As solopreneurs, we are susceptible to overthinking. With the number of things we have to juggle, we can easily get overwhelmed. You need ways to release the torrent of thoughts swirling around your head to be able to regain clarity for solving problems. That’s where the brain dump comes in. In today’s article, I’m going to talk about the purpose of a brain dump, some of the benefits, and tips for success with this powerful exercise.

What Is It and What’s the Purpose

You may have heard the term, but what effectively is a “brain dump”? Simply put, a brain dump is an exercise that helps you release the endless stream of thoughts you’ve accumulated over the course of the day onto some external medium. Think of a brain dump as metaphorically taking out the garbage. Once the trash gets full you have to take it out before it overflows or starts to stink, which then can affect the cleanliness of your home. 

In much the same way, a brain dump serves as a removal of the garbage in your head. Let’s face it, most of the thoughts we have are unproductive and cause unnecessary clutter, which can distract and fog up our mental lens. A brain dump can help you to regain focus and spark new creative ideas. The mental chatter will cease and you’ll feel physically lighter and energized. 

On a philosophical note, there’s no escaping the mind. Evolution has given us the gift of consciousness and for the ambitious thinkers of the world, sometimes our minds can overwhelm us. Naturally we have many thoughts about our experiences, some good and some bad. 

A lot of the time though, negative thoughts slip by unnoticed and they can cause perpetual frustration throughout the day. Rumination plays a large role in detracting from our emotional wellbeing. So many of us live outside of the present moment ruminating, for instance, on a less than ideal client interaction we’ve just had. As a means of letting those thoughts go, the brain dump exercise can be transformative.

How To Do a Brain Dump

Sit down, crack open your journal and start writing. It’s as simple as that. Now, you may find that in doing this, especially at first, it’s hard to start writing. Your mind may wander or you may procrastinate. What I’ve found to help get me going is to set a timer for 5 or 10 minutes. This creates a sense of urgency and gets you writing fast. There can sometimes be a barrier to entry with writing because you’re not sure how to start which causes procrastination. Having a timer is like an external accountability device to help you start.

“Productivity is less about what you do with your time. And more about how you run your mind.” – Robin Sharma


With this style of journaling, the goal is not necessarily to have creative breakthroughs or work through specific problems. Although as a byproduct of the exercise, you may get creative breakthroughs after the fact because you’ve emptied your mind allowing new ideas to flood in. However, the ultimate goal is to release all thoughts in a stream of consciousness style. You don’t have to worry about structure or grammar. It doesn’t have to follow any linear path, just write thoughts as they come to you and try to keep momentum without pausing.

You don’t need to worry about length either. If you feel clear after writing a half-page, one page or several, there is no right amount. The goal here is to cultivate a sense of emptiness and refreshment. The end result is increased clarity and focus. Once you start to feel lighter you can stop. This may sound like an indefinite way to go about it – feeling your way through, but you’ll know when you’ve reached that point. 

Tips for success

While doing a brain dump is relatively straight forward, I’ve provided a few tips to help you get more out of the exercise. 

Choose a specific time. I’ve found it helpful to do this exercise either at the end of the day or early in the morning. You may find that doing it at the end of the day is best because it clears your mind before bed and eases you into sleep. 
Choose your medium. I recommend writing in a journal, but if you find that typing works better for you then do that.
Get on a routine. Build a habit of sitting down and emptying your mind each day.

Benefits of the Brain Dump

There are many benefits derived from the brain dump. As mentioned above, its ability to refresh and help you regain clarity and focus is paramount especially for the number of problems we have to solve on a daily basis. Another benefit I’d like to mention is its ability to help you wind down from the day. I know a lot of solopreneurs including myself struggle with “turning off work mode”. How do you effectively wind down from the day to get restful sleep?

It’s challenging to turn off the problem-solving brain and get some shut-eye. This is where the brain dump may be more beneficial to you if done at the end of the day. Sit down with your journal away from any distractions and keep your writing space clutter-free. Put your phone and other devices to bed and block this time out for yourself. 

I hope you find this exercise helpful and a way to refresh your mind to increase clarity and focus while building your business. As Henry David Thoreau said, “Renew thyself completely each day; do it again, and again, and forever again.” Add this exercise to your toolkit and do it every day to see the best results. Over time, it can be transformative for your productivity.

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Are you a member of the 5 a.m. club? Have you signed on to the premise that waking up at 5 a.m. will make you more productive, fit, and successful, but found your January goals lagging behind? Do you wake up kind of groggy, but otherwise loaded with great ideas, and find you need to stop the flow of creativity to do the things you “should” do every morning, like work out, meditate, breathe, journal, plan, do gratitude exercises, only to find that once all of that is done your brilliant ideas have floated off into the ether?

