Books offer us so many great ideas that unfortunately remain without implementation. Bridging the gap between the consumption of information and the application of it is Chris Taylor, the Founder and President of Actionable.co. Chris shares how his company focuses on individual behavior change as a driver to organizational change. He also talks about the actionable process for improved engagement, productivity, and leader impact.
In line with ideas is the language with which we translate those. Penny Zenker, a TEDx speaker and bestselling author of The Productivity Zone, shares her ideas on neuro-linguistic programming. Teaching on how to decipher a realistic stress level along with the different kinds of distraction, Penny shows the power of being aware of how we think and then learning to shift that.
I’m so glad you joined us, because we have Chris Taylor and Penny Zenker. Chris Taylor is the Founder and President of Actionable.co. He’s a speaker, a podcast host. He does so many things. We’re going to get into all of that. Penny Zenker is a TEDx speaker, bestselling author of The Productivity Zone. She’s a strategic business coach and she can help with time management and thinking more efficiently.
Listen to the podcast here
Driving Organizational Change Through Individual Behavior Change with Chris Taylor
I am here with Chris Taylor who is the Founder of Actionable in 2008, with the goal of helping leaders and teams access new ideas through actionable books. I’m interested in what you do, Chris. Welcome to the show.
Thank you so much for having me. I’m excited to be here.
I’m very interested in Actionable. I’ve seen a few, different versions of sites who take parts of books and do certain things with it. I want to know a little bit more about that. I want to know your background before you started Actionable, so I can know a little bit more about you.
It’s storied as they say. I’m a film school graduate. I’ve been interested in storytelling and also organizing people around and align to common goal, since late childhood. I moved into sales and marketing after school. I found a passion for evangelizing certain products and ideas. Then slid into founding Actionable, and as you already alluded to, starting with Actionable books back 2008.
I’ve been fascinated with the ideas being shared in business books and non-fiction of many sorts. Probably like many of us, I found that I can read, first of all, a crappy book and toss it away. If I read a great book and there might be sixteen great ideas in that great book. Those ideas are swimming around in your head. If you’re like me, you have six other books on your nightstand and you’re on to the next one. I found that there was a gap between the consumption of new information and the application of that new information. I became fixated on that, and how to bridge that gap between, as Bob Sutton refers to, knowing, doing gap. You learn something, but until you put it to practice, you’re not creating any value for yourself or others. That was the origin.
It’s an interesting concept to do this. I’m looking at it from an author’s perspective because of writing several books. I haven’t had a lot of authors on the show. I’m looking at both sides, so many authors send me their books, it looks like a Barnes and Noble house. I like the idea of getting the cliff-notes version just so you get the main points. What’s the advantage to the author? Do they lose the sale? Does this make people want to buy their book? How does that work?
I think there’s a little bit of context. ActionableBooks.com, which is alive and well, is no longer the core part of our business. It hasn’t been for a number of years. It’s still a passion of mine. The way that we structured what we refer to as actionable summaries is actually not to provide a summary of the book or the obligatory cliff-notes version. Rather to go deep on a single concept from that book and to talk through bridging the gap between the concepts, the theory that exists and how one might put that single idea into practice. What we find is that by providing that little bridge on that single concept, we find that the readers see immediate value with applying their concept and seeing it change. More often than not, they then start to appreciate that there are probably more ideas in that book that they could dig into. I see more of the appetizer or the sneak trailer of the book, not of the book itself.
It’s more of a lost leader. They think, “I like that, I want to get more.”Until you put what you’ve learned into practice, you’re not creating any value for yourself or others. Click To Tweet
We’ve had great relationships with many authors over the years. Most publishing houses and PR groups will send us copies. You talk about Barnes and Noble, I’m building the same behind me just to stay on top of it.
I’d like to find a way to keep track of the good content. I have so many dog-eared books and highlighted things. Is there a way to keep this content in a way that you could find it easily later? Is it a onetime read? I’m curious how that works.
We’re pretty transparent on the site around our process for distilling key concepts. Those concepts from the book that resonate with you personally based on your current context and circumstance, because I’m sure you can relate. You can read a book and see fabulous insight in there that may not be immediately applicable to your situation. Then other books, it’s that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure works. Someone’s like, “It’s good but I didn’t get much from it.” Someone else is saying, “It changed my life.” It largely comes down to applicability.
To answer your question directly, through Actionable Books, we share freely our process for pulling those key concepts from the books that you might be reading. My personal process is highlighter in hand. I’m still very much a tactile. Ideally hardcover but paperback if need be, reader. I like dog-ear. Then immediately copying down those concepts. When I finish the book, I’ll actually take twenty minutes, half-hour to type out the highlighted components with the page number so that they are searchable for me and then have that. I keep a separate folder with a separate Word doc of each book that I’ve read, so that it can be immediately searchable to find those relevant concepts. It makes for a great blog post fodder, being able to reference four or five books in the same post.
