Four (4) Thieves of ProductionMay 23, 2023
From the Desk of Klark Brown (NO AI was used in the creation of this writing)
Everyone starts with all the best intentions and direction to smash goals, get more done, and become a BEAST.
But the world has this odd habit of throwing in the most distractions to keep you from these things.
More times than not, these are social media or people and things that we have not done the best job setting boundaries with.
I coach and mentor dozens of individuals and companies that have ALL the talent and ability they need to get almost anywhere they need to go but are taken off course, never finishing much and then dwelling in a sense of failure or frustration.
Today I want to share a few of the things I learned from the great book THE ONE THING by Gary Keller, that most commonly see as culprits.
Let this list be a beacon to help you build new habits to achieve everything you set your mind to.
1. Inability to Say “No”
2. Fear of Chaos
3. Poor Energy Habits
4 . Environment Doesn’t Support Your Goals
INABILITY TO SAY “NO”
Someone once told me that one “yes” must be defended over time by 1,000 “nos.”
Early in my career, I didn’t understand this at all. Today, I think it’s an understatement.
It’s one thing to be distracted when you’re trying to focus, it’s another entirely to be hijacked before you even get to. The way to protect what you’ve said yes to and stay productive is to say no to anyone or anything that could derail you.
- Peers will ask for your advice and help.
- Co-workers will want you on their team.
- Friends will request your assistance.
- Strangers will seek you out.
- Invitations and interruptions will come at you from everywhere imaginable.
How you handle all of this determines the time you’re able to devote to your ONE THING [BOOK LINK} and the results you’re ultimately able to produce.
Here’s the thing. When you say yes to something, it’s imperative that you understand what you’re saying no to.
Screenwriter Sidney Howard, of Gone with the Wind fame, advised, “One-half of knowing what you want is knowing what you must give up before you get it.”
In the end, the best way to succeed big is to go small. And when you go small, you say no—a lot. A lot more than you might have ever considered before.
No one knew how to go small better than Steve Jobs. He was famously as proud of the products he didn’t pursue as he was of the transformative products Apple created.
In the two years after his return in 1997, he took the company from 350 products to ten. That’s 340 NO’S, not counting anything else proposed during that period.
At the 1997 MacWorld Developers Conference, he explained, “When you think about focusing, you think, ‘Well, focusing is saying yes.’ No! Focusing is about saying no.”
Jobs was after extraordinary results and he knew there was only one way to get there. Jobs was a “no” man. The art of saying yes is, by default, the art of saying no.
Saying yes to everyone is the same as saying yes to nothing. Each additional obligation chips away at your effectiveness at everything you try. So the more things you do, the less successful you are at any one of them.
You can’t please everyone, so don’t try. In fact, when you try, the one person you absolutely won’t please is yourself. Remember, saying yes to your ONE Thing is your top priority. As long as you can keep this in perspective, saying no to anything that keeps you from keeping your time block should become something you can accept. Then it’s just a matter of how.
All of us struggle to some degree with saying no. There are many reasons. We want to be helpful. We don’t want to be hurtful.
Master marketer Seth Godin says, “You can say no with respect, you can say no promptly, and you can say no with a lead to someone who might say yes. But just saying yes because you can’t bear the short-term pain of saying no is not going to help you do the work.”
Godin gets it. You can keep your yes and say no in a way that works for you and for others. Of course, whenever you need to say no, you can just say it and be done with it. There is nothing wrong with this at all. In fact, this should be your first choice every time. But if you feel there are times you need to say no in a helpful way, there are many ways to say it that can still lead people forward toward their goals.
You can ask them a question that leads them to find the help they need elsewhere. You might suggest another approach that doesn’t require any help at all. You might not know what else they could do, so you could help them by gently prompting them to get creative. You can politely redirect their request to others who might be better able to assist them. Now, if you do end up saying yes, there are a variety of creative ways you can deliver it. In other words, you can leverage your yeses. Help desks, support centers, and information resources couldn’t exist without this kind of strategic thinking. Preprinted scripts, frequently asked question pages or files, written explanations, recorded instructions, posted information, checklists, catalogs, directories, and prescheduled training classes can all be used to effectively say yes while still preserving your time block.
