Jul 06

All of The Productivity Hacks in the World Won’t Help You.

By admin | Uncategorized

Controversial statement, I know. Our collective generation, all those participating in the global economy at this moment, have become obsessed with productivity.

We have productivity hacks, productivity journals, productivity plans, output quotas, pomodoro bubbles, e-mail batching, the 80/20 rule, daily status reports, scrums, and a myriad of other options and methods for maximizing productivity. Much of this has been effective. Or, said differently, we have indeed discovered more ways to create more output in less time and with fewer resources than we did in the past. The dream of efficiency for many executives and corporations are coming true.

But what about for individuals? The proliferation of productivity has been hard at work for easily a decade now, and yet, as recently as six months ago, publications like Fast CompanyTechCrunchLinkedInForbesBusiness Insider, and the Wall Street Journal all published new ideas and techniques for how to be productive.

So why are companies getting so much traction on material that is at best repetitive and at worst completely identical to the other information out there?

We keep seeing these messages because we as individuals still spend tons of time feeling unproductive and underutilized.

The human condition compels us to feel useful, productive, or helpful on any given day. In his Ted Talk on Blue Zones, Dan Buettner discusses a strong linkage between those who live longer and those who have a defined purpose in their lives. In the community of Okinawa in Japan, this takes the form of Ikigai.

Over the last month, I’ve had 25+ conversations with people ranging in age from 25–40 about their experience with career transition. The number one thing that people stress in what they want in their next role: the opportunity to feel useful and productive.

If we want to fix this pandemic of feeling unproductive, the answer is not to unearth the correct combination of productivity hacks and methodologies; we need to back to the source.

If you want to feel productive, you have to take ownership of defining productivity for yourself, and then create the space you need to pursue that every day.

Personal productivity has an infinite number of forms, and they are all based on who you are and where you are in your life. For some, productivity in the context of output comes naturally — they are driven by the desire and need to outpace and outperform where they were yesterday. This incremental, +1 style often fits in well with traditional goal setting and is easy to integrate into a corporate setting.

Productivity, for others, is more about achieving balance. I feel most productive when I engage in a number of different activities on any given day. Today, I have five calls with old colleagues and classmates, a two-hour Ironman workout, this blog post, and making dinner for my family. In isolation, none of these individual activities is a hallmark or beacon for productivity. However, when I can successfully engage in all of these different areas in my life, I feel great.

Productivity in another lens is doing less. Productivity for this group is more about completing objectives and tasks in increasingly small windows of time to create space to think, breathe, explore, exercise, or do anything else that fills them up.

All of these are great — none of them are wrong. Some versions fit better into some circumstances than others. But one thing is certain:

If you try to artificially layer your employer’s, your partner’s, your friends’, or your family’s version of productivity on top of yours to motivate you, you probably won’t feel particularly motivated.

Now, I’m not saying that you have to throw out the other measures of productivity in your life. If you work in sales and have a quota, you still need to hit and exceed it to excel at work. But you do not have to rely on that metric to make you feel productive. In fact, you’re probably much better off defining productivity for yourself, and ensuring that you care for that metric as much as you do your sales target.

If this idea is exciting but scary, as many new ones are, here are some simple steps to get started.

  1. Get clear on what productivity means to you. Reflect. Journal. Meditate. Think about the days when you feel the most fulfilled and alive. Write down a vision of what your perfect day looks like. Look for patterns.
  2. Track your progress. The one thing that productivity paranoia has given us is the knowledge that measuring progress is a highly necessary component to making substantive progress. Pick your metric, evaluate your performance, look for ways to improve, iterate, and keep going.
  3. Create a range. Productivity, even if defined by you, can become a treadmill to nowhere if you have no endgame other than to constantly increase your productivity. Ideally, you will eventually be able to establish a good feel for what days feel great and what days feel disappointing. As you better understand your own motivations, just shoot for great days, not the best days. If you still need a goal, see how many days in a row you can find yourself comfortably in your desired productivity zone.
  4. Don’t treat productivity like a diet. It is frighteningly common that we decide to go on a diet, do a ton of research, buy all of the right foods, get ready to change our lives, do it for three days, and then totally abandon the whole thing. All or none has a very low expected rate of success; we’re not built to create a massive change in a single moment. Instead, make small changes every day, track your progress, acknowledge your failures, forgive yourself, and keep going. If nothing else, no matter what, keep going.

