Have you listened to our Podcast?


Working At Our Productive Best By Keeping Things Simple With Scott Friesen

TBT 91 | Keep Things Simple


Scott Friesen is a Productivity Application Expert and owner of Simpletivity. In this episode, Scott talks about keeping things simple and doing your work at your productive best. Scott mentions by keeping things simple, you can learn to value your work more and have time to do other things instead of feeling swamped without really accomplishing too much. Scott dives into strategies on keeping yourself healthy while working and talks about how important rest and sleep are in your work. Lastly, Scott talks about load management and how you can work best by not jumping from one thing to the other.

Listen to the podcast here:

Working At Our Productive Best By Keeping Things Simple With Scott Friesen

We’re going to talk about keeping things simple. Less is more. We’ve heard that, but somehow we make things more complex than they need to be. Scott Friesen is here with us. He is a simple specialist and he helps people from all over the world to improve their productivity. His time management techniques have benefited thousands of individuals and organizations alike. Managing email overload, never-ending to-do list, and nowadays’ technological distractions are among Scott’s specialties and favorites. His experience in the technology industry has led him to be one of the foremost authorities on productivity application. Through speeches, courses and workshops, Scott provides powerful tools for those who want more out of their day. He’s dedicated his life to helping others to focus on what’s important and to do it with less stress. That is key because he says, “Being too busy isn’t productive.” Scott, welcome to the show.

Thank you, Penny. I’m so glad to be here.

You have this brand, Simpletivity. What’s the drive for you around keeping it simple?

In my experience, both in my own professional life but also with observing others and helping thousands of other professionals, I have found that in order for us to work in our productive best, it is important that we keep things simple. I know that we’ve heard phrases like, “Less is more,” for such a long time. In this day and age, with so many distractions and technology interruptions, it’s more important than ever. Something that you may hear me say at a conference or in one of my workshops is, “The easiest thing that you and I can do is to make something more complicated than it needs to be.” It’s simple. It’s easy to add one more suggestion, one more idea, one more thing to that to-do list and one more thing to our schedule. As a result, we tend to rob ourselves of our ability to work at our productive best. As the name Simpletivity suggests, my goal is to help people focus on what’s most important. That way, they can accomplish their goals and dreams, do what they want to accomplish within their careers, and enjoy less stress at the same time.

Set hard limits Click To Tweet

Isn’t there a personal story behind it? Were you crazy, complex, and lost something important in your life? Everybody has got a drive to why it becomes something important to them. I’m wondering if you’ll dig deeper for us.

I think one of the big a-ha moments for me was when I myself was working on a somewhat traditional corporate environment. For a number of years, I worked for a software technology company. Roughly 4,000 employees around the globe and myself were working in an office of a few hundred. What I found is that whenever I would ask someone, “How is it going? How is your day going? How is your week going?” it would seem time again that the immediate response was, “I’m so busy, Scott.” It didn’t matter who I spoke to or what level they were in the organization. It didn’t matter if they appeared relatively happy from the exterior and from their outside appearance, it’s always, “I’m busy.” I took that to heart. I’ve gone bouts where I’ve been swamped with my workload, commitment and so forth. I said to myself, “There’s got to be a better way to live this life, particularly within our professional careers than feeling swamped and being busy all of the time.”

That’s what I took on the title of Busyness Killer. If you need to see a business card, I’d be happy to prove it to you. That’s the title that I’ve chosen for myself. I made it my goal to relinquish the world of all of this business. At the same time, I want to clarify that there’s a difference between being productive and being busy. We say to ourselves that we’re having a productive day because we’re feeling swamped. There’s a big difference between those two things. You could be a busy individual and still not get those important things done. I hope to clarify that as a part of my messaging and my teaching.

We all get there. We’re all human. When I’m focused on helping others with productivity, I still have my challenges. My favorite thing to do is to step back and de-commit. That means to simplify things. I’m like, “I’ve committed too much. I get to correct that and I get to simplify things.” My greatest mentor was all about keeping things simple. It created many a-ha moments for me to step out of the complexity and into simplicity. I know that you’re big into technology. Does technology make things simple for us?

In order for us to work in our productive best, it is important that we keep things simple. Click To Tweet

It can. It depends on how you engage with that technology. Some of the things that I think most of us are facing is number one, there are many options out there. There are many different tools and apps. You have friends, colleagues, and people that you trust who are constantly telling you, “You’ve got to check this out, download this, or install that.” We can often get tempted by all of this amazing technology. Don’t get me wrong, a lot of it is good. One of the problems that many professionals face is they start jumping from one thing to the next. Maybe there’s a little bit of a fear of commitment to staying with something for too long because we see the next flashy thing. The exciting thing that works with our device and is built for our industry and that type of thing.

I don’t know that it’s our lack of commitment. Maybe impatience means a lack of commitment. If we’re not getting immediate satisfaction or not getting results fast, whether it’s a diet or a piece of technology, we decide it doesn’t work. We’re not good at consistency. We want that instant payout.

Another thing that affects us is that sometimes we are tempted or drawn to the flashy feature that we don’t need. It’s about stepping back and getting that higher-level view, “Is this going to help me? Is it going to help my business? Is it going to help my communication?” Sometimes we start plugging in things or installing things that are overcomplicating our world. My background is in software development and managing the life cycle of software products. I always found it amazing how some of these large organizations like governments, states, universities are taking a long time to go through a number of different applications and that RFP process. Even after all of this research, demonstration, and testing that they’ve done once they’ve selected a product, as soon as they had signed on the dotted line, they wanted all these changes, too. They want everything else. We’re like, “We’ve gone to a year-and-a-half of addressing your needs, what you wanted and how we can solve that.” There’s always something more. That’s a separate conversation in this world of more. Focus more on the core needs of what you want out of that tool, what’s going to help you and making sure you can fulfill it on time.

What technologies do you feel are simple to use? Some of them have a learning curve. It takes a while to implement it and hard to stay consistently using it. What are some of the top technologies that you think are simple to use, simple to implement, and are getting simple results?

TBT 91 | Keep Things Simple

Keep Things Simple: We live in this culture that continuously applauds and champions the thinking of sacrificing your sleep and rest for the good of the business.


One area that is often overlooked is something as basic as email. That’s something we all use whether you’re a Gmail user or an Outlook user. What I often recommend to a number of people to take a closer look at, you can find a number of examples on the Simpletivity YouTube channel, are add-ons or extensions that enhance your email experience. For example, I use Gmail as my primary email client and one of my favorite tools is an extension called Boomerang. It does a number of different things. It can remind you of emails, it can remind you to follow-up, you can snooze an email so it comes back later.

One of the core features that I love about Boomerang is that before I send a message, if I’m asking a question to someone or if I’m making a request, I can tell Boomerang, “Let me know if this person doesn’t reply to me within a certain time frame.” Let’s say two days. If that person does reply, nothing else happens. I don’t get an additional email and I don’t get any other clutter in my inbox. If that person does not reply to me, Boomerang does all that work for me. I don’t even have to think about it again. I don’t have to go to my calendar and set another reminder or have to use a special flag. Boomerang will bring that email back to my inbox if there’s no response after whatever time frame you set. It’s not only the amount of time saved but the amount of stress that’s taken off of my plate. Another one is a meeting scheduler, we’re able to organize a meeting with either one or multiple people without all of the back and forth of, “Can you do this?” “No. I can’t.” “How about this?” “No. I’m busy all day.” There are so many great tools out there that can ease that meeting organization process.

I had one client and I had an assistant at that time. Because I use many online tools, I don’t need a full-time person working for me but I did. I had somebody making those appointments. I needed someone that works all that ridiculous back and forth. Give somebody access to your calendars, it’s much easier. What else? I know that you’re also a big Trello fan. Tell us why Trello is one of your tools of choice.

I’ve been using Trello almost since the beginning but I didn’t fall in love with it immediately. I thought it was an interesting tool and way of displaying projects, managing tasks, and collaborating with others. I was using Trello about a year or two after I was first introduced to Trello that I realized how much more I could do with this tool. Beyond my business world, professional career and personal life, it was easy to collaborate with others, plan daycations, manage family household chores and a variety of other things. What I love about Trello is that it’s relatively simple and it’s a visual interface. Unlike a spreadsheet and many other project lists which are not much more than a bunch of fields and inputs, Trello is much more visual. That’s why a lot of people gravitate towards it. It has a fast learning curve. People can start using Trello almost out of the box. You don’t need to watch a couple of videos. If you want to, by all means, there’s plenty out there who’ll help you with it. It’s quick and easy to set up those projects.

There’s a difference between being productive and being busy. You could be a busy individual and still not get the important things done. Click To Tweet

The last thing I love about Trello, and I hear this from many of my clients, is that it’s such a flexible tool. I know that we’ve all dealt with a project management tool or a task management piece of software where you’re locked into the way that they had set it up. You’re going to have to do this next step or you’re going to have to add a due date. It wasn’t going to give you that option. You can set up Trello in many different ways. That’s flexibility which is what a lot of people enjoy about the Trello tool.

What are some other tips and tricks that you give people to help them to simplify what’s on their plate and the way they think about things? What do you typically bring as your biggest nugget to people?

One actual tip our readers can take away from our conversation is using some hard limits as a part of our day. What I mean by a hard limit, you can look at it either from a time perspective in terms of using a timer for a particular task. Emails are another great example. I strongly encourage people to set limits like, “I’m going to spend the next twenty minutes in my inbox and then I’m going to move on.” They get onto something that’s more valuable or more important as a part of my day. The other place where I encourage people to think about hard limits are things like the number of tasks that they’re going to focus on now. There’s not enough time in our lives to accomplish every single thing that we would like to do. Because our mind is producing far too many ideas, maybes, could do’s, and should do’s than we can keep up with.

We’re built around a finite period of time. I often encourage people to use three hard limits. Pick the three things that you’re going to do before anything else. Maybe the three things that you’re going to accomplish before you even open up your inbox now. Using limits like that can help us focus our minds and attention on what deserves our attention now. What maybe can wait another day or can be deferred or maybe I need to let that simmer on the back burner a little bit longer before I give it the attention that it deserves. I’m a big fan, whether it’s either time limits or even a number limit of the things that you can accomplish that can help us focus on what’s most valuable.

The easiest thing that people do is to make something more complicated than it needs to be. Click To Tweet

Hard limits for entrepreneurs who are reading. We have to set an end of the day otherwise, we don’t. It bleeds into family time, “I should have done that.” In so many ways, that’s going back to the office. Hard limits and boundaries in a lot of different areas are our keys now especially with all of the technology that’s always on. Those hard limits in different qualifiers are important.

We look back to it many years in the past and we think that it’s archaic that people started their work at 9:00 AM and then they were done at 5:00 PM. They never even took a second glance at work until the following morning or maybe Monday morning if it was after a weekend. I do believe, in many cases, we need to see at least how we can incorporate that into our lives. I see too many people shrugging their shoulders or throw their hands up and say, “Work and life balance. I don’t know what that is. I’ll sit here and tread water. I’ll try to do the best that I can.” When can you set some hard boundaries in terms of, “When does my workday finish? When’s the time for me? When’s the time for my family or time for my friends to begin?” Otherwise, one of those two is going to win out.

Our brains do not segment things terribly well if you are mixing your personal life and your business life in the same inbox account and the same calendar. If you allow your phone to be on all waking hours of the day, chances are, your work life, your career is going to win out and has a negative effect on those personal relationships or those family relationships. I’m not saying that you have to have a hard stop at 5:00 PM or whatever is appropriate for you. There’re some good things to learn about from the past. Maybe somebody healthier, relationships that some of our previous generations enjoyed. Of course, they didn’t have the technology distractions and the same things that we are facing now but making sure that we make time for those other important opportunities in our lives.

TBT 91 | Keep Things Simple

When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing

That’s why those boundaries are becoming even more important. The World Health Organization declared stress a worldwide epidemic. We don’t know that we had that back before we had a cellphone so there’s something to it. What other areas do you look to simplify in your life?

I’ve been paying a great deal of attention to some of the healthier aspects of my life. What you mentioned is a great segue to talking about sleep and proper rest. Whether we call it the rat race, run around or our workdays, too many of us are applauded for spending all-nighter. Like, “I only slept for three hours because I had to get the presentation done.” We live in this culture that continuous to applaud and champion that type of thinking. That you’re sacrificing your sleep and rest for the good of the business and the clients or whatever your champion and your cause happen to be. However, I don’t have to state the obvious that’s only going to last long.

You can only perform at that level for a certain period of time before you are going to experience burnout, increased stress, mental fatigue and so forth. Even professional relationships are probably going to deteriorate or struggle if you’re not performing at your optimal level. Something that a lot of people are often surprised that I mention the importance of taking a nap in the middle of the day. Here in North America or at least the Western society, we have the stigma that naps are for toddlers or for retirees. Everyone else in between is going to have to stay awake between those sixteen to eighteen waking hours or many hours you’re awake during the day.

Study after study shows that most accidents occur between the hours of roughly 2:00 PM and 4:00 PM. That is not a good time to have a company meeting, company training or important sales call that most of us are feeling the heaviness of lunch or being awake for that many hours somewhere in the early to midafternoon. A lot of people don’t have the luxury of going to a resting place to have a bed and lay down in the middle of the day but even if you can find some quiet time. Even if you can find as little as ten or fifteen minutes to either sit in the dark.

I had people who’d come back to me and say, “Scott, I go down to the parking lot and sit on my car quietly for a few minutes to take a breath and a way to relax and refocus.” How much of an impact that it had on the rest of their day? Of course, we had a number of other countries, they’ve been doing that culturally and they’ve even including these for many years. I’m not suggesting taking a two-hour siesta. Something as little as ten minutes or maybe twenty minutes alone in a quiet place can have a big impact on the rest of your day.

It’s huge and as a matter of fact the Fortune 500 companies are in mass. I understand the statistics, it’s 70% are implementing wellness programs where they’re having some meditation, lunchtime or helping people to get some of that mental downtime. It could come back to the boundary thing. It’s time for us to take back our lunch. In the context that crept in the industry by industry where people would stay at their desk and work. Most people now work at their desks and if they had that time to go out of your car. I know people who do that. What they do is go out and have a 30-minute nap and they feel completely refreshed. There’s some cool technology to support that. There’s an app called Pzizz that’s hypnotherapy. It will wake you up after 30 minutes so you can set the timer and you can take a little power nap. It worked for Edison and Einstein, they were huge nappers. Some of the smartest minds of our time were nappers and maybe we should take something from that.

Daniel Pink published his book When, and there’s some great research and information in there that supports the napping as well. It’s not easy when it’s something that’s been ingrained in our business culture and our professional culture for so long. It has been frowned upon. It’s not easy to make those changes but it is great to see a number of companies. Especially some larger companies are taking that time and money to invest in wellness, proper rest, diet and exercise.

If you are reading out there, maybe you’re a big company or an entrepreneur and you’re trying to keep up. You’re not going to find any better way to keep up and to get your rest and you’re going to be in a place of much more creativity. How can people reach you so that they can find out more about your great YouTube videos? Where would you like to send them so they can get in contact with you?

The best place to find out more information would be at the Simpletivity website, that’s Simpletivity.com. Otherwise, there are links on the Simpletivity website to all of my YouTube videos. If you’re interested in learning more about my video content, do a quick search for Simpletivity or Scott Friesen and that will get you there. Almost regardless of what type of tool that you use, I can almost guarantee that there is something that you’re going to find value there on the Simpletivity YouTube channel. I hope to see some of your readers there and looking forward to what comes about.