When you give your ONE Thing your most emphatic “Yes!” and vigorously say “No!” to the rest, extraordinary results become possible.
FEAR OF CHAOS
A not-so-funny thing happens along the way to extraordinary results.
When we tirelessly work our time block, clutter automatically takes up residence around us. Messes are inevitable when you focus on just one thing. While you whittle away on your most important work, the world doesn’t sit and wait. It stays on fast forward and things just rack up and stack up while you bear down on a singular priority.
Unfortunately, there’s no pause or stop button. You can’t run life in slow motion. Wishing you could just make you miserable and disappointed.
One of the greatest thieves of productivity is the unwillingness to allow for chaos or the lack of creativity in dealing with it.
Your time block can feel like a submersible, where the deeper you commit to your ONE Thing, the more the pressure mounts for you to come up for air and address everything you’ve put on hold.
Eventually, it can feel like even the tiniest leak might trigger an all-out implosion. When this happens, when you give in to the pressure of any chaos being left unattended, it can be a total relief. But not when it comes to productivity. It’s a thief! The truth is, it’s a package deal. When you strive for greatness, chaos is guaranteed to show up. In fact, other areas of your life may experience chaos in direct proportion to the time you put in on your ONE Thing. It’s important for you to accept this instead of fighting it.
Oscar-winning filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola warns us that “anything you build on a large scale or with intense passion invites chaos.” In other words, get used to it and get over it.
Now, in anybody’s life or work, there are some things that just can’t be ignored: family, friends, pets, personal commitments, or critical job projects. At any given time, you may have some or all of these tugging at your time block. You can’t forgo your power hours, that’s a given. So, what do you do?
“If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?” —Albert Einstein
I get asked this a lot. I’ll be teaching and know that, as soon as I finish, hands are going to shoot up.
- “What do I do if I have a small team?”
- “What if I am on programs and they require so much of my time?”
- “I do everything from estimating, collections to payroll”
These are obviously fair questions. Here’s what I tell them. Depending on your situation, your time block might initially look different from others.
Each of our situations is unique. Depending on where you are in your life, you may not be able You may have to trade off time with others so they protect your time block and you, in turn, protect theirs. But you cannot ignore it completely.
If you have to be creative, then be creative. Just don’t be a victim of your circumstances. Don’t sacrifice your time block on the altar of “I just can’t make it work.”
Figure it out. Find a way. Make it happen.
“The art of being wise is the art of knowing what to overlook.”
— William James
When you commit to your ONE Thing each day, extraordinary results ultimately occur. In time, this creates the income or opportunity to manage the chaos.
So, don’t let this thief pickpocket your productivity. Move past your fear of chaos, learn to deal with it, and trust that your work on your ONE Thing will come through for you.
POOR ENERGY HABITS
I was once asked, “If you don’t fix what is broken, how many months, quarters, or years are you prepared to tolerate it?” It was a real question.
I had been quietly talking about things I WANTED to DO, BIG ideas…but had nothing to show for it.
The answer was to change my habits.
I was being lazy because I was TIRED. I was spending valuable energy in the wrong ways.
It was then that I discovered one of the greatest lessons of extraordinary results: Personal energy mismanagement is a silent thief of productivity. When we keep borrowing against our future by poorly protecting our energy, there is a predictable outcome of either slowly running out of gas or prematurely crashing and burning. You see it all the time. When people don’t understand the power of the ONE Thing, they try to do too much—and because this never works over time, they end up making a horrific deal with themselves. They go for success by sacrificing their energy/ health.
- They stay up late,
- miss meals or eat poorly,
- completely ignore exercise.
Personal energy becomes an afterthought; allowing energy and home life to suffer becomes acceptable by default. Driven to hit goals, they think of cheating themselves as a good bet, but this gamble can’t pay off. Not only does this approach consistently short-circuit your best work, but it’s also dangerous to assume that health and energy will be just waiting for you to come back and enjoy anytime in the future.
High achievement and extraordinary results require big energy. The trick is learning how to get it and keep it. So, what can you do?
Think of yourself as the amazing biological machine you are and consider this daily energy plan for high productivity.
Begin early with breathing and stretching for energy; start the day by getting your brain in line with your body and intention (trust me, it worlds).