You’re not alone. And you shouldn’t feel bad about it, because if this is the case, you’ve likely fallen victim to one of the great paradoxes of the early rise phenomenon: Waking up early to get everything done often means robbing yourself of real productivity.

Getting up early is a great idea. Of course you get extra time while everyone else is sleeping. But to make this time valuable, you need to know why you’re getting up early, and how to use that time to your best advantage.

Motivation is a Finite Resource

First of all, it’s super important to recognize that motivation, like all functions of our psyche, is a physical process in the brain. As such, it’s a limited and finite resource. It goes through peaks and valleys during the day, but is always charged up after a good night’s sleep. That’s why you often wake up feeling ready to take on the world, but by lunchtime you’re down to barely even caring about the most mundane tasks.

If your goal is expressly self-care, then great! Do that in the morning when you’re motivated. But if your goal is productivity, and you know you have your best ideas and highest creative energy first thing in the morning, forcing that creative flow to switch off so you can meditate instead doesn’t make sense. You’re actually burning off your highest motivation of the day and training your brain to NOT be motivated in the morning. I don’t think that’s what you’re going for.

“The secret to productivity is simplicity.” – Robin Sharma

Attention is Even More Finite

Unless you’re a monk, it’s likely that your attention span is even more finite than your motivation. Your ability to stay focused on a single task is already at risk due to the environment of constant distraction we’ve built around ourselves. Purposely driving your attention span away from your most critical tasks, at a point when you’re in your most prime state to focus, doesn’t make practical sense.

If you’re already used to getting up at 5 a.m. (or earlier), but haven’t seen any increase in productivity or creative output, chances are it’s because you’re forcing other “should-do” self-care tasks into that time slot. I’m not saying you shouldn’t take care of yourself. Of course you should! But doing too much in your prime state that isn’t focused on your best energies isn’t helping you either, and may be causing you more stress and self-doubt. So, what’s the solution?

State Priming and Execution

State priming means getting yourself into a physical and mental state to take on the day. This means loosening up from a night of lying down, getting the blood flowing, and getting focused. Get up, do a quick bit of light stretching, and take a few deep breaths. Then, do a quick 10 pushups and squats. It’s not a workout…it’s just an energizing movement. Sometimes I’ll do 10 jumping jacks just for good measure; do these with a motivational mantra or cheer to really drive home the excitement for your day!

Now execute. Grab a pen and paper and jot down the most important ideas running through your head right at that moment. If you’re like me, you wake up with a conversation already going through your mind. Those are ideas. Don’t let them get away!

Scan your task list. What are the most boring, mundane, demotivating tasks you’re going to have to do? Plan those for your slumps later in the day, when your creative energy isn’t needed. If you try to wing it through those slumps when they happen, you won’t get them done. If you know in your mind, “OK, at 10:30 I can just do this like a robot and not think about it,” you can just switch gears and cruise on autopilot for a bit.

Now you can execute. Now, you should have about 60 to 90 minutes to create, execute, or do whatever is in your head with peak energy. This is the time to nail it. When you’re done, you’ll be in a great state of mental clarity to meditate. Your brilliant ideas won’t be rattling around in your head when you’re trying to quiet your mind and breathe. But for right now, you’ve gotta move those big rocks.

“Lose an hour in the morning, and you will be all day hunting for it.” ― Richard Whately

There’s nothing wrong with getting up early, if that’s when you find you can get a lot done. But if you jam that early-morning ritual with “shoulds” that aren’t moving the needle on your business or work, you might not be seeing a great ROI on either list.

Take a step back from your morning ritual, and really examine whether your morning routines and rituals are pushing your goals forward or distracting you from them. When you’re able to channel your morning energy into goal-based or creative tasks instead of ritual care tasks, you’ll be able to take those things off your plate and relax into your self-care routines with a mind that’s feeling clear and accomplished without being stressed and overwhelmed.

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Even though we’re just a few days removed from 2020, the first work week of the new year represents a blank slate. Most of 2021 still lies ahead and we have lots of opportunity right now to think about how we want to influence the outcomes that are yet to be created.

Gandhi wrote that, “In regard to every action, one must know the result that is expected to follow.” That linking of cause and effect applies to everyone, but because of the ripple effect their actions have, I think it especially applies to leaders.

Which brings me to the question, “Who do you need to be this year?”