Thank you so much for being here.

Thank you so much for having me.

Thank you for being here. We make things more complex. It would totally benefit you to step back and simplify. Take some of the tips that you read here and take a moment to think about it. What area could you start with and look at, “How can I simplify this in my life?” whatever it is, whatever process, whatever relationship. Right relationships also flourish better when you keep it simple. Look at every area in your life and look at how you can simplify it. There is a lot of value to that.

Important Links:

About Scott Friesen

TBT 91 | Keep Things SimpleScott Friesen helps people from all over the world to improve their productivity. His time management techniques have benefited thousands of individuals and organizations alike. Managing email overload, never-ending to-do lists, and technology distractions are among Scott’s specialties.

His experience in the technology industry has led him to be one of the foremost authorities on productivity applications.

Through speeches, courses, and workshops, Scott provides powerful tools to those who want more out of their day. He has dedicated his life to helping others focus on the important and to do it with less stress. Because being too busy isn’t productive.

Love the show? Subscribe, rate, review, and share!

Join the Take Back Time community today:

Demir Bentley on Life Hacking, Productivity, And Accountability

TBT 90 | Life Hacking


We can make more money, but with time, when it’s gone, it’s gone. Our guest today is productivity coach Demir Bentley. Demir is the Cofounder of the Lifehack Method. He coaches thousands of clients each year with a client list riddled with high profile names like Facebook, Google, Uber, PepsiCo, and Lexar. In this episode, host Penny Zenker talks with Demir about life hacking, his passion for productivity, The Four Layers of Accountability, and setting your environment up for success. He also shares his insights on what people need to think about or engage themselves with on their path to productivity and success.

Listen to the podcast here:

Demir Bentley on Life Hacking, Productivity, And Accountability

On this show we are dedicated to helping you take back time. I know it sounds crazy and impossible to take it back. Because once we’ve spent it, it’s gone, but we can invest it wisely which means that we’ll save more time, energy and even money. That’s what this show is dedicated to and I am excited that we have our special guest to talk about accountability. Demir Bentley is here with us and let me tell you more about him. He is a legendary productivity coach and the Cofounder of the Lifehack Method. His coaching combines personal accountability with daily practice to unleash your best productivity every single day. His client list is riddled with high-profile names like Facebook, Google, Uber, PepsiCo and Lexar, but don’t worry it’s also good for you.

Before starting Lifehack Bootcamp, he worked at the highest level of government technology and finance. His work has been featured in Forbes, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post and other media outlets. A quick fun fact, Demir and his wife Carey, live a completely nomadic lifestyle for three months at a time in different cities around the world. The last few years have seen them living on a boat in Croatia, the vast country of Spain, a retreat in Bali, islands in Hawaii, and they live in Medellin, Colombia. Demir, welcome to the show.

I’m happy to be here. I have to say right off the bat I love your take on investing time. I’m mildly obsessed with this as a productivity coach. We tend to think about time in linear ways, like, “I’ve got time. I have an hour and I’ll spend that hour.” We don’t think about time like a stock that we can invest in. Like this idea of, “I’ve got an hour. What can I do with this hour that could get me three hours? What can I do with three hours that can get me twenty hours?” It’s so funny because that’s common sense in other areas of our life. Everybody knows that financially. You invest in stocks, you put in $1 and $5 comes out. We don’t have this around time so thank you for bringing that up. Literally as I heard that, I was thankful because somebody else gets it.

I would hope so. We’re in this business because we both have that passion for helping people think and act differently. Sometimes we do have great practices and habits in other areas of our lives, sometimes we don’t. When we think about money, it is a great comparison. Except for money, we can make more of it but in time, when it’s gone, it’s gone. Why are you passionate about productivity?

My journey to productivity is funny because the reason that I’m such a great productivity coach is that I’m naturally like the works at it. A lot of people out there can relate to the idea of being smart but not productive. That describes me to a tee. I’ve always been smart but not productive. Some of the things that plague people who are smart but not productive are that they can get those grades, but it takes twice as much studying time because they’re distracted. They can’t hit the books the way that somebody else can. They can dance their career, but it takes more work than an average person or always living with that specter of fear. I’m an emotional worker, so there have been two weeks of the time that because of my emotions I can’t do any work.

There’s something about being in a team where the environment creates positive social pressure especially when one person starts succeeding. Click To Tweet

In finance, hiding the fact that I’m not getting anything done for two weeks creates this additional layer of stress and anxiety like, “Is now going to be the day that I can work? Am I going to wake up to do it?” All of that stress, fear, anxiety and overworking to get the same result as somebody else typifies my entire journey. When I was finally able to learn what ended up incredibly simple ideas, tools and techniques. I felt like if I could go back and teach this to myself when I was younger, I would have had a completely different career trajectory. Not that I’m not happy with my life right now, but I have some clients who are in their early twenties and I look at them and say that they are lucky. I had to go through my entire 20s and 30s doing everything wrong, and there are people out there in their twenties that are learning what we don’t teach them in high school.

We should teach time management, calendar management, priority management and mental gain. We should teach these things to high school and college students, but we don’t. Because we don’t, we all walk out into the buzz of life. Life has this art where we get more responsibilities and fewer resources to deal with them. Most of my clients that come to me are what I call, “They’re where the two trains have hit.” They’re usually in their mid-40s and mid-60s. They have kids, responsibilities, and they have bills. They’ve lost the passion for work because it’s been so hard for so long that they don’t want to do it anymore. Now they’re in a place where they can’t stop because everybody depends on them, but they have no passion. They never had a workflow that was efficient or leverage and they’re in a place where they want to give up but can’t.

I feel stressed with you talking about it. It’s a difficult place to be and there are so many people out there that are in that space.

The quick version of my story is before my brain said no, my body said no. I had a chronic stress-related illness that ended up having pre-surgeries. I had a rare gift of my doctor saying, “You can’t do this. You need to stop right now.” For me, being the primary breadwinner working 80 hours to 90 hours a week in finance, I had to figure something out and fast. It turns out that with the combination of luck and the right place at the right time, the right information, and the right mentors, I was able to go from working 80 hours a week to two hours a week. It’s a funny quasi-famous story in finance where I outsourced my entire job to somebody else. That ignited this passion of like, “I thought I was doing it as well as anybody could do it. If I was that wrong, not only did I not have to work 80 hours a week, it could have been two hours a week. If I was that wrong about this topic what else is there about this topic that could be learned?”

I realized that this whole topic of the workflow of productivity, we had so much pride around it, “I’m doing it as well as anybody could do it.” We tend to shut down our learning brain, we don’t want anybody to criticize our productivity or work. We don’t want to learn and nobody can teach me anything. “I’m the expert of what I do.” We have to put on that façade. It made me super passionate about going out there and being like, “I had that same disease that you have, let me help you find the cure.”

Before you end up in the hospital, that’s the key. Something that you said that’s important is sometimes we don’t have anything in our environment that helps us to be creative because it supports the status quo. A little bit of optimization is not going to get you from 80 hours to two hours, it might get you to 60 hours but it’s certainly not going to be the investment that changes everything. I believe that sometimes we have to hope not the way that it had happened to you, but we can think about it. If we only had so many hours to work. That’s what I felt when I read The 4-Hour Workweek, like what you’re saying, that’s BS. You went to two hours, that’s impossible. Once we get past that it’s impossible and think what if it was possible, we’ll think how will we do it and focus on being creative to think about how to do it, we get out of our own ways.

TBT 90 | Life Hacking

Life Hacking: We have so much pride around productivity that we tend to shut down our learning brain and don’t want anybody to criticize our work.


I call this the heart-attack. I’ve met so many of my clients in their mid-50s and right when their career is hitting its pinnacle, their body and the years of abuse they’ve put on them starts to take their toll. They end up having the triple, quadruple, sextuple bypass. They have the widowmaker heart-attack and what has happened at that moment is that the doctors tell them, “You can work about four hours a week.” This is somebody who has been working 80, 90 hours a week regularly. If you had told that person before they have a heart attack, “Could you manage your business?” They would say, “No. There’s no way I can do it. It can’t happen.” Once it’s a cold hard reality, a combination of things happens.

First, people who haven’t asked for help all their life are forced to ask for help. People that they should have promoted years ago get a promotion in one day. You’re promoted, everybody’s promoted. Clients you should have fired years ago because they’re not paying you a lot, and they’re taking up all their resources get fired. A lot of change that should have happened overtime happens in one week and all of a sudden you’re doing it. I’ve never seen one person who’s a client of mine who had that experience happen to them ever had to shut down the doors to their business.

They do a combination of factors, made it all come together and it’s the catalyst. I tried it as a productivity coach would say let me be your heart-attack. I don’t want you to have a heart attack. Let me be that rock and a hard place that forces you to make the adjustments, arrangements, and compromises that you’ve been refusing to make and see that there is a way to do this. Everybody who asks their selves that question, “If I had a heart attack, do I believe that somehow, someway, I don’t even know how I can figure it out?” Yes.

We want to talk about accountability. You said that as a coach, you say, “Let me be your heart-attack.” How important is accountability and having resources, whether it’s a coach or something else, and ways to hold yourself accountable?

When we started this journey in productivity coaching, I noticed this huge chasm between results. The people who are getting incredible results. We see it out there the US military, pro sports, music conservatories. When you think about it, we don’t associate these but groups like twelve-step groups that can teach somebody from being a complete drug addict and loser to becoming part of the society. This all happens in the context of groups, accountability groups. We have all of these examples of people truly becoming exceptional human beings. We are doing things that we thought would be impossible in the context of groups that provide accountability. Most people have their life riddled with stories of failed accountability.

Like, “I tried this. I joined this person’s program, they said there was accountability, it didn’t work. I tried to have accountability by myself, it didn’t work. I tried to make my wife be my accountability buddy, it didn’t work.” What we did in the very beginning we set out. My wife and I are both data hounds. We set out to do a research project and study what the accountability groups that are absolutely crushing it and creating incredible results, hard-to-believe results versus the accountability groups that are run of the mill.

Accountability is not a salt shaker that you spread on anything. Click To Tweet

What we found is one simple thing, accountability is not a silver bullet. We’re using accountability as if it’s a salt shaker. “Spread some accountability on it. It will make it work.” The truth is that everybody knows they’ve been part in programs, worked with coaches. Had a program they were part of where accountability fell apart, it has melted. Our research has shown us that about 90% of accountability relationships fail within two weeks. Not only does accountability fail often, it usually fails fast.

That didn’t answer our question, it created more questions. Now we have two classes of accountability. We have failing and failing fast, and we have this incredible accountability that takes people to the highest levels of human performance. Of course, the question that leaves us is what is that? That was much harder to untangle. It took us a couple of years of visiting people and analyzing accountability groups. What we came up with is The Four Layers of Accountability, when I tell you this, you will be like, “It’s so obvious.” This is an advanced common sense. What we found was that people who achieve truly incredible results that they would never achieve on their own didn’t have one layer of accountability. They had neutrally reinforcing layers. If one failed them then another would catch them. It was like safety nets under safety nets.

I always say, for myself and anyone else, you need to have three to four ways to hold yourself accountable if you own what you want your results to be. That makes sense to me.

The first layer is the bar raiser. Your bar raiser could be a coach. It’s very popular these days. Years ago, it could be a mentor that you were assigned at work. It could be a pastor, some people say it was their dad or their mom. For me, it was a drums instructor. I used to play drums for several years and my drum teacher was more than my teacher. He saw me as being capable of so much more. That’s the defining role of a bar raiser. It’s a person in your life who even, when you tell yourself you don’t think you can do it, they are like, “I know you can do it.” They see what’s possible for you way before you see what’s possible.

What’s interesting about a bar raiser, the right way to leverage them is you have to have a lot of exposure to them. Even though your brain is coming up with all the fear, doubt and anxiety. The more that you’re close to them, by phone or video conference, they infuse you with the feeling that, “Maybe I can do this.” Their proximity, their belief in you rubs off on you. That’s one of the right ways to use them. The wrong way to use them is to spend more time trying to convince them that you are a loser and that you’re not able to do it. You’re getting them to co-sign in all of the doubts, fear, and BS that are swimming around in your brain. They’re going to say that, “If you’re so committed to your limitation then go live with them. I don’t want to waste my time.”

That bit is so important and every one of us has had it at some point in our life, somebody who believed in us and we can appreciate how that moves us. What are the other levels?

TBT 90 | Life Hacking

Life Hacking: The most effective buddy relationship is what we call the “exchange your shoes at the end of the day” relationship.


As I’m going through these levels don’t simply agree with me, sense check it in your own life. Think back to the times that you created an incredible result and I don’t care who you are. Everybody had at least one time when they surprised themselves. Ask yourself where one or more of these layers present? Did you have a bar raiser? The second layer is a buddy. This is commonly understood and commonly misunderstood. A lot of people think that two people holding each other accountable is a buddy relationship. What we found in our research is that it is not the most effective buddy relationship. The most effective buddy relationship is what we call the exchange your shoes at the end of the day relationship.

If you and I are at the gym together and we say, “Am I going to see you at 6:00?” You say, “Sure.” The chances are now 40% that you’re sure you’re going to show up at 6:00, but if I give you my shoes and you give me your shoes. That means that if you don’t show up at 6:00, not only do you not get to work out, I also don’t get to work out. Great buddy relationship in the US military has taken this to the next level. Your safety, security and success depend on the other buddy showing up and doing their part. That’s sink or swim, linkages, that’s what makes a buddy relationship work. That’s why so many buddy relationships fail because their structure is you end up getting to know each other, liking each other. Penny calls me saying, “You don’t understand. Something’s going on.” I’ll say “Penny, don’t worry.” It’s different if I got my shoes. I might, after three or four times be like, “You have to stop doing this because you’re killing my workouts by not coming.”

It’s a whole different level when you’re in the boat together.

That’s the second layer. The third layer is a team. By team, please don’t get too wrapped up on 45 years old you’re not joining a sports team. What I mean is a community of people who are gunning to the same result that you are and they’re holding you to the same value. It can be a church, a mastermind group, a coaching group. It’s a group that there’s one thing we found that completely makes this effective or ineffective, and that switch is respect. I call it respective accountability. You could put me in a group of twenty teenagers in accountability. I’ll be like, “I’m sorry I don’t respect these guys. I’m not going to let them hold me accountable if I don’t respect them.” It’s not just being part of a group. It’s being part of a group that you identify with and respect. When you look at people and say, “I want to be like him or her,” it’s respected accountability.

People always say, “It’s about the support.” They’re in a generation where it’s all about support. A more effective way is competition. Where if Penny and I go into the same mastermind group, I’m pretty much the same as her, but then she turns around and gets these incredible results in her business and her life. I’m going to be jealous and I’ll need to double down, I need to get myself moving. I’m the same as Penny but her results are going up and mine are staying the same. There’s something about being part of a team where the environment creates positive social pressure. Especially when one person starts succeeding. I do this much. I ready bootcamps where I create these teams of 30 people and I take them to eight weeks of hardcore productivity training. The funniest thing I see is that I don’t need everybody succeeding. I only need one person getting incredible results. You get one cow running and all the other cows will start running too. We do this so naturally as herd animals, we will naturally allow ourselves swept away and all it takes is one match for the whole fire to start.

