Getting Back to the Basics

podcast Nov 23, 2020

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We're going back to the basics. I don't care how productive you would say you are - maybe you're not productive at all. The key to productivity is going back to the basics.

Professional athletes, every year when they return to training camp, do you know what they do for the first week? They go back to the basics. For example, let's take American football.

When they return to training camp, they're not in their pads. The quarterbacks are throwing simple passes. The running backs are running, just to run. The receivers are just catching balls. They're doing basic blocking. The coaching staff wants to make sure everyone is on a level playing field.

And so in this episode,  I want to take you back to the basics.

I have four ideas that are going to help you get back to the basics. Again, I don't care how productive or not productive you are. I want to take you back to the basics.

The first thing is, I want you to make the choice to be productive. Now, that sounds kind of hokey, kind of weird, but I want you to make the conscious choice to be productive. And I don't want you to just say "Ok, Mark, I get it, I want to be productive, blah blah blah."

What I want you to do is take it out of your head and I want you to tell your friends. I want you to post it on social media. I want you to write it in your journal. "I am choosing to be more productive" or "I am choosing to be productive".

Why is it so important? Because when you decide and you take that decision and you share it with people, now it becomes real. If you just think you want to be more productive, and you don't, nobody knows. If you tell people, now it becomes real. So make that choice to be more productive, or to be productive starting today. 

Number 2:  Keep it simple. Complexity is the gateway to procrastination. Overwhelm is a very serious thing.

I am desperately trying to learn French on Duolingo. Some days, I just smoke through the lesson. One lesson after another, and another. I'm feeling pretty good about myself. And then I run into that lesson where I just can't get it. I find myself getting overwhelmed, frustrated, and angry.

Do you know what I do?  Once I learned the secret of going back to the basics, I go back to the beginning lessons. I learn French lesson 1, like how to say hello, goodbye, and I restore my confidence. So getting back to the basics really helps.

But I want you to keep it simple. I want you to extend yourself grace. If you're struggling with some aspect of productivity, I don't want you to be hard on yourself. Saying "you're a dummy, a jerk, a moron - you should know this stuff."

I want you to think, "Hey wait a minute. I'm not stupid." Because you're not stupid. You're not! I believe in you. Do you believe in yourself? I want you to say "Look, I'm just struggling right now." It's ok.

Not everybody gets everything they learn the first time. So as you learn more concepts of being more productive, if they don't resonate right away, that's ok! I want you to extend yourself grace, and if you're really stuck, reach out to get some help, or you can go back to earlier lessons, read something simple, or here's a novel idea: just take a break. Keep things simple.

Idea #3: Tell your time where to go instead of wondering where it went. You need to get out of the world of reactivity. I've talked to so many clients who are busy and at the end of the day, they are emotionally and physically drained. They can't figure out why. The reason is they were in reactive mode all day long, playing Whack-A-Mole, for those of you who remember the old carnival game. Or they're putting out fires.

I want you to start planning your day. I don't care if you work for a corporation, if you're an entrepreneur, or if you're furloughed. I want you to go into every day asking "What do I want to do today?". I want you to think about it. And then I want you to take your thoughts, and I want you to put them on paper. Now I said paper for a reason.

I don't want you to use an electronic calendar until you put it on paper first. Why? It becomes real when you take a pen and put it to paper. You don't have to get a journal or a planner. You can just use a piece of scratch paper. Now one thing I want you to realize about planning, is that your plans are going to get blown up.  You may have the best-laid plan for the day and all of a sudden an atom bomb gets dropped on it.

Your internet goes out, your power goes out, one of your kids gets sick, whatever. I don't want you to give up. I want you to say "It is what it is," and just keep on keeping on. But I want you to plan your time.

Here's the thing that's really going to blow your mind. I want you to plan your time seven days a week. Now you may be saying to yourself, "Wait - you're telling me to plan my days on the weekends? Vacations? Holidays?" Yes.

Now hear me out. What I want you to do for example if you want to watch football all day Sunday, your plan would be to watch football all day Sunday. The point of the exercise is that you're thinking consciously that you're going to watch football all day.

Or if you're going to go on vacation. Let's say you're going to one of my favorite places in the world, Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World. So my plan for the day is to go to Magic Kingdom all day. But I'm consciously, proactively thinking about it. I hope that makes sense to you.

Seven days a week, I want you to consciously think, "What do I want to do today?" Maybe you're just going to watch TV all day. That's fine, as long as you're consciously thinking about it.

But when you want to get things done that are important to you, I want you to really think, "What needs to happen today? What is going to move that needle toward my goals?" You can't say "Well, maybe I'll do this."

You need to stop and say "What is going to move the needle the most today?" So always tell your time where to go instead of wondering where it went.  You do that by planning.

Idea #4: Focus. A lot of people out there that I"ve come across are thinking that they're multitasking.  Neuroscientists, really smart people, have proven that your brain can only do one thing at a time. That's it! One thing at a time.

So we think we're multitasking but what the brain is doing is rapidly switching between the tasks. So, if you're working on one task, you may say "I'm at 100%." But you're not. You're constantly looking at what's going on around you.

If you're working on two tasks, you're rapidly switching back and forth, but now your efficiency for everything goes down. The more tasks you add, the efficiency for all of the tasks you're working on is suffering.

I want to talk to you about attention residue. If you're working on task A, and you decide to work on task B, part of your brain is still thinking about task A. Then if you start working on task C, your brain is still thinking about task B and task A.

What I want you to do instead is I want you to do is to stop working on your task before moving on. Put it to the side, then switch to the next task. You want to stay focused. You want to embrace single-tasking.

Multitasking doesn't work. So, when you're writing that blog post, I don't want your phone ringing, buzzing, or vibrating. I want you to put it on do not disturb, or maybe even turn it off. I want you to focus on that blog post so you can write the best blog post that you can.

Maybe you're writing for your book. A lot of writers I know, when they write, everything is turned off. They may go out to a park where it is nice and quiet. You need to focus, you need to embrace single-tasking.

So those are 4 ideas for you to get back to the basics.

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