Unparalleled Productivity - Neen James

productivity Jun 13, 2021
Mark Struczewski, Neen James

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Neen James is a sales and leadership coach and keynote speaker on Focus, Connecting, Attention, and Productivity using Systems Thinking. She’s also the author of Attention Pays: How to Drive Profitability, Productivity, and Accountability* and Folding Time: How to Achieve Twice As Much In Half The Time*. I hope to have Neen back on my show soon but until then, here’s our conversation from April 2019. (* - These are affiliate links which means if you purchase these books using these links I will get a small commission. This does NOT affect the price you pay.)

Mark Struczewski
Neen, thank you so much for being on the podcast today.

Neen James
Hey, what a privilege to serve your listeners. I'm so excited about this. Anything we can do to help people be more productive? You know, I'm on it.

Mark Struczewski
Absolutely. Now, let's address the elephant in the room. I am not talking to a mouse. I am talking to a very intelligent, though short, young lady, Neen James, she is a productivity person. Why don't you tell the people who you are? I know who you are, but you tell them in your own words.

Neen James
Well, I know I sound like I'm five, maybe Minnie Mouse is who you're actually talking about. Um, but I'm significantly older than that. And so I grew up in corporate business in Australia, I've worked in retail banking, telecommunications, in the oil industry. And so as an attention expert, what I'm really obsessed with is helping people get more done and pay attention to what matters. And I'm so fortunate I get to play with really cool clients around the globe, whether it's media companies like Comcast and Viacom, MTV, or whether it's even some of the Trinity hospital system or pharmaceuticals, like J&J or even the FBI. And what I find is that my, I'm brought in because people need like an energizer bunny for the meeting. But my batteries don't run out, right. And so you and I both hear this all the time from clients where they say there's never enough hours in the day or they say, gosh, there's so much to do, I don't know where to focus first. And so what I do is I fix that with my keynote. And so as you know, we have two programs that are really popular; one is Folding Time, we have a book by the same title. And then the latest one, which I'm really excited about is Attention Pays. So how do we really get people to focus on what matters so they can make more money, they can have better relationships, and so that we can create those significant moments that matter? And that's what I'm all about.

Mark Struczewski
And your new book came out just two days ago, and they can get it in Amazon and probably anywhere books are sold.

Neen James
They can I'm so excited. It's been picked up by Barnes and Noble, Walmart, obviously Amazon, which has been many of us buy our books, right. So I'm very excited about the book. Thank you for sharing that with your listeners.

Mark Struczewski
Well, I'm a rebel. I'm an Apple guy. So I buy all my books on iBooks because I'm a snob.

Neen James
That's so efficient, and then you don't have to schlep them around everywhere. Right?

Mark Struczewski
Exactly, exactly. I heard that vinyl is making a comeback. I hear, I don't think in my lifetime I'm 52 years young. I don't think we'll ever see books go away. But I love the fact that if a book is released, I can instantly download and start reading it. I don't have to wait for some schmuck at the Amazon store to go and package it up, maybe drop it on the floor, kick it down the aisle. You know, I get the book in pristine shape because it's electronic.

Neen James
Yeah. And it's interesting because the Attention Pays book came out early for people who have Kindle and it's even cheaper for people who have a Nook. So it's really interesting the way that they're marketing books now but I hope the real books never go away because I still love to hold the book, highlight a book, and the smell of a book, call me old-fashioned.

Mark Struczewski
I was gonna ask you if you still can, I love that my daughter and I like that we get a book and we have to smell it and older books have a different smell to them.

Neen James
Yeah, it's true. And I still love you know, they're very rare these days. But I still love those family-owned bookstores. We're so fortunate where I live in Doylestown, they still have a family-run bookstore. And so wherever possible, I try and support them. It's really neat that those places still exist.

Mark Struczewski
They do; now I know that, like me, you're into productivity. While I'm not a productivity gal, I had to watch my clips in there. I'm a productivity person like you are. However, I got to believe that you were not born productive. There's probably some point in your life where you were like, a person out in the middle of the ocean with no oars, you have no idea what's going on. So tell us about that part of your life before the super productive Neen James we know today.

