Hello Career Hacking Podcast Fans! I hope that you enjoyed our last episode covering productivity hacks that I use that can help you perform your best. I discovered that I had too many great suggestions to fit into just one episode, so I broke it up into two parts. This being part 2, if you haven’t yet listened to part 1, please take the time to listen to episode 10 now.
Productivity is one of my favorite things to talk about, and I’m quite excited to be sharing even more of my secrets with you all today!
We finished off last episode discussing accountability. A well-intentioned and actionable goal often falls flat without the accountability to see it through to completion.
Since time will likely be tight again in this episode, let’s jump right back into my best pro-tips!
The best tools are those that don’t need your attention to operate. If you’re serious about staying focused on your goals and gradually reducing the number of distractions in your life, install activity trackers in your web browser and on your smartphone that will quantify exactly how much procrastinating you did on social media and Candy Crush. These apps are simple, operate in the background and can provide a score of how well you do day-to-day or week-to-week. I personally use the timeStats plugin for Chrome and luckily, iOS tracks my app usage in the battery stats section of Settings on my iPhone.
Check your stats every so often and leverage tools on your devices to track your progress toward greater productivity.
Sometimes, even in a distraction-free environment, it can be difficult just to get started on a useful project. This is a problem we all face, no matter how strong our will-power is.
The reason for this? Our brains have been naturally trained as a survival instinct to avoid things that are unknown. To avoid things that are risky or challenge us greatly.
The key to overcoming this instinct is simple, and it’s a solution that I learned a few years ago from a TED talk by Mel Robbins called the 5 Second Rule. She teaches- You’re never going to feel like doing the things that you should be doing, so stop waiting for that feeling to find you. Similarly, E.B. White says”
“A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word to paper.”
As Mel Describes the solution on her website:
“We all struggle with SOMETHING. Do you ever find yourself making to-do lists and then not following through on them? Like every single day? …Or thinking to yourself, “What the heck is wrong with me? I know what I’m supposed to be doing, why can’t I just do it?” Trust me. I AM YOU, But this is what I’ve found:
- Knowing what to do will never be enough.
- Knowing why you need to do it will never be enough.
So what we need is something that’s going to launch us into a state of action. Because if you’re sitting around waiting for motivation, I’m here to tell you it’s not coming.
If you don’t start doing the things you don’t feel like doing, you will wake up one year from today and be in exactly the same place.
So here’s the one-liner definition of the 5-second rule:
If you have an impulse to act on a goal, you must physically move within 5 seconds or your brain will kill the idea. So if you have a goal of gaining more respect in the workplace, you have to raise your hand the next time you’re in a meeting and you have a great idea.
If you have a goal of losing weight, you can take action right now by researching healthy meal options and setting daily reminders on your phone that will prompt you to go to the gym. If you have a goal of launching your own business, and you have no idea where to start, get on Google right now and research other companies in your field of interest, see what they’re doing and decide what you’ll do the same and where you’ll differentiate yourself. Then google a free business plan template, and then fill it out. Get serious about it and put your intentions in writing.
Whatever your goals are, show the world, and yourself, that you’re serious by taking action, however insignificant that action may seem, RIGHT NOW. Because when you physically move, your brain starts to build new habits. When you do something you’re not used to doing, you are in the act of building new habits and erasing existing ones.”
Not so hard, right? I challenge you to try the 5-second rule in your life every day this week.
If you’re sitting on the couch thinking about how you can impress your boss. Stand up immediately, grab a pencil and paper, and write down a few ideas for how you could do just that.
If you’re in your car, make the first thing you do at your destination to write down WHAT you want to achieve this year and HOW you will achieve it before the distractions of the rest of the world pull you back into the grasp of inaction.
If you’re feeling stuck in your situation and want to make 2018 your best year yet. Stop listening to this podcast now, and research how WehnerEd or others can steer you in an inspiring new direction.
Take action NOW before your instincts of inaction take control.
Are you stuck on a problem or just aren’t sure where to start? I have two excellent methods to overcome anything from writer's block or even just that uneasy feeling of being stuck.
The first one, I call Daily lists
I never really considered myself very creative…. Mainly because I can’t draw worth a damn. Creativity is hard. Without constraints to operate in, having a large space of freedom to be creative in can make it difficult to find a starting point to expand on. My brain is especially scientific and is geared toward breaking down existing designs of how things work rather than creating novel solutions on its own.
