The Hard Way and the Simple Way

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Do=Natural flow of action, We=All Who Matter, What=Compelling Focus, Will=Our inner game
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Pushing ourselves and others is the long, hard way.

The fast, simple way is have a compelling goal, a high-buzz-quietly-assured outlook, a commitment to win-win, and a calm flow of inspired activity.

The reason we keep losing track of this is that the former merely seems faster and simpler.


In your corner,


PS: Because pushing breaks way too much.
Today’s photo credit: Dawn cc

other people's tasks

How to Deal with Haftadoos

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Reading time: 2 min.

We resist tasks that we think we have to do. We resist because none of us wants to be told what to do. Yet we somehow feel obligated when others ask. As with anything we resist, wresting with these haftadoos wastes our time and drains our energy.

Of course, we are happiest and feel most productive when we work on our wantadoos. But what about all the things everyone else wants us to do? Can we be successful by only ever doing what we want to do?

Sure! We just need to do some choosing. Doing tasks that others have requested from us is fun, exciting, and rewarding–they become wantadooswhen we have chosen to do them.

Imagine every request from other people landing not on your haftado list but on your coulddo list. Put everything else that you might want to do on that coulddo list, too. When it’s time to select the next thing you’ll do, scan your coulddo list and pick the most compelling thing.

You’ll be surprised to see how many tasks requested by others you will end up choosing to do. And how great you’ll feel doing them.


In your corner,



Today’s photo credit: Trey Ratcliff cc


Productivity Secret: Never Get It All Done

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What does your to do list feel like?

We often feel ourselves pushed (from within and from outside ourselves) to make things happen. And this comes from an underlying belief that we can be done. We look at all that we could, might, should do and think, “Ugh. When I get all this done, then I can relax.” So we tense up and push.

But if we could get it all done, we will always choose (yes, choose) more things to do. So we can never be done.

Do not despair, though. As soon as we understand that we can never be done, that there will always be waves upon waves of new possibilities, opportunities, and tasks, we can let go of the tension and push. We see that it’s silly to maintain them. We can stop diverting our energy into that silliness. And we can ride atop those waves.

Sound paradoxical? Maybe it is. We will still get stuff done, of course. But with so much more ease.


In your corner,


PS: This also means we can relax now, not after “everything’s done.” See?


Today’s photo credit: Storm Surf via photopin cc

Get More Productive with Well-Formed Tasks

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Reading time: 2 min.

When we come across a poorly-formed task on our task list, we either slow down to figure out what to do or just skip it because it looks too hard. Examples of poorly formed tasks include, “Tuvalu account,” “TPS report,” and most every email in our inboxes right now. Poorly-formed tasks stall our productivity.

A well-formed task is doable. It is some physical, concrete step such as making a call or sending an email to a specific person, editing a particular document, or brainstorming a certain topic. A well-formed task is often the very next thing we need to do for a given project. Examples of well-formed tasks include, “email Hannah list of possible agenda items for quarterly meeting,” “call Jason to discuss Xialing’s request for information,” and “buy new printer cartridges from”

We need only spend about 30 to 60 minutes daily ensuring that our talk list is current and all of our tasks are well formed. That may sound like a lot but it is well worth it. Instead of slowing down to figure out what to do with each task, we can motor through them. Instead of skipping over unclear or difficult tasks, we make progress easily.

In your corner,


Are Your Productive?

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Not so good: “I am productive when others agree that I am.” This includes staying late at work just to be one of the last ones out. It also includes anything driven by guilt, pressure, or critique. Tough to achieve, ya?

Very good: “I am productive when I deliver the results I commit to myself and to others; I choose what I commit to.” Achievable pretty much daily because you’re in charge of it.

In your corner,



PS: You always have a choice. Always.

Enough of Productivity and Efficiency

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Do=Natural flow of action, Success, Will=Our inner game
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“Productivity” and “efficiency” are words that describe how we work, do tasks, get stuff done. Both words focus on increasing output per unit of resource. Fun, eh?

Let’s instead focus on “effectiveness.” It includes efficiency and adds judgment, balance, and a focus on overall desired results.

To your continued success,


The Universal Productivity Trap

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Do=Natural flow of action, Will=Our inner game
Reading time: 3 min.

