these little boosters at the end of every chapter, so I’ll just share some of them from brand. Brand, when I think about brand, my definition of brand is what are your strengths, what are your attributes, what do you bring to that position or that company, what’s the impact you’re making and what’s your reputation.

A little tiny thing you could do once a week is spend five minutes on LinkedIn. Take a look at your profile. When’s the last time you updated your profile? What about connecting? Is there someone you just had a meeting with two days ago? Did you connect with them?

Because I think what happens, again, LinkedIn for many people they think that’s a job searching tool. It’s really a pro-active career development tool. It’s one of the – a great way to kind of stay up to date in your career. That’s a little example of a tip.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, I’d love to hear a few more of these.

Beth Benatti Kennedy
Okay.

Pete Mockaitis
Why don’t we start in the realm of wellbeing? What are some of the things that make a world of difference?

Beth Benatti Kennedy
I’ll share a few for each booster. The first for wellbeing one of them is how important it is to make sure you’re not doing everything yourself, so having the gift of time. Another one is thinking about – with all the stress going on at work – what are the things you can control and what are the things you can’t control and making sure you’re focusing on things that you can control because it’s so easy to get stressed out  by everything.

Pete Mockaitis
When it comes to not doing everything yourself, what are some of the top things that people find that, “Hey, sure enough I can get some help with this,” or “I can outsource this,” or “automate this.”

Beth Benatti Kennedy
You’re going to crack up, but I would say probably once a month I will say to someone, “Have you ever considered getting your apartment or your house cleaned?” Now these are people with big jobs like this audience that’s listening and they’ll say, “No, I just can’t do it.” Then I’ll say, “Okay, just try it for three months.” They’ll say, “That was the best thing.”

Even if they have someone come every – like once every three weeks, they fit it into their budget, they’re like, “That is the best thing I’ve ever done,” because now they have more time and energy to do the things that they need to do for their wellbeing like get to the gym for 20 minutes or 30 minutes or go for a walk. That’s – believe it or not, that’s a big one that people really like.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I like that a lot. What’s cool there is that doesn’t just mean that you’re cranking out another hour of work, but rather that is sort of precious home time – I guess the time you spend in cleaning is sort of a privileged category of time because you’re outside of work and you’re not doing sort of immediate family responsibilities because in a way, cleaning isn’t super urgent. We’ve got a little bit of leeway with it.

Beth Benatti Kennedy
Right.

Pete Mockaitis
When you get to it, it’s kind of coming at the expense of maybe any number of rejuvenating things from seeing a friend or going for a walk or exercise or massage or whatever that might be for a boost.

Beth Benatti Kennedy
Right, exactly. Exactly. Then in the area of self-awareness, for self-awareness, kind of the vibe words I call them, are knowing your purpose, getting aware of your mindset, like I mentioned, your type.

Some of the boosters that I have for that is I have my clients really think about what are there values and are they living them personally and professionally. Sometimes individuals will say, “I cannot get my values in my job or my career. It’s just – this is – I went to school to become a lawyer and I’m in a really tough practice. I’m not living my values.”

Then I will say, “Okay, let’s figure out a way that you can get them personally. Maybe you want to get involved in a non-profit or maybe you want to get involved in another volunteer organization. It’s amazing how that’s instant recharge for your career when you can get your values at somewhere in your life.

Pete Mockaitis
Can you give us examples of values that folks often come up with that really resonate and are meaningful to them and yet also are frequently not being met in the workplace?

Beth Benatti Kennedy
Sure. It’s interesting because I just did this this morning with someone. Some of her values were family, friends, innovation, learning, making a difference. She had problem solving. She had career satisfaction. She had financial security. Those are values that are really, really important to her. She was presently working at a consulting – a really, really competitive consulting company. Through our work now she has decided that she’s actually going back to nursing school.

Part of the reason she’s making this change is to get more of these values in her career, but when she was working at the consulting firm, I was sharing with her, there’s ways – like the one making a difference, maybe it’s that one person, that junior person in your organization that you can mentor. That’s a great way to make a difference even if you’re in a competitive environment.

Pete Mockaitis
I guess when we talk about values there’s a number of ways we could define them. I’d love to get your sense for how do you know you’ve really hit upon one that’s like, yup, ding, ding, ding, that’s a big one. That is resonantly important. Because as you brainstormed or shared those lists there, I guess I might be able to generate dozens upon dozens of such things that would be meaningful. I guess it’s kind of tricky with regard to time, money, attention, energy prioritizing and zeroing in on the biggies.

Beth Benatti Kennedy
Yeah. That’s such a good question. I always – I actually when I teach I have a full day class, corporate class, that goes with the book. When I do the class I actually have cards, value cards. I let them select 8 cards. They often say, “Oh my gosh, I want to have like 20.”

What I say to them is what are – if you thought of your life like a compass and these cards were going to direct your life and your career in a certain way, which of the cards or which of the values are like your compass? How do you want them? That really helps people because you’re right, you could say, “Oh my gosh, all of these are important to me.” But if you only could have eight, which are the ones that are really calling to you.

This is something else that I also have to clarify is that sometimes people will say, “Is it work or is it life?” It’s an overlap. I think that any coach that says your values do not hit on both, it’s incorrect. You’re really – our values are shaping our entire life. We have to look at career slash life when we’re thinking about our values.

Pete Mockaitis
I’m curious. They chose eight. How big is the deck of cards they’re choosing out of?

Beth Benatti Kennedy
Believe it or not, it’s so funny, I had to just order a ton more of them. There’s like 52 cards. … huge.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, yeah, just like a deck of cards. You say you ordered them, is this from a product one can purchase or how do you get them?

Beth Benatti Kennedy
Yes, yes. I have – I’m just grabbing it because I have a few different – I’ve been reviewing a bunch of different vendors. Dick Knowdell is the vendor that makes these.
K-N-O-W-D-E-L-L.
They’re called the Knowdell Card Sort Career Values.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.

Beth Benatti Kennedy
They’re really designed for career coaches, but I find – people like them so much I often – I give them away at my classes because they’re like, “Oh, I want to do this when I get home with my partner.”

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, that is cool. I’m curious in terms of the hard thinking, in terms of which eight get selected – I’m sure you’ve seen this process many times, what are some of the thought processes like when they choose one over another? What sorts of things do you hear? It’s like, “Well, I’ve got,” we’ll just say, “adventure and I’ve got problem solving,” how do they get there?

Beth Benatti Kennedy
It’s funny too because people will often say to me, “Oh, I have to be practical.” I’m like, “No, this is your time. This class is called career recharge, so this is a time for you to recharge your life and your career. You don’t have to be practical. What are the eight cards that you – what are the eight values that you really want to have?” It’s really funny. It’s almost like people, especially in corporate America, really need permission to say, “Oh, so I can say-“

I was just trying to think of one – there’s one that often people say, “Oh, I can select this one?” It’s like, “Yeah, this is your life. That’s – it’s like I decided 27 years ago to be self-employed. That’s a strong value for me. What are the values that are calling to you?”

Sometimes – then this is an important piece of the exercise is then I have the individuals look at those eight cards and put a plus sign if they have it and put a negative sign if they don’t have it in their career or their life. Then if I have a class of say 30 people, I’ll say, “Okay, who has more than five negative signs?” Sometimes it’s one-third the class.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah.

Beth Benatti Kennedy
How can we recharge? How can people really be engaged in their work and really do their best if all the – there’s lots of research that shows people that are following their purpose are happier and healthier and more engaged at work.

Pete Mockaitis
When you say purpose are those sort of – what’s the relationship between purpose and values here? Is the purpose consisting of values or are you thinking of these separately?

Beth Benatti Kennedy
Yeah. I’ve designed an exercise. I call it the Purpose Mind Map. This also helps people with their branding. What I have individuals do is the first step is figure out what your values are. Then when I think about purpose, what I want people to think about is what is the contribution you want to make in your career. What’s the difference you want to make in the world?

Sometimes it could be – let’s just say you’re an accountant that my purpose is I want to work at this top accounting firm in New York City and I want to be a partner in ten years. For that person, that’s their purpose. But for someone else it might be totally different.

It might be I want to make – I did a lot of consulting for Bright Horizons, which is a daycare company. For those individuals, a lot of times their purpose is I just want to – I want to have an organization that makes the best difference for children and for their providers. It’s so interesting when you think about purpose, it’s really – it goes back to, again, that legacy question. What’s the difference – when you retire someday, what’s that difference you want to make?
It’s a little bit messy because it’s not like a math equation where someone can have an easy answer. It’s something you really have to do all these little steps.

Pete Mockaitis
Indeed. I want to get your take on when someone says this is their purpose, I think about the accounting firm example, how do you know that it’s the real deal as opposed to, “No, no, no, no, think harder?”

Beth Benatti Kennedy
That is a – that’s a great question. One of the – that actually – something that I will ask that person is “What’s the impact you’re making?” or “What’s the impact you want to make?” and “What’s the reputation you want to have?”

One of the things that happened to me was my first career I was a school counselor in the Boston Public Schools. Our purposes change. At that point I was right out of graduate school and I wanted to just change the world. That was my purpose. I wanted to go in there and I wanted to get these kids going to college.

But after seven or eight years, it was like hitting my wall against a brick because I couldn’t get any impact. I was running programs for parents, no one was showing up. It led me to get burned out because I had this purpose, but I couldn’t make the impact.

Then I was really fortunate. I – by, again, my – I write about this in the book, the connection piece of my model. In graduate school I was sitting next to the training manager of the Gillette Company who gave me a little opportunity to do a little gig at the Gillette Company and do some career counseling.

All of the sudden the light bulb went off. I was like wow, I want to make a difference in people’s lives. It’s not working in the schools right now because this was 27 years ago. I could probably make it in organizations, helping people figure out – making them more satisfied in their careers.

I didn’t even know what outplacement was then, but I was lucky enough to find a graduate degree program in human resource counseling. That was where I got trained as a career counselor. I was like, “Oh my gosh, this is exactly what I want to be doing.”

Pete Mockaitis
That’s a really great distinction there because you’ve got the purpose and you’ve got the impact because some people might say, “Well, shucks, this is what I’ve always wanted to do and I’m doing it, so what’s the missing link?” It’s like, “Oh well, it’s not going anywhere.”

This kind of reminds me of Stephen Covey with begin with the end in mind and thinking about your funeral and what you’d like people to say about you and that kind of hits it there in terms of the contribution and the impact and what you’re about and what you’re like. That’s good stuff.

Beth Benatti Kennedy
I’m not sure if you’re familiar with – you probably are – Dan Buettner. He has this study; it’s called Blue Zones.

Pete Mockaitis
About the people who live longer.

Beth Benatti Kennedy
Yes, yes. His – that study is just fascinating because he – it consisted of 73,000 Japanese men and women. This was in 2009. What he found was the individuals that had a strong connection to purpose and I think the word is hysterical because I always have to catch myself if I’m saying it right, but it’s I-K-I-G-A-I, ikigai. What he found was those individuals with a sense of purpose, live longer. Then if you look at the other research that’s part of that, he also talks about how important connection is, being with a community.

For some people their purpose could be – it could be something like “I want to make the world the better place by introducing-“ like I work with a lot of doctors trying to cure cancer so that’s their big purpose. Even though 80% of cancer molecules don’t work; it’s still for them so exciting because they are every day trying to make an impact on their purpose, if that makes sense.

Pete Mockaitis
Mm-hm. That’s good. I want to make sure we get to touch on the mindset a bit. What are the habits of thinking that are really helpful and not so helpful?

Beth Benatti Kennedy
For the boosters for mindset, one of the – what most people find most helpful is paying attention in the morning and giving themselves a daily intention. For example, it might be – like with this crazy – when things are crazy with the holidays or with it being a new year, it might be I’m going to start my morning off and stay relaxed and focused. They give themselves that morning intention. Some of my executives that get really anxious, they give themselves the intention in the morning of calm and confidence.

Mindset, that’s probably the number one booster is giving that morning intention. Then you can do it throughout the day.

The other booster that people find helpful is what I call the pause breath. Sometimes when you’re just having one of those days where it just feels like everything is going wrong, everything you touch, you just feel this – you can feel the stress through your body, I recommend just take two seconds, do a nice inhale, do a nice exhale. I call it the pause breath.

Do that even before you send a charged email because that’s the other thing that starts to happen with mindset is the negatives start outweighing the positives and all of the sudden we’re emailing someone and we’re saying, “Oh my gosh, what are we doing?”

Carol Dweck has out her book, Growth Mindset. She really talks about how important it is to really – in today’s day and age, we have to be so adaptable to change. What her research shows is the more we’re open to being adaptable, having what she calls this growth mindset, we have greater success at work, greater productivity, greater impact if we’re a manager.

I can notice – it’s interesting, when I interview a client before they start coaching with me, I can tell sometimes they’ve had so many negative things happen that they’re just like – they’re just done. Sometimes that can be the beginning of burnout, that mindset just gets really negative.

It’s not that we can’t have negative feelings, but it’s kind of that 80/20 rule. When 80% of your day is just awful, then you really have to worry about it. But you’re going to have – we all have a Monday or a day where it’s just a horrible meeting or a challenge.

Pete Mockaitis
Understood. Well, tell me Beth, anything else you want to make sure to mention before we shift gears and hear about some of your favorite things?

Beth Benatti Kennedy
Let me see. Did you want to hear the – I think the brand boosters. But just to emphasize another one that people like is that when you think about branding, like when you’re at a networking event and I know people don’t really like the word networking. I talk about that in my book to call it connection and think about building relationships.

When you meet someone instead of me just saying, “Oh, I’m Beth Kennedy. I’m a leadership coach.” Think about how can you tell a little bit of your story. I might say, “Hi, I’m Beth. I’m a coach, but I really focus on resiliency and preventing burnout in employees in organizations. That’s my passion. I also really encourage people to figure out what they can do so that they’re more motivated, excited and driven in their career.” Isn’t that a lot more excited than saying, “Hi, I’m Beth and I’m a leadership coach?”

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah and it sort of lets the conversation go into some interesting places, like, “Oh man, I remember when I was burnt out a few years ago I could have used you. I was-“ and then you go. You’re somewhere as opposed to, “Oh, you’re a leadership coach. Okay cool. Well, I am an accountant.”

Beth Benatti Kennedy
Right.