Then move straight to the kitchen for your most important meal of the day and the cornerstone of physical energy: a nutritious breakfast designed to fuel your day’s work. You can’t run long on empty calories, and you can’t run at all on an empty tank.
Fueled up, head to your exercise spot to relieve stress and strengthen your body. Conditioning gives you maximum capacity, which is critical for maximum productivity.
Now, if you haven’t spent time with your loved ones at breakfast or during your workout, go find them. Hug, talk, and laugh. You’ll be reminded why you’re working in the first place, and motivated to be as productive as possible so you can get home earlier.
Productive people thrive on emotional energy; it fills their hearts with joy and makes them light on their feet.
Next, grab your calendar and plan your day. Make sure you know what matters most, and make sure those things are going to get done.
Look at what you have to do, estimate the time it will take to do them, and plan your time accordingly. Knowing what you must do and making the time to do it is how you bring the most amazing mental energy to your life. Calendaring your day this way frees your mind from worrying about what might not get done while inspiring you with what will. It’s only when you make time for extraordinary results that they get a chance to show up. When you get to work, go to work on your ONE Thing. If you’re like me and have some morning priorities you must get them done first, then give yourself an hour at most to do them. Don’t loiter and don’t slow down.
Clear the decks and then get down to the business of doing what matters most. Around noon, take a break, have lunch, and turn your attention to everything else you can do before you head out for the day. Last, in the evening when it’s time for bed, get eight hours of sleep. Powerful engines need cooling down and resting before taking off again, and you’re no different. You need your sleep so your mind and body can rest and recharge for tomorrow’s extraordinary productivity.
Anyone you know who gets little sleep and appears to be doing great is either a freak of nature or hiding its effects from you. Either way, they aren’t your role model.
Protect your sleep by determining when you must go to bed each night and don’t allow yourself to be lured away from it. If you’re committed to your wake-up time, you can stay up late only so many nights before you’re forced to hit the hay at a decent hour. If your response is that you have too much to do, stop right now, go back to the beginning of this book, and start over. You apparently missed something. little additional effort. You’re not focused on having a perfect day all day, but on having an energized start to each day. If you can have a highly productive day until noon, the rest of the day falls easily into place. That’s positive energy creating positive momentum. Structuring the early hours of each day is the simplest way to extraordinary results.
Here’s the productivity secret of this plan: when you spend the early hours energizing yourself, you get pulled through the rest of the day with little additional effort. You’re not focused on having a perfect day all day, but on having an energized start to each day. If you can have a highly productive day until noon, the rest of the day falls easily into place. That’s positive energy creating positive momentum. Structuring the early hours of each day is the simplest way to extraordinary results.
THE ENVIRONMENT DOESN’T SUPPORT YOUR GOALS
Early in my career, a married mom of two teenagers sat in front of me and cried. Her family had told her they would support her new career as long as nothing at home changed. Meals, carpooling, anything that touched their world couldn’t be disrupted. She had agreed, only to discover later how bad a deal she’d cut. As I listened, I suddenly realized I was hearing about a productivity thief almost everyone overlooks.
Your environment must support your goals. Your environment is simply who you see and what you experience every day. The people are familiar, and the places are comfortable. You trust these elements of your environment and quite possibly even take them for granted.
But be aware. Anyone and anything at any time can become a thief, diverting your attention away from your most important work and stealing your productivity right from under your nose. For you to achieve extraordinary results, the people surrounding you and your physical surroundings must support your goals.
No one lives or works in isolation. Every day, throughout your day, you come in contact with others and are influenced by them. Unquestionably, these individuals impact your attitude, your health—and ultimately, your performance. The people around you may be more important than you think. It’s a fact that you’re likely to pick up some of the attitudes of others by working with them, socializing with them, or simply being around them.
From co-workers to friends to family, if they’re generally not positive or fulfilled on the job or away from it, they’ll probably pass on some of their negativity.
Attitude is contagious; it spreads easily. As strong as you think you are, no one is strong enough to avoid the influence of negativity forever. So, surrounding yourself with the right people is the right thing to do. While attitude thieves will rob you of energy, effort, and resolve, supportive people will do what they can to encourage or assist you.