Later in this post, I’m going to share a process with you to answer and act on that question, but first, let me clarify it. By asking it, I’m not suggesting that you try to turn yourself into something you’re not. Rather, I’m asking you to consider what your family, team, colleagues and other stakeholders need most from you this year and how you can consistently bring the best version of yourself to the table to meet those needs.  I’m also not saying that you should focus on everyone else’s needs to the exclusion of your own. I’m just saying that you need to be intentional about factoring their needs into your equation. It’s about being aware of your stakeholders’ needs and intentional about how you show up to create the positive outcomes that matter most.

This is why the first of the three questions in the Eblin Group’s Life GPS® personal planning tool is “How are you at your best?” The second is “What are the routines – the repeatable actions – that will make it more likely that you show up at your best?” The third and final question is about results – “What outcomes would you expect to see in the three big arenas of life – home, work and community – if you were consistently at your best?” The Life GPS® is designed to help you do what Gandhi suggested – be intentional about linking your actions to results.

So, we’re back to the earlier question, “Who do you need to be this year?” Before we get too much deeper into 2021, I encourage you to take some time to consider the question as it relates to you, your stakeholders and all the things you want to accomplish together this year.

Here’s a four-step process for doing that:

Make a list organized by your key stakeholder groups – family, team, colleagues, customers and so on. For each group, jot down how you think they need you to be to help them create positive outcomes this year. Words that might come to mind could include qualities like supportive, encouraging, clear, calm, inspiring, directive, engaged, open, generous or any number of others that fit their needs.Make a second list of the words that describe you when you’re at your best. These are the qualities that represent you when you’re operating in the sweet spot that leads to positive outcomes.Compare the words on list one and list two and circle the ones that appear on both. The words that you circled are the ones that tell you who you need to be this year. You can think of those words as being in the center of the Venn Diagram of what your stakeholders need from you and how you are at your best. This is where you need to focus your efforts this year in linking your actions to intended results.To do that, make one last list of simple things you could do on a regular basis to reinforce those qualities in the way you show up for your stakeholders. This step is based on a principle that Aristotle wrote about called praxis. Praxis is an ancient Greek word that means doing. The practical application of the principle is that if you want to be a certain way, then do things that lead to you being that way. For instance, if you’ve determined that being supportive is at the nexus of what your stakeholders need from you this year and how you are when you’re at your best then you might adopt the routine of regularly asking your family or team members what they most need from you or how you could best help them accomplish their goals. The more you do that, the more supportive you’ll be.

So, who do you need to be this year? Before too much more of 2021 is in the books, I encourage you to take some time to ask, answer and act on that question.

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If you’re working from home, are you missing your commute? That kind of sounds like a stupid question. Who misses sitting in traffic looking at taillights? Not many people, I’d guess, but that’s probably not the part of your commute you’re missing. What you’re missing is the best part – the interstitial time between one place and the next or, to put it another way, between one now and the next now.

Microsoft thinks you’re likely missing that interstitial time so, in next year’s update of their Teams collaboration software, they’re going to make it possible for you to schedule a virtual commute. As reported in The Wall Street Journal, “The Teams update next year will let users schedule virtual commutes at the beginning and end of each shift. Instead of reliving 8 a.m. or 6 p.m. packed subway rides or highway traffic jams in virtual reality, users will be prompted by the platform to set goals in the morning and reflect on the day in the evening.”

A CEO I was talking with last week recognizes the same thing that Microsoft has – she misses her commute and the chance it gave her to think without an agenda, a to-do list or other people on her screen. Her solution recently has been to ask her assistant to schedule her days with a 5 and 3 mix – no more than 5 hours of scheduled meetings in a day and at least 3 hours a day set aside for personal think time, reading, writing and unscheduled, spontaneous conversations.

From my observation, this CEO definitely has the right idea but her solution might not be within everyone’s grasp. So, for those of us who don’t call as many of our own shots as she does with how she spends her time, here are some quick hit ideas on how you get back the best part of that commute you no longer make – the interstitial time that gives you space to think offline.

Make Your Showers Count – As I’ve written here before, I like to ask groups of leaders where or when they get their best ideas. The number one answer is “in the shower.” Chances are you’re going to take a shower most days. In addition to getting clean, use that time for a little bit of “let your mind wander” time. It’s pretty much guaranteed that no one’s going to interrupt you in the shower and the warmth of the water coming down is a surefire relaxer. As I wrote a few years ago, a client of mine adopted the habit of intentionally taking time for three deep breaths every time he showered. He reported that it gave him space to think and, more often than not, teed him up for a really productive day.