Every person has the right to feel productive every day. However, we only have the opportunity to reap the benefits of productivity if we take the time and ownership to exercise our right appropriately.

If you’re not feeling particularly productive or useful in your work currently, give this a shot and let me know how it goes — I would love to hear from you!

Thank you for reading!! If you enjoyed this story, it would mean the world to me if you would hit the heart button below. It helps to spread the word!

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Jul 06

The Holiday Hangover Effect

By admin | Uncategorized

Raise your hand if you absolutely love celebrating holidays with your family and friends!! 🙋

Raise your hand if you wished that the time that you had to enjoy yourself was longer, deeper, richer!! 🙋

Raise your hand if immediately after the holiday, you think about the foods you will avoid, the work you will do, and the extra steps to get “back on track” after indulging yourself for the holiday. 🙋

Raise your hand if you often wake up this morning after a holiday filled with joy and gratitude for the opportunity to disrupt your everyday life and celebrate the with people you love? 😶

This post is a bit more personal, and I don’t intend to project my experience onto others. However, I think that this is a conversation I’ve had after every major holiday, particularly in the summer time, since my career started.

We view holidays as opportunities to escape, to break free from the confines of our daily lives.

We hatch big plans, drive absurd distances for what amounts to 36 hours of vacation, eat all of the food, buy all of the alcohol, and we blow up Instagram and Snapchat like they’re going out of style.

And why do we do this? Because it’s awesome. The adrenaline pump that begins the moment everyone piles into the car that extends to the last song played for the party before everyone finally succumbs to a day’s worth of sun, burgers, and beer.

These days engender incredible memories, new friendships, and lifelong traditions. Think about that.

We attach traditions to holidays so frequently because we want to capture and recreate the incredible joy that we feel from those experiences.

But what happens when you wake up the next morning?

Rue. Regret. Remorse. A new and more terrifying version of the Sunday Scaries arrives. The responsibilities of work and life that you pushed from your brain have arrived front and center. And much like a pet that has been ignored, this anxiety scratches relentlessly at the back of your forehead to get your attention. It feels neglected. You haven’t obsessed over your e-mail or your deliverables or your clients for all of 36 hours.

So we start to plan.

I’m going to leave by 9, which puts me at home by 1. I’ll grab a quick bite, hit the gym, clean up my inbox, vacuum my apartment, grab dinner with a friend in the neighborhood, and unwind with a TV show before I crash. I have six meetings tomorrow plus two calls — I’ll read these reports on the commute tomorrow and catch up on the rest of the action from the weekend from my colleague etc..

Sound familiar?

We start to feel guilty about how much we ate and drank over the course of the weekend, and we start to make a plan for how we will atone over the coming week and give up some of our favorite things like cookies or ice cream to make up for the weekend swing.

All of the care-free, abundant joy that we experience hours before has all evaporated because it is too much of a departure from our normal lives. We don’t know how to reconcile the two realities. We genuinely struggle to understand how we can go from chugging rose out of a bottle while riding an inflatable unicorn to an important client meeting within 36 hours. But here’s the thing:

A huge part of what makes you awesome is your capacity to work and play with equal vigor.

Moreover, we have an inherent need to play to create space for recovery and reflection on the work that we do, otherwise we simply run ourselves relentlessly into the ground.

We already give so much of our time and energy to work, and not just in the hours we physically spend there. We shape ourselves to fit the image of what we should be like at work. We’re professional. We’re organized. We’re detail-oriented. We’re diligent.

I count myself as blessed to have so many wonderful friends who do so much extraordinary work. Many of them have worked with more large, Fortune 100 companies already than I will in my lifetime. They have counseled CEOs and executives on million dollar strategies to steer an organization of thousands of people in new directions. But this is not why I love them.

I love them because they can be discussing these amazing challenges they face at work in one moment, and be laughing at a fart joke the next. And they’re the exact same person.

We feel it necessary to divorce these parts of our life and personality from one another, but they desperately need each other.

I mean this from two perspectives. First, we need to be able to have room to be serious and goofy in the same body. To dial these qualities up and down as needed, and also to be sure that we have access to both of them on a regular basis.