Neen James
I'm the oldest of five. So as the oldest and often as the listeners know, the oldest is often the most responsible kid in the family. Five minutes. Yeah, that's right. I meant that I had to always be organizing my brothers and sisters, that I always had to be able to help them get everything done. And so I think I learned this, this concept of productivity, really from my mom and the way that she role-modeled things. So I think I've always been a kid and now an adult who can get things done, but just like so many listeners, I still suffer from the same things they do, there are days when I get distracted, there are days when social media is so much more interesting than writing a client proposal or preparing for a keynote speech. And it is my belief that when it comes to paying attention and focusing on what's most important, we are all a work in progress, myself included.

Mark Struczewski
Now, because you're a productivity person, I want to ask you this question. I usually don't ask this of people unless they're productivity people. What are some of the myths that you hear when you go out to audiences or you deal with clients? Tell us two or three of the myths that people say all the time that you know, are absolutely not true.

Neen James
They say that we have the attention span of a goldfish. And that is rubbish. I mean, who wants to be compared to a goldfish, not me. And so that's amazing to me that people are spouting that I think, too, what's happening is many of my audiences are blaming technology for not being able to get things done. They're blaming technology for being so distracted. Technology is not the enemy of our attention. If anything, when used well, technology can help us get things done. However, it can be a distraction. So the myths that I hear, there are never enough hours in the day, well, you and I both know, we get the same 1440 minutes in a day time is going to happen. Whether we like it or not. Time is definitely not prejudiced. And time is the great equalizer. So these myths that people continue to tell themselves, they have this terrible language around time. They say things like, let's just kill time, or I don't have time, or I'm too busy, nobody's too busy. When we say we're too busy. We're actually saying I'm too busy for you. I'm too busy for your project, what you're asking me to do is not important enough. And so I think we need to eliminate these crazy phrases from our language.

Mark Struczewski
I agree. 100%, I'm so thankful that you talked about the method of technology, because I believe technology is a blessing and a curse. And what happens is, and I'm sure you see this all the time, people are inundated by all notifications on their electronic devices. And they say What do I say? Well, you know, you can turn them off, no, like, turn them off. If you turn off Facebook notifications, you're not deleting the notification, you just have to open up the app to see it. And people, you have to take back control of your devices. I right now on my phone, I think I have like six or seven apps with notifications enabled, everything else is off because I don't need to be alerted when I'm tagged on Facebook. And I think people they get when they install an app, it says the developer says Do you want to allow notifications. Now what you don't realize, dear listener, is when you say allow, the notifications are going to be all turned on sounds, badge counts, everything's gonna be turned on. And so what I suggest people do, and I'd like to know your thoughts on this mean is, say don't allow, then go into your settings and turn the ones on that you want. What do you think about that?

Neen James
Yeah, and I think we have to be really diligent with not just managing things like notifications Mark, but also where we're allowing those apps to live on our phone. So for example, on my home screen, I don't have any social media apps. And the reason for that is that I keep them on the second screen, so that I have to consciously choose to go to them in the same way we can think about using our Mac, you said you're an apple person, there's an app that I love that has been installed on my Mac, and also my cell phone. And that is called Freedom. And the Freedom app is a website blocking app. And it's really helpful when I'm trying to get concentrated periods of time, where I'm trying to get something done. And it literally locks me out of particular sites where I might be inclined to go and waste time. So there are so many things you can use to your point around making technology work for you. If you're just diligent about it, I turn off every notification my cell phone is actually permanently on silent, too. And the reason for that is, I don't give my cell phone out to anybody. It's not on my business cards. It's not in my email. It's not on my website. If I've given someone my cell phone, it's because I've chosen to give that number out. So my clients have it. My meeting planners have it, my bureau has it. But it's not something that's published. So generally speaking, if I don't know your number, I may not answer the call, I'll allow it to go to voicemail, then I'll choose to check to pick it up. So I think there are ways we can leverage technology to help us be more productive, but these are choices we need to make. And like I said, technology is not the enemy of our attention.