Pete Mockaitis
It’s sort of – it’s less of a connecting conversation.

Beth Benatti Kennedy
I think for – sometimes attorneys will say to me or engineers will say, “Oh my God, what am I going to – there’s just no way to say that.” There’s always a little tiny story you can share even if you say something about your organization, so “I’m an engineer at this company. One of our specialties is this,” just to add a little bit to it.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. I think engineers often have some fascinating things to say. All sorts of engineers like, “Oh yeah, I work on manufacturing equipment for a Skittles plant.” Okay. I’m all ears. Let’s talk about Skittles.

Or even if it seems maybe less interesting like logistics, like moving stuff around, I can get fascinated by that. It’s like, “Man, that’s a lot of stuff you move around. How do you do that? I find it challenging just to answer all the questions FedEx has for me before I send out a package.”

Beth Benatti Kennedy
Right. Exactly. It’s so nice to hear you say that because I think most – I think the clients that have the most difficult time with that are scientists, engineers and attorneys because that’s what they say they are. It’s like just bring a little bit of that story into it.

Pete Mockaitis
Attorneys have such good stories. Someone is getting sued for something, whether it’s criminal or civil, I think it’s really juicy.

Beth Benatti Kennedy
Yeah, even if you’re a corporate attorney, again, some people think, “Oh, that’s just so boring,” well, no it’s not. There’s something about that organization that will just make people learn a little bit more about you.

Pete Mockaitis
Cool.

Beth Benatti Kennedy
So that’s just an example of another brand booster.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well now can you share with us a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Beth Benatti Kennedy
Sure. It’s so interesting because I love quotes, but I think one of my favorite one is by Thoreau and “It’s go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you’ve imagined.”

Pete Mockaitis
….

Beth Benatti Kennedy
I just think that gosh, with life being short that – I love that it ends with “live the life you’ve imagined” because whatever some of those dreams are, whether it’s career or travel or whatever it is to just keep plugging along. I feel like too that’s to me what resiliency is about is about moving forward even when you – for some-

I share in the book many years ago I applied for a doctorate psychology degree program and I didn’t get in. I thought my world was over. Then now I have this career that I couldn’t imagine doing anything better. I couldn’t imagine sitting in an office every day listening to people’s problems. I just think that we just want to – we have these little challenges come, but somewhere there’s a spark of wonderful thing that’s going to keep coming.

Pete Mockaitis
How about a favorite study or experiment or bit of research?

Beth Benatti Kennedy
It’s interesting because one of my favorite research studies is – I don’t know if you’ve heard of him. His name is George Vaillant.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh yeah.

Beth Benatti Kennedy
What he shares – he was a Harvard psychiatrist. He did the Harvard Grant Study from 1972 to 2004. He found strong relationships to be the strongest predictor of life and career satisfaction. What was interesting is his research showed that feeling connected to one’s work was far more important than making money or achieving traditional success.

I have seen that a lot in doing 25 years of coaching is that when people feel really connected to their work, they are just – you can just see this level of energy and happiness.

Sometimes I’ll meet with people that are making incredible amounts of money and I’ll say to them “What is your career satisfaction out of a ten?” and they’ll say a two. I’ll say, “What is your life satisfaction out of a ten?” and they’ll say like a four.

The other thing that happens when – and there’s lots of research that’s been going on about this is as we connect with others we get the – they call them the feel-good chemicals. The dopamine and the oxytocin and that’s the other reason why connection is so important, cultivating relationships.

Pete Mockaitis
Mm-hm. How about a favorite book?

Beth Benatti Kennedy
I was so happy to hear your quote because my favorite book is 7 Habits of Being Highly Effective by Steven Covey. I have to say I quote him every time I train a class I’m always bringing something in from his class. It’s one of those oldies but goodies.

Pete Mockaitis
How about a favorite tool?

Beth Benatti Kennedy
It’s interesting. My favorite tool I would say is a meditation app, which is called Calm.com. As part of my career recharge class I piloted five different meditation apps myself. Then I had about 30 clients just try different ones. I learned with meditation apps, it’s so interesting. People – it depends on the person’s voice.

One of the things I love about Calm is it’s ten minutes long, which is perfect amount of time for me. Some of my other clients like Headspace. There’s so many out there right now. 10% Happier. But for me, that’s probably – that is something I use five or six days a week.

Pete Mockaitis
How about a favorite habit?

Beth Benatti Kennedy
My favorite habit is what’s part of actually my resiliency model. It’s called the Friday Five. In my phone every Friday I have a little thing that pops up and it says recharge. I spend five minutes to think about what I’m going to focus on for the next week.

What is that one thing I’m going to add, whether it’s I need to watch that podcast or whether it’s I need to call a good friend that I’ve been out of touch with, but – and I teach that to all my clients that if you can’t find five minutes to nourish your life, then we have to really start to worry. I call it my Friday Five process.

Pete Mockaitis
Is there a particular nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate with your clients?

Beth Benatti Kennedy
I think the nugget that people seem to really like is I have this little saying. I call it spark success. What I mean by that is to start really small to pick something you want to work on and drive it down to the smallest possible doable activity.

For example, a lot of my clients are trying to figure out before the new year begins, okay, how can I regularly exercise. I’ll say to them, “Okay, what’s the smallest thing that you can do?” Maybe it’s getting off the train and walking to work.

It’s really – they really like that idea of I’m about – we’re not looking for perfectionism. We’re just – what’s a small habit that you can start. Then all of the sudden you like it so much it turns into 15 minutes, 20 minutes, going to the gym, doing yoga classes, but starting really small.

Pete Mockaitis
Lovely. If folks want to learn more or get in touch, where would you point them?

Beth Benatti Kennedy
I would point them to my website, which is BethKennedy.com. I’m also on Twitter, which is CoachBKennedy. If you’re on LinkedIn, again, you can see I’m a big LinkedIn person, connect with me on LinkedIn. I have a lot of great stuff going on. There’s been some really awesome posts about some of the exciting things that have been going on with the book.

Pete Mockaitis
Do you have a final challenge or call to action for folks seeking to be awesome at their jobs?

Beth Benatti Kennedy
I would say the call to action is the importance of connection, so to really think about that who is that person, who is the friend or who is the colleague that really supports you and making sure you have time with them together on a regular basis because recharge, it can be so isolating in today’s – everyone’s working so hard and it’s so important to have people on your boat that nourish you and that aren’t toxic.

My call to action is today think of that person you’ve been out of touch with and give them a call or set up a time to meet them for a drink or lunch or dinner. It’s just amazing, it’s amazing what relationships can do for our career and for our productivity.

Pete Mockaitis
Beautiful. Well, Beth, thanks so much for sharing the good stuff. Good luck with the book and all your adventures.

Beth Benatti Kennedy
Thank you. Very nice to meet you.

373: Getting Consistently Good Results from Yourself and Others with Weldon Long

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Weldon Long explains how his FEAR framework helped turn him from three-time ex-convict to a New York Times bestselling author and top sales expert.

You’ll Learn:

  1. How Weldon went from being a dropout and convict to a star salesperson
  2. A five-step process for getting what you want from others
  3. Achieving more consistent results through the FEAR framework

About Weldon

Weldon Long is a high school dropout who spent 13 years in prison for robbery, money laundering, and mail fraud. While in prison, Weldon started studying; earning his GED, BS in Law, and MBA in Management. Then, at 39 years old, Weldon was released. While living in a homeless shelter, Weldon landed a commission-only sales position and quickly became the company’s top sales leader. In 2004 he opened his own heating and cooling business and grew it into a multimillion-dollar enterprise. He now trains the sales teams at major Fortune 500 corporations including FedEx, Farmers, and Home Depot.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Weldon Long Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Weldon, thanks so much for joining us here on the How to be Awesome at Your Job podcast.

Weldon Long
Hey, Pete thanks so much for having me. I’m really looking forward to the conversation.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, me too. I think you’ve got a fascinating story. You say that sales saved your life. Can you walk us through how that worked?

Weldon Long
Yeah, absolutely. It may sound a little overdramatic, but it actually is true in my case.

From 1987 until 2003, over those roughly 16 years, I spent 13 years in prison, in federal and state prison. I was a ninth-grade high school dropout. I was kind of a punk and a thug, running the streets, using drugs and not being a very responsible person obviously, a very dysfunctional life.

At 23 years old I ended up going to prison, was out trying to pawn a shotgun for some rent money, couldn’t pawn the shotgun, ended up getting high with a guy that I picked up hitchhiking. We had a loaded gun in the truck, what could possibly go wrong with that scenario? Within a couple of hours he and I used that gun to hold two innocent men at gunpoint. Next thing I knew I was in prison for ten years.

I did about four and a half years and I paroled. I got out. I was still a ninth-grade high school dropout. Now I was also a convicted felon, so I didn’t have many opportunities. Then I ended up going back to prison again on some parole violations, got out again at 30 years old.

Now, I’m a two-time convicted felon, still a ninth grade high school dropout. Ended up taking a job doing some telemarketing and one day the FBI showed up. We all went to federal prison on mail fraud and money laundering convictions.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh bummer.

Weldon Long
Yeah, I know.

Pete Mockaitis
You’re trying to be legit and it turns out the company is – well, did you know they were fraudsters?

Weldon Long
Hey, listen, I should have been suspicious when they hired me, right? Anyway, then I went to the federal penitentiary for seven years. But it was during those seven years that I kind of had my moment of clarity and kind of set me on the path that I’ve been on for the last 22 some-odd years.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, let’s hear about the moment of clarity, shall we? What happened?

Weldon Long
Yeah. Well, it was June 10th of 1996. I had already served about six years in state prison. I was just starting seven years in federal prison. On June 10th of 1996, one of the cops walked in the cell house and handed me a note to call home. I called home and learned that my father had unexpectedly and suddenly passed away at just 59 years old.

When I realized that my dad went to his grave knowing me as a thief and a crook and a liar, it completely devastated me. Just the reality of my life was right there in front of me. I was 32 years old. I had destroyed my entire life.

I started thinking about a conversation that my dad and I had a couple weeks before he passed away. We were on the phone and I was kind of complaining about my life and my dad said to me, he said, “You know son, your life could be worse.”

I said, “Dad, how in the world could my life be worse? I’m a ninth-grade high school dropout. I’ve never had a job, never had a home as an adult. Three-time convicted felon, not getting out this time until I’m 40 years old. I had a three-year-old son that I had fathered while I was out on parole. I had abandoned him.” I said, “Dad, how could my life be any worse?” He said, “Son, you’re still breathing. As long as you’re breathing, you’ve got a shot to change your life.”

With that we exchanged our I love you’s, hung up the phone, I never spoke to my father again. That was the last thing he ever said to me. Two weeks later, he was gone. After he passed away I made the decision, I was going to change the course of my life and become a man that my father could have been proud of and the father that my little son deserved. That’s exactly what I did.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s awesome. Well, congratulations and kudos and thank you for contributing to humanity in this way and taking charge and overcoming those challenges to do an about face, that must be super challenging. Go ahead.

Weldon Long
It wasn’t easy. But it’s interesting that you said kudos on the contribution. I think that’s what it really comes down to. We all have to work for our success, but the older I’ve gotten, I realize how important contribution is to the overall success in our lives.

My first book is a little book called The Upside of Fear. I was very pleased to receive endorsements both from Dr. Stephen Covey, who wrote The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and also Tony Robbins, who’s probably the greatest personal development person in the last 40 years.

When Tony Robbins endorsed that book, his endorsement read “Congratulations on your turn around from prison to contribution.” It’s funny that you just used the exact same word because I think that’s a huge part of it.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, then so let’s hear it. You were in prison. You made a decision. And then what happened and how did the sales enter the picture?

Weldon Long
Yeah, well the initial kind of step was that where do you turn this titanic of a life around? I’m 32 years old. I’m a ninth-grade high school dropout, a three-time convicted felon, wouldn’t get out of prison for another seven years. Where do you start? I came up with a master plan to find out what really successful people do and start doing that whatever it was, not reinvent the wheel, not second guess it, just do it.

I started reading. The first book ironically I picked up was The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. That led to many other books. As I begin to read these books, I remember reading a quote from Friedrich Nietzsche. Nietzsche said “We attract that which we fear.” I thought, well that’s just kind of crazy. Why would I attract things in my life I don’t want? I kind of dismissed it.

A couple of months later I’m flipping through a Bible and I come across a scripture in Job. Job says, “Father, that which I have feared has come upon me.” I thought that was really interesting because Nietzsche was an atheist. Job believed clearly in God. Separated by philosophy and thousands of years, but they were saying the exact same thing.

And then I stumbled into a little book called Man’s Search for Meaning written by Viktor Frankl. Frankl said “Fear may come true.” I started thinking about this. Somehow maybe all the chaos in my life is because of what’s in my brain.

So I sat down at the little metal desk in my cell and I wrote down everything I was most afraid of. It turned out to be living and dying in prison, being broke and homeless and impoverished my entire life, never being a father to my son. That’s what I had attracted into my life. My life was a perfect reflection of the things I feared the most. So I’m like, wow, these guys are right. There’s something to this.

I decided initially I’ve got to change what’s in my brain. I sat down at that same metal desk and I wrote out for me, Pete, what a perfect life would look like. I’m an awesome father to my son. I’m wealthy beyond my wildest dreams. I’m a successful writer and entrepreneur and blah, blah, blah, all this amazing stuff.

I took that sheet of paper. I put toothpaste on the back of it and I stuck it to the wall of my cell. There it sat for the next seven years. Every morning when I got up I would read that list, I would meditate on it, I would visualize having that life, being that person. Now I didn’t know the neuroscience behind all this at the time. I was just a guy desperate to do something.

I had read in Napoleon Hill’s book, Think & Grow Rich, he said “Write these things down and imagine yourself already in possession of them.” That was just so beautiful and romantic, imagine yourself already in possession of them. Stephen Covey said, “You can live out of your imagination rather than your past.”

That’s what I started doing. I would visualize that life. I did it for seven years. There’s a lot of neurology behind it, but eventually it changed my thought process, it changed my habitual thoughts.

Seven years later I walked out of the penitentiary. Within five years I had built an Inc. 5000 company. I sold that and started writing books and speaking and training and developing others in the field of business and sales. That’s kind of how the sales thing kind of came to be.