Take a moment. Notice the big pile of tasks you have to do. Go ahead, take a look. I’ll wait.

What happened? Look closely because it was likely fast and subtle. Though the sequence of thoughts and emotions you had is unique to you, you probably landed on one of two common reactions. You either had an impulse to start working on the tasks or the desire to push away from or numb yourself to them.

In our headlong rush to get stuff done each day, we damage to our own effectiveness when we dive into our tasks. We push ourselves to get stuff done. Because it is so common, let’s call this the “Universal Productivity Trap (UPT).” We’ll explore the trap (in both its main and alternate forms) in this post then see the ways out of the trap in another post.

Are you in this trap?

Most people will say, “Oh, yes, that’s me. I do that.” If you put in long hours at work, want more work-life balance, have minor or major stress-related health issues, if you feel bad, or if you ever wonder, “Is this all there is?” then you are likely in this trap.

Another form The alternative to the main form of the UPT is called “stalling.” Instead of rushing ahead, we stop acting. We put our head in the sand. Or we get busy doing something to distract ourselves from our list of to dos. This version of UPT has been called laziness, slacking, and “a sure sign of poor birth.” 🙂 Most of us experience both forms of UPT at different times. The mechanics and ways out are the same regardless of which version you’re noticing.

How it works

Here’s how the UPT typically works. It happens mostly through habitual (usually subconscious) thought.

  • We start our day by noticing the list ever-growing list of things to get done and, in one way or another, panic. (You might object to the word ‘panic.’ The neurochemicals rushing though your body when you notice the list, though, would say it’s an accurate word.)
  • We believe (that is, we use a thought habit that has worked for us in the past) that the way out of this panic is to get into action. So we plunge in. (Or, we choose to stall. See above.)
  • As we work through the day, we and others generate more things for us to do.
  • Instead of having a sense of relief because we managed to get something done we get more panic from that growing list.
  • We experience even more panic because we suspect that there are things to do lurking in our inbox, in our meeting notes, or from recent conversations.
  • We go to bed exhausted and/or panicked. We wake up the next day and repeat the process.

Escaping the trap

There are at least three escape routes from the UPT.

Each escape route uses the mantra, “Slow down to speed up.” If you are in the “must push harder” form of the trap, slowing down probably sounds like the last thing you’d want to do.  If you are in the “let’s avoid this” version of the trap, “speeding up” doesn’t sound appealing to you.

None the less, these escape routes work and are simple to use. The most difficulty you’ll have is believing you’re allowed to use them.

More about these escape routes in the next post.


How are you feeling?

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Will=Our inner game
Reading time: 2 min.

“How are you doing?” “How are you feeling?”  “How’s it going?”

Though these questions are part of our common greetings to each other, they are also an unusually important questions to consider more deeply. That’s because how you feel, how you’re doing, how it’s going–in short, your mood–dramatically affects your success.

Your mood is the sum of your dominant-at-the-moment thoughts and feelings. When you are feeling good, you can give most of your attention, time, and effort to whatever is important to your success. Your mental focus is high and you become very productive. Also, your ability to influence people and situations increases.

When you are feeling less than good, you siphon time and energy from what you really want to be, do, or have. Like a computer that is running unwanted programs, a negative mood sloooooowwwws you down. In a negative mood, you focus your “internal CPU cycles”–usually out of habit, not intention–on things like fear, uncertainty, doubt, worry, anger, etc. The time and energy spent on these distractions aren’t available to spend on what you really want. Your negative mood lowers your ability to influence. And it has a way of spurring more negativity and negative results.

We have an odd resistance to focusing on our mood. It’s fairly easy to notice a negative mood and shift it toward the positive. For some reason, though, we are more comfortable with our habitual though not-so-productive thoughts and feelings.

Of course, you can shift your mood, often quickly. As with any habit, it’s best not to attack, stop, or change a mood; you would subtly strengthen it. Instead, replace it: acknowledge the negative mood then take steps to choose a positive one.

Two Simple Habits for the Ultra-Busy

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Do=Natural flow of action, Leading, Will=Our inner game
Reading time: 5 min.

How is your week going?

No, really. How is it going? On a scale from “Calm waters, smooth sailing” to “Rough Chop” to “Gale” to “Tempest”, how effectively are you sailing through your week?