Mark Struczewski
I agree with you 100%. And I think a lot of it has to come to discipline, you'd mentioned that people blame technology earlier. I mean, I have the social media apps on my home screen. But I very, very rarely God's honest truth mean, do. I very rarely go into social media unless I'm posting on there. I don't have the time to look at stupid cat videos and look at baby pictures. I don't have the time for that. And so I think a lot has to do with discipline. I think discipline is losing its edge in today's society. Instead of taking responsibility. We're saying, Oh, it's Facebook's fault. Oh, it's Instagram's fault, or it's Twitter's fault? No, you are the grown-up, allegedly. And you need to say, I am not going to open up Facebook, you should do have Facebook on your home screen, and not be tempted. But I think a lot of people like to play the blame game.

Neen James
Well, I think too, though some people use it as a break from what they doing. And so I think one of the things to consider is when you're going to these particular sites, are you doing it as maybe a treat for yourself, because you've earned that opportunity to take a break, I know that you interviewed my friend, Mike Domitrz. And he is a fantastic guest. So listeners can go back and listen to that in that interview that he did with you. But I think that we have to look at social media differently. I don't think it's that people need to beat themselves up about it. I'm not saying I love social media to stay connected to my clients, to my family, you know, I've got friends all over the world. And for me, sometimes it's a treat. And so I'm not saying I'm against it, I just think we have to be diligent. Now social media, in my business, like in Mike's business is a part of my business. That's where I connect with my audience members. It's where I connect with my clients. And so I think we just have to be diligent. And one easy way to do that is I do a social media drive by in the morning. So just like you would do a very quick drive-by I make my coffee or my smoothie, whatever I'm having in the morning. And I sit there and I go through Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and occasionally not very much anymore. But I would play a little bit on Pinterest. And what I do is I take 15 minutes to go over all those sites. I like, share, retweet, comment, post. And it's a little easy way in the morning to connect with the world while I'm just doing something that I enjoy, like having my coffee. So maybe people who are listening could think about looking at their social media and maybe 15-minute increments, maybe one way to do it as a social media drive by and then once that coffee is finished or one that fit when that 15 minutes is up, then you stop and then you go and do something else. If you're using it as a treat in your day to check-in. Then give yourself the reward of checking it after you've finished a proposal or after you've done your sales calls or after you've done your team one on one appointments. But think about social media differently. It's social it's the way we communicate now, but don't let it take over your life.

Mark Struczewski
I love that; the drive-by. I do that in the morning after I do my morning routine I do check in Instagram and all the time I don't have notifications turned on to I actually have to open up the app to read it. But I don't spend two-three hours in it. Like you said, 15 minutes. I'm done. I go about my day. By the way, listeners episode 36 is Mike Domitrz. That's the episode she was referring to, episode 36. That was December 5, 2017. So, rockstar really great guy. Yes, he is. And every time I promote his episode, I get a big spike in my downloads because he really promotes them. Even the ones that are old, he keeps promoting. He's a really great guy. Now you said something Neen, I don't want my listeners to miss, and you need to do you. In other words, don't do what Neen does because Neen does it, don't do what Mark does because Mark does it. You need to figure out what works for you. And that may be, take a little bit from Neen, a little bit from me, and then mash it up into your own a la carte soup. I guess if you could say I think that's what you're trying to say? Correct?

Neen James
Yeah. And I think what people need to understand is, you know, what are their true objectives, one of the things I encourage all of my executives to do, and all of my clients really is to invest 15 minutes every day in a strategic appointment with yourself. And in that strategic appointment, I always encourage people to really identify what are your top three non-negotiable activities. So before your head hits the pillow tonight, what are the three things you must do? And the reason this is important is because they're your three, they're the three things that are going to move you closer to your goals, your objectives that will help you achieve your values. And what's important to you. Anything outside of those three is potentially distracting you, it's potentially wasting time. So you've got to choose one of the three that are best for you. Now the reason for three is because I think that's achievable in a day. Many of us have crazy long to-do lists, I love to-do lists. But the challenge with to-do lists is sometimes the wrong things make it on that to-do list. So one of the things listeners may want to consider is do you but for 15 minutes every day, invest in yourself. Choose to make an appointment with yourself where you identify those top three. And the reason that that also works so well is that it becomes a decision filtering system, meaning every time you're tempted to waste time, every time you're thinking about doing something else you put it through those three and say does this help me get closer to the truth Have these three objectives. If not, you have the opportunity then to decline that distraction and get those done first. It's what I call prioritizing your priorities in our life in our book attention pays.