I do the same thing for blogs. I think it’s helpful for my books too because I like to cite a lot of guests at my show. Usually, they send me a copy of their book and I do what you would do as a literature review. When I wrote my doctorate, that’s what we did. You go through each thing. You write a little bit of an excerpt. That helps me for later. I like the idea of keeping all this in a way that is useful. Everybody, you read it and it’s gone. You’ve got Actionable, you’ve got Actionable consultants, you’ve got Actionable conversations, you’ve got the book club. What all do you do exactly?
I would say the overarching thesis for our business is to help individuals translate new information into practical application. It’s bridging that gap between theory and application. We started with actual books back in 2008. Around about 2012, we had enough people asking for a group version. You might call it a book club, but it’s around the lens of as a forward-thinking individual type of people that are listening to this show are people that want to improve themselves, want to enhance. That can be a lonely endeavor in the workplace, depending on the makeup of your team. You might be the only one that’s actually interested in self-development. Even if you’re not, other people are reading different books.
We moved from actual books into team-based conversations. Basically, giving these sorts of keen readers, tools to bring that concept from the book, the thing that they wanted to apply back to their teams so they could actually talk through how that content resonated in the context of their working group in the specific projects they’re working on right now.
Can this be incorporated into Slack or some other software where they can all access and talk about it?
It certainly can. I think we’ve morphed over the years to become effectively a technology company. What we find is that there’s no replacement, nor do I particularly want to replace, the offline eyeball to eyeball interaction. We find that the genesis of ideas, the coming together in alignment component happening in a true face-to-face environment. That may be via Zoom, but it’s still that real-time synchronous discussion. That then when you reach the end of that conversation to get to a place of, “We’ve consumed this piece of content,” which we’ve been talking about books to date, but it could be a piece of the strategy or the corporate strategy, or legislature change or anything, new content. We’ve talked through it. We understand it. We’ve gone through this actually matter to us. We’ve agreed that it does, and now we’re moving into the, “Now what?” as in, “What are we going to shift from the behavior standpoint as a result of this?” That piece can be tracked and supported online. Some would use Slack. We have our own proprietary software called the Habit Builder that works to extend that as well. Giving people an opportunity to connect synchronously, have the conversation, find relevance and then asynchronously support each other in the application of that content, that’s a beautiful combination.
How do you determine what content you like to incorporate? Isaac read it for me, and some of those have contacted me about my books. I’m curious how you determine what’s important and what isn’t.
I used to have the ego to think that I could do that for other people. Over the last few years, I’ve come to appreciate that everyone is different. It’s where I read this book, it’s amazing. It’s way more about giving people the right framework and the right catalysts of conversation to find their own personal relevance.
What we often find when we work with authors is we mention the actual consulting community, Actionable Partners. We have about 140 consulting partners, coaches, trainers, many of them authors that we work with. They will take their books and distill them into this Actionable conversation framework. What they’ll usually do is they’ll identify the key themes of the book. They’ll build an hour-long conversation around each of those themes that allows their client, the readers, to do two layers of filter.
One is to look at the collection of eight conversations that are created or derived from the book and to say, “Here’s the three that are most relevant to us that we agree at a high level.” Then as they get into each of those conversations, to unpack that concept through the lens of our context, so they can find their own meaning and make their own commitment to behavior change. It’s not based on what I think or what the author thinks necessarily. The authors provided a great framework and catalyst for insight. Then the individuals, both individually and also as a collective, will determine what’s most relevant to them.
This hour-long, is this an hour read or an hour video?
It’s typically an hour discussion. There might be a five or ten-minute pre-read for the conversation. Then this is why we’re moving into that synchronous, ideally face-to-face discussion around the concept. We work through our own modification of the appreciative inquiry framework. That can be boiled to, “What? So what? Now what?” “Here’s the content, do we understand it? Yes, we understand it. Do we care? Is this relevant to us?” It turns out, we do care. Steve didn’t think he was going to care but he actually does. The now what is, assuming that we care, let’s make this more than a nice hour chat. Let’s actually talk about what we’re going to shift from a system standpoint, from a communication standpoint, from a transparency, whatever the topic of the conversation might be. Let’s move into personal behavior change. That’s where we’ve evolved as a company is to focus on individual behavior change as a driver to organizational change. The content being part of the catalyst to make that happen.