Chances are that most of you—most of the time—will say, “Gale,” “Tempest,” or “What word do you have for something worse than a tempest ‘cuz that’s where I am?”

We live every day with wave upon wave of tasks, competing priorities, and interruptions.

And that sucks. It feels bad, it saps our energy, and lowers our productivity. It’s also a downward spiral; the more storms we experience, the more behind we feel, the more we push, the less energy we have, the more we don’t get done, the more storms we have.

For those of you who manage a team, you’ll recognize that this is not just a personal issue; it affects teams and entire companies the same way.

GOOD NEWS: Two simple habits; you choose when to take them on.

(Of course there’s good news!)

What doesn’t work is trying to fight the storms by working harder, going numb, blaming, or hiding. There will always be new waves of tasks and interruptions and they’ll wear you down.

What DOES work is learning to surf these waves. And you are just two simple habits away from hangin’ ten.

If your frustration with the way things are is high enough, grab these two habits and run with them; they’ll change everything.

If you’re not ready, bookmark this post for a time when you are ready, when the way things are is no longer acceptable.


If you start your workday by diving in to your work, you’re setting yourself up for failure. Instead, invest a relatively minute amount of time to plan you day and your week. When you do, you’ll put yourself above the waves.

This type of planning gives you the proper perspective to know what your will work on given of all the things your could work on.  It also gives you the information you need to decide in the moment whether to allow this next interruption or that request.

Set aside time–maybe 40 minutes–before each work week (e.g. Friday night, Sunday night, or Monday morning) to review all your projects and commitments to know what you’ll select to work on and what goes to the back burner. Set aside 10 minutes or so before each work day (either that morning or the night before) to select what you’ll work on that day and adjust your weekly plan based on what’s happened.

Have with you the lists of your projects/commitments/appointments as you do this planning.

For more information about this habit, see this article in Fast Company:

For more help, email me with your questions or post a comment below.

HABIT TWO: Be here now

This habit is about changing your state of mind–your attitude–instantly and often as you can.

If you see this habit as less practical and even a waste of time, give me a moment to explain. It’s actually a surprisingly powerful and productive tool.

This is deep topic that we can spend our lifetimes learning about. For now, let the loosely constructed logic below point you in the right direction. If you’d like to learn more, email me. You can also skip this logic and go right to the practice that follows.

  • Performance in our jobs and life comes only from action.
  • Our state of mind affects our ability to perform, to act well.
  • Without focus or training, our state of mind comes from our habitual thoughts and emotions.
  • We build our habitual thinking and emotions from very early on life. They are there for what was a good reason.
  • Some of these habitual thoughts and emotions are no longer useful; they really detract from our performance today.
  • The thinking and emotions more in conflict with our performance today can be categorized as “regret about the past” or “worry about the future.”
  • We may not think we are regretting or worrying. Typically we react to the word “regret” and “worry;” looking deeper, we see we indeed are expending too much time and energy on the past or the future.
  • The best barometer for measuring whether we’re too focused on the past or future is how we physically feel. Tense, nervous, ill, numb, in pain, and excited are some of the usual signs.
  • Regretting the past or worrying about the future pulls our focus from the ONLY PLACE EVER WE CAN PERFORM: here and now.
  • We can tell we are in the here and now when the physical sensations disappear or diminish.
  • We can’t force ourselves to be here and now. Forcing creates an ugly reaction of not-here-and-now.
  • We can release ourselves by simply observing. Naming what we are thinking, feeling, doing drives a wonderful wedge between us and our habitual thinking.
  • Regular observation gives us the ability to catch ourselves caught up in habitual thinking and emotions and release ourselves without much effort at all.
  • Regular observation is like building a muscle. As we strengthen our observation muscle, we naturally have more energy and focus to act well, right here and now.
Practicing Habit Two
  1. For the next 24 hours, notice your thinking and emotions. Just name them and go no further; resist the temptation to describe, evaluate, judge what you notice. One easy way: quietly say to yourself as often as you can today, “This is me thinking_______.” Or, “This is me feeling_______.” Or, “This is me______.” Examples: “This is me thinking this meeting is a waste of time.” “This is me reacting to my colleague’s comment.”
  2. Extend this practice by making a commitment to it and using the habit builder to make it stick.

Post a comment below with your questions, observations, or improvements to these habits.