As you explain it, we can also ask ourselves, for everybody who’s reading. Do I have all these levels? If my goals are important to me, I want to own them at the highest level and be accountable to them. All of these levels are so important. What’s level four?

We naturally develop a passion for things that we’re good at. Click To Tweet

The last layer of accountability, level four, is public accountability. You’ll think that the sports team has this built in. What tends to happen is that if I say, “I’m going to write a book this year, but I don’t declare it to anybody and I don’t write it,” what will I do at the end of the year? I quietly sweep the dead bodies of that failure under the rug and hope that it goes away. Most of us have these goals, learning the piano, writing a book, starting a business, all these goals we declare to ourselves but then disappear. When you think about our local sports team, they can’t do that, if they lose to their cross-town rival it’s going to be splashed across the front page. You’re accountable publicly to your fans is built into it. What’s cool is that there are more channels than ever for us to be publicly accountable. You’ve seen it. You see somebody on Facebook saying I’m committing to lose twenty pounds. They picture themselves every single week and they post it. You’ve seen somebody use public accountability.

When I wrote my book, I made the cover first and I put it out there declaring what date I was going to do it because then my feet are under the fire. We are so much accountable to other people and what other people are going to think about us if we don’t hit the mark of what we said we were going to do.

A program we launched, what it’s going to be and we had a date, we started taking sales on it. When you have 100 people pre-booked for a product, you are motivated to get that product built, and it was done. Those are the four layers.

Something came up for me as I was thinking about accountability and the layers that I am also putting in for myself and asking others to put into place. These are strategic layers of accountability and I believe there are also tactical layers of accountability. What about planning, scheduling and getting the time blocked in your calendar to work on these things that are most important. To take a look at your environment and see that you are making it easier for yourself by setting your environment up for success. What would you say about that distinction that I’m making?

Back to this concept of accountability is not a salt shaker that you spread on anything. What people don’t appreciate that I’ve come to appreciate having done this research project is that, to create an environment that succeeds with accountability. Both tactical and strategic takes a lot of work. There usually has to be somebody who’s intentionally designed each piece and they’re there. Being paid or otherwise, they’re there holding that space of accountability for people and making sure that each layer is in integrity. An idea that you’re just going to throw that together in a weekend or you’re like, “My friends and I are going to do that.” It takes a lot more work that’s why for us in Lifehack tribe, we have a membership community where we engineer all four levels. Although I fancy that we have great techniques that we teach people and great information. The truth is that the real value is that we’re there paid and incentivized to hold that space every layer of every accountability we’ve got.

Coaching layer, we have a team layer and a buddy layer. When we bring in something, we have monthly pre-planning sessions. When we bring in our monthly pre-planning session, it’s reinforced because your buddy has probably already signed up to go to that session. Your coach is sending you a message asking you to, “Jump into this pre-planning session. If you haven’t, make sure that you remember it.” You have a team of people. If you’re not there, a lot of people will so you’ll be the one that’s left out. You end up having a lot of layers of accountability engineered in. I agree with you but also deepen it saying like, “We tend to trivialize amazing accountability structures.” Saying, “I can do it like how the US military does. I can do what these pro sports do.” Not realizing that somebody works hard to create that structure for you.

TBT 90 | Life Hacking

Life Hacking: The thing that brings us the most satisfaction, feeds our family, and forges our vision in life, that’s our work.


I’m thinking about that like, “Why would we trivialize?” It’s more on the fear that we don’t want to be held accountable. There’s this, “I can do it myself. I’ll hold myself accountable.” It’s easier to fall down and fails then you’ll give yourself a break, but someone else won’t do that. I don’t trivialize it or don’t want to engage because they do not own the results at the end of the day.

I’m probably speaking to the choir here. I’m not Michael Jordan or LeBron James, that’s not my game though. My game is my work, and it’s the same for you. The thing that brings us the most satisfaction feeds our family that forges our vision in life, that’s our work. Many will talk a big game about how they want to be the best. How do you engineer the same structure that LeBron James has in his life around you? Lebron James, I don’t care how talented he is or how physically gifted, he can’t do what he does living out of his grandma’s payslip. He has a sleep coach. He has every coach on the menu, all the medicine and all the doctors. He surrounded himself with an environment that reinforces excellence, both behavioral and performance excellence.

We tend to take it on ourselves and say, “I need to do everything. Create the environment and need to hold myself accountable.” The truth is that you don’t and you can’t. You’re never going to be able to replicate the environment and the whole pro sports team. You have to design that around for yourself. You can do it for free. You can do it in a mastermind where you bring your friends together. Expect that it’s going to take a lot of work to sustain and maintain that environment. When we set our expectations, that is worth a lot and it takes a lot to maintain, then we’re setting our expectations the right way to use it and value it.

I believe in those levels of accountability. A lot of people think about accountability at the end of a process. It’s more about holding you accountable because you didn’t do something that you were supposed to do. I always say, “Accountability starts before you start.” It’s the very first thing that you do because if you don’t put those accountability layers into place, you might as well already say you’re not committed to the highest level of success that you can reach. You’re going to have challenges along the way and unless you have those layers, you’re not going to be able to be at your best because you’re going to give yourself too many breaks. What is something else that you think the readers need to think about or engage themselves with as they’re on their path to productivity and success?

It’s work on your work. LeBron James doesn’t just play basketball games. He re-watches the tape, he asks himself how he can be better. He thinks about minute details like his dribbling techniques and no improvement is too small. He’s looking at everything as a whole. We don’t bring that attitude of excellence to our workflow. We think, “I’m only an accountant. I’m just a doctor. It doesn’t matter and why should I do all that extra work?” The benefit is that you get to live in this beautiful, glorious way where everything in your environment supports you. You simply have to do the things you love doing and you’re good at doing them. News flash, when you’re good at doing something, you love doing it. For a lot of people who have lost passion in their work, I’ll say in a way we’re trying to get that passion by pumping that more. “How do I get passionate about this job?” Ironically, get better at the job because we naturally develop a passion for things that we’re good at.

Keep better and get creative. Get better by getting more creative. We love what we do because of the sense of pride in it. Because of the results we’re creating and we always hit a plateau-like, “I’ve been there for a long time.” It’s allowing yourself to feel that pride, creativity and the grit that it takes to get to the next level. It’s in the process. It’s not in the receiving of getting there that makes the difference. What’s your definition of productivity and why?

Productivity is the thing that can unlock that lifestyle that you’re going for. Click To Tweet

I couldn’t give a fly about and you know what about productivity. People are surprised to hear me say that because I’m a productivity coach. It happens to be the single best way to create the life that you want to live. Waking up, setting your attitude, opening your laptop, crushing it, closing it and go back to being a human being. I’m not here to tell anybody that that’s inherently cool, it’s not. It’s inherently boring. It happens to create a cool result. My definition of productivity is usually focused on the results. What’s the lifestyle that you want to live in? We call ourselves the Lifehack Method, the Lifehack Tribe, and Lifehack Bootcamp.

The reason we call it Lifehack is because at the end of the day nobody wakes up and says, “Let me be more productive so I could be more productive.” It’s said by no one ever. People wake up and say, “I want to spend more time with my kids, have a better relationship with my wife. I want to contribute more to society. I want to make more money so they can have more financial security.” There are amazing results that we want to create and this boring thing we call productivity which I will freely admit is boring. That’s what kept me away from it for so many years, is the thing that can unlock that lifestyle that you’re going for. That’s how I think about productivity. I think about lifestyle way more than productivity.

It’s a means to an end. Where can people find out more information about your Lifehack Bootcamp and the other types of products and services that you offer?

We are going to offer a download that has the four layers of accountability and that’s Bit.ly/accountabilitylayers. You can always visit us at LifeHackBootCamp.com. We are famous for putting out a ton of free information on productivity between our YouTube channel Lifehack Bootcamp, and our website. We have tons of free training and cool stuff that you can check out.

Thank you so much, Demir, for being here. This was awesome and so valuable. Since it’s about accountability, it’s probably one of the most important shows for everybody to check out. I hope you guys read this again. Think about those layers and how you’re going to put those in place so that you can reach the goals that you have. That you can have the life and the lifestyle that you want. At the end of the day that’s what we’re all about. Thank you for being here. Demir, thank you.

Thank you.

Important Links:

About Demir Bently

TBT 90 | Life HackingDemir Bently is the head coach and co-founder of Lifehack Method, which consists of his two primary programs Lifehack Tribe and Lifehack Bootcamp. Lifehack Bootcamp is a 60-day productivity coaching program that combines personal accountability with daily practice to unleash your best productivity every single day. Demir coaches thousands of clients each year, and his client list is riddled with high profile names like Facebook, Google, Uber, PepsiCo, and Lexar.

With a passion for enabling others to live their best life, Demir is a brilliant productivity expert known for his empowering coaching style. Before starting Lifehack Bootcamp, he was a technology CEO with a background in Wall Street finance and real estate. His work has been featured in Forbes, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, CNBC, and many other media outlets.

Demir and his wife Carey live a completely nomadic lifestyle, living for 3 months at a time in different cities around the world. The last few years have seen them living on a boat in Croatia, the Basque country of Spain, a retreat in Bali, and the islands of Hawaii.

Love the show? Subscribe, rate, review, and share!

Join the Take Back Time community today:

Letting Go Of The Clutter That Prevents Us From Living Better Lives With Barbara Hemphill

TBT 89 | Letting Go Of Clutter


More than we give them credit for, clutter keeps us from moving forward with our lives. Helping you identify the things that hold you down, host, Penny Zenker, sits down with the founder of the Productive Environment Institute, Barbara Hemphill, to talk about how you can let go of the clutters that prevent you from accomplishing work and enjoying your life better. Barbara shares with us the five-step process to help us deal with the clutter that’s in the way between us and the goals, joy, and balance we want to have in our lives. Become a master of your life, and let go of the clutter in this episode.

Listen to the podcast here:

Letting Go Of The Clutter That Prevents Us From Living Better Lives With Barbara Hemphill

On this show, we are looking to help you be smarter about the way that you do things and at the end of the day be able to be more productive, focused, and to reach your goals faster. I always have some great guests on the show and the next one is no exception. Barbara Hemphill is here with us. Let me tell you something about Barbara. She is the Founder of the Productive Environment Institute. She has helped thousands of business owners and professionals decrease anxiety and overwhelm due to clutter, without having to scan or throw everything away. We’re afraid of letting go of the stuff that we have and want. She’s passionate about helping people eliminate physical, digital, emotional, and spiritual clutter that prevents us from accomplishing work and enjoying our lives better.

Her career is spanning many years with cutting edge of this growing industry. She’s appeared on the Today Show and Good Morning America. She’s been in Reader’s Digest, USA Today, Kiplinger’s Personal Finance, and The New York Times. This list goes on. She’s also a past President of the National Association of Professional Organizers, a winner of the Founder’s Award, and a two-time winner of the President’s Award. Barbara is accomplished. She’s going to help us to deal with the clutter that’s in our way and what stands between us and the goals, the joy and the balance that we want to have in our lives. Barbara, welcome to the show.

Thanks for having me, Penny.

I believe that it’s important to deal with what’s in our way. Many people want to give us new strategies and new things to do, but they’re not dealing with helping us with what’s in the way and why we don’t do what we know.

They become clutter.

Tell me first, how did you become so passionate about clutter?

Clutter is just postponed decisions Click To Tweet

It started a long time ago. This was a long path. I moved to New York City from India with my first husband. We had adopted three orphan children and one of them had special needs. My husband worked for a nonprofit organization that didn’t make enough to pay for living in New York. I decided that I needed to contribute to the family income but I wanted my children to be first. I decided the best way to do that was to find a problem in the world that I could solve that people would pay me for. I would be in the playground with my children and I would hear people talk about challenging, managing their time, space and information. I took $7 out of the grocery money. It was a big deal. I used to walk twenty blocks because I didn’t have $0.50 for the bus. It said, “Disorganized? I organize closets, files, kitchens, you name it. Call Barbara Hemphill.”

What made you launch that business? How did you know that this was something that you were good at? Were you super organized at home? What made this the thing that you decided to do?

I have to give complete credit to my parents. I am not a naturally organized person. I was diagnosed with ADHD. I’m fine as a musician. I’m an artist. I’m right-brained.

It almost doesn’t fit.

That’s right, but that’s why I’m good at what I do. I don’t look at other people’s messes and say, “How did you do that?” I know exactly how they did it. I do practice what I preach. It’s not a case of where I don’t do it, I do it. People can come to my home and office at any time. Having said that, I will tell people over and over, “If you came into my home or my office unannounced, you might look around and say, ‘They pay you money for organizing?’” I’m not naturally neat. The difference between me and my clients is if you give me a maximum of 30 minutes, everything will be put away and it will be put away in the right place. It won’t be stuck somewhere to be hidden. It’s all about systems. That’s what my whole passion is about, helping people create systems.

I have consultants all around the world. One was from South Africa. He came up with the acronym for SYSTEM, which I love, Saving You Space, Time, Energy and Money. Every time there’s something you have to repeat, whether it’s your laundry or responding to an email that people ask you all the time, you need to have a system for it. That’s what we’re all about. I grew up on a farm in Nebraska. My father was a dairy farmer. There were systems for planting, cattle breeding, and things like that. My mother was the administrator to the president of a bank for 46 years, the same bank and the same man. She used to show me what she was doing. In our home, it wasn’t always neat but there were systems. There were ways that we did things.

I have this team of Certified Productive Environment Specialists. We always say there are four questions that you answer to determine whether something is organized. One is, “Does it work?” This applies to your calendar, laundry and your life. Number two, “Do you like it?” I think about the CFO of a movie production company. He said, “My desk and office works but I don’t like it. I would like to have a completely clean desk but every time I clean it off, I can’t find things again.” In his case, it worked but he didn’t like it. We fix that. We put it in our finding system and he said, “For as long as I can remember, I come in one Saturday a month to clean up my office and I’m never going to have to do that again.”

TBT 89 | Letting Go Of Clutter

Atomic Habits: An Easy And Proven Way To Build Good habits and Break Bad Ones

The third question is, “Does it work for the people of impacts?” That’s your family members, the people you care about in a company. If you are an employee, the information that you’re organizing does not belong to you. It belongs to the company. It’s your responsibility to organize it in such a way that if you were not there, somebody else could find it. If you own a company, you’re going to have a hard time having a system or a team if they can’t figure out what they want. Does it work for other people it impacts?

The fourth one relates to what we’ve already talked about which is, “Can you recover quickly?” It doesn’t mean you’re going to be a neat freak. I’ve told my husband a million times, “I wish there were a pill I could take that would make me neat.” I’m not neat but I can recover quickly. I tell everybody, “You need to have an idea of what level of clutter you’re willing to live with and how long you’re willing to fix the problem.” In my case, it’s once a week. For me, every Friday afternoon, everything in the office gets put away. It has to take me less than 30 minutes to do it. If I can’t do it in 30 minutes, it means that there’s something wrong with the system. Something has gone wrong and I have to go back and fix it.

I want to highlight people who are reading. They may say, “I hate systems,” or “Systems feel restrictive.” Systems are what make things work. If people might be having some resistance to this, what could you say to them to get started and to accept that systems will make things easier for them and will help it to work? How would you break through any resistance?

