According to the internet, the 17th of January is the day we give up on our new-years resolutions.
That was yesterday, did you?
If you had a blip or even if you are still hanging in there today’s show is for you. I interview productivity expert Grace Marshall. She shares her tips on getting stuff done for the new year.
Grace Marshall is head coach and chief encourager at Grace-Marshall.com and a Productivity Ninja with Think Productive one of the world’s leading productivity training companies.
Her first book “21 Ways to Manage the Stuff That Sucks Up Your Time” topped the Amazon UK bestselling ranks for Time Management, Business Management and Small Business Entrepreneurship, and her second book “How to be Really Productive” was named Best Commuter’s Read in the CMI Management Book of the Year 2017 Awards.
She specialises in helping people find ways of doing their best work with less stress and overwhelm, and more fun, focus and fulfilment.
Getting stuff done in 2018
Reactivating motivationWhen we get too tactical and too specific and too realistic with our goals, like with SMART goals they can get boring.Click To Tweet
[Amanda] We all had plans for 2018 back in 2017 but then real life gets in the way. How can we reactivate that motivation we had on the first of January?
I was working with a coaching client recently and she said:
‘Every time I go into a meeting with my boss and want to know how I can cut through all the noise and get to things that really make a difference. I come out and I just feel like I have more things to do.’
When we were talking about this, we worked out that her boss kept chunking things down for her. She’d go in to a meeting asking ‘What can I ditch?’ I’ve got too much on, what can I get rid of? What can I delegate? What can I let go of?”
And her boss would say ‘Well let me talk you through how we can break that down and do it’
Breaking things down is useful, it’s something you can do if you have a goal that is super huge and you think that you’ve made no progress on it.
But sometimes what we need to do is dial it up instead.
When we get too tactical and too specific and too realistic with our goals, like with SMART goals they can get boring. We lose momentum because we’ve lost motivation, we’ve lost the spark and they become another thing on our todo list.
Dialling it up
If you find that your 2018 goals have gone into the ‘should’ camp, have become an obligation or a chore, the answer is to dial it up to ask what’s the point? Why does this really matter to me? How can I make this more exciting? This might make your goal scarier, rather than realistic.
Ask yourself what would make this really juicy for me? What would make this something that would make my heart pound? What would terrify me and excites me?
[Amanda] I’ve never heard anyone say that before
It’s counter-intuitive isn’t it?
Getting over ‘What’s the point?’Sometimes we ask ourselves the question, what's the point? We don't want to do it so why bother?Click To Tweet
[Amanda] How do you get yourself excited? I love podcasting, I really enjoy it but I find myself procrastinating about it more than anything else.
It’s a lot of work, I’ve broken it into chunks, I know exactly how long it’s going to take but still, when it comes to recording the podcast there’s that feeling, that feeling you get in your chest that’s like arrghhh I can’t be bothered? And it kinda hurts?
That’s a problem I need fixing
Is there something I can do to get over that arrghh moment?
There’s a couple of things we can do.
Sometimes we ask ourselves the question, what’s the point? We don’t want to do it so why bother?
Read: Get Your Planner On – Why use a planner and which one should you use?
That question ‘What’s the point’ is one we can turn around.
Let’s use your example of podcasting. What’s the point Amanda? What’s the point of podcasting for you?
[Amanda] It’s really good because I’m reaching a brand new audience and an audience who gets to know me and trust me quicker because they hear my voice every week or every fortnight as it is now.
And why is that a good thing? Why does that matter to you?
[Amanda] Because they’re more likely to engage with me and buy from me. I feel really guilty saying that but I do want people to either buy from me or tell other people about me so other people buy from me. I know podcasting has had a massive effect on that so I know I have to do it.
So you have to do it but why do you want to do it?
[Amanda] I do like the end product, I like having a podcast. I suppose I’ve got a bit of a need to be out there in public so I suppose that’s it as well.
When I get around to it I do actually enjoy the process, it’s just that pain of thinking about it.
Ok so there’s the pain of thinking about it, I also picked up there was a pain in terms of that guilt, you said something like ‘I feel guilty’ around that. Those are the things that are giving you that resistance, that are holding you back. On the other side, you’ve got the pleasure of getting out there or being in the public eye or of reaching people. What else brings you pleasure?
[Amanda] I like the technology around it, I really enjoy editing, I like playing around with tech.