Second, it hurts us to view these periods of celebration and connectivity as an alternative universe to the one that we occupy most of the time. These moments and experiences are every bit a part of your life just as your professional commitments.

When we relegate these spirited times to some “other” category, we form a storyline in which we have to justify our opportunities to have fun and celebrate with friends.

Having an amazing time with friends and family is not something that you need to earn, or justify to other people.

Rather than regret our celebrations, or seeing them as an aberration from the norm, let’s embrace them as the glorious, uplifting part of our reality that they really are. Let’s reflect on the new friends that we made rather than the extra calories we consumed.

This is as much a message for me as it is for anyone else. I know that I have a great deal of work to do in this area, too.

I’ve already laid plans for my next holiday. And beyond just the long road trip to Wisconsin, and the inevitable stop at Culver’s, and the egregious number of Bud Lights that will be consumed, I’m making extra plans.

I’m planning on reflecting on how much joy and fun was captured in just a few days by the water. I’m planning on looking for opportunities to be just as silly and ridiculous without having to drive to the North Woods of Wisconsin. I’m planning to bring a little bit more Holiday to my life rather than keeping it relegated to a few precious weekends a year. Join me, won’t you??

Thank you for reading!! If you enjoyed this story, it would mean the world to me if you would hit the heart button below. It helps to spread the word!

Subscribe to my Newsletter HERE

Jul 03

A Better Look at Balance

By admin | Uncategorized

Work-Life balance is easily one of the buzziest buzzwords swimming around in the ether of self-help literature. Some people have evolved the concept one-step further and turned it into work-life integration.

It all stems from a principle that we can have it all. We can have a fulfilling career, a loving family, a few side hobbies, eight hours of sleep a night, and time for long walks on the beach, right?

The biggest fallacy on the subject is that we can achieve balance by adding to our plates. If we’re working too hard, we should have more fun. If we overeat, we should exercise more. If we didn’t see our loved ones much this week, we’d see them twice as much next week, right?

Inspired by several books and articles I’ve read lately, I have a new perspective on balance that I would like to share with you.

Every person will have different things that they prioritize, but if we were to break it down into broad categories that likely affect everyone, it seems that these four would do the trick:

Relationships can be mean friends and family and parents and siblings and anyone that you want to throw into that bucket. Having a real human connection with someone outside of work is a critical part of feeling alive and whole.

Work is work, the good and the bad. Your time jamming on a spreadsheet until 2 AM is work, and your happy hour with colleagues is also work.

Health is the time that you can dedicate to living a healthy life, which includes sleeping, exercising, stretching, breathing, meditating, etc..

Recreation is a tricky one. Many people often define it as the balance of time that is left over from the other three categories. But there is a massive difference between doing something with intention because it brings you joy, and binge watching a TV show in a desperate effort to forget about your terrible day at work or the emails burning in your inbox.

As mentioned earlier, our approach to these things is generally to go for gold on all fronts. All of the sleep! All of the work! All of the fun! This, perhaps, is why we as a generation have an outrageous tendency never to have time OR be insanely busy. We cancel appointments and meetings left and right. We double book. We add and add and add and add because we think that we have the opportunity to max out on every bucket.

If you want to shift how you approach decisions, imagine that every choice you make both increases one bucket but also depletes another.

This is a uncomfortable concept. It attributes a greater amount of weight to our decisions knowing that every single one of them requires a sacrifice elsewhere. To be clear, this has always been true, but it’s not always the most direct approach to looking at a problem.

But wait! It gets even better.

Now, imagine that your mindset, your state of being, and your happiness, could only be as high as the lowest bucket.

Does that scare the shit out of some of you? It should. We also have a dangerous habit of optimizing on 2 of 4 or 3 of 4 banking on future opportunities to find balance and an endless well from which we can draw our energy.

Your well is not unlimited. It can run dry. And there’s one more thing: It’s the worst part. I’m sorry in advance.

A big chunk of your choices don’t fill up any buckets.

The universe is an abundant and generous place. But it will not make you feel spiritually fulfilled if you don’t get off your ass and start living with more intention.

The cocktail hour that you hate but go to for professional optics? Probably not doing much for you. The gym routine you zombie walk through three times a week? Not getting it done. Your weekly phone call with Mom that you take while cleaning out your inbox. Nope.