Mark Struczewski
Well, I think it's really interesting what you said there, cuz you said, make sure you're talking about priorities. But you also talk about making sure you're intentional about doing these things. And I tell people if you have like a slot for one hour to make sales calls, obviously, when you're making sales calls, or you're running a blog post, or whatever, other ideas are going to pop in your head. And what the mistake people make is they stop what they're doing, and go do this other thing, what you should do is maybe keep a list next to you. And when an idea pops in your head, write that and write it down, so you don't forget it. And then when the time is up, then you address those lists. I think people are interrupting themselves. And because they constantly interrupt themselves throughout the day, they get the, you know, the bedtime like I didn't accomplish anything because you kept interrupting yourself every day all throughout the day,

Neen James
I find Evernote is really a clever tool to be able to capture those ideas, notes, thoughts, systems, photos, you know, just it's for me, it's a really good collection system. So if you're not a listener using Evernote, it's something you can use on your phone or on your computer. And I find it really good just to capture that thing. And the nice thing I love about Evernote too is it's easy to search for it. So when you do sit down to write that blog, if you did have a good idea about it, you can just do a search for that particular idea. And Evernote is clever in the way it catalogs information. So very quickly, you can find it. So people may want to use Evernote as their ongoing, kind of To-Do List brain dump, you know, place to categorize all of those great ideas they might have that they can't execute on immediately.

Mark Struczewski
Yeah, I used to use Evernote until iOS 9 came out and Apple really improved iOS and Apple notes. So I use that it; doesn't matter what you use listener use something besides trying to remember everything which as Neen knows, that's not going to work. That's a recipe for disaster.

Neen James
I think people just need to find what works for them.

Mark Struczewski
Yeah, I think I think but the one thing you shouldn't do is try to remember things. Because when you try to remember things, I mean, you all know we all know Murphy's Law, whatever can go wrong. Well, with a productivity version of that is the thing you need to remember the most of the first thing you're going to forget. So get it out of your head and get it into an app, get into a notebook, don't put it on the back of a used Post-It, or on the back of a receipt because that's going to get lost.

Neen James
One of the things that listeners may also want to be aware of is the way that their brain is wired. And that is that the brain every time you ask your brain to remember something or think about something, it's like opening another tab on a computer. Now the brain craves completion. So every time that you cross something off, your list is done. Your brain gives you this little tiny shot of dopamine, like a little high five from your brain, like yeah, you well done, you did something. And so when we write something down the act of writing it down, and then the physicality of crossing it off, our brain gets that shot of the happy drug, which makes it feel like it got completion, the brain craves completion. And what it does is reinforce that behavior with you. And it says that was really great. Let's do that again. And so one of the reasons people feel so overwhelmed in our book, we talk about this over trilogy, that people are overwhelmed, overstressed, and overtired. And part of that is our brain and the habits we've created, and we want to retrain our brain, we want to retrain our habits so we can retrain our focus. And sometimes that's as simple as writing it down. So you don't forget about it. And you don't ask your brain to open one more tab on the computer.

Mark Struczewski
And the only thing I would add to that is if you put 10 things on your list, and nine of the 10 things are really, really, really easy to do, you can do in 30 seconds, I would argue doing nine out of 10 when you know that one big thing is the thing that would push you forward. I don't think it's as effective as if you because we all need to do it. Brian Tracy says Eat That Frog. And we like to put the frog off till tomorrow The next day, the next day. And so I would just caution my listener, don't just put the easiest things on your list just to get that hit. But make sure you're doing the things that really count.

Neen James
Yeah, and I think that only people know they are only holding themselves accountable. They are the ones who know what is the right thing to work on. What is the right thing to focus on? What is the right thing that will give you the best results? No one can judge that except you. And one of the things that are easy for people to start with is what are you being measured on each year if you're an employee, chances are you have a performance review. Chances are you have a job description with measurable objectives. That's a great place to start. But if you're an entrepreneur, maybe you have sales goals, you're looking to achieve this goal this particular month or maybe you have financial targets that you want to achieve constant Looking at your actions to see if they're going to help bring you closer to the achievement of those goals is vital in order to assess what's really important.