Why does it matter to me?There's doing good work and there's also doing work that makes you feel good. Click To Tweet
If we were in a private coaching session and this wasn’t being recorded I’d probably drill into that a little bit more but the point of this process is about asking why does this really matter to me?
Some of those reasons will be what we see as legitimate reasons. For example ‘It helps my business to grow stronger’ ‘It means I get out there and reach more people’ but some of them can be personal. Things like ‘ I love playing with tech’ so maybe rather than feeling guilty that it takes a long time, just give yourself the opportunity to record your podcast so you can play with it.
Give yourself the time and space to play with it as well because there’s doing good work and there’s also doing work that makes you feel good. That puts you in a different place. That puts you in a place where you’re more motivated, you’re not fighting against yourself.
Also, you’re allowing your best self to come out so you are more you. You have more sparkle because you are more wholeheartedly engaged in the process. If that’s playing with the tech include it. Dial into what is it that I really love about doing this.
[Amanda] That’s great, I’ve written down the word ‘learning’ and I think that’s it for podcasting, it’s the whole learning thing that motivates me, I should find new creative things to do. So I’m fixed!
Where do we find time?
[Amanda] One of the biggest struggles for business is time. So where are they going to find the time to do those things that were on our content strategy for the year?
Sometimes we forget that we can’t find time, time is already there. If you feel like you don’t have enough time then the question is actually what’s eating up my time?Sometimes we think we haven't got spare time because our time is already taken up with other stuff.Click To Tweet
I had a conversation with my daughter the other day. She has spellings every Tuesday and yesterday she was saying ‘I haven’t done my spellings, I haven’t practised, I haven’t looked at them, I haven’t learned them’. She said ‘I’ve been too busy Mummy’. I said ‘no you haven’t’ and she said ‘I haven’t had the time’. ‘Yes, you have, what have you used it on?’. For her it was things like Netflix, games and TV.
Sometimes we think we haven’t got spare time because our time is already taken up with other stuff. So we should start to look into what we’re spending our time on.
There will be maintenance; clients, work booked in and work that needs to be delivered. That’s all good stuff. Start by looking at what is real work and what is fake work.
Real work is a combination of maintenance and delivering on the stuff that’s already booked. If that takes 100% of your time things stay the same. Are you happy with that? What would you like that ratio to look like?
Maybe you want to spend half your time on keeping things going and half of your time on moving your business forward. It may be that you need to carve out some space in order to do that. What does that look like? It may be that you need to take on less work, it might be that you or an hour where you are your own client.
It’s all about making space and looking for the fake work that’s just keeping you busy.
DistractionsA one-minute distraction can cost an average of 15 minutes to recover your attentionClick To Tweet
Are we batting emails back and forward and just reacting? Are you spending most of your day looking at emails, reacting to the next one that comes in? Every time you do that you have to stop what you’re doing, and then it takes you ages to come back.
There was a study from Microsoft that showed that a one-minute distraction can cost an average of 15 minutes to recover your attention and get back to the thing that you’re doing.
So there could be a blog post you’re trying to write, a podcast you’re trying to record. If you are an accountant a set of books that you are trying to get finished. Imagine that every minute that you get distracted it takes an average of 15 minutes to get back to it. No wonder something that should have taken you an hour takes you all day.
CommitmentMost of us are better at holding ourselves to commitments we've made to other people than we are at holding commitments to ourselves.Click To Tweet
[Amanda] I do book myself a content day once a week but I also tend to accidentally book things in for those days. How do you stay resolute on not booking things on that day or hour that you’ve put aside?
It’s all about commitment. Most of us are better at holding ourselves to commitments we’ve made to other people than we are at holding commitments to ourselves.
If you had that hour booked in for a client and you needed to show up for a Skype call or a meeting you would make that happen. If you knew something had to take precedence you’d have to go back to your client and change your meeting wouldn’t you?
It’s easier to cancel on ourselves because we don’t’ have anyone holding us accountable. If you are someone who works much better to external accountability then put accountability in place, put a deadline in somebody else’s world.
I was talking to a friend recently who is writing a book. She’s at the end stage now. One of the things that I know about her is that she’s an extrovert, she gets a lot of energy from being around people. For her to lock herself away and do this piece of work is not her natural state. She’s looking forward to it and it’s great to get rid of the distractions but there’s something about conversation with other people that motivates her.
We talked about putting an accountability buddy in place. She’d put aside Fridays for writing so a buddy that she could call up on Friday mornings and say ‘This is what I’m working on, what are you working on?’ and then check in again during the day or at the end of the day to say what she’s done.