I got out of prison at 40 years old to a homeless shelter, couldn’t find a job. I was very motivated because I had that right mindset after 7 years of telling myself I was going to be successful, but I still was a three-time convicted felon and 40 years old with no work experience. But I got a little job as a salesman. I was really good at it.

A year later I opened my own company. I grew that. Because I built a strong sales organization, I learned so much about sales primarily through books, Tom Hopkins and Brian Tracy and many of whom have become great friends over the years, but at that time I was just a guy in a cell reading their books.

The reason I say that sales changed my life is because it was the sales profession that took a guy like me, a ninth-grade high school dropout, a three-time convicted felon, it picked me up, it dusted me off and it gave me a real shot at prosperity and wealth, at having a productive life.

I’m extremely grateful for the sales profession because as an independent sales professional, if you’re good, you’ll find a chance to make a living. You can build your own business, work for somebody else, whatever, but if you’re good at it, you’re going to make a living regardless of your background. Even a guy like me can have that kind of success in sales.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s so cool. Now I understand that in your very first weeks of selling, you were doing awesomely. What was kind of going on there with regard to how you were approaching it differently or what did you do that was note worthily – note worthily, that’s a word – distinct from out of other sales folks that you were just crushing it from the get-go?

Weldon Long
Well I think – actually that’s a great question, by the way. I don’t know that anyone has ever asked me that specific question.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, thank you.

Weldon Long
But it’s a great question. For me, initially, it was pure desperation. I’m living in a homeless shelter. I get this job at a small heating and air conditioning company. I’ve been knocking on doors for six months. I must have had a thousand people tell me no thanks once they found out about my record. But this one guy decided to give me a chance.

I went out my first month. I sold $149,000 of air conditioners sitting at the kitchen table across from mom and pop home owner. And I made over $13,000 in sales commissions.

But what was driving my success at that point was just pure desperation and need. I had a ten-year-old son that was out there somewhere. He was three-years-old when I went to prison the last time. He was ten when I got out. I was driven by the singular focus to get a job, get a place to live, get my son. Right? I was driven by that.

I was good at it primarily because I learned very quickly that good, honest, hardworking people will look you dead in the eye and say, “I’m going to call you next Tuesday,” and then they won’t call you next Tuesday.

I learned very quickly that your best chance of getting the sale is to have your prospect make a decision about you and your company and your products, and your services with you sitting right in front of them, right, because people really don’t want to say no to your face. People like to say no in business and in sales, they like to say no by ignoring an email or not returning your phone call.

And by the way, this is true. You and I were talking before the podcast that in business, we’re always selling something. Maybe we’re selling an idea or selling our boss on promoting us or giving us a raise. The key to those things is to get your boss, get your customer, get that person to make that decision about you with you sitting right in front of them. The probability you’re going to get a yes is way higher because people just tend to say no by ignoring you.

To quote a famous line from Fatal Attraction, “I will not be ignored.” That’s the key, man, making people reach a decision. You’ve got to do your job. You’ve got to build trust. You’ve got to build all the factors in sales and build relationships, investigate the problems, but at the end of the day, the real key is getting people to make a final decision about you and your company with you sitting right in front of them, even if the answer is no, by the way. I tell people all the time yes is best, but no is a perfectly acceptable answer in sales.

Pete Mockaitis
Absolutely.

Weldon Long
The no’s aren’t going to kill you. What’s going to kill you is the-

Pete Mockaitis
And it frees you up.

Weldon Long
Exactly.

Pete Mockaitis
Once you have a no, it’s like okay, I don’t have to think about that anymore.

Weldon Long
Exactly.

Pete Mockaitis
I can focus my energies on more worthwhile opportunities.

Weldon Long
Amen, amen.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool. I wonder, so that’s sort of one sort of very specific differentiator is that you prefer to be in person when someone is making the decision about you. Then that kind of automatically tips it in your favor.

So then I guess I’m wondering in the context of hey, selling your boss on giving you a promotion or a raise, there’s some things that need to occur with regard to approvals and consideration, and on and on. How do you play that game? Do you say, “Okay, I’ll meet back with you on this day and you can tell me your decision then?” Is that how you do it or how does it work?

Weldon Long
Well, that’s part of it. I mean the key thing is and in sales and in business, just influence and persuasion, you’re exactly right. Sometimes there can be a process involved. You talk to your boss. He’s got to talk to his boss.

But what I really mean is that before they are allowed to make a final decision, so in the situation you described, you would say, “Okay, I understand you’ve got to go talk to the VP of sales, but I’ll tell you what, just promise me one thing, before you make a final decision, you’ll let me have one more conversation with you.”

You’re getting them that you’re going to be in front of them before they give you the final decision. The key then is, it’s kind of a little five-step process.

Pete Mockaitis
….

Weldon Long
It works in sales. It works in influence.

Pete Mockaitis
One, two, three, four, five. All right.

Weldon Long
One, two, three, four, five. The first thing is to anticipate the objection. You have to anticipate why they’re going to say no.

Let’s say for example you go to your boss and you say, “Hey, I want a raise. I think I deserve a raise.” He says to you, “Okay, I’ve got to talk to my boss.” He goes and talks to his boss. But you get that commitment he’s going to come back and talk to you one more time. Now you’re at that final meeting. You anticipate that the objection is going to be the budget just won’t permit it. You go in with that in mind.

Once you anticipate the objection or the obstacle, the key is then to get them to acknowledge that that particular objection should not be the thing that keeps you from getting what you want. Let me give an example. It will make more sense.

So if I know the budget is going to be an issue, I’m going to go back in and talk to my boss and say, “Boss, I appreciate you taking some time to explain whatever your final decision is. However, before you go there, I just want to ask you a simple question. Would you agree or disagree that my performance has been great the last year.” “Well, of course I agree.”

“Would you agree I’ve been on time with great sales productivity?” “Yes, I would agree.” “Would you likewise agree that those factors are every bit as important as what some arbitrary budget would be relevant to my pay raise?” What’s he going to say? He just told you it was important and you’re really good. Well, of course, there’s other factors more important than just the budget.

Then you’ve got to make your case. That’s the third step. The first step is identify the objection. Get them to acknowledge the objection should not prevent you from getting what you want. The third step is to make your case. That’s where you sell yourself.

“Boss, I appreciate you saying that there’s more factors more important than just the budget. I want to – here’s my attendance record for the last year. I’ve been on time every single day. Here are my sales records, my productivity records. I have the highest closing rate in the division, highest average … division. I make my case. I’m devoted to this company. I’m committed to this company. I make my case.”

The fourth step is to make a specific request. “Boss, I appreciate you considering all this stuff. All I would ask at this point is a simple question. Will you permit me to have this raise that we both agree I deserve?” It’s going to make it very difficult for him to say no because you’re sitting right there in front of him. Even if his boss told him no, it’s going to put him in a situation. Hopefully the big boss gave the middle boss a little authority to make the decision.

But you have to make a specific request for the thing that you want. One of the biggest people – mistakes people make both in sales and just business is they fail to make specific requests. They’ll kind of hint around toward something. They’ll kind of say, “Hey, I kind of like that raise. Heck, I probably deserve it,” or whatever. You’ve got to go in and say, “I deserve this.” You’ve got to claim it.

“What I’d like to do is get your permission to go ahead and get this raise. I’ll go tell accounting myself to change my pay structure.” Make the specific request.

And then the final, the fifth step is if they deny you, you have to remind them of their previous declarations. This is based on a lot of work of a very smart man, Dr. Robert Cialdini at Arizona State University. He’s written several books on influence and persuasion. And there’s a principle he refers to as the Consistency Principle, which is public declarations dictate future actions. What that means is we tend to take actions consistent with our words.

If I ask my boss, in step four I ask to make the specific request, “Can I have the raise?” if he says no to me, if he says, “No, I can’t. It’s just not in the budget,” I’m going to say, “Mr. Boss, earlier you agreed that there were more factors related to my raise than just the budget: my productivity, my punctuality, all those things should be just as important. Has that changed?”

“Well, no, I don’t know if it’s changed. But it’s just a budget thing.” “I understand, but we both agree it’s more than just the budget. I’d like to go ahead and ask you for that raise and to get this thing initiated.”

Now there’s no guarantee he’s going to say yes. Life is about probabilities. But I guarantee you through that little process, I’ve got a much better chance of getting my raise than if I just said “Hey boss, I could really use some extra money,” in kind of a passive aggressive or kind of a roundabout kind of way. It’s about being direct, anticipate the objections, head off the objections, make specific requests. It’s true in sales. It’s true in life.

Pete Mockaitis
Right. Yeah. As you laid that out there I guess I’m thinking that the only – maybe not the only, but perhaps the highest probability gremlin that could come up the works it would just be you could call it the budget or just sort of like policy.

It’s like, “Well, a fourth-year program manager earns between X and Y dollars. You know? I know you’re the most extraordinary programmer manager we’ve ever seen in our lives or the history of this organization, but that’s just not how the policies work.”

That’s just kind of one of my pet peeves I guess is when structural policies, rules trump good, sensible thinking. It’s just like, “Well, I guess the policies that you’re going to lose the best program manager you’ve ever seen as I go elsewhere and get compensated appropriately.”

Weldon Long
Right, yeah. I hate policies too. They sound a lot like police to me. It’s – I don’t like it either.

You look at the organizations, they range kind of from the bureaucracy on the far end of one scale. The other end of the scale would be a very creative learning organization, maybe like Microsoft or something like that. The bureaucracy, let’s just take a prison as an example. Right?

The problem is that when you have a bureaucracy, the reason they have bureaucracies is because the people attracted to those jobs – no disrespect to people that work in government agencies or things like that – but they tend not to be the most creative and have the best judgment. And so often what happens is that policies are made to replace judgment because they decided we can’t trust the judgment of the person at the driver’s license bureau.

If you show up in the line and you’ve got to go two windows down, you’ve got to get at the back of the line. The fact that you are having a heart attack is not in the policy, so we’re not going to hurry you through. The policy says you’ve got to go to the back of the line at window number two because we don’t trust the judgment.

You go to a Microsoft, where they trust the judgment, and they have very few policies, right, very few rules. The policies are going to be more intense on the organizations that are less creative and the leadership doesn’t have the trust in the people to make decisions.

But the other point you made is also interesting, that you have a choice in your life. We can control the process of properly asking for a raise. We don’t control the outcome. Right? And that’s about learning to know that you can – you’ve got to focus on what you can control in life. You can’t focus on what you can’t control. It’s a big lesson that I learned. Believe me.

But like you said, at the end, then you have the choice of saying, “Okay, I’m going to find a company that appreciates superior productivity.” And then that’s an individual choice. There’s no guarantee you’re going to get the raise. The guarantee is you probably won’t get it if you don’t ask for it. If you do ask for it, you’ve got a shot because the answer is always no until you ask.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s really a good thought in terms of policies replacing judgment and very well said succinctly. It just gets me thinking about how – I don’t know the right way to play this, but I guess if I were the manager who were handcuffed by a policy and then just sort of highlighting this notion, it’s like, “Oh, it’s a shame that this policy is deemed to be superior to your judgment.” I don’t know. You’ve got to tread lightly there.

Weldon Long
Right, exactly.

Pete Mockaitis
It just seems like I wonder if there’s a magical turn of a phrase that could stoke just a little bit of righteous anger, like, “You know what? That is ridiculous. I don’t care for that.”

Weldon Long
But you know what? Listen, people like yourself, very creative, very ambitious type people, you don’t want that kind of policy control. Some people actually like that. Some people don’t want responsibility.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s … can be safe and calm.

Weldon Long
Yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
It’s like I don’t …, it’s just kind of handled. Yeah.

Weldon Long
Right. If you wake up and do something in your business with your show, for example, you do something, it’s your responsibility. Some people don’t want the responsibility. If I make the decision according to paragraph three, subsection two A, I’m not responsible because that’s what I had to do.
Some people prefer not to have the responsibility of the consequences of the decision, so they abdicate their judgment in favor of the policy book, the manual.

Pete Mockaitis
Understood. Well, thank you for digging into that. I also wanted to get your take on – you’ve got a book called Consistency Selling. I just want to get your take on consistency. I’d say whether we’re talking about sales professionals or any other group of folks, how – why consistency, what difference does it make and how do you develop it when you’re just not in the mood. I don’t feel like doing it. How do you do it anyway?

Weldon Long
Yeah, great question. This was really the foundation of what changed my life was learning how to consistently have more creative, responsible, powerful thoughts. It really comes down to a very simple concept. Consistent results come from consistent activities. Random results come from random activities. That’s true in business. That’s true in sports. That’s true in anything.

If you just do something randomly, by definition you can’t repeat it and therefore if you had a good result, you probably won’t get the good result again unless you do the same thing. You’ve got to do the same thing to produce those results.

When I think about consistency, you really go back to my second book, which was a book called The Power of Consistency. It’s about how do you create a prosperity mindset, a mindset that is geared and programmed to repeat the things that work in your life and consistently produce the good results.

Now, what I did is I developed a program around the acronym of FEAR, F-E-A-R. F is focus, E is emotional commitment, A is action, and R is responsibility. Through those four steps it gives us the opportunity to kind of examine our habitual thoughts. What are the habitual things I’m thinking all the time?

I tell people, you get up in the morning and you start thinking. As soon as your eyes open you start thinking, thinking, thinking, thinking about your family, thinking about your job, thinking about your friends, thinking about whatever. But how often do we think about what we’re going to think about before we think about it. That to me is getting to the essence of our decision making. Where are those habitual decisions coming from?

If I go and have lunch and I didn’t think specifically about what I’m eating and whether or not I’m going to put nutrition or taste as the higher value, if I don’t ever have that conscious decision, I just order something off the value meal, where did that thought come from? Because if I didn’t think what I think about, it came from somewhere.

We have to examine, where are those habitual thoughts coming that are driving our results in life. We’re making a million decisions a day, what I call seemingly inconsequential decisions, that determine our fate.

For example, if I go home tonight and I have an argument with my wife, I have to make a decision about how I’m going to conduct myself. If I make the decision to yell and scream and intimidate, I’m going to define that relationship. If I go home and I make a better decision and I have some love and some patience and some understanding, I have a different kind of relationship.

My relationship is not some random thing that just happened. It’s a product of my seemingly inconsequential decisions about how I react in that situation.