I do a lot of similar things. My work is with curiosity. When I wrote about it, I didn’t want to just talk about curiosity. I wanted to have a behavioral change so people actually could improve curiosity. I created an assessment to go along with it, to measure things that kept people from being curious. Are you including any assessments in what you do? Is it all just reading? I’m curious how you do that.The elements of behavior change is the output of higher trust and higher curiosity relationships. Click To Tweet
We try to be, as a platform, content agnostic. We can collaborate with anything and anyone. Using that example, we would have and we do have many partners that have a proprietary diagnostic or assessment that they’ve developed. The way that it would feed is that everyone in the client would go through that diagnostic or assessment. Then normally, you or one of your associates would do a debrief, I would assume, with that client group. Then what? How do you retain the shelf life, the time top mindedness of that assessment and the results from that? What we’ll typically do with a consulting partner is we’ll collaborate on building a series of follow-up conversations that allow the team to revisit the results of their assessment and have another conversation about the particular nuance of it, and the relevance within the team. It dovetails nicely with assessment tools and allows the conversation to continue beyond the initial debrief.
You do a lot of consulting as well. You have a podcast and you do a lot of different things. You’re similar to what I do, a variety of different things. What is your major focus? Is it doing the consulting? Is it doing your show? What’s your top time-consuming part of your day?
Most of my time is spent supporting our consulting partners in the programs that they’re running with their clients. We are consulting but we’re one-degree removed from the end-client engagement in most cases, working with consultants. We’ve typically been timed for dollars service in the past. Usually good dollars for that time, but they’re usually on site. They’re either looking to expand beyond that or to slow that down, but to create more impacts or at least maintain impact. We help them make that transition to appreciating the impact they can have without necessarily needing to be in front of the room or at the boardroom table every time, by integrating Actionable and feeding that as a vehicle to their clients. Most of my time is spent there. I get to surround myself with highly intelligent, curious, courageous people. I have a lot of fun doing that. I lead the team here at Actionable. I’m working with them on whatever projects they have, in software development, oversight and various pieces. We’ve got lots of hats.
You have more than 400 organizations in fourteen countries. I would say you sound busy. It’s not just in North America. You’re even in Australia and around the world. I’m curious about your speaking. Do you do most of your speaking in this neck of the woods or do you go around the world? What’s your favorite topic as well when you speak?
It changes as we go. There’s a certain parallel to the curiosity work that you do. Not to say it’s the primary focus, but leaning into the team dynamics between leader and direct reports, in any size organization, looking at that unit of seven, eight, twelve people and how they can function most effectively. I I’m not the first person to do this by any stretch but there’s a decent amount of, but I find that there’s an exceptional amount of value that can be created by layering in just a little more curiosity, a little more breathing time at the end of meetings, a little more asking that next follow-up question to build those deeper, more cohesive relationships and drive greater alignment.
I’m fascinated on that topic. I speak regularly about that. The elements of behavior change being the output of that higher trust, higher curiosity relationship and how that behavior change feeds back to wide scale organizational change, but how it all starts at that nuclear core of wherever in the organization, a leader in their direct reports, having that more cohesive relationship.
I’m trying to figure out where you’re from. I’m hearing an accent. I’m hearing Minnesota at some points and them I’m like, “Where are you from?”
Minnesota is Canada of the south. I’m in Toronto.
I’m trying to figure out the background. Now you have your podcast and you do it from there, what’s your major focus? I know that The 21st Century Workplace is the name of your podcast, but what’s your main focus with that?
Change, how we thrive, survive, capitalize on the accelerated change that we live in. We bring in speakers around all elements of that. Predominantly around how do we deal with the fact that there’s never enough time, how do we deal with the fact that there is no pause or status? This is the holiday brain kicking in. That place in between the waves of change, there used to be a bit of a pause where we get back to business as usual. As that has all but disappeared, how do we now ride these waves of change as opposed to hold their breath and wait for them to leave. That’s typically the roundabout point that we get to with the guests on the podcast. Similar to you, I use the podcast as an opportunity to have great conversations with fascinating people.
It’s been something that I do for fun. I know a lot of people have done it to get business or they use it for speaking or consulting. I think it’s such an amazing instrument to be able to connect with people you would never otherwise have ever talked to for any reason. It’s so amazing the conversations I’ve had. What I like to do, similar to your thought process of taking bits and pieces of the most important parts, is I take parts of things and incorporate. I still teach for a lot of different universities. I’ll take a soundbite from this or a soundbite from that and incorporate it into classes. Basically, what I do is I learn things and then share them. That’s what I think is so great about all these podcasts. The problem I see is there are so many of them out there. Who’s listening to all of it?
If the podcast falls in the woods, that sort of thing.
There are so many. I think that it almost could be the same thing as with the books, if you could take the highlights out of some of them. There’s so much great content. Isn’t it why you’re doing that? The similar thing is what you’re doing with the books with podcasts. That might be your next Actionable podcast.