Mark Struczewski
Well, let me ask you this because most of my guests all talk to the Small Business entrepreneur, let's talk for a few minutes about people who work in a corporate environment. What suggestions would you give these people who have a job nine to five, their job is basically their boss tells them what to do. And how can they become more productive at work? Under these circumstances,

Neen James
The majority of my clients are in a corporate space. And so this is an area where I feel really comfortable making some suggestions, and I grew up in corporate business. And so I love it. And having now had my own company for nearly 15 years, I know what it's like to be on the other side as an entrepreneur. So I think I can speak to both quite easily the same strategy applies, and all the executives that I work with do this, and that is that 15-minute strategic appointment with yourself. That's the first thing to really develop a new habit around that. So you're prioritizing your most important tasks. The second thing I would do is if you are a leader of people, I would recommend that you look across all of the meetings that you're inviting people to participate in and see if you can shorten those meetings so you can give people their time back, that's really important. The other thing I would recommend is if you're an attendee, and you're not the leader of the meeting, but you have regular meetings, maybe approach the organizer of the meeting to see if the meeting can be shortened. If there are just times that you can go in for particular sections of the meeting, rather than the whole meeting, maybe you can encourage the facilitator to make sure there are notes happening at those meetings. So we're not just doing the same old thing. meetings, as you know, that can be a really big distraction, and they can also be a waste of time. So we just need to think through where you're spending your time. The other thing I would suggest to people who are employed by someone else is to allocate days to particular activities. For example, we know that the trash gets picked up at our house on Mondays and Thursdays. So that day of the week is associated with that activity. In the same way, we can look at our deliverables as corporate employees and have a local maybe you're employed with a nonprofit but someone else is paying you have a think about what days do you do admin? What days do you do marketing? What days do you do development? What days do you do sales, break down your role in today allocation, and allocate certain activities today so that you get into the routine of making sure that things are being achieved on a regular basis, rather than scrambling for things to be done. The other thing with corporate is that sometimes I think we overestimate how much time we have to do something. And we underestimate how much time it's actually going to take to complete it. So be really careful and overestimate how long things are going to be so you can over-deliver for commitments you make. I think

Mark Struczewski
it's interesting, because we're talking about meetings when I learned how the late Steve Jobs approached meetings. He didn't have anybody in a meeting that didn't absolutely positively need to be there. And I read his biography by Walter Isaacson. And he said one time he was in a meeting, and a guy brought one of his subordinates to the meeting. And right in the middle of a presentation, Steve stopped, looked at her and he goes, What are you doing here? And she was kind of taken aback. He brought me here, we won't need you here. And he waited for her to leave. And I'm like, first I thought, Man, this guy's an idiot. But you know what, she didn't need to be there. And he believed the more unnecessary people we have in the meeting, the more people are talking, then you have a more of a chance of getting off task. And you have to be productive at meetings. And I, when I used to be in corporate America, I mean, I remember I would go to meetings, it'd be like 50 people in the room, and you go back out of the meeting, you're like, well, only three people need to be at the meeting. Why? Why did I waste my three hours? Now? I've lost three hours. Now after three hours. And I and I think that it comes down to the leader, it comes on to the meeting planner and the organization organizer. And you know, now what if you're not a leader? What if you're not a meeting organizer? Is it okay, professionally for a meeting attendee to say, Listen, do I really need to be here? I mean, is it critical on being here? How would they approach that?

Neen James
I think you want to be asking, maybe at least on my website, I have a blog of this very topic 10 different questions to understand whether you would be able to add value at that meeting. And so you want to think about what's your role in the meeting? Where do you contribute to the meeting? What can you prepare in advance of the meeting? Do you need to be the person who attends the meeting? Are there sections of the agenda, you can attend just that section of the agenda, rather than the entire meeting, but what you need to have the courage to do is to start questioning why you're attending and what value you add. And sometimes businesses get into the routine of having the same meeting every week without really having anyone questioned the validity of that meeting. Maybe you're the brave person who has a quiet word. To the organizer and says, Hey, I really want to make sure that I can add value to this meeting, what preparation do you want me to do? How can I best serve? How can I best support? And if they can't answer that question intelligently, you may want to ask them, hey, do you need me at the meeting? Is there an opportunity for me to read the minutes after the meeting, instead of attending in person? Or maybe you gently suggest, could we have this meeting every other week instead of weekly? Oh, could we make it a 40-minute meeting, instead of a 60-minute meeting? Could it be a 15-minute meeting instead of a 30-minute meeting, this takes courage. But what happens is you become the hero when you give your time back.