I’ll give another example. I get my paycheck. It’s Friday night. I’ve got the choice. I can go spend it all, have a hell of a weekend or I can save 20%. Well, I reach in my brain, I pull out a decision. If I pull out the save 20%, I pull out a piece of my financial future. If I reach in there and pull out I blow all my money this weekend, I pull out a different financial future.

Twenty years from now, my financial condition is not some random thing that lo and behold just happened to me. It’s simply a reflection of millions of seemingly inconsequential choices that we have made over our life.

Smoking is the perfect example. How long have we known smoking is unhealthy for us in this country? 100 years or so maybe? 80 years? A lot of people still smoke, a lot of good people. Smoking is not a moral thing. A lot of good people, honest, hard-working people smoke cigarettes. But why would people smoke cigarettes knowing what we know about the health impacts? The answer is very simple.

It feels good, right? It’s not a moral issue though. It just feels great. But moreover, smoking won’t kill you today. Whatever impact smoking is going to have is 20 or 30 or 40 years down the road.

But imagine this scenario, take the most avid smoker that you know, but instead of giving him one cigarette at a time, one seemingly inconsequential cigarette at a time, give him a year’s worth of cigarettes at one time, 2,000 – 3,000 cigarettes. Roll them up like a giant blunt and put some fire to it. Smoke them if you got them, pal. Would he smoke 2,000 cigarettes at one time? Of course not.

If you ask him why, he’ll probably say, “Because it will make me sick. It might kill me.” Yeah, smoking 2,000 cigarettes will make you sick and it might kill you, but guess what, smoking 2,000 cigarettes one seemingly inconsequential cigarette at a time will make you sick and might kill you too. It just takes longer.

The key is we’ve got to look at the tiny decisions that we’re making habitually about our food choices, how we interact with the people we love, picking up a cigarette, whatever, and it impacts every area of our life.

Here’s the rub on the whole thing. The FEAR process allows us to examine those habitual decisions, find out where they came from, ask ourselves are they consistent with what I want today and then change hem if we want to change them through a simple neurological process.

I don’t know how much detail you want to go into with the fear process, but it’s actually very simple. In fact, part of the struggle is it is so simple. It’s so simple people will be like, “Well, man, that can’t work,” because it’s so simple. In reality, it can move mountains.

It’s the single most important factor that turned my life around from a ninth-grade high school dropout, three-time convicted felon to a successful writer, entrepreneur and who’s created a lot of prosperity in my life. I didn’t get any smarter. I didn’t get any luckier. I damn sure didn’t get any better looking. I changed my thoughts. I changed my habitual thoughts. That’s what Emerson meant when he said, “We become what we think about all day long.”

Pete Mockaitis
This is intriguing. You take a look and you go through these four steps. Then how do we get a transformation? I guess I’m thinking about if – let’s say I’m having a thought habitually that I don’t care for, what do I do with that?

Weldon Long
Perfect example. Here’s what we do. The first step is focus. The step in focus is very simple. What do you really want? I encourage people to identify two goals in the three main areas of their life: their money, which is their career, their business, their financial future; their relationships, which is your spouse, your kids, your community, your family, friends, whatever; and then your health, your mental, spiritual and physical health.

Those are the three primary areas of anyone’s life: your money, your relationships, and your health. What do you want in those areas? What one or two things do you want in each of those areas?

Once you identify what you want, let’s say you say for example, “I want to make $200,000 a year in sales.” “What two or three things must I do every single sales call, every single day to get there?” Not 10 things, not 100 things because the confused mind says no. What one, two or three things if I did every single day.

You find out what those are. In sales it’s running every call with passion and purpose, learn to diagnose problems and recommend solutions, and learn to ask for the order every single time. If you do those three things in sales and business, you’re going to be successful. You can screw up everything else. But if you do those three, you’re going to be successful.

The next step is the emotional commitment step. I’ve got to get deeply emotionally committed to the income and the things I have to do to generate that income. So you’ve got to write it down in present, current tense and then do what I call a daily quiet time ritual. Ten to fifteen minutes a day reviewing the thing you want, the things you have to do. This turned out to be that little sheet of paper I had on my wall, stuck there with toothpaste.

I didn’t realize the impact of what I was doing, but it was changing the neurology in my brain. I’m not a neuroscientist but I’ve had neuroscientists call me. I had a guy call me one time and said – he was a neuroscientist, a PhD, a clinical psychologist. He said, “Mr. Long, this is the easiest explanation I’ve ever read in my life about the principles that are the underpinnings of rationally emotive behavior therapy and decision making.”

I’m like, “There’s a name for this?” It’s common sense. I’ve got to get focused on what I want, visualize it, it begins to change the brain.

The third step, action. We leverage a very big driver of human behavior, which is cognitive dissonance. If I tell myself I’m going to run every call with passion and purpose and ask for the order every single time, and then I go out on the sales call and I just drop off a bid, I don’t do that, I’m going to feel dissonance, anxiety, the difference between what I said I would do and what I actually do.

That dissonance starts driving the behaviors we want because we don’t want to be in a state of dissonance anxiety. We want to be in a state of resonance. We want to be integrated with our thoughts and our actions.

If I tell myself every single day that I’m going to run a sales call a certain way or if I tell myself every single day I’m going to eat healthy and then I find a cheeseburger in my mouth at lunch, I’m going to experience dissonance. The dissonance drives the behavior, like, “Oh, that doesn’t feel good,” so I order the salad.

And then the fourth step is responsibility. Everybody has problems in life. That’s the bad news. The good news is our life is not a reflection of our problems. Our life is a reflection about our decisions about our problems.

In other words, I had a bad set of problems 15 years ago. I got out of prison at 40 years old without any money, any clothes, any car, anything. But my life today is not a reflection of that situation. My life is a reflection of the decisions I made about that situation.

That’s true for everybody. Everybody’s life is product of their decisions about their problems, not necessarily about the problems themselves. I’m not saying that we don’t have problems that affect us long term because I just met a fellow named Aron Ralston. This is a guy you should get on your podcast, by the way. Do you know who Aron Ralston is? Does that name ring a bell?

Pete Mockaitis
A little bit. Tell me more.

Weldon Long
He’s the guy that got trapped in the Utah desert and had to cut his arm off to get out. They made a movie about it called 127 Hours. This dude is like the most awesome guy you’re ever going to meet in your life. It was amazing. He was there six days before he finally did it.

His life today – you know he’s never going to have that part of his arm again, right? But his life today is not a reflection of that tragedy. His life today is a reflection of the decisions he made about how he’s going to deal with that tragedy.

If you ever get a chance to read his book or watch the movie, 127 Hours, the book was called Between a Rock and a Hard Place. The movie was called 127 Hours. He’s one of the most powerful human beings I’ve ever met in my life, just an amazing story. He’s an excellent example – my life is too on a different type of way – that you can overcome any adversity if you want it bad enough.

Pete Mockaitis
Beautiful. Well, Weldon, tell me, anything else you want to mention before we shift gears and hear about some of your favorite things.

Weldon Long
Well, I just would encourage your listeners if they want to get more information, we’ve got some free content available on the website at WeldonLong.com. Or they can just text the word ‘videos’ to 9600 and you get three videos of the mindset, sales, and business process, all the stuff that I’ve learned. It’s free content. It’s very powerful information. I think it’s about 50 minutes worth of video content. Just want to make sure people know how to access some of that free content.

Pete Mockaitis
Cool. Thank you. Now, can you share with us a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Weldon Long
My favorite quote is a quote from Henry David Thoreau. And this quote was written on the wall of my cell. It’s on my desk today. It’s one that I use constantly. It’s very simple. “If you advance confidently in the direction of your dreams and endeavor to live the life that you have imagined, you will meet with success unexpected in common hours.”

What I love about that quote is that if you live the life you imagined, that means to me that you had to imagine it first. In other words, you saw it first. Dr. Covey used to say, “All things are created twice, once in our mind’s eye and then in our physical reality.” I just think it’s such a powerful – it’s a beautiful quote. The words are beautiful, but it’s like it’s so poignant because you have to imagine that life first.

The last part of that “you will meet with succeed unexpected,” that means that the success, the results, will be even better than you anticipate. And that’s what happened in my life. Listen, I knew when I got out of the joint the last time, I was doing some cool stuff with my life. I was getting my son. I was getting my act together. I was plowing ahead. But man, what’s happened has been like 100 times bigger than what I expected.

That to me is one of my favorite quotes. It’s just so beautiful.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. How about a favorite study or experiment or bit of research?

Weldon Long
I would say with respect to research, it would have to be on the theory of consistency. Primarily is researched and discussed by Robert Cialdini. There’s some powerful research that he’s done.

A quick example, there was a company in Arizona that was raising money for childhood disabilities research. They would send in canvassers to knock on doors and ask people to donate money. Cialdini got involved and he kind of redesigned their process. What he did, is – by the way, about 16% of people would contribute money to childhood disabilities research. Somebody randomly knocked on your door, 16% of people would give some money.

Cialdini got the idea of having telemarketers call into those neighborhoods the week before the canvassers. Now the telemarketers did not ask for any money. They would simply take a survey. But one of the survey questions was “Do you think it’s important to do childhood disabilities research?” Of course people say yes. The next week they would send in the canvassers to ask for money.

Their rate of contribution doubled to 38% because people feel an obligation to take actions consistent with their words. It’s powerful, powerful research. I would recommend anybody who’s interested in that – Robert Cialdini – he’s written several books on persuasion and the power of influence and is just probably one of the smartest people I’ve ever read or had a chance to study.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh yeah, his books are fantastic. Influence: Science and Practice and Pre-suasion.

Weldon Long
Yup.

Pete Mockaitis
I look forward to the day he joins us on the show.

Weldon Long
Man, he’s a smart dude. Make sure I get an email on that one because I don’t want to miss it.

Pete Mockaitis
How about a favorite tool, something that helps you be awesome at your job?

Weldon Long
I think the thing that helps me the most is what I call my daily quiet time ritual. 10 – 15 minutes reviewing my key priorities, whether it’s my family goals, my financial goals, my health goals.

Life can be pretty hectic. I travel 150,000 miles a year. Literally, this week, for example, I’m in my third city this week speaking. Sometimes I wake up and I literally for five or ten seconds got to remember what hotel, what city, what I’m doing there. Life can be very hectic for everybody: families and bills and jobs.

That quiet time ritual, 10 to 15 minutes a day reviewing your key priorities in life, in other words 10 to 15 minutes thinking about what you’re going to think about before you think about it. It’s the one thing that keeps me grounded. I’m pretty high-strung, but that’s the one thing that keeps me grounded and keeps me sane. There’s nothing more important in my life than reviewing my key priorities every single morning for 10 or 15 minutes.

Pete Mockaitis
Is there a particular nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate with folks?

Weldon Long
I think – I wish I could take credit for it. I used it earlier. Emerson’s quote, “We become what we think about all day long.” I think that that’s super, super important. If people understood the relationship – I wish we had time to go into the neurology behind how a thought translates chemically to emotions, which drives some reaction, which drive a result.

But let it suffice to say that your thought, everything you think, drives how you feel and what you do and what you get, even if what you think is wrong. Even if the things you’re thinking are wrong, they can still drive very real emotions, real reactions, and real results. We call it the self-fulfilling prophecy.

My single most important piece of advice I give to anybody, whether it’s speaking at FedEx to their top 200 performers or speaking at the Nebraska State Penitentiary to a group of lifers, I tell them the same thing: you become what you think about all day long. I wish that were my quote. It’s Ralph Waldo Emerson, but I love to use it.

Pete Mockaitis
If folks want to learn more or get in touch, where would you point them?

Weldon Long
I would point them to social media. They can find me easily there are Weldon Long. Also, on my website, WeldonLong.com W-E-L-D-O-N-L-O-N-G, WeldonLong.com.

Pete Mockaitis
Do you have a final challenge or call to action for folks seeking to be awesome at their jobs?

Weldon Long
Yeah, I would encourage everyone to get crystal clear on what you really want. We don’t do it enough. We don’t take enough time. What do I really want? What do I really want with my family? What do I really want with my job, and my income, my financial—don’t just go along and just assume it’s all going to work out. Get very specific.

One of my favorite books is Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill, written in 1937. The very first success habit that Napoleon Hill taught was that you have to have a definite purpose. That’s specifics. That’s focus. Figure out exactly what you want and then start going for it.

Pete Mockaitis
Awesome. Weldon, this has been a ton of fun. I wish you lots of luck and keep doing the inspire that you’re doing.

Weldon Long
Thank you my friend. I really appreciated it. I’ve enjoyed chatting with you.

368: Upgrading Your Productivity through Accountability with Focusmate’s Taylor Jacobson

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Focusmate founder and CEO Taylor Jacobson breaks down how tribal psychology and accountability partners can do wonders for your work and life.

You’ll Learn:

  1.  The biggest distraction drivers in the workplace
  2. Four streamlined to-do list hacks
  3. Why NOT to rely on willpower

About Taylor

Taylor Jacobson is the founder and CEO of Focusmate, building productivity software that works when nothing else will. He’s a trained executive coach with clients like Yale, Cornell, and Wharton, a wannabe adventurer, and a recovering pizza addict turned holistic health aspirant. His work has been featured in CNN, GQ, The Huffington Post, Men’s Health, and more.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Taylor Jacobson Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Taylor, thanks so much for joining us here on the How to Be Awesome at Your Job podcast.

Taylor Jacobson
Thanks for having me Pete, excited to be here.

Pete Mockaitis
Me too. I want to get your take first of all about your 3,000-mile bicycle ride.

Taylor Jacobson
Yeah. Fun story. I just moved back from India and I was getting ready to do an MBA, although truth be told, I was kind of waffling on whether I wanted to do it. I always sort of wanted to do my own thing. I was debating.

I reconnected with a high school friend, who just wrapped up his stint in the Marine Corps, was taking some time off and I think we did a workout, we grabbed coffee and he said, “By the way, I’m going to do this thing we’ve been talking about since high school. I’m going to ride my bike from Boston to Seattle. You should do it with me.”

This goes all the way back to middle school. We can tell some fun stories about middle school because middle school stories are always fun if painful. But going back forever, I sort of knew that doing cool, hard stuff especially with somebody else was like this silver bullet for me.