Try Some Radically Different Immersion Techniques – My hope is that when we look back on the pandemic period, we’ll all have one or two projects that we took on that we feel really good about. One of mine is finally learning how to play guitar. Three or four nights a week I plug my black Stratocaster into my little Fender amp, put my Mac on top of the amp and then tune into the site where Justin Sandercoe has expertly organized over a thousand guitar lessons in a beginner to advanced sequence. After four months or so of practice, I’m about to finish the beginner classes and am moving on to intermediate. One of the things I love about the practice is that it’s completely immersive. It engages my senses in a whole different way from what I do in my work all day. In addition to learning chords and riffs, I find I’m usually more productive and creative when I get back to work the next morning. It all flows from giving my brain a chance to think about something else.

Meditate – More and more people are using apps like Headspace, Calm and Insight Timer to learn how to meditate and incorporate that habit into their lives. If you haven’t tried meditation yet, the pandemic is an excellent time to start. In addition to giving your fight or flight response a rest, it’s a great way to observe your thinking patterns and random thoughts. You might think the goal of meditation is to not think, but most of the experts I’ve read and talked to say the goal is really to notice when you’re thinking. What I notice when I stop and meditate for 12 minutes or so is that thoughts that actually have a fair amount of value come up seemingly out of nowhere. When that happens, I write them down as soon the closing chime rings on my app. That’s actually better interstitial time than commuting in the car because writing down the ideas after meditating is a heck of a lot safer!

If you’re still working from home, what’s been working for you on reclaiming some of the thinking time you used to have on your commute? What else would you add to my list? Let me know in the comments on LinkedIn or, if you’re reading this on my blog, send me a quick note at

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As I’ve been writing about the past couple of weeks, the allostatic load of the extraordinarily stressful period we’re living, working and leading through demands that we be more mindful about the routines that can help us be both effective and healthy. I’ve already written about physical and mental routines. This week, I want to talk about relational routines; the ones that address our basic need for love and belonging and that also help keep us alive.

From a purely utilitarian standpoint, it’s fairly obvious that if you want to get positive results over the long-run, you need to invest in positive relationships. They’re essential to getting things done. From a humanistic standpoint, positive relationships make life more fun, strengthen your immune system (kind of important during a global pandemic), and increase your life expectancy by reducing the likelihood of heart disease, cancer, strokes and Alzheimer’s. As this article that summarizes the ground breaking research of UCLA professor Steve Cole states, “our bodies see loneliness as a mortal threat.” From an evolutionary standpoint, we’re wired to intuit loneliness and isolation as a threat to our survival because it’s easier for a group to fend off a saber tooth tiger than it is for an individual. The sense of isolation that working from home can bring prompts us to seek out connection with others. That’s why you’ve been doing all of those virtual happy hours and meet-ups. That’s a good thing because it’s helping you get out of the chronic state of fight or flight that both reduces your performance and your health and well-being.

As many of us will continue to work from home and maintain physical distance for the foreseeable future, here are a few things to consider incorporating into your virtual relationships as well the ones you have with the people you live with.

Include Transformational Listening In Your Mix – As I wrote about in my book, Overworked and Overwhelmed: The Mindfulness Alternative, there are three basic kinds of listening – transient, transactional and transformational. As the accompanying chart makes clear, all of us engage in transient listening where we’re so distracted with our own agenda and thoughts that we don’t actually listen. Transactional listening is focused on solving a problem or identifying a next step and is much higher value-added. We’re all seeing and doing a lot of that on work-related Zooms but if we stop at transactional listening, we miss out on the opportunities for deeper relationships. That’s where transformational listening comes in – listening with no other purpose than to connect and learn more about the other person or people. Open-ended questions that spark warm memories, a sense of fun, reflections on gratitude or hope for the future are a great way to set up transformational conversations. This blog post I wrote a few years ago has a list of those kinds of questions. Why not ask one or two of those in your next team Zoom meeting or casual conversation with a friend or family member?

Three Styles of Listening, The Eblin Group

Make the Time and Take the Time – Do your best to pay attention to how you’re allocating your conversational time. What percentage of it is focused on more transactional conversations? If more than 80 percent are focused on human “do-ings”, make and take some regular time to focus on the human beings through transformational conversations.

Variety is the Spice of Life – Routines and patterns are useful in life because they help us get things done without having to start from scratch every time we do them. The weekly staff meeting, the rotation of shirts you’re wearing on Zoom and the walk you go on after lunch are all examples of routines that are helpful until they’re not. They’re not when they get you into a rut of not noticing when you’re repeating yourself without looking for opportunities for deeper connection with colleagues, friends and family. Variety is the spice of life. Spark new connections by changing up your meetings and routines and inviting others into a different mix that brings fresh energy by shaking things up. A little creativity in a pandemic never hurt anyone!