Actionable podcast, maybe. Going back to your point, we’re only connecting here, if we’re honest with ourselves, we’re only having this conversation because we have this vehicle of a podcast to have it. If one of us reached out and said, “We should chat,” it would be like, “That would be great.” We’ll find the time but it rarely happens. There’s a parallel here where it’s under the context of this could advance business as a broad, general statement and therefore, it allows us to have a fairly real conversation, connection, human discussion.
This is what we’re seeing with the Actionable conversations’ framework too, is it’s not particularly advanced the work that we do. We give team leaders tools to have a more meaningful discussion with their colleagues. Yet, it only happens when we put it in the context of this is around business strategy, this is around the culture change, this is something you have to have, but then have a more meaningful human teaching and interaction as a result. I think it’s an interesting comment on our society that we all find so much value in these true, human connection where we’re not necessarily objectives driven or how they’re creating the space to have the conversation. Benefit will come out of it. It’s only when we put it in this wrapper of it needs to be around something urgent and pressing, that we give ourselves the freedom to have that conversation.
I think that some of these conversations have been so useful. I’m curious to see what happens as we get more live video. I’ve been on LinkedIn Live and some of other shows that are still in beta. I think there’s, I don’t know if it’s going to be overload or not, but I think some of these conversations are so great. I was looking at your book club and the different things, sites, you had them listed. It said you had over 900 summaries of the world’s best business books. I’m thinking, after you’ve looked at that content, is there anything that stood out as like, “These are the top books, my top five,” that stick out in your mind? Is it like a child, it’s hard to pick? Are there a few you would like to share?There is so much value in true human connection where we are not necessarily objective driven. Click To Tweet
With the caveat that everyone’s going to find resonance in different content. Some of the ones that stand the test of time for me, there are particular authors that I find resonate with me personally. Seth Godin’s work, Allen Tsioni’s work, Sir Ken Robinson, who I think had his big pop with TED Talks. We don’t hear a lot about him but I think there’s such timelessness and critical elements to the education work that he’s doing and shares in his books. I’m starting to delve a little more into some of the heavier stuff. Lisa Lahey’s work with Bob Kegan around Immunity To Change, I think there’s real timeliness to that. Roger Martin’s work originally out of Rotman, Design Thinking.
I like that too.
It does a great job of making it more accessible.
The artificial intelligence on that is very challenging. I think he had a TED Talk or two that went along with it.
He’s a done a couple of the Thinkers 50 piece. His stuff is great. If you follow, Roger Martin’s a fascinating guy. He’s from the world of academia. His first book read like a textbook. His most recent book read like a spy thriller. He’s done this beautiful evolutionary circuit.
The last one, I think it was like three inches thick, the one I read. It was a serious book. I’m trying to remember. I don’t have it in front of me, but it had a lot of great content. I’m thinking he was the one that did a lot of interviews. He interviewed a lot of people in different industries to get background of what everybody thought of AI. I’m not sure if I’ve got the right one, but I’m thinking that he did.
Roger Martin does mostly around design thinking, how we process choice. He wrote a book called The Opposable Mind, which was his breakout role. Fixing the Game was this beautiful book that he wrote with AG Lafley who was the CEO of Procter and Gamble. They wrote about the parallel between executive compensation packages in public companies and the NFL. There’s a reason why Tom Brady can’t bet on the Super Bowl, and yet that’s exactly what we’re doing with CEO call packages.
I’m trying to remember the book I was reading of his. I guess I’m getting it mixed up with another one. He had some great content. I think that a lot of the books that you covered are amazing reads. I love to cite Ken Robinson’s TED Talk when I’m talking about curiosity. I think it’s in the creativity in households. It definitely taught us out of it. I think that’s such an important part of what he talks about in his presentation. I talked to somebody about his TED Talk and they said that he gave one of the first ones that’s why it was so informal the way he gave it. It was a different time of how they do them. Have you considered doing a TED Talk? Are you writing any books? Where are you in that process?
Yes and yes. It’s the ebb and flow of it’s a priority until it’s not if something business related pops up. We’re at the very early stages of codifying the change methodology that we utilize at Actionable into a book. Around the blend between the importance of strategy, but then also the engagement of employees and how you can go about that in a new way. I’m working on that with a colleague but that’s very early days. I think at some point I’m talking to a gentleman out in Vancouver who used to work with TED and now runs a parallel event with a slightly different format. We’re talking about that as potentially our first step. I took a break from speaking. I used to speak fairly regularly. The business took a massive, evolutionary leap. I put my time back into that. I’m stepping back out of that and looking at more speaking. I’m excited about what the future holds on that front.