Ultimately, being with success-minded people creates what researchers call a “positive spiral of success” where they lift you up and send you on your way.
For instance, their 2007 study on obesity revealed that if one of your close friends becomes obese, you’re 57 percent more likely to do the same. Why? The people we see tend to set our standard for what’s appropriate. In time, you begin to think, act, and even look a little like those you hang out with. But not only do their attitudes and health habits influence you, but their relative success also does too. If the people you spend your time with are high achievers, their achievements can influence your own.
A study featured in the psychology journal Social Development shows that out of nearly 500 school-age participants with reciprocal “best friend” relationships, “children who establish and maintain relationships with high-achieving students experience gains in their report card grades.” Further, those who have high-achieving friends appear “to benefit with regard to their motivational beliefs and academic performance.” Hanging out with people who seek success will strengthen your motivation and positively push your performance. Your mother was right when she cautioned you to be careful of the company you keep.
The wrong people in your environment can most certainly dissuade, deter, and distract you from the productivity course you’ve set out on.
But the opposite is also true. No one succeeds alone and no one fails alone. Pay attention to the people around you. Seek out those who will support your goals, and show the door to anyone who won’t.
The individuals in your life will influence you and impact you—probably more than you give them credit for. Give them their due and make sure that the sway they have on you sends you in the direction you want to go. If people are the first priority in creating a supportive environment, the place isn’t far behind.
When your physical environment isn’t in step with your goals, it can also keep you from ever getting started on them in the first place.
“Surround yourself only with people who are going to lift you higher.”
I know this sounds oversimplified, but to succeed at doing your ONE Thing you have to be able to get to it, and your physical environment plays a vital role in whether you do or not. The wrong surroundings may never let you get there. If your environment is so full of distractions and diversions that before you can help yourself you’ve gotten caught doing something you shouldn’t, you won’t get where you need to go. Think of it as having to walk down an aisle of candy every day when you’re trying to lose weight. Some may be able to handle this easily, but most of us are going to sample some sweets along the way. What is around you will either aim you toward your time block or pull you away. This starts from the time you wake up and continues until you get to your time-block bunker. What you see and hear from the time your alarm rings to when your time block begins ultimately determines if you get there, when you get there, and whether you’re ready to be productive when you do.
So, do a trial run. Walk through the path you’ll take each day, and eradicate all the sight and sound thieves that you find. For me, at home, it’s simple things like e-mail, the morning paper, the morning TV news shows, and the neighbors out walking their dogs. All wonderful things, but not wonderful when I have an appointment with myself to accomplish my ONE Thing. So, I check off e-mail quickly, I never see the paper, I keep the TV cabinet closed, and I choose my driving route carefully
At work, I avoid the community coffee pot and the information boards. They can come later in the day. What I’ve learned is that when you clear the path to success— that’s when you consistently get there. Don’t let your environment lead you astray. Your physical surroundings matter and the people around you matter. Having an environment that doesn’t support your goals is all too common, and unfortunately an all-too-common thief of productivity.
As actor and comedian Lily Tomlin once said, “The road to success is always under construction.” So don’t allow yourself to be detoured from getting to your ONE Thing. Pave your way with the right people and place.
Start saying “no.”
Always remember that when you say yes to something, you’re saying no to everything else. It’s the essence of keeping a commitment. Start turning down other requests outright or saying, “No, for now” to distractions so that nothing detracts you from getting to your top priority.
Recognize that pursuing your ONE Thing moves other things to the back burner. Loose ends can feel like snares, creating tangles in your path. This kind of chaos is unavoidable. Make peace with it. Learn to deal with it.
Manage your energy.
Don’t sacrifice your health by trying to take on too much. Your body is an amazing machine, but it doesn’t come with a warranty, you can’t trade it in, and repairs can be costly. It’s important to manage your energy so you can do what you must do, achieve what you want to achieve, and live the life you want to live.
Take ownership of your environment.
Make sure that the people around you and your physical surroundings support your goals. The right people in your life and the right physical environment on your daily path will support your efforts to get to your ONE Thing. When both are in alignment with your ONE Thing, they will supply the optimism and physical lift you need to make your ONE Thing happen.
If you are ever around me, you have probably heard me repeat: “It’s SIMPLE but it’s not EASY”
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