Mark Struczewski
I love that, well, let's take a minute to talk about sleep. Because I see a big problem in this country, and around the world, frankly, that people are not getting enough sleep, not I should say quality sleep. And as a result, if you're not getting enough sleep, you're dragging throughout the day. And it's very difficult to be productive when you are dragging. So let's talk a few minutes about your thoughts on sleeping.

Neen James
We have a whole section dedicated to this in our book because I think it's so vital. And I also outlined this in our original book folding time. And I hired a sleep expert Karen Roy to help me prepare that section because she creates what she calls sleep hygiene and not being clean, but creating a process before you go to sleep at night. And then also making sure that you're getting your body ready for sleep. And then she talks about you know how powerful sleep is on our brain and resetting our systems and how it affects our metabolism. But I think what happens is that when we don't get enough our fuse becomes shorter. So we're not as tolerant, we're not as kind, we're not always as appreciative, we don't pay as much attention. And so we have to think about the negative impacts of not getting enough sleep. Now there are ways that can help you sleep more, for example, shutting down some of your devices earlier, minimizing your time with screens before you sleep, starting to turn the lights down so they're not as bright before you go to sleep making sure you're hydrated before you go to sleep. You can also think about staying off decision-making things like email and social media, I use an app called Calm and I love the idea of being able to when I'm you know more challenged. Last night was a classic example. I had some big deliverables today. And I was not able to sleep. So I put the Calm app on my phone. And it just was a really great way and I had to have my phone with me because the alarm was there. Now not everyone needs to have their phone in their area of sleep either. I'm a huge advocate of not having my phone in the same room when I sleep. But when I have early morning flights, and when I have those types of things, I use it as an alarm. Now you could go and buy yourself an alarm clock if you wanted to. But for me using the calm app was really helpful. Also, consider the environment you're sleeping in. Is it too hot? Is it too cold? Think about the linens that you put on your bed. All of these things affect the environment if you have pets that come into the bedroom, if your partner snores or if they don't snore, you know, investing in some little earplugs can also help you get more sleep, whatever it is that you need to do. be selfish about your sleep patterns so that you have the energy you need the next day.

Mark Struczewski
Well you just said the word that was gonna go and lead in the next question I just finished listening to the Audible book by Chris Bailey, The Productivity Project. In there he talks about he gave up anything to drink except water. I gave up drinking everything but water as a beverage for 30 days. I'm at day 12 right now just drinking ice water every day and I can tell you my energy levels after a couple of days have gone through the roof, because I'm not drinking anything but water and my body doesn't have to break anything down with just water, so listener, you know in a bonus episode in a couple of weeks, I'm going to tell you that the full results but I can tell you I already feel energized throughout the day. I get enough sleep and I'm not filling my body (I'm a sugar junkie, I will admit that.) But I'm trying to drink just water. And I think you said something about hydration. I think a lot of us aren't getting hydrated enough not only before bed but during the day. We're just so busy, we're forgetting to hydrate our bodies and our body needs the water, we need to make sure we're eating right and that's a component of productivity. People think productivity has nothing to do with sleep or eating but it really does

Neen James
Makes me think of Tamsin Webster. She's a brilliant business speaker and she has a phenomenal program called The Red Thread and Tamsin and I were talking about this idea of both sleep and water and one of the things that she does is she and I both have a goal of drinking three liters of water every day, but she sets herself a timeframe. So she needs to have had a certain number of water bottles before lunch, a certain number by the afternoon break, and then a certain number before she's gone to bed. And I really liked the way that she broke it down. So simple and I could get my head around it. So the way that I mastered my intake of water... And by the way, I don't know master, that's a very strong word, I'm a work in progress as well. But what I do at the beginning of the day is I fill up all the water bottles, so that I know that I'm getting three liters. Now that might mean you have to buy a couple of extra water bottles or maybe use a jug of water. But what that's helpful to me is the visual reminder. So I carry it with me all round to my meetings in my car, at the airport, I always have a bottle that I can refill on the other side of security because I think it's important to always have water with you. And then you get into the habit of doing it. Therefore you don't get woken up at three o'clock in the morning, where you think you're hungry, or you need to go to the bathroom. And in actual fact, maybe it's just your body telling you it's dehydrated.