If people want to hire you to speak or do anything as far to look into your company or your podcast, anything, how would they reach you?
Best bet is Actionable.co. I’m on LinkedIn, Christophe Taylor Actionable. Feel free to reach out in regards to anything. I love to chat, in particular, the conversations that are a little bit beyond the tactical.
Thank you so much, Chris. This has been so much fun.
Likewise, thanks, Diane. I appreciate it.
Understanding Realistic Stress Levels with Penny Zenker
I am here with Penny Zenker who is an international speaker, business strategy coach and bestselling author of The Productivity Zone: Stop the Tug of War with Time. She is a Master NLP Practitioner and neuro-strategist. This is going to be interesting for those of you who don’t know what neuro-linguistic programming, NLP, is. I’m very interested in what you do. Welcome, Penny.
Thank you so much for having me. It’s great to be here.
You have a fascinating background. I know you’ve worked as part of Tony Robbins’ group. Not only Tony, but Chet Holmes’ company. You had quite a background. Why don’t you give a little bio of what led to where you are now, so people have more information about you?
It’s interesting how one’s life and career evolve. I was telling somebody, I think the catalyst for me wanting to live my life in its fullest and to be more an achieve more faster is unfortunately, my father was killed in an accident when I was nineteen.
It happens. The point is that they went on vacation and he didn’t come back. It made me see my life as though I have to live every day with more passion, more energy and bring my best self every day. Creating results for myself but also, I don’t know how long I’m going to be here and I want to leave a legacy, I want to leave the world in a better place than I came into it. I’ve traveled abroad, I lived overseas for sixteen years through one-year assignment. I’ve started my own IT business and I built it out from just me to a multimillion-dollar business and I sold it to a public company. I worked with Tony after that. I worked with Tony Robbins for a number of years helping people to double their business all around the world. I’m able to cut through. Somebody dubbed me as The Priority Re-setter. I think I’m going to use that. I like it.
It’s in every area of our life. I talked about, when my father passed, resetting my priorities. Also in business, when you’re sometimes stuck in the weeds and focused on the wrong things that don’t get us the growth and the development, the scalability that we’re looking for. It’s resetting our priorities, constantly stepping back. That’s also hugely fueled by NLP, neuro-linguistic programming, because it’s the way that we interpret the meaning of something and realizing that we have a choice and that we are creating, our past is not equal to our future. It’s stepping back and seeing where we are and where we want to be. Even though we have the past to learn from, we can choose what comes next. I apply that in business so we can be smarter. I apply that in my life and anybody who I’m working with to help them to get perspective.Focus is about aligning your tasks and goals. Click To Tweet
It’s all interesting to me because I write about curiosity and perception and different topics that tie into some of the same things that you deal with. I was watching your TEDx Talk. I can’t believe you scuba dive at night. Don’t do that. I love how you talk about the thoughts that we have in our head. That all tied into my research with curiosity because the four factors that keep people from being curious are fear, assumptions, technology and environment. Assumptions are that voice in our head that we ruminate over certain things and we think of certain thoughts and we can’t get out of that. You deal with things like that. The numbers you stated about how many thoughts are new and how much we repeat was interesting. You want to talk a little bit about that?
There are a couple of different, depending on where you look, I was looking at one resource. It’s that we have 70,000 thoughts a day. It’s no wonder that we’re distracted all the time. The statistic I saw was that people feel emotionally distracted and of course we’re physically distracted as well. It’s because we have so many thoughts. The real interesting part of that, which I talk about in my TEDx, is that only 5% of those are new. We’re repeating the same thoughts over and over again. That’s also the idea of neuro-linguistic programming is understanding and becoming more aware of how we know the thing and what we’re thinking about and being able to shift that.
We do have a lot more control than we think we do. If we’re in automatic pilot, then we don’t because we’re not aware. It’s creating some strategies for ourselves to be aware and take more time to reflect and to say, “What did that mean? Why did I react like that? Why does my head hurt right now?” Noticing physically and emotionally what shows up for us and what meaning we gave something gives us more power to make a choice in that moment. That’s what I talked about in my diving story is that we all have those moments. Whether you’re at the brink of potentially dying, which I was. If I chose the wrong way, I could have lost my life because I wasn’t going to be in a mental state to be able to handle the situation. It’s the choices that we make to be able to say, “How am I going to handle this situation? Am I going to be at my best or am I going to be caught up in a victim cycle that only going to give me more what I don’t want?”