Strong, healthy relationships are vital to both productivity and health and well-being. What have you been doing to deepen yours during the pandemic?

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What verb tense is your mind spending most of its time in – present, past or future? How about the members of your team – what time frame are their minds working in? You might consider those questions to be a bit weird or out there, but if you stop and examine the nature of your language and the quality of your thinking, you may find they’re more relevant than you’d initially think.

If you want to examine it, start by paying attention to the language you and your team members are using. Is it reflective of minds being in the past, the present or the future? Here are some clues to listen for.

If you hear a lot of discussion about the way things were before COVID-19 disrupted everything then you or your team are having trouble letting go of the past. Tip off phrases include, “I wish that…,” “I miss…,” and “I’m sorry that…” Thinking back to the past can be a source of energy and motivation when we’re reflecting on peak experiences or how to apply lessons learned. There’s a big difference though between reflecting and ruminating. When we ruminate, we stew. The ancient root of the word actually means to “chew over.” The sense of loss or regret that comes from spending too much time and attention chewing over the past can mire you in the mental and emotional muck that keeps you from taking constructive action in the present.

The flip side of being stuck in the muck on the way things were is freaking out about the way things might be. This is what happens when folks start catastrophizing about things that haven’t happened yet and may not ever happen. The mind can spin out of control into what Richard Carlson and Joseph Bailey in their classic book, Slowing Down to the Speed of Life, called thought attacks. When you start hearing language (either in your own head or from the mouths of others) like, “I’m worried that…,” “I’m nervous about…,” and “I’m overwhelmed by…,” those are clues that you or your team members are over indexing on the future tense. Anxiety, fear and dread are the kinds of emotions that flow from that time frame of mind.

And, as I wrote about last week, your feelings flow from your thinking and the actions that lead to results (positive or negative) flow from the emotional state of feelings. That’s why it’s so important to pay attention to the connection between leadership and the time frames of mind. Clearly, the only verb tense in which anything can get done is the present tense, so, as a leader, that’s where you want your team to direct most of their thinking, time and attention. That’s not to say that you’re not working on preparing for and creating the future. It is to say that you’re making strong connections between what’s done today and what happens tomorrow. As Gandhi wrote, “In regard to any action, one must know the result that is expected to follow.”

Focusing your leadership on the present tense and how it creates the future gives you and your team a sense of agency and control. One way to do that is to regularly ask, coach and lead around the question, “What can we or should we be working on or doing today to put us in a better position one month from now, three months from now or six months from now?” Before you ask the question, you might push the mental reset button by asking everyone to clear their mental chatter by taking three deep breaths. But before you do either of those, check in with yourself. What time of frame of mind are you in? If you need to make your own adjustment, now is a great time to do it.

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If you’d like to learn how to become more productive so you can accomplish more on a daily basis, sign up for the free 90-Day Master Class hosted by the founder of, Joel Brown.

Last night, a friend of mine (let’s call him Jameel) took me to his mentor. He was going to get some business advice and wanted someone to tag along for the ride. Having nothing to do for the rest of the day, I decided to go. After waiting for about an hour at his office, we finally got that chance to meet him: A simple looking guy (supposed to be a guru in his field) with a twitchy left eye.

Jameel and his mentor talked for about half an hour or so, and I sat there quietly nodding my head. To be honest, the entire discourse was quite engrossing and truly inspiring to say the least. But if there is one thing that clicked (and that I’d like to share it with you guys) is his reply to my friend’s doubts of failure.

“I am doing everything right,” asked the now vulnerable Jameel, “but there is this looming fear, this doubt that is eating me alive. What should I do about it?” “I am not the kind of person you should be asking this question,” was the reply. “I have never had the fear of failure so I don’t know what to say to you. All I have ever done in my life is done each day’s work to the best of my abilities. That’s it, and I would advise you to do the same.”

“Will you succeed?” He went on. “Will you fail? No one can guarantee that. That is something out of your jurisdiction. Even if you do everything right, there is still a chance that you might fail. And even if you do fail, then what? Will the Earth shatter? Or will the skies fall over? Businesses fail, that’s the fact of life and you should be strong enough to take that bet.

Either you do everything right, one step a time, one task a day and trust the journey and increase your chances of success. Or you keep on obsessing about the future, fretting about failure, instead of doing the actual work and increasing your chances of failure.

Your best bet is to do each task to the best of your abilities and leave the rest to God.”