Mark Struczewski
That's very interesting. So before we wrap up the interview today, tell us a little bit more about your book. It sounds really exciting. As a productivity guy, I don't ever think I have all the answers figured out. That's why people say why do we have a productivity person on your podcast, because I learn with every guest I have on my show. And so I read productivity books, I listen to productivity podcasts. And I'm very fascinated by your book because I want to learn how to become even better at what I do. So share with me and my listeners more about your book,

Neen James
I think we can all learn a lot from each other. And I learned an enormous amount through my research of my clients. And, uh, you know, years of serving 1000s of people as a keynote speaker, I've had the privilege of having hundreds of conversations with people about their productivity as well. And Attention Pays is all around the whole concept that when we pay attention, attention pays. Now the way that it pays is, it increases profitability for companies who are paying attention to their customers, so their customers stay loyal and often buy more. It really helps us when it comes to driving productivity as you and I know because we're focused on getting the right thing done. And it also helps us from an accountability point of view, meaning that we will do what we say we're going to do in the book, we outline what I call the Attention Pays framework. And that's how we pay attention. Now I decided that based on all the research and the evidence we had, that we pay attention in three ways Mark, personally, it's about who deserves our attention. And that's about being thoughtful. Professionally, it's about what deserves our attention. And that's about being productive. And globally. It's about how we pay attention in the world. And that's about being responsible, personally, professionally, and globally. And the book outlines hundreds of strategies that individuals and leaders can apply immediately.

Mark Struczewski
Awesome. Again, that book is available now at Amazon and iBooks. And Nook and anywhere you can get books, you can get it. Thank you for sharing that with us. One of the questions you mentioned a couple of times during this interview about accountability partners. And here's my thought and accountability partners. Anybody can be an accountability partner for somebody when life is going great. It's when the person that you're being accountable to when there's a conflict, you didn't do what you said you're going to do. That's where the problem lies because that's where the conflict is. And most people like to avoid conflict at all costs. So when I give people a suggestion to make sure, it's great to have a spouse or accountability partner or a friend or a boss but make sure they're going to be there, when you really need them, when you're not doing what you're supposed to do. So what are some of your thoughts about accountability partners?

Neen James
So I pay for accountability. So I have a fitness coach, Jennifer Jacobs, and she and I work out on FaceTime. And so I meet with her once a week. And the reason I do that is I'm paying her to help me work out and give me routines I can take on the road with me. She also checks my food journal every day. So I literally write down everything that I eat. I also pay for accountability for my performance coaches, were there helping me to develop my keynote and my content to make sure every time I stand in front of an audience, I deliver the best version of my keynote. So I think you can hire coaches and mentors and people who have expertise. When I was learning to run, I hired a running coach, so you can hire expertise. The other thing that I recommend is one of my friends, she and I send an accountability email to each other every Friday. So on Monday, we send each other the goals we're going to achieve that week. And on Fridays, we send out results. And this is really powerful because what it does is helps us both stay really focused on what we need to do because we don't want to let the other person down. And we know that email has to be written. Now let me tell you, sometimes Thursday night, so even late Friday afternoon, I'm scrambling to finish things I have to send her about that email. But what I want to do is I don't want to let the team down and so she does the same thing for me. And I think to have that level of accountability where you declare your goals and then how you're progressing them. Also, it's my belief that public accountability drives private accountability. And so being able to do that regularly with people you trust. Now, you also need to think about who you're choosing, to your point, around accountability. I choose people that will hold my feet to the fire, literally, people who will call me if I'm not doing things, or if I'm slacking off. And they will question why something wasn't done as opposed to just giving me a pass. So we have to really choose those people that were willing to allow them to speak into our lives and have the right to give us that feedback, or sometimes that conflict to what you mentioned earlier. But we have to choose that, be adults, and decide when you share with someone what you're going to do. You're committing not only to yourself, you're committing to someone else that you will get that done. Absolutely. Now you did say Are you a runner? You know, it's a very loose term. I started because a friend dared me to run, start running as stress management. Actually, that was how we had the conversation. He was a very strong marathoner. And I was like, I do not have the body to run. So listeners can't tell that. But I do know, my body's not built for running. Let's be very clear. And so anyway, I went to the store, I bought all the gear and then two weeks later, I'd signed up for a 5k, hired a running coach. And then two weeks into my running journey, another friend said to me, well, you know, if you're running now, you should really do a marathon. So it's like, how hard can it be? So I signed up for one, and that's a full marathon, not a half. And so I started running, I didn't even run on a treadmill. I never ran at school. I never did sports like that. And so I started running. And within less than five months, I had completed a full marathon. So I love running for stress management. For me, it's like meditation. It's like my own form of therapy, where I can take a challenge on a run with me and solve it. So in the winter months where I live, it's treadmill running, but I'm excited about the spring. And so when I travel, I take my running shoes with me and my running watch so I can explore new areas. And I'll be doing that this week when I'm traveling.