Just from having kids or from having family members, you see how people have the different perceptions of time, stress, what’s good, what’s bad. It’s all a story we tell ourselves. You can grow up in the same family and two people have completely different perceptions of what’s stressful. Being in leadership, you give the same task to two people who are supposedly equally qualified. One person takes forever. The other person can’t understand why you gave him something so stupid to do, it’s so easy. How do we work on that? How do we recognize what’s a realistic stress level? You were talking about how some stress is good for me if I think of it that way, then I’m going to have a better chance to maybe live longer because of my perception of it. How do we help with that perception?
There’s some easy mind shift type of things that we can do because there are two parts. We can either go into fight or flight, and that means that we are in that victim mode. Where, “It’s me. What am I going to do? This doesn’t work. I don’t have the time.” All of those things create stress. The opposite is the challenge response where we go, “I’ve got to get creative to get this done in half the time. Let’s see how I can do that.” It is a question of which perspective you want to take, if you simplified it and made it two perspectives.
That’s why I love your work around curiosity because that’s choosing to be open. That in itself can avoid conflict because you’re choosing to be curious versus being judgmental or being any other form that you might get rather than complaining or rather than jumping to conclusions in all of those things. By being curious, you’re shifting into that, “I’m going to take this as a challenge and try to seek to understand.” That’s the same thing. When somebody comes with an impossible task, I actually have a good story around this. One of the things that I do in my workshops and some of my work that I do with corporations and small business is I’ll do an exercise, which I call the Four-Hour Workweek exercise. I’ll tell you why I call it that because it’s really important is that I read Tim Ferriss’ The 4-Hour Workweek a couple of years ago.
I have to be honest, when I first read it as an entrepreneur with my own IT Business that was growing like wildfire, I was working 48-hour days nonstop. He’s got this 4-Hour Workweek. I’m like, “That’s insane, that’s BS, that’s unrealistic, that’s crazy.” My mental capacity was capped. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I thought it was crazy. He did some things in the book where he got to be taekwondo champion of the world or something. He learned the rules. He won over a technicality. That’s not really winning.
Years later, when I think about it, and I think about there’s an algorithm to get to the top of Google. Is it wrong to understand the algorithm, to look to see that your site is at the top of Google? Is it wrong to do the steps and understand what it is to become a best-selling author or anything that you want to excel and exceed on? My mental capacity is completely opened up. I was able to see that that four-hour workweek was more like a mindset challenge. We don’t have to go right to the four hours, just assume that you only had four hours a day. What would you do differently? If you saw it as a game and a challenge versus a stress, what would you eliminate? What would you delegate? What would you automate? What are the things that absolutely must be done by you, because it requires your skill and it’s important? I think it helps us to think differently. It shaves off. I do an exercise with a ball and it’s fun with groups competing against each other. They realize at the end, that time can be a creativity enabler when we see it as a challenge. Otherwise, it’s just a stress. It’s all mindset.
There are some people who are more efficient at doing things. It’s something that’s very challenging to teach someone else if you’re able to multitask and do different things even some people say don’t multitask, all the things that are written. If I didn’t do 50 things at once, I wouldn’t be nearly as productive as I am. I know you’re probably going to get mad at me for that. Is that the wrong thing to do? Are you supposed to do one thing at a time? I can’t write a book while I’m doing something else. If it’s full mind.
That’s what I was going to say is it depends. You can’t have a client call and check your emails at the same time because you’re not giving that client attention, and you’re distracted. Can you fold the laundry and listen to an eBook and do something else? Possibly. It depends on what you’re multitasking. It also depends on whether you’re getting the result that you want. At the end of the day, if you’re not getting the result, if you’re making mistakes, you find yourself complaining or you’re multitasking because you should be outsourcing something, but you’re trying to do something and it’s taking you ten times longer than it would take, then you have to rethink it and take a step back.
I don’t like to say that you should never multitask, but it’s clear that the statistics and the science behind it says that your brain is affected. It creates a distraction. You’re not fully present in what you’re doing. If it needs your presence to be more efficient and effective, then you’re better off doing them in serial tasks. The key is creating greater awareness and being more in relationship with the results that we get.
A lot of people need to have 100% complete perfect things in their mind to finish a task. Ford Saeks has been a great guest on my show, he’s a friend. Many times, he’ll say that done is better than perfect. He doesn’t mean like done 20% done, but like pretty close.
That’s one of the strategies that I use is, “Is this good enough? Is it meeting the objective?” I’m a recovering perfectionist. I hear what you’re saying. I have to also pull myself back and recognize it’s also the case in delegating something. A lot of times you’ll say, “I’ll do it better.” Is it necessary? Maybe it’s good enough if someone else does it and I only do it 80% for what you need. You have to see whether that good enough point is ahead of time. Know where it is, so that you can stop yourself.