I’d always wanted to do this particular challenge of riding my bike cross country and just was like, “Oh my God, this amazing person, a Marine, good friend of mine, is going to do this thing. This is my chance to do this really hard adventure.” That kind of flipped the switch for me of saying, “I really didn’t want to do this MBA anyway. I’m going to say yes.”

The next day we went to REI, we bought a tent, bought a sleeping bag, some stuffed sacks, whatever we needed. I think we had maybe a week before we were going to head out, so we did a couple you know – we loaded all the stuff on our bikes and tried to figure out how to ride with all this stuff strapped on there. I’d say we mostly figured it out. And then we just took off.

There’s a lot I can say about the ride, but one of the things we’ll get into in this conversation a lot is the power of your peers and the power of accountability and the power of just doing things together. I’ve never done that ride by myself, but I don’t know that I ever would or could.

Doing it with this friend, Brendan, every day you multiple moments, where you’re not having fun at all. But there’s just something about – your mind just kind of shifts when you are doing it together and it makes it a little less painful and it also – it sort of cements the reality that you just are doing it and you’re not going to give up.

For me the mental narrative when I’m doing virtually any kind of exercise, certainly cycling like this, certainly if it’s raining or there’s head winds or anything like that or it’s cold, which happened plenty, the debate raging in my head is like, “Should I quit or not?” That’s a little shameful to admit, but that’s the truth.

If I have somebody else there with me, it’s a whole different conversation. I’m just committed. I might be complaining in my head, but quitting is kind of off the table.

I won’t nerd out too hard on why that shift happens just yet while I’m telling this story, but needless to say, we made it. It took us 52 days, took some days off in the middle, went out for drinks in Bismarck, North Dakota because of course, you’ve got to do that. Yeah, incredible trip.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool, so every night you were just outdoors in the tent?

Taylor Jacobson
Most nights. Probably if I had had my way, we would have done more camping, but Brendan was a good voice of reason and when we’d pull into bigger towns, maybe once a week or so, he’d say, “We are getting a motel and we’re sleeping in a bed.”

We slept outdoors a lot, which I grew to really love. I miss it sometimes. But yeah, we tried to give ourselves a chance at a little bit more of a restful time to – especially if it was really cold or rainy or what have you.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s really cool. It’s one of those things, you’ll remember it forever. It seems like some real seeds got planted there associated with the power of partnering up and accountability. Could you also tell us the tale behind your company and concept Focusmate and how you saw personally that this is some powerful stuff?

Taylor Jacobson
Yeah, absolutely. I’m going to go back to 2011 for the start of this story, which predates my company by a bit. I was living and working in Mumbai, India. I had been a top performer my whole life.

Pete Mockaitis
At work.

Taylor Jacobson
Went to Duke.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, Duke.

Taylor Jacobson
Yeah, went to Duke, management consulting out of college. I was employee 6 at Teach For India. I was cruising. Then our office location changed in Mumbai and a kind of reasonable commute became much, much more arduous. This is a very long, very sweaty, just miserable commute, where I’d be like changing clothes when I got to the office. I just wasn’t digging it.

I basically begged my boss to let me work remotely. She sort of conceded. She was really reluctant, but I was just like, “I have to do this.” I started working remotely and I was excited about it, but her apprehensions turned out to be kind of – I don’t know what the right word is, but –

Pete Mockaitis
Justified, dead on.

Taylor Jacobson
Justified, yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
Prophetic.

Taylor Jacobson
Yes, thank you. In short, I could not figure out how to be productive while I was working remotely. It was really bad.

I would say I’m sort of a busy or productive procrastinator. I’d be like doing stuff constantly. I’d put in a good eight hours of something would be happening. I’d have my computer there on my lap, but I just wasn’t getting my job done. I wasn’t working on the really important stuff.

The next conversation I had with my boss was about a different topic, about my performance. We had a couple of those over a course of a few months. Eventually she didn’t fire me, but she basically said, “You can work here, you just can’t work for me.”

I drew a lot of ego strength from being a top performer, it just hit me really hard. I didn’t have the kind of resilience toolkit yet or sort of the mental pick-yourself-back-up toolkit yet. I kind of took this segue to start working for myself. I started my first startup at that time, but of course I was still working from home.

Kind of simultaneously because of this really conspicuous big failure, the first real big failure that I couldn’t kind of explain away, I went into this spiral of shame and depression. I really didn’t know how to get out of it. Of course, I was working alone, accountable only to myself, dealing with all the same things that had previously caused me to procrastinate. It was pretty nasty.

I won’t say that I figured out a lot in that phase. Kind of the first thing I figured out was just how to stop shaming myself and that was a good first step. But what happened was I started reading about self-improvement.

I started reading about behavioral science, and productivity, and all the productivity hacks, and blogs, and spirituality and just being in that really bad place actually and being motivated like that really cemented my passion for self-improvement and set me on this path.

Prior to starting this company, I was an executive coach for a number of years. That was a great opportunity to kind of take all this philosophy or research and be accountable to work with people on their real problems and see what works and what doesn’t work. Focusmate grew out of that.

I was working with a client, someone I had known for a really long time, sort of self-proclaimed procrastinator, also really high performer at the same time. He had an investor presentation coming up, really, really big and really important presentation, career-making type of meeting.

He called me up and he said, “Man, I have this meeting in two weeks. I need my investor deck and I haven’t started on it.” An investor deck for a meeting like this is something that could easily take you couple months to get into good shape. So he was really freaking out.

I had known him for long enough that I had kind of given him every bit of coaching that I knew. He didn’t need more coaching; he just needed to have his feet held to the fire. He just needed to sit down and do it somehow.

And so, I had meanwhile been procrastinating on writing a blog post at that time, something that I procrastinate easily for months. And I just said, “Listen, why don’t we just get on Skype tomorrow and I’ll sit there with you. And I will write my blog post and you will work on your investor presentation. I won’t even charge you because I need this too.”

And so we did that. It was crazy. We sat down. We both shared exactly what we’re going to do. Within a couple minutes, we’re just working. Two hours flies by. Both of us were kind of giddy at the end of this because we had just tapped into something that neither of us had ever experienced before.

He and I did that very day that week. He finished his presentation. That went great. But that was sort of the seed of realizing, “Oh, there’s something really powerful here.”

Pete Mockaitis
That’s so cool. It’s intriguing I imagine, boy, you really get into a dark place with regards to, “Hey, I’m a top performer. I kick butt all the time. Win, win, win is what I do. And yet I can’t pull myself away from-“ I don’t know if it’s Facebook or Netflix or cat videos or memes or gifs, whatever might be distracting you. What do you think that’s about in terms of our sort of individual capacity to resist distraction? What’s the deal there?

Taylor Jacobson
Yeah, that’s a really good, important question. I think the answer is actually – you can go read epic blog posts about this. You can read the Wait but Why has a really classic blog post on procrastination.

But I think it’s kind of simple, which is we spent 99% of evolution living in tribes, basically just trying to survive. We’re wired to function in that environment. What we’re not wired for is to have everything on demand and constant barrage of stimulation and opportunities for pleasure.

Pleasure could be Netflix or Seamless or – Seamless is food delivery here in New York or just email. That instant dopamine hit of getting a new email. I think it’s just we’re not wired to deal with the environment that we have today.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, understood. You mentioned that there’s some data suggesting that distractions are getting worse and worse. Can you sort of unpack some of that to lay out just what’s at stake here?

Taylor Jacobson
Yeah, so some crazy data. I didn’t really fully grasp even until I started really building Focusmate and trying to understand what’s going on. Just like a few interesting things to look at.

Chronic procrastination is the most severe kind of procrastination. It’s a diagnosable condition. The study that I looked at for this starts tracking chronic procrastination right around the time that computers come into existence, like 70s, 80s.

The first data point they have on chronic procrastination is that it affects about 5% of the adult population. That number has gone up steadily until the most recent data point for this particular research on chronic procrastination is 2007, where it effects 20%, 1 in 5 adults.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s 2007.

Taylor Jacobson
2007.

Pete Mockaitis
We’ve got 11 years to catch up to see how big it is now.

Taylor Jacobson
Totally. By the way, 2007 is when the first smartphone, when the iPhone came out. You can extrapolate a little from that. We’re in a pretty bad place with – this is hardcore, severe procrastination affecting a lot of people, somebody you know.

Another one is adult ADHD scripts. So from about let’s see, 2003 to 2015, adult ADHD scripts went up by over 3 times. And then the other just terrifying statistic is about a third of the workday now is wasted on distractions. Just a couple hours a day every day wasted on distractions.

Pete Mockaitis
Do we have a breakdown of what are the big distraction drivers there in the workplace? Is it more so folks dropping by or is it more kind of self-inflicted, like, “Oh, I keep looking at the news or my phone?”

Taylor Jacobson
Yeah, that’s a good question. I haven’t looked at that data for a little while, but I know that noise is a big one, especially now we have open offices are unfortunately still really trendy even through there’s really no evidence to support that they’re good and there’s a lot of reasons why they’re bad. But, yeah, noise is hard for people.

If you’re introverted – I’m introverted – or if you’re sensitive to noise – I’m hyper-sensitive to noise – we know that introverts are a lot of people and a lot of people are sensitive to noise, so for certain types of people especially, working in an office environment can just be totally crippling.

Pete Mockaitis
Intriguing. There it is. It’s big in terms of distraction affecting us more and more at a bigger scale. You stumbled upon a powerful anecdote with that Skype chat and then you went ahead and built a whole company around this. If I want to get me a Focusmate, how do I make that happen and how does it work?

Taylor Jacobson
Yeah. The premise behind Focusmate is basically just using this technique, this kind of tribal psychology of accountability to unlock productivity. A kind of simple way to think about it is it’s like an accountability buddy or a study buddy on demand.

We have a standard session format. This is a 50-minute video working session, where we make it possible for you and your partner, your virtual co-worker, to sit side-by-side over video while you both get work done for 50 minutes. At the beginning of each session, you each commit to what you’re going to work on. You write it down and you get to work. At the end you check in with each other and talk about how it went.

It sounds pretty simple and it actually is, but there’s also a lot of behavioral triggers packed into that interaction. Part of it is when we schedule things in advance, our intentions further ahead are actually better often than our intentions right in the moment.

Then reflection, stopping and reflecting is – a lot of research shows that that improves productivity even though it doesn’t feel as good as just doing stuff. This forces you to stop and reflect on what you’re about to do.

Writing down what you’re about to do increases productivity. Telling somebody what you’re going to do increases productivity. The immediacy of doing it right after you write it down and tell somebody, also increases productivity. There’s a whole bunch of layers that go into why it’s so effective.

And part of what we’re building also is really enabling you to have a really customized experience so that the virtual co-workers that you have are exactly the right people for you, the people that you want to be working for, whether that’s because they’re actually your favorites, so to speak, that you’ve added to your tribe or that that’s based on your preferences of how you like to work.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s awesome. Is this free or how do I get me some of that?

Taylor Jacobson
It is free. All you’ve got to do is go to our website, Focusmate.com, and sign up.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool. Are there any kind of corporate firewall IT blah to contend with when using this software?

Taylor Jacobson
It’s a totally browser-based experience, so you shouldn’t.

Pete Mockaitis
Cool.

Taylor Jacobson
You shouldn’t have any. Yeah, but let me know.

Pete Mockaitis
Certainly. I like the way you sort of unpacked that in terms of it’s really just a few simple practices, but they have a compounding effect and they all kind of come together. Then that’s cool.

I’m a huge believer in accountability. I was sort of already sold. I read a book about accountability groups in college and I had a powerful experience as well in terms of, “Hey, we’re making commitments to one another and we’re sharing this is what I’m going to do and we’re checking in with each other regularly.”

You’ve added the real time dimension of “We are sitting down now looking at each other doing the thing,” which is a whole other level, so that’s awesome.

Taylor Jacobson
Thanks.

Pete Mockaitis
Then tell me, do you have any sort of stats on the effectiveness or the measurement of just the extent to which it gets the job done? You and your buddies think it’s really cool and a good experience, but how do we measure it in terms of sort of like a yes or no I got the job done or how do you put numbers to prove that this is doing the trick?

Taylor Jacobson
Yeah, so we’ve done some internal surveys. The results are kind of crazy. 100% – this is about a 60-something person study, so pretty small, but we think significant. 100% of the respondents said, “Yes, this improves my productivity.” Of those, 96% said, “It improves my productivity by at least 50%.”

Then just on the anecdotal side of things, we have many, many, many people who are saying, “I’ve tried everything under the sun and nothing has worked until this. I have severe ADHD and I never thought I could do X. I just wrote it off. I was never going to get to do this goal. Now, I actually think that I can.”

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool. That’s cool. I’m intrigued then. That’s one sort of tremendous tool we now all have in our toolkit. We can just go to Focusmate.com and grab a partner on demand so that’s great.

So I imagine though as you’ve done your research, you’ve sort of determined a few other kind of best practices and themes when it comes to humans and our capacity to focus and be productive and stay on task and beat procrastinating, so what are some of your other pro tips beyond getting a partner?

Taylor Jacobson
Yeah. I think it’s useful to actually kind of abstract one step because really the principle that is at work is around this tribal psychology. There’s this great quote from Jim Rohn that “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” I must have seen that quote like ten times before I really understood what it means.

As I started to study psychology more, the way that I’ve come to understand why that really works, because it’s not magic, it really works. The reason is that we are social animals. We evolved in tribes where if you wanted to eat, you had to hunt. If you wanted to hunt successfully, you needed to collaborate with other people.

Or you wanted to raise a child, well, there was no baby monitors, so if you wanted to step away to do something else, you relied on somebody else. Or you got a cold, well, on how earth did you survive a basic common cold living in a tribal society? You completely relied on other people to take care of you.

We’re really hard wired to respond to these social triggers. There’s plenty of places that you can see this in life today, just stuff like why might you buy a Nike shoe versus a New Balance shoe? Well, a Nike shoe is going to send-

Pete Mockaitis
Because Steve Prefontaine, of course.

Taylor Jacobson
Of course. Well, that’s funny because it kind of gets at the thing, which is that Nike stands for something else. What that really means is it sends a different message both to you, but also to other people around you.

You go into an office, why is every guy there wearing basically the same thing. Well, that’s because you want to fit in. In a tribal society, it’s really, really costly if you stand out. The minute you stand out, you get ostracized, you’re dead. The way our brains our wired is we conform to the behaviors around us.