Look, I’m harsh, but it’s for a good reason. We can’t create balance in our lives until we accept and acknowledge how out of balance they’ve become. Many of our decisions, unbeknownst to us, are made because of existing beliefs and relationships that we like to protect. We like certainty. We like order. But clinging to existing beliefs is not making us happy.

So, what’s the punchline? What can you do to make this better?

  1. Be more intentional with your choices. We make hundreds of choices every day about how we spend our time, both in the moment and in the future (thanks, scheduling apps!). Each time you make a choice, celebrate the bucket that you are filling, and acknowledge the other buckets that you are draining.
  2. Tip the scales. Every day, say NO to one thing that does not fill up a bucket. This can be as simple as saying no to an extra cookie at work, a TV episode, going to happy hour, whatever it is! To be clear, I’m not advocating that you eliminate frivolity and spontaneity from your life. Quite the opposite. But I am suggesting that if you dig below the surface of some of your choices, you may find that they’re not lifting you up at all.
  3. Make space for your lowest bucket. If your health has taken a hit in the name of living the high life, orient more of your choices toward good health. If you haven’t made time for friends in months, get some things on the calendar and dial back your workload. You will be amazed at how good you feel once you’re able to find a better balance among all areas of your life, not just a few.

This is not something that takes just a day or a week. This will be an ongoing process for you that you will develop and improve over time. But it will be a perspective that can protect you for the rest of your life from becoming overwhelmed, overworked, underslept, and unhappy.

I started 86 Gravity because I want to help people make decisions that make them feel overjoyed and filled with gratitude. This is an excellent way to get started.

If you enjoyed this story, it would mean the world to me if you would share it. Thank you for reading!!

Jun 26

Ancient Idea, New Approach

By admin | Self Awareness

Have you heard of Ikigai?

I had not until several years ago when this graphic started to make its way around LinkedIn. Since then, I see it once every few months as a reflective tool to help people narrow in on their reason for being, their reason to get out of bed every day.

In my initial encounters with the idea, I was very quick to go to the middle. What was the answer, I wondered. What is my one, singular, only, real purpose in life? What did God or Alannis Morisette or Universal Intelligence put me here to accomplish?

I started playing life darts–choosing paths of righteousness and glamor against a well to see what would stick. Perhaps to no one’s surprise, except my own, this was not a good way to find Ikigai.

I went back, and I read more about the concept. I watched Dan Buettner’s Ted Talk about Okinawa and how Ikigai was a central part of their culture. The basic pattern that kept emerging was that this was something that took time. Developing sufficient self-awareness was required to have access to the part of your brain that would unveil this valuable secret.

So, I waited. Also, I journaled. I made more lists of things to throw at the wall. Nothing. Lots of silence greeted me in the dark echoes of my brain space.

Frustrated, I left the concept alone. I decided that I either need to go live in a cave somewhere for an extended period, which I was unwilling to do, or I would just have to wait for my damn turn.

But then I did what I love to do most: I bent the rules.

The four circles contain:

  1. That which you love
  2. That which the world needs
  3. That which you can be paid for
  4. That which you are good at

On the surface, these all seem quite straightforward, as though you could take them at face value. For some, perhaps they can. For me, though, I needed to reframe them. So I did:

  1. That which you love = That which makes you happy. Superlatives are the enemies of progress. When we try to figure out what we love, we start to pit our favorite activities against one another in an epic battle to decide if sleeping in or binging on Netflix is more enjoyable. But guess what? You can love both of them–they both make you happy. Rather than thinking about this category as something to narrow down to, think of this group as a limitless cavern of the awesome things that make you smile.
  2. That which the world needs = that which one person needs. Any time spent trying to figure out how you, as an individual with your daily decisions, can ultimately change the world, is going to be a time that leaves you feeling inadequate and sad. Changing the world requires a lot of time/effort/resources/people/energy. As many motivational memes have told you: One person cannot change the world, but you can change the world for one person. Start there. How can you make life better for one person?
  3. That which you can be paid for = that which you can be paid anything for. Spoiler alert: You can be paid for anything–we live in the age of the internet. If you develop and market any product or service, you can find a buyer. Again, the goal is not to find what you can be paid most for, or the best balance of time invested relative to money earned. This, much like that which you love, should be looked at as infinite in scope.
  4. That which you are good at = that at which you excel with little effort. Barring a very, very small subset of people on earth, almost everyone is not as good as someone else at everything that he/she does. But that is not the point! We are talking about finding a lifelong purpose. If you have to do something for the rest of your life, it would probably help if it comes at least a bit naturally to you, right?