A good friend of mine is doing the basic same thing that I do, and I do a lot more. I produce a lot more. She said, “How do you do that?” I said, “I go in my office and I don’t leave for twelve hours or whatever it is I’m doing.” I said, “Don’t do anything else.” She goes, “Don’t you look out the window and see squirrels and think, ‘Look at the squirrel?’” I go, “No, I close the window, I don’t look at the squirrels.” Some people see squirrels like the movie, Up. It’s like that. How do you overcome distraction? To me it’s not a huge problem for me, but I know a lot of people who can’t stay with their task. What do you tell them?Our past is not equal to our future. Even though we have the past to learn from, we can choose what comes next. Click To Tweet
I hate to say the word again, awareness, but it’s because we’re so impulsive and we’re not even aware of the things that distract us. We tolerate a lot in our lives. I think because of technology, and because of the amount of things that we have to handle, there’s more going on, whether it’s with media bombarding us with emails and text and people are doing more in their job. Kids are more active and need to be taken in more places. We need to create more rules and boundaries for ourselves like work from home, all these types of things. We need to evaluate what are our standards and what are we tolerating? Where are the rules and boundaries? We’re terrible at that about setting boundaries. People work from home. They’re potentially either always distracted because maybe kids are running in and the dog is barking or the fridge is right there, so we might as well go get something to eat and use it to distract ourselves or get the 100th cup of coffee.
When we create awareness as to what’s distracting us, and understand those different categories of distraction, there’s physical distraction. I’m distracted because I’m cold, because I’m hungry or somebody’s interrupting me physically. Or there’s environmental distractions, so we need to be aware of how we set up our environment to support us for success. If you aren’t so good at the squirrels and you’re sitting right in front of a window, it’s probably not set up great for you. Maybe you should be facing a wall. Little things make a difference.
Lastly, there’s our mental distractions, how well do we compartmentalize and transition as we move from one task to another or put something in a drawer and compartmentalize it in the context of, “We’ve got something going on, but we’re focused right now for this next hour.” There are some tips and tricks of what can help people to be a little bit more focused on the different things. One of the things I’d like to offer your group is I have this fun, distraction quiz that they can go, to create some heightened awareness of some of the things that they might be distracted by It gets them to think about what is actually distracting them and challenge them to do a little tracking of distractions.
How do they get that?
That was easy. To me, it ties into curiosity. I get more distracted if I’m not curious about something. I’m not interested in sports or history as much as other things, for example. It’s easy for me to not get distracted by that, but if something came on that, I’m interested in.
All bets are over.
That’s the thing is recognizing, maybe the jobs that people are doing aren’t tied into their level of what they would love to do. That’s what I would like to do is get people to look, to boost their creativity and their curiosity, their drive, to look into things that maybe would make them more productive because they’d be better aligned. Do you find a lot of people are not aligned well with what they should be doing?
Absolutely. One of the things I say all the time is to align your tasks and your goals. That’s what focus is to me. It’s not just getting a lot done and doing one thing. It’s making sure that those things that you do are the right things and are connected to the goal. Part of it is review your goals on a regular basis, and why is it important and get connected to why it’s important. We get so caught up in the weeds of the day-to-day minute task and things that we’re doing that we lose the connection with why it’s important and what it is we’re looking to achieve.
It’s bad, it’s checking in with what’s working and what’s not working on a regular basis, like daily or at least weekly. Before you start, you talked about distraction throughout the day. As you start any new segment of time, have it planned and blocked in your calendar, like Stephen Covey says, “Planning your priorities, scheduling them.” Before you start, get clear on what your objective for that hour. Further detailing that goal and breaking it down to what’s needed for that timeframe so that you’re clear what can I accomplish here, and then you’re set towards that goal.
You bought up a couple of things that are important throughout this conversation. Covey’s work is timeless. He has so many things that we’d tie into in almost every conversation I talk about, “Start with the end in mind, have foresight, be proactive to all the changes,” and all that type of stuff is important. You’ve mentioned before some of Carol Dweck’s work in Mindset, “Do you have a fix? Do you have a growth mindset?” You’ve worked with some of the greatest like Tony Robbins, Chet Holmes. With your father, with Chet Holmes you don’t know if you’re going to be here, how to make the most of what you’ve done. What have you learned the most from Tony and Chet that has made an impact on you?
I’ve never been asked that. There are so many things. The first thing that comes up for me is, as a business sense, was something that he called the core story. It’s basically educating, bringing education into your content and how important that is in the way that we interact with people that we’re adding value and we’re educating. I’ve seen that to be so successful for people in every context. It’s important also for people who have companies to do that internally as well, because it gets people connected. You talked about that connection and aligning the task and the goals. Part of it is making sure that everybody is on the same page and everybody understands what’s the company about and what they stand for.