That works both ways. That means, hey, if your spouse turns on Netflix every night at 7 like clockwork and you really want to study up on machine learning. Sorry, but it’s not going to happen. Netflix is on and boom, your willpower is gone. You’re probably just going to sit on the couch too.

But it works in the other direction too. Since we’re talking about running, just one of the coolest examples I’ve seen in 1954 this runner – what’s his name. I want to say Roger Bannister, don’t quote me on that. But basically no one had ever run a four-minute mile before. In 1954 this guy he breaks the four-minute barrier for the first time. Remember this thing has literally never happened before.

Suddenly, two months later, somebody else does it. I just checked the research on this. As of today, over 1,400 people have broken the 4-minute barrier.

When your brain makes that switch to something is possible because somebody else did it. Something in your environment sends a signal about what’s possible, suddenly it’s also possible for you or it becomes normalized for you.

On a really practical level, you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. The way that plays out is, you start to internalize the way that people around you are speaking and their body language and soon the way that they think and the way that they act and all these things you’re just – the way your brain is wired is you’re just subconsciously absorbing all those things. You actually can’t help but start to be like them.

It’s not a totally rational thing in today’s society, where you can totally pretty much survive on your own, technically, but it is still a really, really incredibly powerful hack where if you change the people that are in your environment, if you change that social environment, it will just change who you are from the inside out.

That has so many implications for our work, but in the very immediate who’s your boss, who are your co-workers, who are the people that you talk to about work, those sort of things can actually have a very, very direct impact on your output, your results at work.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s huge. Part of the game is just hey, pick some great people and be around them frequently.

Taylor Jacobson
Completely, yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool. Well so then, we’ve got sort of that lever to pull. Then I’m wondering in terms of when you find yourself without people at your disposal or maybe you have a shorter window in which you need to focus, like 20 minutes instead of booking a 50-minute advance session, what do you recommend in the heat of battle to sort of stay on task and focused and to beat procrastination and to keep at it when you’re not feeling it so much?

Taylor Jacobson
Yeah. I think this can be a tough one. One of the things that I find really helpful is this idea of doing less better.

When you sit down and you’ve got 50 things on your to-do list, which all of us have at least 50 things on our to-do list, it can be really crippling, especially when you only have in this case 20 minutes or something. You might be a little weary and decision fatigue has set in. It’s really crippling and that’s one of the things that makes it really hard to be productive when you only have 20 minutes.

Actually really streamlining and I’ve heard different approaches to this. One person shared that she uses a Post-it note every day and she can only fit about three things on there so that’s how she plans. She just uses a really tiny surface. That’s one way to do less better.

I’ve borrowed a technique or adapted a technique from Jake Knapp.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh yeah, we had him on the show.

Taylor Jacobson
Oh nice. Yeah. Jake wrote an article about what he calls the Burner Method or something like this. Sorry, Jake, I’m going to totally screw this up. But the essence of it is to do less better and to really simplify.

My approach to this is I take a blank sheet of paper every day and I divide it into a top half and a bottom half. On the top half, I literally put just one thing usually. If there’s other things I absolutely must get to that day, they go on the top half. That’s a really, really high bar for things you absolutely must, must get to.

And the bottom half is like okay, bonus if I finish that thing at the top, here’s some more tasks I can get into. On the bottom right is personal tasks, administrative, “I’ve got to pick up my dry cleaning” or “I’ve got to – “right now I have write a thank you note is in that bottom write corner. I find that it helps avoid decision fatigue when it’s just extremely simple and you can just focus on that one thing.

And then kind of related to that, I like to say that we should write our to-dos like we’re giving instructions to a robot or to a computer.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, I like that.

Taylor Jacobson
What that’s about is really about specificity and reducing complexity. Our brains don’t like complexity. When we create it, we procrastinate. When you see something on your to-do list that says write a presentation, to reprise our old example.

You actually can’t write a presentation. You can create a blank document in Keynote. You can write an outline with some slide headers. You can sketch out some graphic, some ideas for visuals for your slides. Those are things that you can actually do, but it’s not physically possible to do the activity of write a presentation. That’s another fun little trick is write your tasks like you’re giving instructions to a robot.

Pete Mockaitis
I like that a lot. That’s sort of one of the tenants of GTD, Getting Things Done, methodology.  We had David Allen on the show back in the day, episode 15, awesome dude.

Taylor Jacobson
OG productivity baller.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh yeah and a personal hero. But it really resonated because if on your to-do list it just says ‘mom,’ it’s like there’s a whole other level of – I don’t know if it’s consternation or friction, it’s like what does that even mean, ‘mom.’ It’s like, “Oh, mom’s birthday.” Okay, well that’s closer, but what’s the instruction for mom’s birthday. It’s like, “Visit Amazon.com to find something that mom would like for her birthday and order it.” Okay, that’s what I’m doing.

Then you sort of really cut through a lot of that resistance in terms of “Oh, it’s not ambiguous at all. This is what’s happening is I’m opening a window and going to Amazon.com and buda bing buda boom.”

Taylor Jacobson
Totally. Yeah, I love the level of specificity that you just went to because that’s exactly what is necessary for our really terrible brains.

But it’s funny how much resistance – I still find this, I got the habit down now, but there’s – you’ll still find there’s resistance when you’re writing down a task to just write those extra words and do that little bit of extra thinking when you’re planning.

I find that doing all your planning and reflection together as its own task and making sure that, “Okay, now while I’m doing the reflection and planning, I’m going to take the time to write down ‘go to Amazon.com and research gifts and buy gift for mom,’” whatever you’re going to write down.

The other sort of hack that I use on this is sometimes you need to write something down that is complex and it’s not the right time now to actually plan out the specific actions around that. So you might actually need to write a presentation and you just need some kind of place holder on your to-do list to work on that. It may not be right to break that into the 12 steps that are actually involved.

When I encounter that situation, i.e., every day, you can just write plan out the steps to write the presentation. Actually treating the planning as its own task I find is a really helpful way to sort of get around the stuckness on complex projects.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool. Well, tell me, you’ve got a turn of a phrase I find intriguing. You say ‘Stop relying on willpower.” What’s the key message there?

Taylor Jacobson
Oh gosh especially in the US, we have this notion of rugged individualism. I subscribe to it so much as you might guess from someone who does a cross-country bike ride, but it’s also kind of toxic in that I think it has us think that there is some glamour or glory or righteousness about muscling through things. That can look like trying to do things on our own. It can often look like just trying to use willpower.

I can’t count the number of, days that I wasted earlier in my career just kind of shaming myself because I thought, “Gosh, I really just should be able to willpower myself through this obstacle.” And it doesn’t’ work. There’s plenty of evidence that it doesn’t work. There’s a whole bunch of stuff that does. We’ve talked about some of the stuff that does. But I think just the key message is to just let go of the notion that there’s something better about muscling through.

Pete Mockaitis
I like that. It’s almost challenging in terms of you hold on just like, “But if I were some sort of a hard core super achiever, I could do it.” But the word Navy SEAL comes to mind, but even then, they’re working in teams.

Taylor Jacobson
Yeah, yeah, they’re working in teams. They live together. They have routine. All of it.

This is like the part two to this idea is it’s okay to get some support, but not too much. There’s a line that we draw somewhere in our minds, where it’s like, “Okay, I can call up a friend and ask for help on this, but I really shouldn’t call two friends I don’t want to take too much of this person’s time or whatever.”

Of course, you need to use social intelligence and be gracious and not overtax your relationships, but separate from that, I think we just kind of put a barrier on what’s acceptable to create as support in our lives. Categorically, there is no limit to how much support is okay. I really think it’s just if there’s a way to get the job done, maybe you should use it.

So accountability is one great way, but I’m sure you’ve had plenty of guests who talk about stuff like automating things in your life, where, “I’m not necessarily reliable to get my laundry done when it should be done, so I just have a pick up set for once a week, where I’m like, all right, I guess I’ve got to scramble and get my clothes together because the person is coming,” just to give a couple examples of any way that you can avoid using willpower to do something, might be a good idea.

Pete Mockaitis
Beautiful. Well, tell me, Taylor, anything else you want to make sure to mention before we shift gears and hear about some of your favorite things?

Taylor Jacobson
No, I’m good. Let’s do it.

Pete Mockaitis
All right, how about you share with us a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Taylor Jacobson
Yeah, so, I’m going to just trot this one out again. You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. That’s Jim Rohn.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. How about a favorite study or experiment or bit of research?

Taylor Jacobson
There’s a study called The Power of Kawaii, which is this concept of viewing cute baby animal photos. What they looked at is what’s the impact this has on your productivity. I’m talking about this because it’s a perfect example of tribal psychology of we can’t help when we look at a picture of a cute baby animal, it actually boosts cognitive function, it boosts mood, it boosts concentration. Pretty crazy.

Pete Mockaitis
I’ve heard references to this. I said, “What?” I never scratched beneath the surface, so while we’re here, you’re thinking that it’s the tribal psychology explains this. Can you make that connection for me?

Taylor Jacobson
Yeah. The kind of obvious connection is-

Pete Mockaitis
It’s an animal, we should kill it and eat it.

Taylor Jacobson
Well, okay. There’s that. I think it might be more intuitive for people to think about raising kids. When you have a baby there’s this blob that really doesn’t give you much interaction. There’s really no reward for a long time. There’s just a thing that has a lot of needs and also causes you a lot of distress.

How do we get through that crucible? Well, a lot of it is just the way our brains are wired. When you look at a baby, what happens? You calm down. You feel better. You can concentrate. They’re evolutionarily optimal to ensure the survival of the species. You can extrapolate one layer or in this case, the research suggests that this effect also extends to looking at other kinds of animals that are also babies.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, interesting. Thank you.

Taylor Jacobson
Yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, now could you share a favorite book?

Taylor Jacobson
Yeah, you mentioned Navy SEALS. I’m actually reading right now a book called Living With a SEAL but Jesse Itzler. This guy, Jesse, who is a really successful business guy, he invites a Navy SEAL to live with him for a month and to train him.

In addition to being really inspiring, it’s also hilarious and amazing example of how changing your environment, changing the social structure and putting this other really high-performing person in your environment is transformative for Jesse. It’s awesome. Highly recommend it.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool. How about a favorite tool?

Taylor Jacobson
A favorite tool. Well, I’m going to just be self-promotional and go there and say Focusmate. I wouldn’t say it if this is something that as a recovering procrastinator has really changed my life and changed even my identity, where I feel that I can rely on myself to get my most important work done. It’s been transformational for me and a lot of other people. I think it can be really effective for a lot of your listeners as well.

Pete Mockaitis
How about a favorite habit?

Taylor Jacobson
Yeah, I wanted to choose something a little maybe uncommon. The habit that I want to share is around positive self-talk. This is something that probably the first million times I encountered it I was like this is some woo-woo crazy stuff. But it’s actually made a huge difference for me in the last few years that I’ve really started to get some momentum around it.

It cuts a couple ways. When something goes well, I’m actually sometimes out loud verbalizing, like “Great job,” or “Boom.” I’ll keep it clean on here, but I’ll enthusiastically congratulate myself. It just kind of – it literally creates, maybe dopamine actually in this case, but literally creates a chemical response where it sort of cements that experience in my memory or something that makes it actually more tangibly positive and helps me build on it.

Sometimes I’ll do that even if it was mediocre because there’s just like, “You know what? You did the best you could given what you knew at this point in time, so that’s awesome.”

And then plenty of times something goes terribly I walk out of a meeting and I just feel like I did terrible. In that situation too, I’m not telling myself “You did great,” and trying to steamroll the negative feeling, but I will really say to myself, “It’s okay. And it’s not all on you. There’s another person in this interaction. What did you learn from this interaction?”

Shockingly, after many years of thinking this was a crazy thing, it’s actually become a really indispensible and career-changing tool for me.

Pete Mockaitis
Interesting. And a part of the key is saying it out loud?

Taylor Jacobson
You know, I have found that sometimes saying it out loud makes it a little – what is it? It can make it a little more real. It can also help reinforce the habit as you’re building it. It’s kind of fun too. Maybe it’s a little crazy and I’m just a crazy guy, but yeah, something about saying it out loud, it’s maybe a little extra oomph.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Tell me, is there a particular nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate with folks when you share it?

Taylor Jacobson
Yeah. We’ve really talked about it a lot. It’s just this idea that in order to upgrade your life, upgrade your accountability.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. If folks want to learn more or get in touch, where would you point them?

Taylor Jacobson
You can email me at Hi@FocusMate.com. You can also head over to our website, FocusMate.com.

Pete Mockaitis
Do you have a final challenge or call to action for folks seeking to be awesome at their jobs?

Taylor Jacobson
I do. My challenge is – you can call it an audit of the people in your life. It’s not just your work life, although that’s certainly an important category, but it’s really everyone that you spend a meaningful amount of time with. It’s your friends, it’s your romantic partner. And to ask yourself – I guess there’s two questions.

One is, are there sort of – are there roles in your life that – or needs that you have that you don’t have somebody who’s serving that role. I think of these as roles that you are casting for in your life. That’s sort of list one.

List two is people in your life or behaviors that some of those people in your life are exhibiting that are causing drag, that are slowing you down, that are sort of – again, if you are the average of the five people who you spend the most time with, are there people in your life that you actually don’t want to become more like them?

And then go find the people that you’re casting for in list one and in list two, either establish a boundary with those people or if you need to actually cut those people out from your life. I think actually following through with those two things can completely change your life.

Pete Mockaitis
Awesome. Taylor, this has been a real treat. Thank you for sharing your experience, your vulnerability, your story, and your cool software with us. I’m just a huge fan of what you’re up to and I wish you all the best.

Taylor Jacobson
Thanks so much Pete. It’s been really great being on the show.

364: Overcoming Overwhelm with Tonya Dalton

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inkWELL Press Founder & CEO Tonya Dalton gives her take on being more productive daily by figuring out and focusing on your passions instead of on other people’s fires.