Working with the time you have
[Amanda] You’re right I have someone like this and it really does work and hold me accountable.
I remember when I had my first book deal I did two things. First of all, I was accountable to my publisher who threw a curveball int. She basically gave me 40 days to write the book. After the initial shock and a few expletives, I thought, if I had to write a book in 40 days how would I do it?
That was interesting because it turned what seemed like a marathon into a short sprint. When you’re doing a short sprint you don’t have to pace yourself. You ask yourself what is the next goalpost and you just have to run to it. That made me more ruthless, more decisive. I didn’t spend six months deliberating about the title because I didn’t have that time.
Going back to that fake work/real work. It made me a lot more conscious of what’s the real work that is going to help me deliver a book in 40 days? What’s the fake work that could knock me off course or have me going around in circles?
I had to make some choices. The book was called ’21 Ways To Manage The Stuff That Sucks Up Your Time’ so there were 21 individual tips. I had six weeks to deliver it. I wanted to give myself a week at the end to edit it, to make sure I wasn’t sending anything that is going to make me cringe. That gave me 5 weeks to write 21 tips.
It helped me to break it down. I needed to do 4 or 5 tips each week. When I looked at the calendar there were some weeks where I had clear space. On those weeks I could get ahead and do maybe 6 or 7. Then there’s a week where I’ve already got some stuff booked in. That means that I need to ruthlessly protect the only afternoon I’ve got sitting at my desk. That had to be non-negotiable writing time. Or maybe I knew I’d only get 2 done that week so I’d have to get 8 done the week after.
It also meant that it was a much shorter book than my second book and I had to be OK with that. What’s interesting is the reviews on Amazon, the feedback has been that they enjoyed that it’s a really small book, that it’s to the point, short and sweet. The fact that it was short then became a benefit, one of it’s selling points.
There’s something about embracing constraints that makes you look at how you an work with it. Think, if I only had 40 days what would I do? If I only had an hour a day or an hour a month what would be the most useful use of that time? Rather than thinking that you don’t have enough time ask yourself what time you can use and how you can make the most of that time. What’s going to be the most impactful? That can help you drill down on the real work and be able to let go of the fake work.
Sometimes we can feel like we’re going in lots of different directions. If you start feeling like your content day is taking time away from your clients or that your clients are taking time away from your content day. If you are being pulled in different directions it can feel really hard. It feels like everyone wants a piece of you and you feel like you’re going round in circles. You need to look for a way to align everything so that the different directions and strands are all working towards the same goal.
Seeing how one thing feeds into another. How delivering to your client well and on time means getting paid, means that you can carry on pursuing those other goals. Or, getting that content out there, getting that book out there means that you can reach more people and help more people.
FuelThat's the world of work we work in. Our world of work never ends, there's always something you can do.Click To Tweet
And then there’s fuel. We often look at what we want to do and the resources we’re going to put in to fund it. We ask do I need to spend money? Do I need to hire someone to help me? Do I need to spend time on it? But we need to add fuel. Fuel is what you have to put into yourself to do your best work. To be able to achieve these things that you want to achieve and pursue this goal that you want to pursue.
We tend to treat fuel as a luxury. We want to go to that conference because we love learning or we want to play with our cats. We think it’s a treat and we’ve got all this stuff that we need to do, we should do, we have to do. We better get that done first and if we have time afterwards we can treat ourselves.
There will always be demands on your time, things that you have to do and should do. The subtitle to my second book ‘How To Be Really Productive’ is ‘Achieving clarity and results in a world where work never ends’.
That’s the world of work we work in. Our world of work never ends, there’s always something you can do.If you want to be the person who is taking the world by storm and making a difference, you need to be the person who is well rested.Click To Tweet
If you treat your fuel and your re-charging as a luxury it will never happen. Or it will happen once in a blue moon, or it will be the bandage you put on if you fall over.
If you start to think of it as fuel, you don’t wait until your car has completely run out of fuel to put more in, do you? Keep yourself topped up too. It helps to align all the stuff that does you good, with the good that you want to do.
If you want to be the person who is taking the world by storm and making a difference, you need to be the person who is well rested.
For you, if learning is the thing that switches you on, you want to help other people to learn and you want to be learning as you develop your content. Take the time out to learn whatever you want to learn about is going to feed your curiosity, feed your creativity and feed your business.