The reason this mini-speech hit me is because that is exactly what I did to become a better person than I was a couple of years ago. And even if you’re not a proponent of fate or a believer in God, there’s a practical truth to what the mentor said. In fact, the great stoics also had a similar approach to life.

“Do right. Do your best. Treat others as you want to be treated.” – Lou Holtz

What did the ancient stoics say?

Stoics are proponents of Stoicism, a philosophical school of thought that believes human virtue lies in knowledge, and the wise are the ones that are at peace with providence (good or bad).

The great stoic Epictetus put forth his “dichotomy of control” illustrating that the world is divided into things that are in our control (thoughts, emotions, and actions) and things that are out of our control (possessions, looks, or privilege).

If you carefully differentiate the things that are in your control from the things that are not, you influence the things that are in your control to make your life the way you visualize it. You also stop worrying about things that are not under your control. You come to realize how pointless it is and that saves you a great deal of time and energy.

Putting the philosophy into practice

What’s the point to philosophy when there is little to no practicality when it comes to actual meaningful changes in your life? That is exactly why I am a strong proponent of Stoicism as it is the most practical of all philosophies.

Still, being stuck in a place for too long tends to make it difficult to get out and one needs a little more than philosophy to get one out of the mess. 

Here are a few practical steps that I took to make my life a little bit better:
1. Write down your goals

I know how big of a cliché this is, but there’s a reason why it is such a big cliché, it works. Take out a pen and a paper, and write down all of the things you want to achieve.

Think of something that you want to do or need to do. It can be anything from your homework to an art project or maybe as trivial as cleaning up your room. List out as many things as possible.

“Everybody has their own Mount Everest they were put on this earth to climb.” – Seth Godin

2. Prioritize your goals

Divide them based on priorities. An assignment due this week should be at the top, an art project, a bit lower.

3. Break them down

Break down each goal into little ones that you know you can easily accomplish. Make sure to also spread them across a few weeks or months (depending upon the estimated time for the project).

For example, if your goal is to read a book. Don’t force yourself to read a hundred pages in one go because that’s plain stupid. Think about it this way, if you want to become a swimmer, would you simply dive into a sea or would you first start learning in a pool?

Start by reading 10 pages a day. After a week, turn it up to 12 or 15 a day and keep on increasing each week until you have reached your goal of reading 100 pages a day.

4. Become accountable

The ultimate goal is to live a better life and to do that we have to take one step at a time and for that we require consistency. How do you ensure consistency in productivity?

Here’s how I did it:

At the start of my freelancing career, I only took projects when I felt like it. Some months I’d earn more while on others I’d be asking for financial help. After months of going nowhere and almost sabotaging my career, I decided to do a simple thing that changed everything for the better.

I committed myself to writing 1000 words a day, except weekends, for the entire month. This was an easy goal because there were days when I wrote 2500-3000 words a day when one of my deadlines was tight.

The idea was to become consistent. To keep track of it, I decided to create a simple spreadsheet on google docs. The first couple of days were easy because I was feeling motivated. The third day was a bit difficult because I was losing motivation. The magic happened on the fourth day when I didn’t feel like doing the work but ended up doing it because of the sheer fact that I had to report it on my spreadsheet.

At the end of this little experiment, I had earned more than I had ever earned in a month. If there is anything that I would like you to take away from all this is to set yourself a goal every night and complete it every day without fearing the outcome.

Do you have any tactics on how to become more productive? Share them with us below!

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For many of us in the United States, week seven or so of the work from home (WFH) period is underway. And even as attention turns to how to get people back to the office, it’s pretty clear that we’re at the beginning of a pretty long haul of a lot more working from home than we ever thought we would. From my vantage point as a long-time work from homer and a coach to a lot of leaders and teams who are new to the scene, what I’m seeing is a slow realization that we’re in a marathon, not a sprint. And that means we’re going to have to adjust if we plan to finish the race on our feet.  About a month ago on the Pivot podcast with Kara Swisher and Scott Galloway, noted relationship counselor and therapist Esther Perel observed of the early days of WFH, “Never before have people worked so hard and gotten so little done.”

Inspired by Perel and what I’m seeing and hearing, here are
three recommendations of things you need to stop doing this week if you want to
work a little less hard and, in the process, actually get more done. If you’re
in a leadership role, so much the better as whatever you stop doing will have a
positive ripple effect for the people on your team.