James Clear said it better than anybody. He wrote a book called Atomic Habits which is in credits. It’s a great book. He said, “You do not rise to the level of your goals, you fall to the level of your systems.”

I say something around, “You fall to the level of your thinking.”

They’re both true. It is your thinking which helps you develop the system that you need.

It’s a thinking system that we get into a pattern of the way that we think. Everything is a system. That makes a lot of sense. “I’m still in resistance. Help me. I hear you saying that but.” There are many people out there who got those “yeah, buts.”

The most difficult thing in the consulting business is that we want things for people more than they want it for themselves. Click To Tweet

The most difficult thing in our business is that you want things for people more than they want it for themselves. Penny, I’m sure it’s true in yours, too. There are some people who are simply not willing to change or be helped. As the old saying goes, “If you keep doing what you’re doing, you’re going to keep getting what you’re getting.” If you’re happy with your life then keep on doing it that way. Entrepreneurs are some of the most disorganized people in the world. They’re idea people. They have big ideas. They meet people all the time. They’re terrible about it. I wrote an article that was published in a whole bunch of places called Why Clutter Hurts Your Leadership and What You Can Do About It. When you’re a leader and your desk or office looks like a bomb went off, people will look at it and say, “You can’t even organize your office. What makes you think you can organize your company?”

If someone says they can’t get organized, that’s a lie. What it says is their vision, their why is not big enough. There are people who spend their whole lives organizing, creating systems and reorganizing things. They never get anything done. Organizing in and of itself has no value. It is simply a tool, a system to help you accomplish your work and enjoy your life. That’s why after many years for me, it’s still fun. If your why is big enough, there’s always a way to get what you want. That’s what I call the art of organizing. I don’t cram people into boxes.

I’ve got a client that I worked with, with one of my consultants in a training program. This client had hired three organizers in two states and paid almost $10,000. She said I’m worse off than I was before. She wasn’t going to hire us. I got her to test that. One of the things we will often do is we’ll say, “Let’s work for an hour. We won’t charge anything for it. Experience this for an hour. If you like it, fine. If you don’t, we’ll say goodbye.” We worked for her for an hour and she was happy. I said, “Can you tell me what’s different about what we did than what the others did?” She said, “Two things. One was you helped me understand that something I never knew in the 40 years that I’ve been struggling with this, which is clutter is postponed decisions. The reason I have these piles everywhere and computer desktop has so many icons is because I don’t make decisions. I just never made that connection.”

That’s what my business has been based on. I learned it from closed closets. Closed closets fill up because you haven’t decided whether you’re going to lose the ten pounds you need to lose or the exercise equipment that looked great on Home Shopping Network. It could be the candlesticks you got from Aunt Sally, and you love Aunt Sally. The candlesticks were not your style but if she came to Thanksgiving dinner, she’d love to see them on the table. That was the one thing. The second thing she said was, “You didn’t tell me what I should do. You asked me, ‘What are you willing to do?’” If you’re why is big enough, then all we have to do to get organized is to figure out what you’re willing to do.

I had another client who was a solo entrepreneur. His wife had relegated him to the basement corner because his stuff was all over the place. She didn’t want him to mess up the house. It got him depressed because he was down there. He didn’t like cleaning up the clutter because it was boring and he had more interesting things to do. He finally understood that the clutter was depressing him and that we could put a system in place, which we did. I followed up with him but he still wasn’t doing it. We said, “What level of clutter are you willing to work with? How long are you willing to clean it up?” What we came up with was it was that he needed to clean it up every day because the clutter dragged him down. When your client figures out what to do, that’s the best thing. He figured out that if he went into his office first thing in the morning, cleaned up all the clutter, it took less than five minutes. He felt good. He realized that it got his day off to a great start.

The key is for people who are out there is to recognize that they’ve got clutter that needs to be cleaned up. Those are great questions, “What you are willing to invest in terms of time? How important is it to you?” You said something about, “What are you willing to live with?” Tolerating clutter is a distraction. It’s a big problem. How do you deal with that in terms of the fact that we tolerate more than we need to and more than we should?

We have a five-step process that we use that we call the productive environment process. We define a productive environment as an intentional setting in which you can accomplish your work and enjoy your life. If you are trying to fix anything like, “I’m tired of the clutter on the kitchen counter. When I go to cook that food at night, I can’t do it because there are papers all over.” That’s one. We use five steps. The first one is to state your vision. It goes back to why. What is it that you wish for a different thing you’re putting up with to use your tolerance?

TBT 89 | Letting Go Of Clutter

Letting Go Of Clutter: Today’s mail is tomorrow’s pile or filled inbox.


The reason people need to think about that even more, that question about their vision, is it’s so easy when you get caught up in the day-to-day to get disconnected. It reconnects you back with what’s important. I believe that we need to do that on a regular basis. I love that the process starts with getting them in the habit of connecting with that.

There’s something to say about that vision. Unfortunately, there is a large number of people who don’t know what their vision is. The interesting thing is it is the clutter that is preventing them from seeing their vision. Oftentimes, we will work with somebody who’s not sure and can’t say what their vision is. I tell a story where I learned this. I was married for the first time for several years. Suddenly, my husband decided to divorce me. I was devastated. No one in my family had ever been divorced. We had these three adopted children. I just started my business. I thought I was going to die and wishing I could. It was awful. I sat in the counselor’s office and she said, “You have a blank slate. What do you want?” I said, “I don’t know. I was Mrs. Tom and I expected to be Mrs. Tom for five decades, at least, and I don’t know.”

She made a statement that changed my life, and then I used it with all my clients. She said, “Let’s start with what you don’t want,” which is a clutter. A lot of people don’t deal with the whole issue because there are some things they don’t know how to deal with. They don’t deal with any of it rather than saying, “Let’s start with what I know I don’t want.” I have seen it happen hundreds of times. When people start saying, “I don’t know what I do want, but I know I don’t want that,” then it’s like peeling the layers of an onion. You peel it off and your vision appears.

It’s interesting how it’s all connected. I can tell you that when I get emotionally uncertain or cluttered, I clean my physical space. It’s something that I can be certain about. Share with us the other five steps. I’m sure you’ve got so much more content. We can drive people to where they can find out more about you.

First is state your vision. The second step is to identify your obstacles. The third step is to commit your resources. The fourth step is to design and execute your plan. The fifth step, which is the one where most people fail, is to sustain your success. Notice the common word in all of those is “your.” It is all about you. Your dreams, your hopes, your vision, what will you do? Everything that you say, think or feel about an issue that you want to get organized is in one of those five things. It’s either part of the vision, an obstacle that you’re afraid of or that you already have, a resource you need, or a resource that you have that you’re not utilizing. The fourth step is the most important. That’s 80% of it. Design and execute your plan in order to reach this vision, overcoming these obstacles with these resources, here’s the plan. Most people start organizing before they’ve done the other stuff, and therefore they just keep doing the same things over and over.

That’s why it’s not sustainable.

That takes us to the fifth one which is sustainable. If you can’t sustain it, you go back to those four questions. Does it work? Do I like it? Does it work for the other people it impacts? Can it recover quickly? You ask that about every few months because, in our society, something that worked a few months ago may be wrong and may not be working this time. It doesn’t mean it was wrong before, it just means things have changed.

If someone says they can’t get organized, that’s a lie. What it says is their vision, their why is not big enough. Click To Tweet

That aspect of flexibility and to constantly check-in and see if it’s working is important. That’s the key to productivity in general. It’s to constantly step back and see what’s working and be able to readapt and reset priorities. Before we cut out, I did notice that you had a tip for us on email and how to deal with the growing problem of people having 5,000 emails in my inbox. What’s your tip around that?

It applies to email or it applies to physical mails. The tip is, “Today’s mail is tomorrow’s pile or filled inbox.” Research shows that 80% of what we keep, we never use anyway. When most people try to organize something, they just start throwing things away which means they’re never done. When they’re throwing it away, there’s new stuff coming in. We go in and we say, “We’re going to ignore what you did in the past and we’re going to put a system in place to stop the problem.” We’re going to figure out a system to manage your email or your physical papers. You can then go back and deal with the others. Today’s mail is tomorrow’s pile. Figure out what to do with today’s.

Sometimes it doesn’t even make sense to go back into the past to try to re-sort out everything. You just put it all in a folder. For some reason you need it, then you can use the search function and figure it out. Stop the bleeding first. Barbara, tell us where people can get a hold of you. You’ve brought so many great nuggets here and we want them to be able to get access to you.

There two places that people can go to. One is you can go to ProductiveEnvironment.com. That’s got all of our information there. It has a scorecard that you could fill out, that you can write yourself. You can’t change what you don’t measure so it’s a good way for you to measure where you are in your own productivity. If you have physical papers in your personal life or professional life, maybe it’s just papers that you don’t have a system for, old papers, maybe you’re scanning most everything now but you still have a bunch of old stuff you’re not sure what to do with. We have a fabulous activity that we do called Tame Your Paper Tiger. You go to TameYourPaperTiger.com. It is a virtual hands-on webinar. When you Zoom and you come to the event with a pile of papers or files, we teach you how to make the decisions. We give you some time to do it at the webinar. We’re there to ask you questions and to tell you how well it works. The last time we did, only one person dropped off and the rest of them stayed the entire time. The majority of them stayed an extra 30 minutes because they were physically throwing out paper and wanting to ask questions. It works. If you have paper you want to get rid of, go to that website.

Thank you, Barbara, for being here and bringing your expertise. It matters when you’re trying to solve a problem is to work with the right expert.

You’re welcome. Thanks for having me.

You’ve got some great resources to help de-clutter. We only talked about the physical aspect, there’s also emotional and spiritual. We’ve got to start somewhere. Make sure you check out Barbara’s resources.

Important Links:

About Barbara Hemphill

TBT 89 | Letting Go Of ClutterThe Productive Environment Institute has helped 1000’s of business owners and professionals decrease anxiety and overwhelm due to clutter without having to scan or throw everything away.

Productive Environment Institute’s Founder, Barbara Hemphill, is passionate about helping people eliminate the physical, digital, emotional and spiritual clutter that prevents them from accomplishing their work and enjoying their lives.
Frequently referred to as “The Paper Tiger Lady,” Barbara started her company in 1978 with a $7 ad in a New York City newspaper.

Spanning a 40-year career on the cutting edge of a growing industry, Barbara has appeared on the Today Show and Good Morning America, in Reader’s Digest, USA Today, Kiplinger’s Personal Finance, The New York Times, Real Simple, and Guideposts magazine. She is past president of the National Association of Professional Organizers, a winner of the Founder’s Award, and a two-time winner of the President’s Award.

A respected expert in paper, information and time management, Barbara’s books include: Kiplinger’s Taming the Paper Tiger series; Love It or Lose It: Living Clutter-Free Forever; Organizing Paper @Home: What to Toss and How to Find the Rest; and her latest book Less Clutter More Life.

Love the show? Subscribe, rate, review, and share!

Join the Take Back Time community today:

How To be Productive In Every Hour To Effectively Win The Day With Kris Ward

TBT 88 | Business Productivity Strategies


While it is easy to aim for productivity, many still find it difficult to actually become one. In this episode, host Penny Zenker talks with the founder of Win The Hour, Win The Day, Kris Ward, about the true meaning of productivity and how it can lead us to achieve a higher level of performance and become more accomplished. Kris lets us in on how she embodies productivity by her winning the hour, winning the day perspective. As a productivity expert, she lets us in on some helpful and amazing tips and strategies in efficiently organizing and planning yourself to be effective. Join Kris as she provides you effective tips and analogy that will help you break out of the old way of thinking and win the day.

Listen to the podcast here:

How To be Productive In Every Hour To Effectively Win The Day With Kris Ward

Our guest this episode is Kris Ward. She is going to help you get a clue on that because she is the Founder of Win The Hour, Win The Day. It’s both a platform and an Amazon bestselling book that helps entrepreneurs to systematically grow their businesses and enjoy their personal life as well, which is pretty important since most entrepreneurs don’t have a personal life. Her book has been featured on the award-winning Read to Lead podcast, offers a four-week productivity plan to go from overwhelm to highly-efficient so that you can reclaim your life. Kris, without further ado, welcome to the show.

Thank you, I am very excited to be here.

It’s exciting to have you because it’s so simple what you say, “Win the hour, win the day.” Before we go into the meat of how to, what’s your back story as to how you became an expert in this space?

I have a marketing agency and I was in business for a few years. I was working crazy hours and one day I nearly electrocuted myself because I was in such a rush and I talk about this in the book. I call myself now a recovering rushaholic but one day, I nearly electrocuted myself because I was rushing around and I thought I couldn’t keep this up. This is crazy. I had subscribed to the old way of doing things where your personal life pays the price. You’re working harder and harder. You’re buying new technology. You’re burning out. You’re repeating the cycle and I realized it was not working, so I started to examine productivity feverishly and I didn’t have time for all those heavy time management systems.

I had a lot of pushback and so do a lot of my clients because I got a lot done in a day. To me it was like, “What’s this going to offer me?” I still knew that even though I got a lot done, I needed to get more done. That’s when I started to examine productivity feverishly and I thought I’m going to make this my superpower. This is what I’m going to do and I started to see some very significant changes and cut like I was going from sixteen hours a day down to seven hours. Luckily, I did because it was a couple of years later and my husband had been diagnosed with colon cancer. I had been pulled away from the business for a couple of years. He did pass away and when I returned to my business, not only had it survived but it had thrived.

How many people can say that they can walk away from their business and it still run? That’s key and I’m glad that you are positioned to be able to do that.

Clearly in a situation like that, I had other things in my mind and you don’t need to be worried about all that and nor did John because he was my world’s biggest fan. He saw how hard I worked and so if he thought for a moment that this was pulling me down, it would have been another worry that he had. It did make such a big difference and when I returned, my clients were shocked. They were not aware of my absence. They didn’t know anything about it, and they didn’t even know he was ill. When it became public, it was very shocking to people that I knew in the business community and my clients.

They started to try to hint and be sensitive and ask me how did I manage it all. I liked helping people and so it helped me in the grieving process to say, “How can I help more people?” because your business should support your life not consume it. Not to eat your life up. I started working with these people and I was able to help them get rid of 80% off their to-do list, 100% of their guilt. They stopped doing things they hated that they didn’t have time for. Start getting those dream projects out, those add-on services, having a bigger impact on their audience and they started taking real vacations for the first time.

How many people who are reading can raise your hands to yourself? How many people could leave their business and it’d still run? How many people don’t even take a vacation because everything is so intertwined without them? I guarantee you that 75% of the people are raising their hands right now and say, “Unfortunately, that’s me.”

Your calendar is your time bank account. Click To Tweet

The vacation does not mean answering emails from a new location. That’s not a vacation, so I’m in a different location to answer your emails at different hours. It is not a vacation. There was a point even in my own life where anything that wasn’t work was an interruption from work.

What a way to live? That’s not why we’re working. I get it, a lot of people are in business, they’re passionate about what they do so they’re working maybe because they love it. However, we’re also working so that we can enjoy our own life and life on our own terms is supposed to be what the entrepreneur is.