You’ll Learn:

  1. Where overwhelm truly comes from
  2. How to craft the three components of your personal North Star
  3. Approaches for doing a brain dump that boosts productivity

About Tonya

Tonya Dalton is a highly sought-after productivity expert and successful entrepreneur. Tonya started her current business, inkWELL Press, in 2014 and quickly built it into a seven-figure company providing organizational tools & education to thousands of people around the globe. Her goal is to help you use the power of productivity to achieve your dreams and find fulfillment in all aspects of your life. She’s also the host of   Productivity Paradox.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Tonya Dalton Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Tonya, thanks so much for joining us here on the How to be Awesome at Your Job podcast.

Tonya Dalton
Thank you so much for having me. I’m excited to be here.

Pete Mockaitis
I’m excited to dig into this good stuff. I understand you have a fondness for building things yourself. What’s the backstory here?

Tonya Dalton
I do. It’s one of those things where I love power tools. It’s something that not many people necessarily know about me because it’s not something I talk about a lot professionally, but for me there’s something about building something with your hands.

And I find that when I’m at my most stressed, if I have a lot of things going on at work, it helps me to really tackle a big project. I might gut a bathroom. I might tear apart a deck and rebuild it. It’s just something that I really enjoy because I like working with my hands, I like the creative aspect of it. But there’s a lot of that analytical, that logical part to it with the measuring and everything else.

Every year for my birthday, one of the things that I gift for myself is I make a trip to the hardware store, I buy hardware and I build a different piece of furniture every year for my birthday.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool. That’s excellent.

Tonya Dalton
I know, it’s such a random thing, right?

Pete Mockaitis
I wish, I wish I were that good at things. I’m getting better. This has been my year of being a homeowner and landlord in our little three-flat here.

Tonya Dalton
That definitely changes that, those things.

Pete Mockaitis
It does.

Tonya Dalton
That’s when you really become better at power tools, when you have to.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, it’s so funny just because I guess – sometimes it has the opposite effect on me because it’s like I have a very clear picture of what I want done and why is it not already done.

Tonya Dalton
You’re like, “We’ll just order this online.”

Pete Mockaitis
Then the instructions, it’s sort of like, “Well, that doesn’t make any sense.” Then four steps later like, “Oh, I see why I should have done that thing now. Oops, let’s backtrack.”

Tonya Dalton
See, I think for me, I really like how I can customize a piece so it fits exactly where I want it to fit. So if I have a little alcove and I want to put a desk in there, I want to make it exactly the right size that I want it. I want to configure it so it fits what I want, which kind of fits into how I talk about productivity. It’s really about customizing.

That’s what I love about building things yourself is that ,I’ll sit down with a piece of paper and I’ll sketch it out and then I’ll kind of dream. It’s kind of like setting a goal. I’ll set a dream for myself of what I want to build and then I get started with the logistics of how I’m going to build it, what I need to cut, how many pieces of wood do I need and all of that.

I think it kind of fits into what I do professionally, but it’s a really creative outlet for me. I just love looking at something and saying, “You know what? I built that.”

Pete Mockaitis
Yes, yes that is satisfying. I only have a few things that I can point to, but it does feel good. I even feel proud of – I have a treadmill desk quote/unquote, which is really just-

Tonya Dalton
Oh yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
A piece of plywood that has been sawed just perfectly for the dimensions, but it makes the difference. I can now do some things while walking on the treadmill.

Tonya Dalton
You know what? It works. It doesn’t have to be beautiful. It just has to work.

Pete Mockaitis
I made that in the sense that I told the guy at Home Depot how many inches it should be and then he did it. It works great.

Tonya Dalton
… using the guy cutting the wood at Home Depot to take care of that for you. That’s called delegating, right?

Pete Mockaitis
Totally. Right.

Tonya Dalton
It’s outsourcing and that’s a good thing.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I could have purchased a fancy thing on Amazon for five times the price, so I did feel sort of clever. Anyway, that’s building things. Let’s talk about the company you built and what you do. inkWELL Press, where’s the name come from and what is it all about?

Tonya Dalton
Well, it’s a good question because I’ll be honest, when we were sitting down and thinking about starting inkWELL Press, I think it was like a 20-page document of names. We’re just brainstorming and thinking through names.

The whole process really of starting the business was very, very intentional. I had had a previous business and I made the decision to close that first business that I grew. I started that first business starting with $50 and I grew it to the point where my husband could come work with me.

I found that even though I loved the life that I had – it had allowed. It had allowed us to work together. It allowed us to move where we wanted to move, which is Ashville, North Carolina. I didn’t really love what I was putting out into the world. I didn’t love the impact that I was making.

I made this decision to close that business even though that was our sole income for our family. It paid our mortgage and paid for things like building furniture and fed my kids. But I wasn’t passionate about it. I made the decision that I was going to close that business.

When I decided I wanted to open up inkWELL Press, it was a really, really intentional process. It was me sitting down, really thinking about what I’m most passionate about and creating a business around my true purpose. Through that process I began to uncover what I really wanted to do.

I wanted the name to really fit with what I was doing. The name inkWELL Press has ink is in lower case and then WELL is in all caps, because it’s really about having a life that’s well lived. It’s really about living well. All of our products have that well aspect to it. Our planners are called the liveWELL planners. Our meal planner is the eatWELL planner.

To me, it’s really about at the heart of what I talk about to people and what I produce and offer to people, it really is about living their best life. I wanted the name to reflect that.

Pete Mockaitis
Intriguing. I would love to dig into this. You have a lot of perspective when it comes to living well, particularly in the realm of productivity. You’ve got the podcast, The Productivity Paradox, and a course and more. So I would just love to dig all around this area and maybe we can start with when folks are feeling overwhelmed, there’s too much, they’re panicked, it’s just – it’s overwhelming. It’s overwhelming.

Tonya Dalton
It’s overwhelming. It’s so true.

Pete Mockaitis
What do you do with that?

Tonya Dalton
Well, what’s funny is that I talk to a lot of people in all different walks of life, people who work for corporations, people who are entrepreneurs, people who are students, women, men, all kinds of people of all different ages. I’ll say to them when I meet them, “How do you feel about work? How do you feel about your business? How do you feel about your tasks at home?”

The word I hear again and again is overwhelmed. They’re overwhelmed by the amount of things that they have to do.

I have this belief that – I believe that far too many people feel overwhelmed by everything they have to do each day, so they push aside their goals and their dreams because of that overwhelm. I really think that the purpose behind what I talk about and what I create is to help alleviate that overwhelm.

I often tell people that overwhelm isn’t having too much to do; it’s not knowing where to start. That’s what I like to talk to people about. Where do you start? How do you prioritize? How do you figure out what it is you want to do first? What do you want to do next? Then really creating a life that’s around that because at its heart, productivity is not about getting things done. It’s about doing what is most important. That is really what helps us feel really satisfied and really happy with our days.

You know, too often, I feel like people run around busy all day long. When they slip into bed at night and their head hits the pillow, they feel really unsatisfied. They feel unsuccessful. “I should have done more. Why didn’t I get more done?” even though they were busy all day long. That’s because they’re living in this state of overwhelm. Instead of really working on the tasks that will move them forward towards the life they want, towards their goals, they’re putting out all these fires.

That’s really what I like to talk to people about is getting over that feeling of overwhelm, cutting through the noise and the clutter and getting to what is most important to you. That’s really the heart of it too is that ‘to you’ part. It has to be customized to you.

Too often these productivity systems that people teach and talk about, they’re designed so that the productivity system is in the center and you’re supposed to work your life around it. I teach the opposite. I believe your life and your priorities are at the center and then we create a system together to work around that. That way your priorities are always front and center in your life. That’s what helps alleviate a lot of that overwhelm is really knowing where you want to focus.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s really astute and intriguing as I’m pondering this. I think there are times in which we feel overwhelmed sort of temporarily in terms of oh, this month. It’s almost sort of like maybe too many commitments have appeared at the same time.

Tonya Dalton
They do tend to align like that, don’t they? Like the planets all align and everything is coming at the same time.

Pete Mockaitis
I guess that’s my experience of overwhelm most often is I don’t feel overwhelmed for like a whole year, but I feel overwhelmed oh this month and that month and maybe that month, so maybe a quarter of the year I’m overwhelmed, which is a quarter of the year too much for me.

Tonya Dalton
Right. Agreed.

Pete Mockaitis
How do you think about some of those dimensions in terms of it’s just a confluence of stuff like, “Well, here we are with family and work and all the other-“

Tonya Dalton
And volunteering.

Pete Mockaitis
Yes. All at once.

Tonya Dalton
And projects and we have people pulling on us. A lot of times that convergence of everything hitting at the same time, sometimes that is out of your control, but a lot of times, it really is in your control. It comes down to the choices you’re making. Productivity at its heart is about making a series of choices every day of what you’re going to focus on, what you’re going to work on.

Often I tell people that, if you’re finding that you’re in this state where you feel like everything is aligning at the same time and your weeks are so jammed packed you feel like you can barely breathe, it’s because you’re saying yes too much. I think we feel obligated oftentimes to say yes. It feels good in the moment and then five seconds later you think, “Why did I do that?” Or we feel guilty, like we’re supposed to say yes.

But I like to remind people that every time you say yes, you’re saying no to something else. We don’t realize that we’re saying no every single time we’re saying yes. Oftentimes the things that we are saying no to are the things that are our priorities—our family, our passion projects, our goals, time for ourselves, those things that are really important to us. We’ll push those aside and say no to them in order to say yes to somebody else’s passion project or whatever it is.

Often I like people to really look at what are these opportunities that are showing up for you and do you have to say yes to every single one of them? We have this belief that opportunity only knocks once. Sometimes that’s true, but just because it knocks once, doesn’t mean you have to open the door every single time.

We really need to filter and figure out what is it that you want to say yes to. What are your yes’s because oftentimes when we’re saying yes to everything, we’re really at our heart saying no to the things that are going to make us happy in the long run.

Pete Mockaitis
Tell us when it comes to establishing these matters that are deeply important and worth saying yes to, how do you think through those to identify that really well and clearly?

Tonya Dalton
People get caught up in this idea that everything should be treated equally. They want to treat all tasks as equal, when really we need to stop and prioritize. We think that by doing all the things, we’re really moving forward, but when we try to do everything, we end up doing nothing. We’re kind of spinning in circles. We’re not really moving forward in that direction we want to go.

I really think it’s important for you to stop and prioritize. Really what I tell people is use your North Star as your filter. When I talk about your North Star, it’s really your mission statement, so not just what you do, but why you do it. That’s your mission statement. Using your mission statement, using your vision statement. Where are you dreaming that you want to go? Then your core values, which is what’s defining your actions.

Your mission statement, your vision statement, and your core values work together to create what I call your North Star. That’s what helps guide you.

When opportunities show up to us, what we should do is we should ask ourselves, “Does this fulfill what it is I want to do? Does this fulfill my mission or does it fulfill my vision, where I want to go? Does it fulfill one of my core values, something that is truly important to me that I want to define my life?”

When we use that as our filter, that really can help us understand what we want to say yes to and what we want to say no to. A lot of people get confused when we’re talking about tasks and they feel like well, tasks that are important and tasks that are urgent are basically the same. They think that urgent and important are two of the exact same things. They’re really not.

Important tasks are tasks that drive you forward. They move you towards that North Star of where it is you want to go, while urgent tasks are simply tied to time. They are not necessarily important. They’re just a fire that feels like it needs to be put out. It’s the pings on your phone and the phone calls and all those different things.

They feel important because they’re so urgent. But many times we take care of those urgent items before we take care of what’s really important even if those urgent items aren’t really important to us. I think that really helps us to prioritize if we filter and we figure out what it is we really want to do using that North Star and then asking ourselves, “Is this truly important to me? Is this going to move me towards the life I really want?”

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And working with your clients, I’d love it if you could share some examples of mission statements, visions and operating values. What is the articulation sound like in words?

Tonya Dalton
Yeah. One of the things that I feel people get caught up in with mission statements and vision statements and core values is it feels so heavy. It seems like this really big thing. I think for a lot of people, that’s a big road block. That becomes something that feels so heavy and important, that they just think, “I can’t even deal with it.” It feels too big.

I like to remind people that just like you grow and evolve, your mission and your vision statement and your core values, they grow and evolve with you. The person you are today is not the same person you were five years ago or ten years ago or twenty years ago or beyond. You have changed and so has your North Star.

One of the things I find that most people get really caught up in, especially when we’re talking about mission statements, is they think about all the different things they do. They want a mission statement that ties in all the different tasks: work, and home, and volunteer stuff, and maybe homeschooling their kids, and maybe what they’re doing for their promotion. It becomes this big mishmash, this really long mission statement.

What I really try to get people to do is to list those items, list those things that they really do enjoy and what they do and then I ask them to figure out why is it you do that. The why is really the heart of your mission statement. Your mission statement doesn’t have to say exactly what it is you do, but it speaks to why you choose to do it.

“I do this because it helps others to live a better life.” “I do this because this fulfills my need to educate other people.” “I do this because I love helping the elderly.” I do what I do. That’s really what we want to do is we want to distill it down to what do these tasks that you really enjoy doing, what do they have in common? What is the common why that you experience there? That is the heart of your mission statement.

So I usually tell people that your mission statement starts with ‘to,’ because it tells you what you do. Then it’s really short, to the point. It’s easy to remember. It’s easy to talk to and it’s easy to use as your filter. You don’t want to make it so complicated and so convoluted that it’s muddling everything up. It’s supposed to help clarify.

Then when we think about the vision statement, that at its heart is not about goal setting. It’s really about dreaming big. It’s about dreaming about where you want to go.

For me, I want to be the global solution to help women uncover their priorities all while keeping my own in focus. You can see it’s big. I’m saying global there, but I also say it in a way that makes it sound like it’s absolute. It’s absolutely going to happen. I don’t say, “Well I’d like to-,” or “Boy, it would be nice to-“ You say it as an absolute.

Where is it I really want to go if I can dream as big as possible? That’s the beauty of vision statements is it really allows you to stretch yourself.

Then the core values, which is the other part of that North Star, those are the things that define your actions. What are the things that really define what’s important to you on this path towards that vision, that connects you from your mission to your vision? Really, it’s taking those together and then using that as your filter.

Pete Mockaitis
Then the vision then – you say that’s not like ten life goals, but it’s rather sort of a big unifying dream.

Tonya Dalton
Yeah, it’s a bold statement. It’s a bold statement about where it is you are going to go.