Tony’s big into that, the why, and understanding what you stand for. He used to say, “What business are you in?” I was working with a jeweler. He’s not just selling jewelry. He’s creating, he’s helping women to feel like princesses and to feel special. It’s not just about the jewelry. It’s about how somebody feels. It’s about the transformation that occurs with that product or service. From a business sense, I would say those are some of the things that stand out for me.
There are a lot of things that people do like. I’ve seen Tony speak, he gets in the ice bath and he does different things. I don’t think I could do that. Do you have certain things that work for you? What’s the deal with the ice bath? What does that do for him? If I had that to worry about every morning, I’d be freaked out.Time can be a creativity enabler when we see it as a challenge. Click To Tweet
I did try that for a little while, taking a cold shower. Athletes do the ice bath because it’s good for healing for your muscles. He stands all day, left and right. He does his events. Part of it might be for that. The cold water is like a jolt to your system and it actually creates more testosterone. There’s a number of different health benefits that it does. On the top of my head I don’t have them, but I did do a blog on it because I thought it was pretty cool, the benefits of the cold water. You don’t have to take an ice bath. You can also just take a cold shower. There was a certain clarity that I felt came over me. It does support it. Now they have these cryo clinics where you go and you’ll get into this freezing chamber.
I don’t know if I’m for that either. I’m always cold, so I’m in a cryo chamber all the time. There are lots of different things out there that provide health benefits. I think Tony’s thing is consistency. Whatever he does, he does with consistency. He talks about affirmations that he uses before he goes on stage, and what’s helped him throughout his whole career. It’s consistency. It’s not doing an affirmation once. It’s not just saying, “I’m going to be this,” and that’s the Law of Attraction. It’s actually then taking massive action to make it happen. Believing it, stating it, believe it in your heart that it’s possible and then taking the necessary action to make it happen.
There are so many people who like to do all the planning and talking about stuff and then they never get anything done but planning and talking about the stuff.
I interact with lots of those people.
That drives me absolutely crazy. You just do it. I am huge Nike believer, just do it. I think that if you’re spending so much time, how do you recognize if you’ve spent too much time talking and thinking and not enough doing?
It’s coming into relationship with your results. If you’re not getting the results that you want, then you’re probably either stuck and overwhelmed. Maybe you’re afraid of what you might actually accomplish and what that means. I was working with a guy who was clearly procrastinating, doing his follow-up. He would have these leaks from networking events and whatnot, and he knew he needs to do it. He just didn’t do it. We got down to the core of it. The reason he wasn’t doing it is because when he connected with them, and he had to put a proposal together and his business, the proposals were very time-consuming. He was worried about the extra work that he was actually going to be doing.
There’s always a reason behind it. Once you can get to their core reason, then you can fix it. You can take a look if it’s a mindset shift or how do you break it down so that you can find a solution to that challenge? People are not in relationship with their results or they think that they want this as a result. They’re not looking at what’s in the way. They’re just continuing Einstein’s thing, “What’s the definition of insanity?” It’s doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. We do it all the time. We just need to wake up.
Stop the tug of war with time.
Get out of the mode and step back and see what’s going on.
Penny, this has been fascinating. I’m sure a lot of people are interested in reading your book and taking your quiz. You want to share those links again so we can make sure everybody’s able to reach you?
Thank you so much for being on the show, Penny. This was so much fun.
Thank you, Diane. Your work is awesome. I appreciate being here and connecting with you on this because we have a lot of likeminded ways of looking at things. It’s great to be able to share that.
This was great.
- Habit Builder
- The 21st Century Workplace
- Immunity To Change
- The Opposable Mind
- Fixing the Game
- Christophe Taylor Actionable – LinkedIn
- The Productivity Zone: Stop the Tug of War with Time
- Penny Zenker’s TEDx Talk
- The 4-Hour Workweek
- Ford Saeks – previous episode
About Chris Taylor
Chris Taylor founded Actionable in 2008, with a goal of helping leaders and teams access new ideas through Actionable Books. As the Actionable community grew, Chris found his mission: to harness technology and the power of behaviour change to build more aligned, engaged and effective organizations. More than 10 years later, Actionable.co is used in more than 400 organizations in 14 countries.
A sought-after speaker, and the host of the 21st Century Workplace podcast, Chris is deeply knowledgeable about the forces impacting today’s culture change and learning & development landscape. Prior to founding Actionable, Chris held senior sales and marketing leadership roles in advertising and consumer goods companies. Chris lives in Toronto with his wife and their young son.
About Penny Zenker
Penny Zenker is an international speaker, business strategy coach and best selling author of The Productivity Zone: Stop the Tug of War with Time. As a master NLP practitioner and neuro-strategist, she integrates the elements of thought, communication and behavior to provide strategies for positive changes and maximizing results.
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