In recent years my creativity has grown substantially thanks to a wonderful book called Choose Yourself by James Altucher. As Tim Ferriss famously asks each of his podcast guests, this is the book I have gifted the most to others. I personally own the 99-cent Kindle e-book version but have 4 copies of the $10 print-version on hand when I think of new people to gift it to. Feel free to purchase your copy through the affiliate link in the show notes on WehnerEd.com
In the book, Altucher teaches that anyone can create their own success once they learn the true currency of the world… and no. It isn’t money. He argues that ideas are the true currency of the world, and you will create a world of prosperity for yourself once you train yourself to be what he calls an “idea machine.” That is, build your creativity muscle to such a level of fitness that ideas flow to you naturally and effortlessly in any situation.
As an idea machine, you become the one at the office with the creative solutions that impress management. You’re the entrepreneur who creates the business ideas that have other entrepreneurs scratching their head and wondering “why didn’t I think of that!!?”
Of course, while reading, and re-reading the book I became determined to develop my own idea machine muscle to open up a new world of opportunity for myself.
How do you do it? The answer is surprisingly simple. Altucher suggests you “come up with ten ideas a day…. Set a goal: I’m going to come up with ten ways I can have more time for myself. Or I’m going to come up with ten ways I can make my job better. Or ten business ideas. Make sure the list you plan to do is a hard one. You need to make the mind SWEAT so that it gets tired. So tired that it’s done for the day. It can’t control you today. TIRE IT OUT! Then do it again. Ten MORE ideas.”
You must train your brain just like you would any other muscle. “To become an idea machine takes about six to twelve months of daily practice with the idea muscle… Write down ten ideas. About anything. It doesn’t matter if they are business ideas, book ideas, ideas for surprising your spouse in bed, ideas for what you should do if you are arrested for shoplifting, ideas for how to make a better tennis racquet, anything you want. The key is that it has to be ten or more. You want your brain to sweat, like… really sweat. Right now, list ten ideas that are “too big for me” and what the next steps might be. For instance, one idea might be “launch solar panels into outer space to more efficiently generate solar power.” Another idea might be, “genetically engineer a microbe that sucks the salt out of water.” I have no idea if that’s even possible. The purpose is not to come up with a good idea. The purpose is to have thousands of ideas over time. To develop the idea muscle and turn it into a machine.”
◦ So, how do I apply that advice to my life? Since first reading Choose Yourself in 2014 and making a regular habit of doing what I call my “daily lists of 10” or “daily lists” for short, I don’t even remember what writer's block feels like. I use daily lists for WehnerEd basically every day:
▪ List 10 ideas for podcast episode topics
▪ 10 things I would evaluate about a candidate’s resume
▪ 10 ways to stand out from the crowd and excel in any career
▪ 10 ways I can make 2018 my best year ever
▪ (spoiler alert!) 10 questions to ask my upcoming podcast guest
▪ 10 challenges the WehnerEd community is facing that I should be helping with
The first 6 or so ideas frequently come to mind quickly and the last few are a struggle. Sometimes 10 ideas come very easy, in which case I stretch to 20 ideas and make 2 or more lists.
Seriously, if you’re stuck on a problem and aren’t sure where to start, try a daily list. Here are some ideas as they relate to career change:
▪ 10 companies I would like to work for
▪ 10 traits that would make my next job truly amazing
▪ 10 things I need to master before I can become a digital marketer
▪ 10 things I need to improve about my resume
▪ 10 cities I would love to move to for my new job
Daily lists have truly changed the way I approach life’s challenges personally and professionally. I challenge you to do at least 1 daily list each of the next 7 days to give yourself a mental sweat and quickly boost your idea muscle.
The second way that I overcome [mental blocks and challenges] is through journaling. To journal, start with a blank page and write out 1 sentence about something specific on your mind. Write another sentence to add more context. What about the issue is challenging or stressful? Then, let the pen take you on a journey to a solution. Try it for yourself!
Here’s an example that I wrote in 2017:
I’m in a funk today and I can’t figure out why. I’m not sad, but I’m certainly not happy either. My life is truly blessed and I shouldn’t spend my time feeling this way. Maybe it’s because of such-and-so’s poor health. Maybe it’s because of the gloomy winter weather. It’s natural for me to feel down every now and then, but after taking a moment to reflect on it, I should bounce back and return to myself so that I can continue to give positive energy to others with my uplifting attitude and confidence. Smile, today is a new day to start fresh. C’mon Ross. Let’s go!