More freedom and you and your family should not have to pay the price because you have ambitions and dreams. I bought into that. I thought I start working all these people having all this success. I thought, “How can I help more people? I will sit down. I will write this book so we can take it out and I can serve more people.” At the time I started working with these clients in the windy hour capacity but now I still have my agency. I have eight clients who are one-fifth of my week because they didn’t want to do group sessions. They all knew each other locally and they didn’t want each other to know their business. I said, “I will pull back. I’ll write this book. I’ll take it online and people will have a business that is fun to them and that they can enjoy getting things out and executing projects instead of juggling work.” That’s how it came to be.

Everybody thinks I want that. “Reduce your time by 80% and reduce the guilt by 100%.” Let me back up because I used to ask this question all the time and I want to get back to it. What’s your definition of productivity and why?

My definition of productivity is to have a goal, achieve the goal and have a clear path. This is what I’m going to do. It’s a very simple thing that’s what I want to do and I’ve done it. It can be something as simple as I’m going in to make dinner. A couple of hours later, no dinner is made. You’re still hungry, you’re not very productive. To simplify it, this is what we’re going to do. What’s the plan? When do we expect it done and is it done? It’s simple.

Let’s talk about some of the how-to, like when you talk about win the hour, win the day. I want you to explain from your perspective, why do you say that? Why do you say to win the hour, win the day? What does that mean because if you can win the hour, you can win the day?

What I mean by that is I used to hit the floor Monday morning. For some reason, I thought Monday was going to be a bigger, more dramatic day than every other day. I would hit the floor Monday morning with my to-do list in hand and I was going to take on the world. It was going to be this vast day of productivity. What happens is I was living off a to-do list and so I wouldn’t realize that maybe two, three things I would get done by 10:00 AM. I wouldn’t understand that the next two or three things could take two days and two weeks or new things came up and I was constantly going down the rabbit hole and all this stuff.

What I realized is none of these tasks were tied to time. I had no understanding of how much time they took. Everyone thinks time management. I know there are a lot of heavy complicated systems out there but for me it was, “What’s your GPS for the day? Are you using your calendar?” Your calendar is your time bank account. People will say to me, “I do all this stuff every day but I don’t count it because I don’t need to remember it. I don’t need to put it on my calendar, it’s not an appointment. I know I have to do it every day.” Even something like emails. My argument is, “You have a car payment that comes out every month and you don’t say, ‘I’m not going to count that because it comes out every month.’” It still takes money out of your account.

What I say to people is you might be running into the workday thinking you have eight hours and you might only have four. What I want you to do is map out your day hour by hour. It’s very simple. I’m not talking about a heavy system but if you say I’m going to do this one thing for this hour. There’s a whole other discussion about focus that we can dive into but we will yield amazing result and you’re going to be able to plan out your activities. Execute your projects and have other people come into play where you need them because you’ve got a solid plan.

TBT 88 | Business Productivity Strategies

Business Productivity Strategies: Productivity means to have a goal, achieve that goal, and have a clear path.


I like that idea of thinking about a bank account because also I talked a lot about value and focusing on the value, you’re creating and what the value of those tasks are and that makes you think about it. These eight hours or you put that into the number of minutes, however you want to account for it in your bank. It makes you think about the value too.

You can’t improve what you don’t measure.

Nobody likes to measure it. Let’s face it, the whole idea, the things that we tell them around time management and how to get structured and organized and plan. To some people that’s like a bad rash.

There are a lot of heavy systems out there and I get that. I remember I was in grade eleven and I don’t know why they have a summer exam in June and clearly, I wasn’t paying attention. I decided, “I’m going to make this calendar and it’s going to be very sophisticated about how much study I have to do every day to ace all my exams.” Surprise, after the first week I did not follow the calendar so what I did instead of study harder is I revamped the calendar.

Procrastinating and then shoved everything at the last minute.

Nothing ever happened, I kept color-coordinating in the calendar and that’s what people see is more work whereas the phrase I keep getting for my strategies, not system, but strategies in my book. It’s easy to read and stuff you can implement now and that’s the difference, that’s where you’re right, time management. There are some heavy infrastructures out there. They are overwhelming and this is not that.

You can’t start into a giant system. You have to start with baby steps, make one change. I also use the calendaring type of approach with time blocking and making sure that you’re clear what it is that you were planning to do in a day and that it’s capacity-wise possible. I always tell people that it’s setting an intention for what you want to create in that hour that will help them to focus but also to be clear about what their output is in that hour. What’s your win the hour? What do you mean by that? How do you focus and get results in that hour?

The first thing is you have to do one thing at a time and there are so many times that people don’t understand when they’re not doing one thing at a time. They have all these alerts. They’re stimulated. There’s this whole bunch of stuff about how the brain works that it will always favor new information so you got split attention and attention residue. What you have to do is shut down and focus. What I do is set my phone for one hour and then I go all-in. My clients will tell me, “I’ve never done it that way.” If I get stuck on the task like, “I have to do some creative work.” They’ll realize, “I normally go to my emails as stimuli or pull away as a distraction.” It’s purposeful for that hour because when you’re purposeful then you can see your results, you can measure your results and then you know what your next step is.

I remember I was standing in the airport one day. I was standing beside somebody and they were asking somebody else in line. They said, “Do you know how long the flight takes from Toronto to Chicago?” The people were saying, “We’ve been there a bunch of times, we’ve always had indirect flights. We had layovers. There was a snowstorm. We don’t know.” The point is, they had gone from A to B a whole bunch of times but because it wasn’t direct, like a to-do list, they had no idea how long the flight was and we do that all day long in our workday.

Your business should support your life not consume it. Click To Tweet

When you’re planning your steps, at the moment and you’re planning what’s next, do you plan all the steps ahead of time? Let’s say this particular task, do you break it down before you put it into its organization? Do you break it down piece by piece? How do you do that?

That all sounds a little complicated. What I would say to you is in the beginning, it seems like a lot and it’s overwhelming taking it, but what I would say is take one project one step at a time. What I also talked about in the book is working backward and we do this in our personal life but we don’t tend to do this with work. Let’s say for example something like you had a dentist appointment Thursday morning. First of all, it would be on the calendar because it’s an external appointment and you respect somebody else’s time even though you don’t respect your own work. You would then say, “I have to be there at 11:00, it’s an hour away. I have to do breakfast. I have to do this.” By the time you look at that appointment, you might say I have to get up at 8:00 and leave the house at 9:30 because you’ve done the math, you’ve worked backward.

As we tend to, when we get new clients or new projects, you dive all in, go fast and you’re excited and then it peters out but you have no map. For example, with my book. I wanted my book to be out in June and I said, “What does that look like?” I figure it out doing the math that I had to do five pages a day. There were some days I didn’t feel like I had five pages in me and if I hadn’t have broken it down, I would say, “I’m not feeling it today. Tomorrow, I’m going to be more rested. I’m going to do better.” What would happen is because I broke it down, I would look and go, “If I don’t have five pages in me today, I’m not going to have ten in me tomorrow.” I had to push through because I could see clearly that by Wednesday, I’d have to have fifteen pages. Wednesday morning that’s not going to happen.

It gives you choices too. It also gives you a sense of flexibility but you do know that you have to be prepared and planned for it if you’re going to push something that was supposed to be for today into tomorrow. You have to organize and plan yourself.

In my case, I knew the goal wasn’t realistic. If something comes up and you want to move it on your calendar, go for it. What I would say to you is, “How do I get stuff done?” I would say the number one thing is to work backward and say when you want this out, what’s involved and then that’s going to bring clarity to you. It’s not this big heavy thing where people think, “I sit down Sunday night and I map out my week for an hour,” it doesn’t go like that. Once you get in the groove, you also get into batch work so I tend to have all my client calls on one day. People will say, “My business is different or my clients are all in different directions.” You’d be surprised, you have two appointments on a Thursday and the next person who calls, you say to them, “Can you make Thursday at 11:00?” “Yes I can.” You start massaging your calendar so that you’re going in one direction instead of a whole bunch of different ones.

You simply ask the question. You’re not inflexible or unreasonable with clients to say, “You have to be on Thursdays and that’s it.” Some people are like, “I can’t do that.” You’re asking a question. Why can’t you ask the question?

You’d be surprised how many times it falls in your favor.

I believe that asking questions is a powerful time management tool. I don’t know about you, but I used to get so caught up as an entrepreneur, that curse of urgency which is a gift and a curse. We want to serve and so somebody says, “I need you to add this to the delivery.” You assume that means tomorrow or immediately. Go off and you do it and at whatever consequence. I had to learn for the same reason that you talked about, being all over the place crazy, burning yourself out. I asked, “When do you need this by?” It’s amazing how, “I’m going on vacation tomorrow. I don’t need it for a couple of weeks.” They’re getting it off their plate and it’s so key to ask questions so that you can better plan, better organize. I would imagine as you talked about guilt, also reduce that guilt.

What happens too because you have your calendar filled out, you can look and go I have to be realistic with this client and say, “We’re booked for the week so we’ll be starting this next week.” Whereas you tend to, by default, as an entrepreneur want to over-deliver, undersell and get all excited, “I’ll try to get to you tomorrow.” You get off the phone, you realize, “I have all this other stuff happening.” It’s about having a clear inventory of what your resources are, like your bank account. You can’t go into a store, even a grocery store, with nothing with labels or prices on it and then also not know how much money is in your bank account. It’s like, “I have no idea how much money I have. I have no idea how much this cost. It will all work out.” That’s not going to happen.

TBT 88 | Business Productivity Strategies

Time Management for Small Business: A 4-Week Productivity Plan to Go from Overwhelmed to Highly Efficient and Reclaim Your Life (Win the Hour, Win the Day Book 1)

Those are some ways to organize time and get more done in that timeframe. Is there any other tip that you love to share with people because it makes such a big difference?

I would tell people we think it’s responsible for diving into the workday and checking your emails first is their problem, any fires you could put out and scan that. I would tell you that it’s like your cell phone with your battery. It depletes your battery. It’s like having a whole bunch of apps open on your phone. First of all, it’s damaging to how the brain works. You get fatigued and on the side note, people have this idea that it’s about discipline. That grinding it out depletes your battery as well so what you want to do is do your creative work first. You would do your creative work first thing in the morning. As you move on in the day answering emails or doing social media requires less focus, you’re on auto when you’ve got less of a mental battery there.

You’re going to still execute at an efficient level because you can do that with your eyes closed. I know for me I would have to learn something and we all do with the technology these days. I would think, “I’ll get all my work done and then I’ll focus on that.” I don’t even know what that’s like. It’s like running 10K and then saying, “I’ll do a workout afterward.” Another big thing is doing the stuff. I don’t believe in that philosophy of doing the stuff you don’t like first in the morning. If you execute all these things I have in the book, these strategies, you won’t have things that you hate to do. You won’t, but what I would tell you is start with the stuff that requires the most focus and creativity in the morning.

I read a study that it was proven that after we wake up, even if you’re not a morning person, it’s said that it’s proven that you’re more creative, and it’s the best time to get those types of activities done. Let’s talk about focus and distraction. You talked about that we’ve got to win the hour. Let’s say I’m clear on what it is that I want to do but so many things that are buying for our attention. What are your top tips around helping people to stay focused and block out distractions?

What I do, this sounds horrifying to people, but I shut everything down. You shouldn’t have all these alerts. You should not have all these alerts on your computer. The only thing when I’m working on is I have my email open but I don’t have Facebook alerts, I don’t have all these technology alerts of any sort. I set my timer on my phone for one hour and that’s it. There are very few people that can text me. There’s a ranking of two people who can text me. Even Slack, they came out with an article lately like, “Is Slack a good thing? That’s problematic.”

We’ve got all these electronic beeps. They’re like electronic mosquitoes. Have you ever tried to work while mosquitoes are buzzing around your face? What happens is you’ve got all these electronic mosquitoes and people think, “That’s fine, I need to know that.” You’re being stimulated by outside forces so we all have to sit down to decide. We’re going to commit for 45 minutes to an hour to work on this task and to be in your favor, you need to manually say, “I am not going to participate in all these shiny objects that have spent a great amount of time and marketing to get my attention.” They have big expensive teams that are working on getting our attention.

You said that discipline drains our battery and so that requires discipline, doesn’t it?

I don’t think it does if you get into a habit of shutting it down. Discipline is not required because it’s not like a message floating across your screen and you are trying to have the discipline not to look at it.

A lot of people have this, I know you’ve probably had this too when you’re coaching people, when I go in and speak. I hear people all the time they don’t want to hear go into airplane mode and turn off all of those things that could distract you because it creates fuzzy thinking. You can’t focus because so many things are buying for your attention and constantly interrupting you. People don’t want to do it. There’s the, “Yeah, but.” “Yeah, that works for other people but not for me.” How do you give people out of that way of thinking? I love what you said about the mosquitos. That’s a great analogy of people imagining that all of those beeps and buzzes or whatever are annoying because that’s exactly what it is. I hope that will break through to people and have them stop the insanity because that’s what it is. What do you say to someone who says, “I can’t shut it all down.” I’m going to lose a client if I’m not answering that phone or I’m going to miss an opportunity to write a proposal if I don’t check that email. What do you say to them?

You can’t improve what you don't measure. Click To Tweet

I would say a couple of things. First of all, I would guarantee you that you’re not going to have any success if you don’t try it. You can buy a gym membership and if you never go, I will assure you never lose weight or get in shape so there’s that. That’s the number one thing there. I would say too that we’re probably so overstimulated, we don’t even realize it. I know I did a podcast like this and I would hear a beeping because we’re doing video, you see my face and I would see the podcaster look down. I could see that he had alerts and emails going across his page. Here is the problem, I couldn’t stop and call him out but yet he would come back not even realizing it happened. He missed something I said and you could see him stammering and I couldn’t rescue him. He didn’t even realize that was happening but I would say I’m not here to convince anybody that they have to give up things that are important to them.

What I’m telling you is science has proven, this is not in your favor. I know for myself for a couple of years I thought, “You don’t understand. I’m different because I’m so passionate about my business and so hungry that somehow my brain is different than all the brains of the scientists who did the study on distractions.” It sounded fine until I said it out loud. What I would say to people is when you want to execute at a high level and get your workload out and make a bigger impact on your audience instead of juggling your projects. When you want to get to execution then we can talk. Until then, I don’t try to convince those people. I’m here to get people that are successful that want to be more successful and don’t want to put in crazy hours. I have a marketing agency then I wrote a book. We’re creating a platform and we have other ambitions in the following years, but none of this includes me increasing my work hours. We get up every day and we say, “How can we take five steps and turn them into three? How do we get more and more efficient?” I am only going to be working seven hours and yet every time you climb a mountain you see the next mountain so that’s what I’m about.

Those are important points and maybe for those readers, it’s not about convincing them, but if anybody’s reading and you still have all the beats, bells, and buzzes and whatever going off. I always encourage people to think about what it costs them because we’re not aware, we’re not connected. As a matter of fact, because we’re so distracted, we’re even more disconnected. We’re disconnected from our goals. We’re disconnected from what’s important to us and operating at a very low level, a very unfocused, unpurposeful type of level. It’s getting clear of what it costs. If this continues, where could your business be? Maybe it’s not painful in the sense of you’re going to get a heart attack because you’re working too many hours. Your kids are going to turn out to be drug addicts because you’re never home. Those could be bad things. I always tell people to go to the worst possible case so that they can inflict a little bit of pain even though it’s not there. It’s better to feel it before it happens than have to live with it. Sometimes it’s the opportunity cost.