Stop Sitting All Day – You probably never imagined you’d spend so much time at your kitchen table or that desk you set up in your extra bedroom. I have had way more than one client tell me that they’re sitting at their table in front of their screen for 10 or 12 hours a day without much of a break. I checked out some data from Fitbit today that showed the average step count for their users was down 12 percent the week of March 22 just as the WFH period was cranking up. I haven’t seen more recent data but am guessing the decline is now steeper and deeper. Sitting all day is bad for your health in general and bad for your brain in particular. You need fresh input to keep your neural network humming. Get up and out of your cave throughout the day. When you come back to the screen, you’ll feel better and think better.  

Stop Making Every Meeting a Zoom Call – When the WFH period started, all the cool kids moved to Zoom. The barriers to entry were low and the value of seeing colleagues’ faces was high. The value is still there, but several weeks in, it looks we’ve all overcorrected on the use of  Zoom and other video conferencing platforms. The new notice is the emerging trend of Zoom fatigue. My colleague Beth Schumaker shared this article from National Geographic that explains what it is and why it happens. Here’s the summary. You’ve never been on stage before like you are on Zoom. In the Brady Bunch screen share mode, everyone can see everyone else’s micro expressions and you’re aware you’re being watched as carefully as you’re watching others. You might even be watching yourself as you speak which is not something you ever did pre-pandemic. It’s exhausting and leaves you depleted with less frontal brain lobe capacity to think strategically and make sound decisions. Zoom is great until it isn’t. Mix up your communications modalities. Take some old-fashioned phone calls a few times a day instead of another Zoom.

Stop Holding on to Your Original Plan – Going back to work won’t mean going back to normal. You’re not going to pick right back up with the strategic plans you laid out before the pandemic; you’ll have to continue to reprioritize and reimagine based on new realities. In spite of everything that’s already changed and all that clearly will change from this point forward, I’m hearing from clients that a lot of their colleagues are still pushing and grinding away on their original business plans for the year. I get that at some level – there’s comfort in the familiar and in the belief that by following a plan we’re in control of our outcomes. Well, in the words of Mike Tyson, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” If you’re tempted to stick with your plan, acknowledge that you and everyone else in the world has just taken the mother of all left hooks to the jaw. If you’re still holding on to the original plan, let go of it, step back and ask, “What’s most needed and most important now?”

So, that’s my short list of three things to stop doing this
week. What’s on your list?

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The alarm rings. You roll over, stare at your phone, debating whether to snooze it or get out of bed. This is your normal routine each morning but today is different. It is different because the only place you have to go is your living room. This is different because you have a choice. No one is expecting your arrival. No one will be waiting for a meeting or knocking on your office door to make sure you are on time. You are not alone. This is foreign territory for millions of people in the world today. 

The alarm rings. You now have a decision to make. Get going or hit snooze again. Many of us are entrepreneurs. We have been running to the rhythm of our own beat for years. It is in our DNA. But even more of us enjoy the routine and dependability of a normal, get up and go to work type of day. Many enjoy being given the routine schedule. We enjoy the meetings and projects that are scheduled for us.

Yet others, are the meeting planners. We thrive on creating our own day and business. These two approaches could not be further from each other, yet the situation we are facing currently has now thrown the idea of ‘entrepreneur’ into the laps of many who never sought to live this way.

So how do you function within this lifestyle? How do you juggle the convenience of home with the rigors of to do lists and project boards? How do you stay in contact with your co-workers and team? How do you ignore all of the household chores that now stare at you all day long?

Let’s explore your work from home survival kit by setting 6 essential rules for working from the place you’re really used to simply living in:
1. Get up and get that game time uniform on

This is the single most important detail of working from home you will experience. Every single work from home article you read will list this very rule at the top of their list, if not first. Why? Because getting up, getting dressed and preparing for your day like normal, shifts your mind into preparing for work.

The psyche of the mind is a very powerful thing. Do you change clothes when you workout? Yes. Partially for comfort and convenience but you also do this to reset your mind. Do you change clothes at the end of the workday? Sweats, a t-shirt, shorts, something comfortable to let you know ‘I am home.’

This very practice that you normally partake in applies to your mornings and workday regardless of where you are. Get up. Get dressed. Iron your clothes. Shower. Do your hair. Keep the very routine you would practice if you were heading to the office.

“Productivity is never an accident. It’s the result of a commitment to excellence, intelligent planning & focused effort.” – Paul Meyer

2. Great planning means great vision

If someone were to follow you to your place of work and log your day for a week, one thing would become clear: you have a routine.

No matter what that routine is, keep it at home during your work day. Sure there may be some elements that vary. You may have children to tend to. You may have pets that need walked or taken out. You may have other family living at home. For the most part your routine can remain the same.