This exercise did not get me closer to finding an answer. Instead, it helped me see how many different answers there could be.

If you accept the premise that anything can be a product or service, and that many things make you happy, that means two of the categories provide you a very, very wide range of options. The next standard is helping one person. Again, not asking for much. The last, and perhaps most time-consuming leg remains: What comes easily to you? What gives you flow? This one is hard to cheat, as only you know the answer to that.

However, I have a hunch. If you are not longer trying to answer that question while also trying to determine whether or not it is profitable, world-changing, and the one thing you love to do above all other things, you might have an easier time finding the answer.

Did you enjoy this post?  Please like and share it if you did–your friends will be so grateful that you did!

Jun 26

The Dangers of Being Right

By admin | Self Awareness

Let’s start with the obvious: being right feels good. It feels great. It creates a moment in which a mix of our intellect, our intuition, and our courage seems to align with the lunar cycle and produce cosmic justice. We do not brag about it, but we are not sorry for it, either.

However, like all things, this sense of alignment with the universe can become intoxicating. We crave the appreciation and authority that come from being right. Being right makes us credible, reliable, and valuable. At least we think it does.

The reality of being right is grimmer.

We quickly succumb to heated, twisted arguments over small details to prove that our initial inclination, though ultimately flawed, was based on an ineffable truth that our opponent could not see. We obsess over our arguments and lines of logic and completely lose sight of the bigger objective that we set out to achieve. We suddenly wonder how we never noticed what a total a-hole Steve is, and feel genuinely baffled by his inability to see the clarity and elegance of our ideas.

Gary Vaynerchuk has a saying. “Ideas are shit,” he screams. “Execution is everything.”

I do not dislike ideas as much as he does. I also don’t get pitched 75-100 a day, so my idea-exposure is probably less severe. But the message rings loud and true: millions of dollars, thousands of hours, and hundreds of lives pale at the altar of The Right Answer. The Right Way to order food with an app. The Right Way to disrupt the accounting industry. The Right Way to find our passion.

It is all a hoax. The frequency with which one is objectively right is substantially lower, by definition than how often he perceives himself to be right. Yes, that gender pronoun was intended. I am not saying women are not capable or guilty of the same offense–we are just better at it.

In the landscape of entrepreneurship and fundraising, it would be unreasonable to expect the dialogue to change anytime soon. Per the above observation about Gary V., to have anything other than The Right Answer when pitching to an angel or a VC is a qualified way to wait six weeks for a milquetoast rejection and the e-mail equivalent of “Fuck You, but have a beautiful day!”

Where this narrative concerns me is how we apply the idea of RIGHT thinking to ourselves. “I need to have The Right Job, drive The Right Car, meet The Right Person, and live The Right Life.” With bonafide certitude, we forge bravely in the world seeking out that which the universe has declared as right and therefore is what we need and what we want.

Have you ever asked someone what The Right Job is? Or where she might find The Right Person? Survey says that the leading answer is: “I do not know.” 

This reply is not dishonest. In fact, it is much more truthful than the declarative narrative of getting everything Right. We are all born with an innate sense that we deserve good things, especially happiness, human connection, and safety. We do a crackerjack job of explaining to ourselves why we do not deserve them, or why we do not have them, or why we will not ever get them.

I disagree with these sentiments. Wholeheartedly. I think that people can have what they want, and whom they want. I believe that everyone has an opportunity to live a life that surpasses even their wildest dreams. These realities only come to those who are willing to do the work to determine what that life is. Who is in it. Who is not. Where we live. What we spend our time doing. What we are grateful for. What we want more of. Anyone can take the time to identify and pursue these powerful truths. Instead, we pursue The Right Things, and we, as a result, are not very happy.

I am on a mission to help people start to make the small choices that lead to significant changes in their lives. You can start wherever you like. Your career, your relationships, your health. If you want to learn more, visit me at 86 Gravity. I would love to continue this conversation with you.

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