Here’s something I thought, I got into biking and bicycling and I was going up a hill. I realized depending on what gear I was in, it depended on how much effort I had to use to put up that hill. I’m sure your readers get stuff done. They’re getting the projects out. They’re getting stuff done. What happens is when I got to that top of that hill, depending on what gear I was in determined how much energy I had to get up the next hill. Do I think your readers are probably smart people? They probably are, they listen to you, so what’s happening is you’re going to get stuff done, but what if you can get up and down ten hills instead of six? You could do it and leave work feeling fresh and start work feeling refreshed. It’s the cost and the toll on you to impact your readers. That’s what I want people to think about.

Where can people reach you, get your book and find out more about working with you?

They can grab it on Amazon at any time, Kindle or the paperback. They can check us out at Win The Hour, Win The Day. I would say also reach out to me on LinkedIn or Instagram and tell me that you heard me here and let’s chat. Tell me what you’re working on.

Thank you, Kris, for being here.

You’re welcome.

Thank you for reading because you got some great tips and especially the analogy that helped you to break out of that old way of thinking because that’s what it’s all about. It is wherever you are, you’ve got to where you are with the skills and the experience that you have but we hit a plateau and in order to get to the next level you have to think differently. You have to look at things differently and a lot of things that Kris talked about can help you to do that and start with baby steps. Take a look at what you’re doing and see how you could be two times more efficient. You don’t have to go to ten times but however if you’re an overachiever go to ten times, take those five steps and make them into three. Thank you for reading.

Important Links:

About Kris Ward

TBT 88 | Business Productivity StrategiesKris Ward is the founder of Win The Hour, Win the Day, both a platform and Amazon best-selling book, that helps entrepreneurs to systematically grow their business and, oh, by the way, enjoy a personal life too.

After the loss of her husband, Kris returned full-time to the marketing & branding agency she had founded years earlier, only to find her business was thriving. She began teaching clients the exact systems & processes that had freed her up and helped her during that difficult time and changed their lives in the process.

Through sound time management principles – that anyone can easily understand and apply – Kris’ clients now had more time, freedom and recaptured the joy & fun they once had when they first started their businesses. Her book, which has been featured on the award-winning Read to Lead podcast, offers a 4-week productivity plan to go from overwhelmed to highly efficient so that you can reclaim your life.

Get more information & Kris’ guide on “How to Crush Your To-Do List Once & For All” by visiting www.WinTheHourWinTheDay.com

Love the show? Subscribe, rate, review, and share!

What’s Holding Us Back From Being Curious with Dr. Diane Hamilton

TBT 85 | Being Curious


Curiosity is a good thing because it allows you to discover more about yourself and other people. Dr. Diane Hamilton, the Founder and CEO of Tonerra which is a consulting and media-based business, lends her knowledge on this subject, tackling the question of what’s holding us back from being curious. As the creator of the Curiosity Code Index assessment and the author of multiple books including Cracking the Curiosity Code: The Key to Unlocking Human Potential, Dr. Hamilton shares some tips on how we can let curiosity influence us and others for the better and reveals some strategies for training our brain to more open, more curious, and multitask.

Listen to the podcast here:

What’s Holding Us Back From Being Curious with Dr. Diane Hamilton

I’m very curious and that’s what we’re going to be talking about, curiosity. I have with us a very special guest, Dr. Diane Hamilton. She’s the Founder and CEO of Tonerra, a consulting and media-based business. She’s also a nationally syndicated radio host, keynote speaker, former MBA Program Chair at the Forbes School of Business. She has her PhD in business management and she’s taught more than 1,000 business courses and authored multiple books including Cracking the Curiosity Code: The Key to Unlocking Human Potential. She’s the creator of the Curiosity Code Index assessment, which is the first and only assessment that determines the factors that inhibit curiosity.

Her groundbreaking work in the area of curiosity helps organizations to improve innovation, engagement and productivity. Her books are required reading in universities around the world. Some of the most respected names in leadership, including Steve Forbes, Keith Krach and Ken Fisher have endorsed it. She’s a highly sought-after keynote speaker who shared the stage with top speakers including Marshall Goldsmith, Martha Stewart, Daymond John, Travis Bradberry, Jeffrey Hayzlett and has been featured on Forbes, First for Women, ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox. I’m so excited. Dr. Diane Hamilton, welcome to the show.

I am so excited to be here.

What’s the hubbub about curiosity? How did you get so curious about curiosity?

I’ve always been a curious kid. I was the why kid that drove the parents crazy. I’ve written other books in the past about personality assessments, reinventing your career and different types of things. I’ve always been curious about learning new things, but I hadn’t thought about writing a book about curiosity until a couple of years ago when I started the radio show. I’ve interviewed close to maybe 1,000 people in that show since I started it. Everybody I interviewed was so interesting and fascinating, the billionaires, CEOs and successful people. They all had this level of curiosity. They were all avid readers and they knew many different things. I still teach for several different universities. I compared that as a lot of my students didn’t embrace that same level of curiosity. They wanted you to answer stuff for them. They wouldn’t try to figure it out necessarily on their own. I started to think it’d be interesting to write a book about curiosity. As I was writing the book, I realized there are other books about curiosity, but they just all talk about curiosity. I wanted to go beyond that. I wanted to fix it.

That’s the biggest thing is there are a lot of books that tell you this is what’s great about this. Tell me how to do it. How do I class myself?

If you want to be innovative, you got to ask questions and explore. Click To Tweet

That’s what I did. I thought you couldn’t do that without creating an assessment to measure where people are and what’s stopping them. There are assessments out there which are interesting to me. There’s the Big Five factors of personality and they have openness to experience, for example. There are other assessments from famous researchers, but they all measure how curious you are on a level, you’re super curious or you’re not so curious. I thought, “That was good to know, but it still doesn’t tell me how to fix it.” I created an assessment to determine the four factors that hold people back from being curious. I think that is why everybody’s focusing in so much on my research because there’s nothing like it. It’s fun because when people are on the show, they all talk about creativity or motivation, all these things. When I ask them what comes first, curiosity or whatever they’re talking about? They all say curiosity.

I love the whole sense of curiosity and I know that you talk a lot about this because it shifts our behavior. It shifts our performance. It makes us more detached so we’re not so impulsive and emotional about things. I talk about it a lot too and I think it’s powerful. I love what you talk about that it’s how to get past what’s holding us back, because that’s the key. It’s not just understanding how valuable curiosity is. How do we tap into it? How do we get past the behaviors where we are? What are those four behaviors that hold us back from our curiosity?

When I started to research this, I thought, “First, let me put a thread into LinkedIn to ask people what held them back.” One of the main things people were coming back with was fear. I wasn’t surprised to hear that. Nobody wants to ask the dumb question at that work meeting. You lean next to Bob and you go, “Bob, why don’t you ask?” Because you want Bob to look stupid, you don’t want to be the stupid one. It’s the thing where fear was something I wasn’t surprised about, but I knew there was more than just fear. People were giving me all these different ideas and I thought, “I want to create a valid assessment.” I hired psychometric statisticians and then they couldn’t even figure out how to do some of this. It was so complicated. For years, I sent out so many surveys. Thousands of people were studied and eventually we figured out. I did a lot of work with factor analysis and all the statistics to get it perfect for finding out what these four things were. The acronym is FATE. F was fear. It wasn’t surprising to me. A was assumptions, which is the voice in your head, “We’re not going to like. This is going to be boring. I’ve done it in the past. I’m not going to like it again. My family will make fun of me.” You’ve got all these things in your head that you tell yourself. T was technology and we under or over-rely on it.

That one I was curious about. We’d like you to talk a little bit more about that because I was like, “Technology, how is that keeping us from being curious? Maybe it adds to our curiosity.”

It can and I’ll touch on that. I’ll give you the last one which is the environment: our family, friends, social media, your peers, everybody you’ve ever known in your life. To get to the technology question, that was an interesting one to me too because I think that a lot of people rely on it too much. You ask Siri, your Echo or whoever you’re dealing with a question and you don’t think about the foundations behind things anymore because you want an immediate gratification answer.

We believe is that when we ask Siri or Echo that they come back with an answer and that we take it to be true, but there’s a lot of non-truths out there as well. Is that what you mean?

It’s the Wikipedia world. I have a lot of students who want to cite Wikipedia because they think everything on there is the answer to everything. It is not reliable all the time. It can be and a lot of times it is, but it isn’t always. That’s one of the things we teach students in my classes is how to do critical thinking, to analyze information, to be able to use technology to find peer-reviewed scholarly sources and all that stuff. Not to just go on face value, you have to look at multiple things and not just get it from one source. Technology is great and I use it to death, but I also want to know the foundation behind it. You can over or under-utilize anything. A lot of people will stay with the same cell phone or the same version or something because they just learned it and they don’t want to learn the next thing. It can be overwhelming to some extent to some people.

I give talks a lot of times about different generations in the workplace. The older generations freak out sometimes if you give them new technology because they’re afraid they’re going to break it. They don’t even try to figure it out. Crash your computer, you’re going to learn all kinds of things trying to fix it. I like that when you try to figure it out. You want to know the technology, but you want to know why the technology works. You don’t want just to take software that can run statistics without knowing what the statistics mean. There are all these other areas that it can lead to. Technology can be something that a lot of people avoid doing certain things with it or over-utilize it.

How do you find when people get this information to find out what’s holding them back for their curiosity? What do you find that people are learning most about themselves? How are they applying it?

TBT 85 | Being Curious

Being Curious: A lot of people rely on technology to much and don’t think about the foundations behind things anymore because they want an immediate gratification answer.


I thought they would be quite different in the numbers, more fear, less this, more that. It was pretty even for the four areas. It wasn’t exact. Fear was pretty high. Some of them are very high and for some people and not for others, but overall they weren’t that different. I think what it does is it gives people the chance to look at some of these things that they didn’t even know were holding them back. There are 36 questions they take when they take the assessment. They get an immediate report just like if you took an emotional intelligence test or DiSC or MBTI. What it does is it shows you these 36 responses of how you came out. It opens up this like, “Maybe my family had an impact. Maybe my teachers couldn’t answer all the questions. Maybe I tell myself this is too difficult.” All these things you don’t even face on a day-to-day basis, now you’ve opened up this, “Maybe I need to look at this. Now that I know this, I can create an action plan.” It’s like a personal SWOT analysis. “How do I overcome this? What are my obstacles? What are my threats? How can I create an action plan that’s measurable to move forward?”

How do you measure curiosity? How do I measure the actions I’m taking to be more curious?

You can measure what’s holding you back. You’ve got your baseline measurements. Now you can determine, “I keep telling myself I’m not interested in certain topics,” for example. I can start exploring some of these topics. Maybe I used not to be interested in them and nobody’s saying that you’re going to love everything. I think we shut ourselves down from exploring this or that because in the past it wasn’t good. Some of it are baby steps. You go on to try reading this section of the paper and normally I would never even look at that section or I’m going to read a different book about this. You can reflect back. You can set goals for yourself every month. “I’m going to check how many of these different topics that I read this month.” You can quantify these things in a lot of different ways like that.

It’s like training habits like it might be the newspaper. You’re not interested so you don’t get into it. You’re going to challenge yourself in different areas to train your brain to open up, be more open and more curious.

That’s part of it and with fear some of it are baby steps. We train organizations. I certify people to give this CCI, consultants for example can go through this program. We train them on how to help employees go through their personal action plan to set these goals. Not unlike what you do maybe with an engagement survey. You’re not engaged. What can I do to be more engaged? You go through all these personal steps. We also have them do another exercise to help leaders for overall organization action plan. They create two action plans, a personal one for all their individual steps. Consultants find out what’s going on within the company. Maybe low engagement. Maybe innovation is a problem. Maybe people aren’t critical thinking, whatever their top issues are. In these training sessions, once we’ve worked on all individual curiosity-based issues, we work on the overall corporate problem.

It’s like when Disney went to their workers in their laundry and asked them, “How can we make your job better because we’re losing all of you and nobody’s staying do this job?” They got back simple answers that made them be able to make it better for them. That’s the same thing we’re doing with this. We’re giving back simple suggestions. Now that I understand about curiosity, what you can do to help me be more curious. This is what it would help me be more curious to help in innovation, if you would help me by doing this. Let’s say I figure giving presentations, maybe allow me to do one on something I like that I already feel comfortable doing. Give suggestions like that. This is what would make me be less fearful. A lot of leaders don’t even think to go to their employees for the solutions. They’re usually the ones who have some of the best ideas.

They don’t go to the employees for solutions. What I found in my leadership and coaching is that people don’t ask their customers either. In general, we are not curious enough. It speeds the collection of the best answers and the answers that we’re looking for without us trying to figure it out and assume that we know the answers.

I had a guy on my show, The Undercover Millennial, and he would go into organizations as a consultant and wear a pen that had a camera. They would hire him to do this and that. A lot of these leaders would say, “It changed my organization. I’m keeping up with everything,” and then he’d ask them, “Are you changing the way you lead people?” and they’d say, “No.” They all made these assumptions that everything should be the same and that I should lead people the way I always lead them. He would get out and ask people and with his camera, he record all this and show the leaders, block out their faces and all that.

You sometimes find answers from the strangest places. Click To Tweet

They would be saying, “It’s awful here. The culture is this and that.” They had no idea because they never would do that. He felt that a lot of people would talk to him because he was a Millennial and Millennials felt comfortable talking to other Millennials. There’s some information and sometimes it’s harder to get because if you’re older, you’re talking to them, they may shut down a little bit. You have to find roundabout ways like that sometimes to get feedback. In these training sessions, they’re not talking right to the leader. They’re talking to the HR or the consultant person in a private way. All of their feedback would be going back anonymously.

They then feel safe to share whatever it is that they think.

It’s usually not what leaders think they think either.

We talked about all the benefits where we touched upon that other people are talking about the benefits. I would like for the readers, because this might be a new topic. They might go, “I never thought about curiosity at all.” By changing your behavior around curiosity, how does that affect performance? What areas do you see are increasing in performance and productivity?

A lot of it ties into a few areas, everything from creativity to emotional intelligence to communication to innovation and engagement.

It’s all of those things that make companies successful.

Look at it like this. You’re going to bake and you want to mix the ingredients. You’re mixing flour, eggs and water, whatever it is. You mix it together and put it in the oven. What happens? Nothing is going to happen if you don’t turn on the oven. The ingredients in the workplace are creativity, innovation, engagement, all of those things. We’re mixing them together. We know they’re important ingredients. The oven is curiosity. If you don’t turn on the oven, you don’t get cake. That’s the problem that we’re seeing. It definitely ties into a lot of this. When I talk about emotional intelligence, it’s very near and dear to me because I wrote my dissertation on it.

If you look at empathy, interpersonal skills and all these things, to empathize with other people, have good interpersonal communication and interpersonal skills, you have to ask questions. You have to listen. You have to do a lot of these things that require curiosity about the other person. I was into my research in perception too. Sometimes our perception is our reality and we don’t look outside. We need to realize everybody else sees it their way as well. Empathy is one of the hugest things that you can do in terms of building emotional intelligence skills. Yet if you don’t ask questions, if you’re not curious, chances are you’re not getting that empathy.

The whole idea of basing because it’s a skill that encompasses being curious. It encompasses all those things. It’s brilliant because it’s about making things simple. We talk about emotional intelligence, that sounds complex. There’s a lot that goes into that and so forth. The key to emotional intelligence could be curiosity?