See, just like that, I was able to talk myself through something that was weighing heavy on me, and quickly turned my mood around. It was very simple but very effective. This method also applies to a multitude of other topics as well.
“I’m trying to create new content for WehnerEd on X-topic but I can’t figure out how to best communicate it. What if I tried ________ (fill in the blank with an idea).” …And then I follow that idea down the rabbit hole for a few moments to determine if it’s worth pursuing or not. Often times, those ideas get put on the shelf for another day, but sometimes they turn into my best cornerstone content.
Journaling and writing out your thoughts is a key way to slow down your thoughts to more strategically approach them. Additionally, by writing out the problem specifically, you are able to clearly define the hurdle in your head, and approach it objectively with a clear mindset and force your apprehension to trickle away.
Whew, and just like that, we’ve covered some serious ground already. What advice could I possibly still come up with?
Based on our conversation so far
- You’ve set clear and attainable goals
- You’ve learned how to overcome mental blocks
- You’ve removed external distractions
- You learned several ways to stay motivated
But what if once you’ve sat down to start working, you find yourself struggling to maintain your focus to follow through?
Here’s where my most recently adopted practice comes in handy.
Meditate. Meditation isn’t just for Buddhists and is more than just humming a soothing OMMMM to yourself.
As is becoming increasingly popular in the mainstream, meditation is the practice of clearing your head, becoming present in the current moment and being self-aware of your body. A meditation app called Headspace compares your thoughts to cars on the road. While sitting on the side of the road watching traffic (your thoughts) passing by, rather than observing each of them closely as they come and go, instead acknowledge a thought when it comes to you and then let it go instead of chasing it.
Sit down tonight and take a moment to breathe steadily for a few minutes. Don’t control the breaths, but let them come and go naturally. Observe the feeling of the air moving through your mouth or nose for a few minutes.
You’ll find that even in this short and simple practice that it’s hard for your brain to just focus on this easy task without other ideas clouding your headspace.
For me, meditation isn’t the practice of blocking out these thoughts altogether, but rather letting these thoughts pass by as I continue my simple focus on my breathing.
Sometimes I focus on the feeling of the air going in and out.
Sometimes I focus on my chest rising and falling.
Sometimes I count my heartbeats 1 through 10 …over and over… while doing my best to not let my thoughts pierce my focus.
Meditation is not about spending active energy pushing away thoughts, for me, it’s about being aware of myself in the present and resting the part of my brain that’s always planning ahead or wondering “what if.” This simple daily practice has noticeably helped me maintain my focus during productivity sessions and also helps my brain unwind after too many consecutive distraction free timers.
For those of you looking to try meditation on your own, the easiest way to get started is with free trials from guided meditation services. Over the last year, I haven’t paid a dime while trying out Headspace, Simple Habit, Oak, Calm, Insight Timer, and many videos on YouTube. These days I personally choose random meditations from playlists I’ve accumulated on Insight Timer and YouTube. No product sponsorship here, just my honest preference.
Beyond improving your ability to focus, studies also indicate that meditation provides many other cognitive and health benefits. I don’t have time to discuss those in detail today, but feel free to do some research on your own if my commentary didn’t sell you.
Finally, one of the best ways to build your momentum and refresh your internal motivation… is the one that I am absolutely worst at. After completing a goal (or a milestone toward a larger goal), take time to reflect. Congratulate yourself for a job well done, and truly feel proud of what you accomplished. Reward yourself, unwind with a long deep breath in and loud sigh out. Smile and acknowledge your hard work.
Change and growth are not easy. Without change and growth, your last 6 months will likely represent your next 6 months and get you the same results you earned last year. 2018 will be your best year ever because you won’t let yourself down, and you’ll reward yourself for your hard work at the end of the day.
Thanks for tagging along for these long episodes densely packed with material. Leave a note in the comments of this podcast episode if any of these tips are helping you set and achieve your goals, or if anything wasn’t clear and you’d like more details.
If we inspired you to make a change in your life but you aren’t yet sure where to start, sign up for one of our 30-minute open-ended Q&A sessions to let us help you find your calling and create an action plan to achieve it. Find out more at http://WehnerEd.com/coaching/