Mark Struczewski
Wow. Well, today we're recording this on April 2, and I started running August 29 of last year, I wrote an article during Hurricane Harvey here in Houston. On runnersworld.com, some lady was running. She goes what lessons I learned from running 250 days in a row. And I said 250 days in a row running one mile a day. So I started doing it. Today was day 217, at least one mile a day for 217 days in a row, I have felt so much energy, running can become an addiction, Neen because I put like I'm listening to an audiobook right now, or listen to a podcast. And it's just me and the world, I don't want to worry about anything else. And I really enjoy running. And I encourage anyone if you could, if you're healthy enough to run, you don't have to run a marathon. I haven't run a marathon yet. But don't run to make records, run for the enjoyment. Because if you try to beat your record, I learned this early on, I almost burned out. I was trying to beat my record all the time. That's the bad thing, just run for the enjoyment of it. And when I get back, I feel ready for the day. I mean, I try to run, I live in Houston. I can run early in the morning, and I feel great all day long. So I'm glad to see fellow runners. So keep it up.

Neen James
Yeah, thank you. I think that people need to find the exercise that suits them and their personality. Running is not for everybody. But maybe you enjoy walking. And that's a really great thing to do as well.

Mark Struczewski
Exactly. Well, before we wrap up, Neen, what is one takeaway, because you gave us so much to think about and implement. But what is one takeaway you would like to leave my listeners with for this podcast?

Neen James
For those of you who are listening, who feel like you have too much on your plate that you are in a state of overwhelm, or maybe you feel like you're exhausted, I'd encourage you to look at the things that you can outsource. So maybe you can hire expertise. Maybe you can barter your brilliance for someone else's skill. If you can't afford to pay someone or you don't have resources available to do that. Maybe take a brilliant skill that you have and swap that for a skill that you need from someone else. Because when you are running your own business or you're working for someone else, there are so many things to achieve, do what you're really great at, and then outsource the rest.

Mark Struczewski
Barter? You're brilliant. I love that you should have a T-shirt made up for that. Neen, where can we find you online?

Neen James
There's only one Neen James online. Find me on Twitter. You can find me on all the social media profiles, on my website is neenjames.com. Thank you so much for the privilege of being with your listeners.

Mark Struczewski
Well, I'm glad you're here. And by the way, you said something earlier that you're a little bit older. You're a little younger. I forget what you said about Minnie Mouse. I think Minnie Mouse's rather all the things she's over 100 years old, so I don't think you're that old.

Neen James
Not yet.

Mark Struczewski
Yeah, but you sound so young. I mean, I've seen you I've seen videos of you and seen pictures of you. I mean, you're not five I can attest to my listeners go to neenjames.com. And look, she's not five years old, but you are brilliant. I'm so thankful that you've been on the podcast you gave us so much. This is an episode my listeners had to listen to at least twice because there's so much if not three times, and go get her book. It's available now everywhere. Neen, thank you so much for your time today.

Neen James
Absolute privilege, and thank you for what you're doing in the world to make it a much more attentive and productive place.

 

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