I think it’s a big part. I had Daniel Goleman on my show who I studied all of his work for my research years ago when I did my research originally. No matter who I talked to, from Harvard I’ve had Francesca Gino on my show who wrote a great piece about curiosity for Harvard Business Review. I highly recommend reading that. All of them I’m asking, “Where does this all begin?” They all think it begins there. I thin even driving motivation. Daniel Pink’s book is great. Simon Sinek’s Find Your Why, Carol Dweck’s Mindset. I recommend reading all of those books. It all begins with curiosity. That’s why I was so stunned that there was no way to measure this in any other way other than how curious you were or not. It was a good challenge for me.

I loved it going through all the different scenarios, trying to figure out how to do this. It was a lot of fun. I got to talk to a lot of interesting people about this because consultants love this because they’d given a DiSC to the death. They’ve given Myers-Briggs and they’re like, “I want to be relevant.” This is the time, everybody wants to be innovative. If you want to be innovative, you got to ask questions, you got to explore. Some companies like the Kodaks and the Blockbusters are afraid to give up their old model because it works. Marshall Goldsmith was right, “What got you here won’t get you there.” If you’re afraid to explore, you’re going to end up not relevant anymore. That’s why this is so important.

TBT 85 | Being Curious

Being Curious: The ingredients in the workplace are creativity, innovation, engagement, and all those things. The oven is curiosity. If you don’t turn on the oven, you don’t get cake.


I’m excited about you bringing this to corporations and to people because as we raise the level of emotional intelligence, then we improve our relationships. Relationships are everything. I want to relate this to a lot of the entrepreneurs who might be reading this. Improving those relationships in the organization makes people collaborate better together. It makes people more innovative. Thinking about the marketplace with more curiosity than the #MeToo, here’s how I show up in the marketplace. That opens up that blue ocean thinking about, “What are we missing in the marketplace? Who are we not capturing? What is a different way to look at things? How can we speed things up? How could we offer something different?” It gets them out of that box, to think outside the box, and they can apply that in many different areas of their business.

It’s important for every group. I gave a talk, I think it was 50,000 project managers. That’s a huge problem for them to think outside the box because sometimes they come up with their plans, but they don’t get the feedback first. They’re looking in the same old places trying to fix things. Their whole thing is to have contingency plans so they have to think in a curious way. If they’re not going out and asking for feedback from different areas, you sometimes find answers from the strangest places. I wrote about it in my book. There’s this hospital in England, they were having unusually high number of casualties after transferring patients from the OR to recovery.

They did all their normal ways of contingency plans for how they handled things. They tried everything and people were still dying. They were still having problems. A couple of the leaders were watching a race car event one night and they watched them take apart the Formula One race car. The guys put it back together, everything was perfect. They’re like, “How can they do that? We can’t just move a patient from here to here?” They asked them to come, see what they’re doing and talk to them to see if they could help. They gave them a few suggestions and they improved their efficiency by 50%. You think about how we talk about thinking outside your cubicle or outside your silo. This is outside your organization, outside your industry thinking is what we need to do.

I get so many different ideas. I love working with people in different industries because you can cross-pollinate. Something that works in another industry brings new ideas, fresh looks and approaches to another. That’s valuable. What’s your definition of productivity?

That’s an interesting question because each organization finds it a little bit differently. Some of it is sales and units sold, some of it is how much money they’re saving based on communication-based issues. There are a million different ways.

In an earlier radio show, I asked every single guest and not a single guest gave me the same answer.

I’m on target by saying there are a million different answers.

What’s yours?

To me, it’s based on what your job is. In sales, if you sold X units last year, then if you sold more units this year, you’re more productive obviously. It can be bottom-line sales in certain industries and certain situations. A lot of it, the people I deal with, are consultants and speakers. For them, that’s how they measure their productivity. You have to think in terms of bottom-line what your value is to shareholders, stakeholders and everybody that you’re dealing with. What’s valuable to one person’s perception is different. For the salesperson, it’s all how many widgets they sold. I think it’s all based on your perception, which position you’re in, how you would define that.

I was thinking that you were going to come from a curiosity perspective and that the more you implement and embrace curiosity, the more it’s going to show up in all of those bottom-line areas.

I agree with that, but I don’t know if I would say that’s the overall definition. People all define it so differently, but no matter how you define it, curiosity will help it.

You had done a number of work and projects around personality types. Have you seen any correlation with personality type and curiosity?

I haven’t done any studies as far as comparing for extroverts or introverts. In the data as far as gender and all that, the women came in a little higher initially. We have some data out there, but since it’s just launched, I’m hesitant to give, “This is what all women or all men or all extroverts or all introverts.” You’d have to do an actual clinical study on it. I’m not sure what personality traits you’re considering. Do you think about the DISC personality or do you think about emotional intelligence?

What's valuable to one person’s perception is different for another. Click To Tweet

It’s all of them. I’m curious what correlations, but I get it. You’re collecting more and more data.

When I studied emotional intelligence and its correlation with sales performance, you have to give the emotional intelligence test and then you have to have the sales results to compare. You have to do a study like that where they would take Curiosity Code Index and then they could compare it with their sales results and do correlation studies. It would take research a lot of time to go through all that. I think all those studies should be done. The only research that I’ve had formerly peer-reviewed published is how the assessment was created and that’s out there. It’s like ScienceDaily and all the other magazines. They have it all out there peer-reviewed. What we looked at there was how to create the assessment, how we validated it and all of that. All the correlation studies, I’m excited to see what they can be. That will be fun. I’ll probably doing all of them, but I hope a lot of researchers are.

You’re kicking it. It’s relevant and I’m sure that there will be much more coming out in that arena.

I think it’s going to be a hot topic for a long time because innovation is everywhere and everything now. Everybody’s worried about AI taking over jobs. If people are disengaged, we know because of Gallup that less than a third of the workplace is engaged. It’s the worst numbers ever. We’re losing $500 billion a year. How many times have we all heard that? If everybody knows these numbers, everybody wants to fix that. We have to look at what would help with engagement? Wouldn’t it help if people were aligned to jobs that they cared about, liked and were interested in? How can we do that if we’re not even asking people or they’re allowing them to explore things? The thing is that’s the key because people are going to be moved, not only manual labor-type jobs, but some of these other higher-level jobs. People are going to get displaced and we know that. If we could start asking questions, allowing people to explore and find out what they would rather be doing. Maybe they just got this job and they didn’t want to do it and they’re putting up with it. I want to use this to help people find what they are passionate about so that we improve engagement and get them into jobs that are more appropriate.

It’s a key issue that needs to be resolved. I think based on what I’ve seen and talking to people that the fact that people are so busy and leaders are even more working on this disengagement or they’re more engaged in many different things. Maybe there are fewer resources and that’s why people seem to be busier or were impulsive and distracted and that’s part of what adds to it. It was making me think that curiosity might be going down maybe with technology, but also with the whole distraction, busy and the challenge that people are in with this tug of war with time. That their excuse is we don’t have time to ask questions. We don’t have time to focus on studies and that type of leadership. Do you hear that at all?

We hear bandwidth, “We don’t have time to give another test. What if we train people and then they leave?” All of those what-if questions. What if you don’t train them and they stay and they’re not very good? There’s the opportunity cost. What if you don’t take time to give them the assessment and develop them? What if you don’t let people ask the questions? What if you end up being the Blockbusters and Kodaks because of that? I think a lot of it is time management skills and ability. It’s a lot of the things that you help people with to be more efficient, effective and all that needs to be worked on. A lot of people don’t ask questions. How can I be more efficient? How can I do this a different way? That falls down to curiosity.

TBT 85 | Being Curious

Being Curious: Innovation is everywhere and everything now, but people are getting more and more disengaged.


When I was in sales, they had contests. I was super competitive. They’d have us dial for dollars basically, they threw you the phonebook and you had to dial for all day long. They would track your phone time on their computers of how much time you spent on the phone. In an eight-hour day, they’d like you to do two to four hours, it was somewhere in there. I was always like four hours because you had all the other stuff you had to do outside the phone so you couldn’t spend the whole day on the phone. No one got more than two hours and I’d be always around four hours. They’re like, “How are you doing this?” because no one else could do it. It came naturally to me to type my notes of what I was saying while I was talking to them. If I got off the phone and typed later, it will be twice as long. I guess it wasn’t intuitive to other people to do that. Some things are not intuitive to people that they just think, “I have to do them separately” or maybe they can’t multitask as well.

That’s a great point is that things that some people find intuitive, other people do not and we take that for granted.

They say don’t multitask, but I’m the queen of multitasking, but only when it’s things that you can multitask. It’s not like taking a science exam where you can’t do anything else but do that. If I could type and talk at the same time and it doesn’t interrupt those things, I multitask all the time. I teach for several universities and sometimes I’m grading different things all at the same time because I have to wait for the computer, the hourglass going round and round, I’m like, “Why am I going to wait for that when I could be doing this?” Where other people sit there and stare at the hourglass. Why are you staring at the hourglass when you could do something else?

I definitely think there’s a time for multitasking and it depends on what the tasks are and things like that, but we do know that the studies say that it’s not good. As a productivity person, I do not want to encourage anybody who’s reading to multitask. Thank you so much for being here. I’ve enjoyed the conversation around curiosity. I think it’s a brilliant concept and basis for everything. Where can people find out more information about you and take the index?

Thank you first of all for having me on the show. This was so much fun. I would say the best way to reach me is my website DrDianeHamilton.com. You can get directly to it from my site, but you can also go to CuriosityCode.com to take the index. Either one will get you there, but if you go to DrDianeHamilton.com, you can also go find the radio show. You can find my consulting, speaking and everything else I do. The curiosity is right at the top, you can go right there. The book, the Curiosity Code Index and the certification training is there. If they do the certification training, they get five hours of SHRM recertification. That’s nice for anybody trying to get their HR credits in. Everything is available there and you find me on social media @DrDianeHamilton everywhere.

If people were aligned to jobs that they cared about, liked, and were interested in, there would be more engagement. Click To Tweet

Thank you so much for being here.

You’re welcome. Thank you for having me on the show.

Thank you all for being here. You were curious and it paid off. Continue practicing being curious and go check out Dr. Diane Hamilton’s content. It’s amazing and it’s definitely going to open your mind, change your behavior and improve your performance. Thank you.

Important Links:

About Dr. Diane Hamilton

TBT 85 | Being CuriousDr. Diane Hamilton is the Founder and CEO of Tonerra, a consulting and media-based business. She is also a nationally syndicated radio host, keynote speaker, and the former MBA Program Chair at the Forbes School of Business. She has a Ph. D. in Business Management. She has taught more than 1000 business courses and authored multiple books, including Cracking the Curiosity Code: The Key to Unlocking Human Potential. She is the creator of the Curiosity Code Index® assessment, which is the first and only assessment that determines the factors that inhibit curiosity.

Her groundbreaking work in the area of curiosity helps organizations improve innovation, engagement, and productivity. Her books are required reading in universities around the world; some of the most respected names in leadership, including Steve Forbes, Keith Krach, and Ken Fisher have endorsed it. She is a highly sought-after keynote speaker who has shared the stage with top speakers including Marshall Goldsmith, Martha Stewart, Daymond John, Travis Bradberry, and Jeffrey Hayzlett, and has been featured on Forbes, First for Women, ABC, NBC, CBS, and Fox.

Diane is an experienced leader, serving on multiple BOAs including Docusign, RadiusAI, Global Mentoring Network, and LeaderKid Academy. Her experience on boards included working alongside top CEOs from Adobe, McDonald’s, General Motors, Yahoo!, NASA, North Face, Oracle, Salesforce, Cisco, United Airlines, Shark Tank’s Kevin O’Leary, and many other top brands.

Diane has a history of award-winning performance; the creator of multiple behavioral assessments and a Forbes brand publishing course; decades of top-performance within billion-dollar organizations; developer of partnerships; a seasoned professional within education, software, banking, real estate, and pharmaceuticals; an expert in sales, marketing, online training, assessments, curiosity, perception, innovation, culture, HR, engagement, EI, soft skills, networking, influence, and social media.

Love the show? Subscribe, rate, review, and share!

Productivity Strategies With Marc Reklau

TBT 87 | Productivity Strategies


Gratitude in your everyday life goes a long way. With it, your true happiness will be revealed, which will then boost your productivity and reveal your mastery. In this episode, host Penny Zenker interviews Marc Reklau – the author of the international number one bestselling and award-winning book, 30 Days – Change Your Habits, Change Your Life. Marc shares his wonderful tips and tricks on how to be productive and talks about the benefits of being happy to effectively work smart and not work hard. Join us in this episode as Marc teaches more about being productive and happy, and at the same time, achieve greater success.

Listen to the podcast here:

Productivity Strategies With Marc Reklau

I am excited to have a fellow bestselling author with me, Marc Reklau. He is the author of the international number one bestselling, award-winning book, 30 Days – Change your habits, Change your life. It’s been translated into nine languages. It has over 300 five-star reviews on Amazon and over 170,000 readers. He has a number of other books about happiness and gratitude, The Life-Changing Power of Gratitude, which I love. I definitely want to talk more about that with him. He’s an author, a speaker, and a corporate trainer. He is really dedicated to helping people and organizations transform and achieve greater success. Marc, it’s great to have you here.

It’s great to be here, Penny.

You’ve got a lot of great books and great topics that you talk about. This show is called Take Back Time so we’re going to cover a lot of those different topics. What I’d love to know is how did you get here? Why are you are talking about habits, happiness and productivity?

I’ll start from the beginning. I was fired from my job. I was jobless. I had done a coaching training. I’m at a point where I don’t know what to do. Here in Europe, we got jobless money for two years and I have savings also. I said, “I need to build something,” like a coaching practice. I start studying self-publishing online marketing. Suddenly, I had an idea to write a book. A coach with a book is always better and easier to distinguish from a coach without a book. I wrote my book, 30 Days – Change your habits, Change your life, and got it out on Amazon. Nothing happened for the first half a year. Then I got on to an awesome promotion, a newsletter in the US and got 38,000 downloads in a couple of days on Amazon. Even if they were free, they catapulted me right up there in the charts with the gurus, Tim Ferriss and David Allen. Sadly, I couldn’t live even from my book because of the free downloads at that time translated into book sales later on.

There’s a lot of entrepreneurs who read this blog and they probably like to give things away for free. Why would you do that? That doesn’t make any sense. What would you say to people who have that in their mindset that, “No, you can’t give it away for free because you won’t make any money if you give it away for free.”

You decide when you give something for free and not let other people lure you with exposure. Click To Tweet

I have an internal discussion about it. I have a discussion with fellow entrepreneurs but it’s easy for me. I built everything I have. I’m giving away 100,000 free eBooks. I think the important thing is that you decide when you give something for free and not let other people decide for you. For example, if somebody asks for me to give a free speech, I might say, no.

It is based on a lot of different factors. Who’s in the audience how is that going benefit you and get your message out?

I wanted to give lectures at the business school. I started by giving them a free talk. It was good and they wanted me back then I said, “Symbolically, you have to pay a little bit. You don’t have to pay $5,000 to buy something.” The second one was also good. Then I said, “My dream was to give lectures here and do a whole semester about happiness.” I’ve got it and I was paid. The free lecture that I gave in the beginning got me into getting a paid gig. That’s something I see all the time, but you always need to distinguish because sometimes people want to lure you in. You might get a lot of exposure, but the decision must always be yours.