Pete Mockaitis
It sounds like the vision you provided is in a professional sense, but you also included sort of your own thing in there as a—

Tonya Dalton
Yeah, because it’s important to me that I don’t just talk about productivity, I don’t just talk about living an intentional life, it’s really important to me that I live that life. If I’m going to talk to people about being intentional, being mindful, I really need to make sure that I’m doing that for myself at the same time, so keeping my own priorities really in focus all along.

Pete Mockaitis
When it comes to the values, can we hear some example articulations of those?

Tonya Dalton
Yeah. For me, intentionality is really important, adventure, learning, all of those things tie in to what it is I want to do. Learning fits into that because I love learning. I love reading about studies.

I love learning and figuring out how your brain works so that when I am talking to people on the podcast or on episodes of Tonya TV or wherever, I’m able to really give them evidence, like, “This is how our brain works, so-“ It helps people understand like, “Oh, I’m not alone in this. This is normal,” or, “This is okay.”

For me, that core value of learning is really important because that’s part of not just what makes me happy as an individual, as a person, it also really helps me professionally.

One of my other core values is adventure. So I’m an entrepreneur. You can’t be an entrepreneur without loving some adventure because there is no stability in entrepreneurship.

That really ties in there as well, really pushing the boundaries of what I know and allowing me to stretch beyond my comfort zone, which is another thing that I talk a lot about, really getting out of where we feel most comfortable, like those comfortable sweatpants that we wear, and stretching ourselves to try new things.

I started a podcast almost 100 episodes ago, which seems crazy, but that was an opportunity for me for adventure, of stretching myself and tying in that core value of learning because I didn’t know anything about podcasting before I got started.

Having these core values allows you to really look and say, “What is it I want to do? What actions do I want to do to move me towards that vision?”

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, really cool. I know a lot of folks when they’re thinking about productivity or balance and stuff, this work/life balance or work/life integration concept is tricky and fraught with guilt. They feel like we’re letting down family or letting down colleagues. How do you think about this?

Tonya Dalton
Well, I’m a big believer that balance is bogus, that there is no balance. I think balance is what I like to call a rainbow problem. It sounds really good, but it doesn’t really exist. You can’t really get there because if we’re balanced, it means that all the areas of our life are equal. By definition, if all areas are equal, we’re not really leaning into one area or the other, we’re standing still. We’re really stagnant. What we really need is harmony.

By that I mean we need to lean into the different areas of our lives. I talk about these three areas of our life of work, personal, and home. When you really want to move forward in one of those areas, let’s say you really want to work towards a work goal, you have to lean into that area. You have to spend a little more time, a little more energy, a little more attention at work. And so we can’t spend as much time maybe on our home goals or our personal goals.

The trick here though is this, we can’t learn into work and stay leaned over. It’s kind of like riding a bike. If you want to ride a bike, you can go straight all day long and stay perfectly balanced, but if you want to go in any direction, like you want to turn right, you have to shift your balance over. We can’t stay leaned over so far; we have to eventually shift back up so we’re upright, otherwise we’d fall down. It’s the same way in life.

We can lean into these areas, let’s say we’re leaning into work because we’re working on getting a promotion. After a quarter, then we need to shift back and maybe then we need to lean a little bit more into our personal life or lean more into our home life and figure out what those goals are. That way we’re not staying too shifted in one area, but we’re continually moving that balance back and forth. I think counterbalance is so important.

I often talk to people about balance doesn’t really exist because we don’t want all things to be even. We really want to look at the harmony of the whole. Looking at the harmony of a year or looking at the harmony of a week.

Balance seems to fit in this tight constraint of 24 hours and we think, “Gosh, I have to get all of my priorities taken care of in this 24-hour period.” Well, if you look a little bit wider and you zoom out, and you look at the 168 hours we have in a week, it’s much easier to see where you’re leaning in and counterbalancing and then leaning into a different area and counterbalancing.

Yeah, maybe you didn’t make it home for dinner on Monday night, but you made it home for dinner four nights that week. If we just look at the balance of the 24, we get to Monday evening and we feel like we failed. “Gosh, you know what, I never make it home. I never spend time with the family. I’m so busy working. I’m so disappointed in myself.” Right? This is the talk that we have with ourselves.

But if you really zoom back and you look at the harmony of the 168 and you see, “Okay, I didn’t make it home on Monday, but I made it home on Tuesday. I made it home on Thursday. I made it home on Friday. I did pretty good. I made it home the majority of the days.” That’s really where our happiness lies. It’s okay that we’re not taking care of all of our priorities every single day as long as they’re getting taken care of, overall.

Pete Mockaitis
Very good. Thank you. I also want to get your take on when it comes to sort of the key habits, practices, routines that sort of make all the difference for keeping things flowing and operating well week after week.

Tonya Dalton
Yeah, well, I love habits because I think sometimes people think about habits and they think about biting your nails or smoking. Habits can sometimes have this bad connotation, but habits are really an amazing thing. There was actually a Duke University study that showed that about 40 to 45% of our daily actions are actually habits.

We’re already using habits to a degree. I mean, think about it. When we get dressed in the morning, we don’t have to think about each and every step of putting on our pants or brushing our teeth, we do these things, without thinking about it. They become habits.

I love taking habits and really making them intentional, really making them so that they push us towards spending time on our priorities, that they push us towards that life that we really want to live, and they take a lot of that thinking out of it.

Some of the habits that I really like: I get up in the morning. I have a morning routine, which is essentially just a series of habits that go one after the other. Each one triggering and acting as a springboard for the next. I like to get up early in the morning before everybody else in the house is up because I find that that’s a great time to get my work done and really focus.

And so I get up in the morning and I start with a little bit of meditation, a little bit of prayer. Then I go and I get a glass of water. This was a habit that I actively worked to cultivate because First of all, I’m not a morning person. I tell people I get up early and they’re like, “Well, you must be a morning person, so it’s easy.” I’m not a morning person at all.

So I discovered that one of the things that you can do to really help yourself in the morning is to have a glass of water because your body is dehydrated after not having any water all evening long while you were sleeping and that really gives you a boost. So that’s one of the first things I do. I have a glass of water. Then I brush my teeth. Then I go out into the living room. I do some stretches and I start working.

Then I go through the routine of waking up my kids when it’s time to do that. Making lunches, that whole fun routine.

But then one of the things that I really think has made the biggest difference, which is part of that morning routine or this morning habit is when I get to my office space, I start with ten minutes of focused planning. That  for me is the habit that has really changed the way I feel about my day. It really gives me this ownership over my time.

So I sit down before I’ve checked email. At this point, I have not checked in with email. I’ve not let anybody else’s fires become my fires. I sit down and I plan out what I want to accomplish for the day. I sit down. I don’t make a to-do list because I do not believe in to-do lists. I make a priority list. I create a priority list. I start at the top and I work my way down for the whole day.

Then after my ten minutes of planning, then I worry about checking in with email and then they can come in and they fit into my day wherever they fit because at that point I’ve put in my important tasks into my day. I really feel like that’s one of the best habits that I’ve created for myself is this ten minutes of planning.

And then at the end of my workday, I do this habit I call it the five minute to peak productivity, where I spend a minute writing down my wins for the day. I write down for one minute how I felt about my day, what was my stress like, did I put too much on my plate? Then I spend a minute writing down the things I’m grateful for, for that day.

Then I write down for the next minute, minute four, I write down how have I worked towards a goal, because I believe you should work towards at least one goal every single day. And then the last minute, I write down what are the things I would like to focus on for tomorrow? That allows me to get those items out of my head and onto the paper, so that when I go home I’m not thinking about work anymore.

And what I do with that sheet of paper, that five minutes to peak productivity, I leave it on my desk so that way when I come in the next day for my ten minutes of planning, I have a little springboard right there ready, to help me with my ten minutes of planning. I look through, I can see my wins from the day before. I see what I said the day before that I wanted to focus on, and I use that to build my momentum.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s excellent. I liked the way you said it the ten minutes of planning creates the ownership in terms of “All right, this is the game plan,” and then you’ve done it prior to email. I’ve been getting more into that myself in terms of that making all the difference there. It’s sort of – oh, go ahead.

Tonya Dalton
I was going to say email can be such a rabbit hole. We get in it and we’re digging through and it never seems like we’re at the bottom of it. And it generally is filled with a lot of things that other people need from us. I think it’s so important to have that ownership over our time and to feel like we are choosing how we spend our time.

Pete Mockaitis
Absolutely. I’m curious to know, with that ten minutes sort of you’re referencing your yesterday thoughts that you wrote down in one of those five minutes, are there any other kind of key, sources that you’re looking to during this ten minute window. Is it your calendar? Is it your vision? What are some of the – does it come right out of your head or are you kind of referencing back some documented pieces in generating the plan of the day?

Tonya Dalton
Yeah, I love that question because we don’t want things floating around in our head because then they’re just taking up room. It takes up space and it takes up a lot of the calories that our brain is burning. We want to get them out of there.

What I do is I do a brain dump. I call it a purge. I do a brain dump on Sunday, I do it for my family. On Monday morning I do it for work. I very intentionally keep those separated. I don’t want to think about work necessarily until Monday morning so that my Sunday is really focused on family.

What I do during that time is I write out what are the things I want to accomplish this week. I pull things from my calendar. I’m writing down and just getting the things out of my head so that when I’m sitting down for that ten minutes of focused planning each day, I take that weekly kick start, that’s what I call it, I take that weekly kick start and I’m pulling from that in order to put in what I want to accomplish.

The nice thing about that purge, that brain dump is that that’s allowing me to do that zooming out that we talked about, looking at my week as a whole, getting a bird’s eye view of where I am and where I want to go for that week. And so from that, I’m pulling each day. I’m not just pulling it out of thin air or having to do a lot of thinking. It’s really automatic and on autopilot because most of my ideas and thoughts, I’ve already gotten down onto paper.

Pete Mockaitis
Excellent. Well, tell me, anything else you want to make sure to mention before we shift gears and talk about some of your favorite things?

Tonya Dalton
Well, let’s see. There’s so many things. I love talking about productivity. I think the thing is that I think people get caught up in when we’re talking about, how we want to run our day and how we want to live our lives is we get caught up in this idea of doing so much and feeling good about checking a lot of items off our list.

And I just want to remind people that life is about quality rather than quantity. It’s not about checking a lot of items off our list. It really is creating that life we really love and that life that we want. When we really intentionally build these habits into our day so that what is important to us sits front and center, that really allows us to feel so much more successful at the end of the day.

Pete Mockaitis
Lovely. Now could you share with us a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Tonya Dalton
Yeah, my favorite quote is from Oprah. She says, “Do not think you can be brave with your life and your work and never disappoint anyone. It doesn’t work that way.”

Pete Mockaitis
Lovely.

Tonya Dalton
I think that’s really important, especially when you are trying to take ownership and focus on living life with your priorities. There might be some people who are disappointed that you’re not going to say yes to everything they ask you to do, but it doesn’t work that way. Oprah’s pretty smart.

Pete Mockaitis
You mentioned you liked learning the studies, is there a favorite study or experiment or bit of research that really resonates with you?

Tonya Dalton
Yeah, well, I mentioned that Duke University study, which is one of my favorites. But I have another study from the University of London that I really love. It was on multitasking. What I love about it is so many people are so proud of how they multitask. They think that multitasking is really helping them be more productive.

What this study found is that, when you multitask, not only does it really take you longer to do the work, but the quality of your work suffers significantly. As a matter of fact, when people multitask, they do the same work that’s equivalent to someone who has missed an entire night of sleep or someone who has smoked marijuana.

People are usually surprised by that because they think that they’re being so productive, but really, when we’re trying to multitask and do too much, our work really suffers. But the most, astounding thing I think from that study was this, they found that the better someone believed they were at multitasking, the worse they were.

Pete Mockaitis
Intriguing.

Tonya Dalton
I think that’s fascinating because we think that we’re really good at it, but we’re really not so good.

Pete Mockaitis
How about a favorite book?

Tonya Dalton
My favorite book of all time is Jane Eyre because I just love classic novels. It’s just a genre that I love. That is my favorite fiction book that I go back and read every year or so.

Pete Mockaitis
How about a favorite tool?

Tonya Dalton
Well, my inkWELL Press products of course. For that routine that I was telling you about, I have a notepad that helps you with your brain dump. Then I sit down with my daily planner and that has a priority list built into it, so you can really just plug in your items and categorize them by priority. I think that really helps.

Pete Mockaitis
And a favorite habit?

Tonya Dalton
My favorite habit is probably my ten minutes of focused planning that I do every day. I really feel like that sets me in the right path for every single day. And I think one of the mistakes a lot of people make is they try to plan out their whole week let’s say on Sunday, but then it’s really easy to get behind and feel like you’re under water the whole rest of the week, so, really taking that ten minutes to plan that day and to make the plans for that day achievable makes a world of difference.

Pete Mockaitis
And is there a particular nugget that you share that really seems to connect and resonate and then people quote it back to you?

Tonya Dalton
The one that resonates with a lot of people I think is that overwhelm isn’t having too much to do; it’s not knowing where to start. I think that resonates because once we figure out together where it is you want to start and what you want to do next, that feeling of overwhelm really does go away. And it really feels a lot better to be more in charge of your day.

Pete Mockaitis
If folks want to learn more or get in touch, where would you point them to?

Tonya Dalton
I would probably send them to my website, InkwellPress.com because I have links to my podcast there. I have links to my courses, my episodes of Tonya TV are there and of course my products are there as well.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Do you have a final challenge or call to action for folks seeking to be awesome at their jobs?

Tonya Dalton
Yeah, well this is what I would say is a lot of times we hear advice or we hear tips and thoughts and ideas and we get excited about it and we want to try to implement everything all at once. What I would say is, start small.

Take one piece of advice, maybe something that I talked about today, maybe it’s taking and doing the ten minutes of focused planning and focus on just doing that one thing for the next month. Build that in as a habit and then use that as a springboard to start building in other habits that really help you live intentionally. Starting small and feeling some success and getting some wins under your belt really can go far in helping us not feel that overwhelm.

Pete Mockaitis
Well Tonya, thanks so much for taking this time. It’s been a whole lot of fun. I wish you tons of luck with the podcast, Productivity Paradox, and the company, inkWELL Press, and all that you’re up to.

Tonya Dalton
Well, thank you so much. This was great being on here. I really enjoyed being on your show.