If you get a cup of coffee on your way to work or once you get to the office, do the same at home. If you check emails first thing, do the same at home. If you say hi to certain coworkers, give them a call from home. Do everything you can to keep your routine the same. It will help shift your mind into work mode and give you more focus for the day. 

3. If your phone rings, smash it

You don’t have to completely smash it. There are really good benefits to working from home but there are also major traps. The greatest trap is distraction. When you are at your normal place of work you have built in accountability that is impossible to replicate at home.

Your team is at your office. Your boss is at your office. They are not following you home during this season of work. It is up to you to hold yourself accountable. It is obvious that hours are wasted at work by surfing social media and chat among workers but this pails in comparison to the temptation you will have working from home.

Netflix, Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, TikTok, the list of distractions goes on and on so you must set technology boundaries. Set times throughout the day allowing yourself space to peruse the social media world, then get back to work. 15 minutes of allowable technology will do wonders in keeping you on task and accountable.

4. Space: the final frontier

Clear a desk, empty a room and get organized. You have entered a new season of life, if only temporary, that can become a season of great empowerment and a designated workspace will open the door for just that.

Once you decide where you are going to work within your home, decide how you are going to work within that space. Do the things you would do at the office. Arrange your new area to replicate and simulate the actions and behaviors you would take part in each day. 

An uncontrollable lifestyle has been thrust upon you and now you are taking charge and creating as much controllable space as possible. Designate your space. Clear away distractions. Follow your routine and watch those project lists melt away.

5. What you put in is what you get out

Nutrition may be the last thing on anyone’s mind when discussing essentials at home but people love snacks and it’s easy to snack when you are home all day. Do not fall into this trap.

Food is fuel you need in order to thrive during this season of life. Set food boundaries in your house, especially during your work day. Meal prep like you normally would and in that meal prep select the snacks you would normally allow yourself at work.

Set your snacks in your designated work area so you don’t find yourself grazing through those cookies or pouring that next bowl of cereal just because it is available. You want to get through this season with your health in tact. Set your nutrition boundaries like you normally would and do not stray from them. Besides, those cookies will be there when you finish your work day. 

“Productivity is less about what you do with your time. And more about how you run your mind.” – Robin Sharma

6. Grab your jump rope in 3..2..1! 

Moving your body is an essential tool you can begin while you are working from home, then take to your place of work when your schedule resumes as normal. Many companies provide opportunities for their people to partake in physical activity but many do not. 

If you are normally not one to take walk breaks then start now! Use your work sprint timer and schedule to empower 15-20 minute breaks throughout the day that allow you to go outside and move. The sun is great for your body and mind and taking a short walk will do wonders for your productivity.

Even if your day includes working out before or after work, still plan some breaks for physical activity throughout the day. This is a great time to implement this healthy habit. Once you return to your normal schedule you can practice this habit at your workplace as well!

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best leaders I work with as an executive coach encourage open and honest dialogue.

learned and understand why it’s so important for the people on their team and
in their organizations to be completely comfortable with speaking up. First,
you really want people contributing their best ideas on a regular basis because
that’s how you win. Second, if your people aren’t contributing, speaking up and
sharing the truth as they see it, you’re going to be flying blind as a leader.
When you fly blind, you eventually crash. 

course, it’s not enough to just encourage open and honest dialogue; you
actually have to do things that demonstrate that you’re practicing what you

How do
the best leaders do it? Here are three best practice action steps they follow
that you can use to create an environment in which everyone is comfortable
engaging in open and honest dialogue.

First, ask
open-ended questions that surface what people are really thinking. Some
examples are:

What do you think about this? What’s working for you? What’s getting in the way? What are our options? What do you think you should do

best open-ended questions start with the word “what” because they open up
possibilities and put people at ease. They also help you learn a lot more than
you would with yes or no questions and questions that put people on the

check your body language. When you’re the designated leader, people are
always trying to read you for clues about what you really think and how you
really feel. Smile when it’s appropriate to do so. Lighten up, open up and let
people feel a human connection with you. Don’t walk around stone faced or with
a neutral facial expression. A lot of people will read that as anger or
disappointment. Relax, smile and open up your body language. 

Third, ask
your team and colleagues for feedback. It doesn’t need to be complicated.
Start by asking:

How am I doing? What can I do better? What should I keep doing?

you get feedback, don’t debate it. Say thank you, soak it in, think about it,
and, most importantly, act on it. 

For more ideas on how to create an environment of open and honest dialogue, check out chapter four of The Next Level – Pick up custom-fit communications; Let go of one-size-fits-all communications.

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