It’s a strategy. You’ve created this strategy that says, “Here is the first step which is free and then to this step and then to that step,” and that’s the way we grow our businesses. It’s creating a plan in a staged approach. I wanted to highlight that point on giving it for free and whether that’s productive or not. The answer is, it depends and it very well can be when it’s part of a strategy.

TBT 87 | Productivity Strategies

30 Days – Change your habits, Change your life

You must be the one who decides. Don’t let them lure you in with exposure. You need to know what you want or it and your strategy. You can also throw in the free talks or free training, but always with the goal to later get paid for it. You know how it is. You write a book and they say the last chapter of the book you write is already the first chapters of your next book. First, I wrote a book about self-publishing because I had all my notes. I needed to put my notes into a manuscript and then I had my second book.

In my third book, I asked my email list and my friends. When you ask people, “What is your problem? What would you like?” If you have understood when I say, “I want to have more time.” That’s when I wrote, Productivity Revolution, my second book. I did some corporate training on productivity, but I noticed that there was always tension in the room. The productivity tools are awesome for us as entrepreneurs, but in companies sometimes they don’t like to hear it. Some of the greatest techniques of productivity are turning off your mobile phone, don’t take the phone or turn off the email. In a corporation, they don’t want to hear that.

They don’t want to do it. They don’t want to hear it. Marc, tell me something groundbreaking that I can do with a tiny little bit that’ll take up no time and that’ll fix everything.

They were multitaskers because they’re ignoring the countless studies that are out there. Multitasking makes your number more unpredictable and all this. I kept on studying and then I came to this subject of happiness. That was amazing because we know happier brains ultimately got some more productive.

At the time that you were talking about productivity and you were helping people to see how they could be more productive and that whole thing that you said that people said they wanted more time. Do you think that if they had more time they’d be more productive?

I think there will never have enough time. You have to start with the basics. Most of the people in a corporation, they have enough time, but they are wasting it. They are busy all day and they are not doing result-orientated work. I was like that when I worked in a corporation. You would go there and you try to get your eight or nine hours over for you get paid. When I was becoming an entrepreneur, that’s when I was learning that if I waste time, no money will come in.

The costs are greater directly to you and that’s motivating in itself to make some change. We think the way we think is to do what’s easy versus sometimes what’s best for us. Discipline is hard. That’s why people don’t want to hear it. They don’t want to hear about anything that requires discipline.

We should work smarter, not harder. Click To Tweet

They are telling themselves stories that if you come with productivity tricks, you are putting them in danger. They are telling themselves, “I can’t do it because my work demands me to take every phone call because I would lose a client.” They create these stories so they can stay stuck and it’s very difficult to go through there. For us, it was difficult, but when your monthly income depends on it, then it’s easier for you to learn something new or it’s easier to do the inconvenient stuff because you depend on it.

I see that in entrepreneurs, too. We all get stuck in our excuses and our stories. I want to challenge everyone who is reading this, “What stories are in your way of you being smarter in the way that you approach things or do things? Are you just doing things the way they’ve always been done? Are you looking for different ways? What are those stories?” I tell people all the time, “Identify them and get clear why do you overanalyze something if you are overanalyzing? What’s the story you are telling yourself and that will help? What’s behind the procrastination? When we get a better understanding of these stories, then we can prove them that to be true. That’s a great point about the stories and I agree that more time doesn’t bring more happiness. It doesn’t bring more money. It doesn’t create more meaning in our lives. It doesn’t even create more balance because of Parkinson’s Law, we’ll use whatever time we have and fill it up.

You have to get it from the roots. When you take it from the roots and you learn these productivity tricks and tools, then time brings more happiness. It brings more fun in everything because then you’re using it wisely. We should work smarter and not harder. A stressed businessman came to me, a sales manager and he said, “I have two choices now. I can take you as a coach to improve my happiness or probably in two weeks, I’m going to have a heart attack or an accident.” We started working in little steps. After three months, when he started to take control of his time, on the weekends, he was spending more time with her family.

With his family, everything gets better but he needed first to go to the roots and say, “How can I work better? How can I work smarter?” Why I’m doing work that’s not necessary? Where am I not delegating or where I should be delegating?” When you to start from them and when you do your groundwork, amazing things happen with productivity. If you don’t do the groundwork, you can have it all the time in the world and you will never have enough. People are working 60 hours and not getting work done. That saddens me because we know how you can do it better. I’m the most normal person and I went through all this. I was a procrastinator. I was only a busy person, not a productive person, but it’s a process. I worked on this stuff and I don’t want to go back, now, that I’m so good at productivity that I start having bad habits again. I have so much time left. I’m not lowering my guard to fall in all the stupid stuff again like watching TV.

It’s being more purposeful and being clear on what we want to get as an end result. Then you shifted to happiness. People didn’t want to hear about productivity, but they wanted to hear about happiness.

Happiness makes us more productive. They found out that happy brains are 37% more productive. When I took that to the companies, the tension was gone. Everybody is responsible for their happiness. That set by the employees. For the employers, if you add a little more to it and create the environment, then it will be even better. Both parts take responsibility. Instead of a blame game, you suddenly have both parts taking the responsibility and then it will be nicer. I tried to convince them with all the studies because we have no enough studies that are out there that we trust.

TBT 87 | Productivity Strategies

Productivity Strategies: If a company gets behind happiness as their number one goal, you’re going to have better customer service and more sales.


Everybody wants to be happy. I feel this when I go in and speak to organizations and we talk about productivity. Sometimes they think that when the management says we’re going to be more productive, that means more work for them. When they think about productivity, they don’t think of it as working smarter. They think of it as working harder because that’s what they feel that’s being asked of them. That’s where the resistance is and everybody wants to be happy. When you said, “Do you to be happier?” They’re like, “I want to be happier.”

You nailed it. What I also noticed is the wrong mentality. I talked to managers and I told them about productivity, they went, “That’s great. I can give them more work,” and it’s not about that. Sometimes one person in the department doesn’t want to be more productive because then he gets all the work from the lazy person that’s sitting next to him. It’s easier to transmit it and you go deep. Being happy doesn’t mean you need to be happy all the time. You can still have a conflict and resolve it but cover everything. People like to talk more about happiness than to talk about productivity.

It’s an interesting thought. A while back, I read a book that was talking about companies taking single focus and how single focus that everyone can get behind really drove results, productivity and profits. There is one company, Alcoa, years ago focused on safety. It was something that everybody from the top to the bottom could get behind. It made them look at things differently. The way that they organized their process was different. The way that they approached each other was different. I could see the same with happiness. If a company gets behind happiness as their number one goal, you’re going to have better customer service and you’re going to have more sales. People are going to be more engaged. It’s much easier to focus on that and get the results that come from that.

That’s exactly what happens. That’s why Facebook and Google are not the best or the most valuable brands because they’re doing happiness. Once I talked to an employee said, “It’s not that they’re great people, they just have read the studies and they know and that’s why they let us bring our children to work.” It’s not that they become suddenly altruistic. It’s because they know that it’s super for the bottom line. It’s the greatest win-win for any company. The Gallup study says that 70% of the people are unhappy at work. You said that happy people take fewer days off than unhappy people. They are sick less. This is saving money and gaining more money. Here in Spain, we are even further behind. I don’t understand why more companies are not counting on it or at least give it a shot. Let’s try it.

Some companies are focused on productivity. What’s funny is in my programs, we talk about the tug of war with time, but I talk about gratitude and happiness. It is fundamental. That’s why I said I love that I saw that you’ve also written a book on gratitude because I think that’s the secret to life and happiness.

The more grateful you get with life, the better it is going to be. Click To Tweet

That’s why I wrote the book. The book was like a baby that wanted to come out. It came to my mind because I’m doing the interviews on podcasts or online summits. When I’m asked, “What’s the secret ingredient to your success?” It always comes to the same thing, gratitude. The more grateful I got with my life, the better my life got. Everything I’ve ever written about gratitude, every interview I’ve given and then that just put it all together and put it in a book because I’m communicating with my books. You won’t see a lot of Youtube videos from me or Instagram videos.

I write books, but then I make The Life-Changing Power of Gratitude where I put everything in there. It’s a small book. The book comes from the heart and my soul. It’s the most important thing I ever shared. I get great feedback for it. Gratitude is the number one ingredient for happiness and even productivity and optimism. You can’t be sad and grateful at the same time or envious and grateful at the same time. It’s also an antidote to a lot of painful emotions.

Let’s talk about some tips. Some people are reading this and they’ll probably say, “I get all that you’re saying and everything.” They want to know how. What are somehow points that we can share with the audience about how to use gratitude to be happier and more productive? Any other tips that you think are key.

The great thing is it’s so easy. It’s only every day writing down three things you are grateful for and feel it. I always would say feel that gratitude so when I write it down, I write it in the morning and the evening and I feel it. For example, I am grateful for the cup of coffee I had at the beach. While I write it, I feel it and I see myself at the beach sitting again. I’m grateful for my mother, for my partner and sometimes I’m grateful for Amazon or for my MacBook that lets me talk to you or communicate. It doesn’t have to be big things. It can be small things. You write down three things and you feel it and it will rewire your brain to see more of the things that you’re grateful for.

For me, it’s not three things anymore. For me, it’s like five or ten things every morning because it comes so easy. For beginners, three things. It might be a little bit more difficult in the beginning but keep on doing it because that’s the single best exercise I can recommend to everybody. It’s simple and it’s very impactful. It’s a good starting point. Sometimes people come to me while I’m in a really bad place. They asked me for help. I say, “I can’t advise you yet because I have never been in such a terrible situation. What I can tell you is to start with gratitude.” Many people when they start with gratitude, they feel happier and optimistic.

TBT 87 | Productivity Strategies

The Productivity Revolution

It shifts what you focus on. It shifts you from focusing on the problem to focusing on what’s good. Our brain is designed to delete, distort and generalize things. If we’re focused on a problem, we’re going to get more of that gratitude. It has gotten me through gratitude. I started several years ago writing a gratitude journal in the morning as a result of going through a divorce, a difficult situation. I have to say, it made me show up as the person I wanted to be and it is life-changing. I recommend it as you do as a basis, especially if you’re going through difficult times.

It is better when you started while you’re doing well. When you’re going through a very tough division, it’s always even more difficult. Sometimes you don’t want to be grateful. I have even days that I don’t want to be grateful but I write it down anyway. Another thing that I’ve helped me as much as making a list of everything that you are grateful for. You have to have three things you write down on your journal but I also have a list where I wrote down all the places I have visited and friends, even people that hurt me because I can see what came out of it. I’m grateful that I had this relationship or this experience because it made me grow a little bit. Imagine if you get up in the morning and instead of thinking, “I have to go to work.” If at the first thing in the morning you make your list and then maybe you see the list and it says LA and you have a great memory of LA and start your day like this. That also is already an incredible difference in how your day can start.

Let’s go for one more tip that you’ve got in the productivity book that you think is one of the biggest sorts of productivity strategies that has most helped you.

Concentrate on one thing, the most important thing. If every day you do the most important things for your business, then automatically in one year you will be in a great place. The difficult part is finding out what is the one thing. Another thing which I would always do is for me to work productively, I turn off everything. I turn off my mobile. It even goes to another room so that I don’t even see it. I turn off the internet browser. I turn off the email. There’s a study at the University of London. They say if you want to work focused and you have your email open, it makes you lose ten points of your IQ. That’s the same with not sleeping for 48 hours and going to work.

They say the same thing about any distraction. That’s a distraction with email, but any distraction that you allow has that same impact. They said it was the same as smoking dope.

They said smoking dope is only taking away four points. The other big thing for me. People are afraid if they don’t answer emails that they will lose clients. The easiest way is to look at yourself. Do you always get an answer right away? I always looked at this typical situation when somebody was pressuring me, ‘I need the answer now.” You put out your offer and then you don’t hear for six weeks and you needed it within the hour.

Gratitude is the number one ingredient for happiness, productivity, and optimism. Click To Tweet

One of my mentors taught me that we train people how to treat us. If we want to be always in response, then we are always obsessively in response. It’s an obsession and we need to let it go. That’s two, you said to focus on the most important thing. Turn it all off.

The 80/20 principle or the Pareto Principle. For prioritizing, it is incredible. It’s when I started to become more productive. It was because I was looking for what are the 20% that bring me 80% of my results? What are the 20% of my clients that bring me 80% of my problems? The 20% who bring you 80% of results and 20% will bring you 80% of the problems so get rid of those that bring you problems. I have a little story. A couple of years ago, I had like three-four business relationships, which was draining. They brought me 20% of my money. I took the decision because I read a lot about it and it seems to work.

I said, “I’m going to got rid of these business relationships.” I was like, “Maybe I have to make a little bit lower this year because it’s minus 20%,” but at the end of the year, I didn’t have minus 20%, I had plus 10%. I grew up my profits. That was another proof for me that I did everything right because I didn’t lose time in stupid discussions and running about after my money. I used that time and spend on my good clients or on my writing. That’s another thing. Writing brought 80% of my income. I said, “I’ll stop everything else.” 80% of my time, I will invest in my writing or in my books which means writing, marketing and promoting my books.” It skyrocketed my benefits and profits.

The important thing for people to take away from this and understand is it doesn’t need to be a new principal or a new trick. You need to consistently apply something. That is the simplest rule It helps you to step back and to evaluate where you are, where you want to be and what’s in the gap. You have understood and focus on what’s most important.

There are finite numbers of techniques or productivity tricks. To my clients, I say, “This is all there is. I don’t know which one will work best for you so you choose what goes best for you.” We don’t need to reinvent the wheel. It’s impossible. What we need to do is apply what’s best for us and then build on that.

Thank you so much for giving us so many different tips and tricks across the three different areas that you’ve been sharing your expertise. How can people get ahold of you? Where can they find your books and also any other programs that you have?

Happiness makes us more productive. Click To Tweet

I’m on Amazon. There’s only one Marc Reclau with a C in the world. Wherever you put my name, the only one who comes up is me. I have a webpage. It’s called GoodHabitsAcademy.com. I have MarcReklau.com that you can download some free coaching worksheets. My books are exclusively on Amazon.

Thank you for your tips. Check out Marc’s books and his programs and see how they can help you to be smarter and happier in creating those habits that are going make a difference to create more impact and more profits in your life.

Be patient. It’s a long race. It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon and if I can do it, you can do it.

I will see you in the next episode.

Important Links:

About Marc Reklau

TBT 87 | Productivity StrategiesI’m Marc Reklau, author of the international #1 bestselling and award-winning book “30 Days – Change your habits, change your life” which has been translated into 9 languages, has over 300 five-star reviews on Amazon and over 170,000 readers.

As author, speaker, and corporate trainer I’m dedicated to helping people and organizations to transform and achieve greater success using the power of habit. For more than 20 years I have studied the work of philosophers, scientists and psychologists to learn what makes people tick.

With the right mentality you can improve your personal and professional success in a way that you never imagined. For individuals, this can mean a salary increase, more sales, health improvements, better relationships, and a higher level of happiness. For companies, it means multiplying company benefits, cutting health care costs, higher employee engagement, and lower employee turnover among other advantages.

Love the show? Subscribe, rate, review, and share!


Pin It on Pinterest