What do a retired navy captain, a rubber duck, and a women’s leadership expert have in common?
They’re all productivity superheroes – at least, they are for me.
Like many of you reading this newsletter, I have to create new content on a regular basis. Not producing is not an option. My executive coaching clients need me to follow up on our calls with assignments and written reflections. The conferences that hire me need new keynotes and workshops. My website howls for blogs and updates.
But after I published my book, Advice that Sticks, I hit a slump. Perhaps it was the writer’s equivalent of post-partum blues, but I just couldn’t muster the enthusiasm to write. Unless there was a gun in the form of a deadline pointed at my head, I was finding it really hard to produce anything.
I needed that to change. I decided to take a page out of my own doctoral thesis on procrastination (which I did, indeed, finish!), and stop relying on the fickleness of willpower and/or the stress of last-minute brinksmanship to get things done. I needed, instead, to harness some more reliable human strengths – say, the power of habit, or the power of positivity.
So it was that, several months ago, I invited an unlikely trio to form a virtual writing group with me. We settled on Friday mornings as the time to get stuff out of our heads and into the world. Permit me to introduce you to the crew who have become my productivity hacks:
Dr. David Kloak is a former Navy Captain and chaplain. He’s now an executive career coach with a great big intellect and an even bigger heart. Dave sees synchronicities and creates connections between seemingly disparate fields of work and ideas and people. The guy is an incubator for ideas.
Dr. Mira Brancu is an expert in women’s leadership development, with special savvy in navigating large and complex organizations. She’s a blogger and writer of remarkable quality, someone who has the great gifts of encouragement and insight in equal proportions. Mira gets kind of ferocious, however, when she catches even a whiff of perfectionism. She’ll have none of that.
Then there’s my buddy, the rubber duck. I don’t know much about him, sorry to say, other than he’s a Chinese expatriate. Unlike Mira and Dave, he’s intellectually dense and doesn’t do a whole heck of a lot. But he IS cute and he IS a superb listener, and thus has a vital role in my Friday mornings.
We’ve figured out a great routine, the good doctors and the duck and I. First, we connect on Skype for five minutes to set our intentions for the next two hours. We check in an hour later to give an update and ask for any quick help we might need. We Skype again at the end of the second hour to report on progress and wish each other well in the week ahead.
The duck doesn’t actually participate IN the calls; he is, however, ON call to haul me out of trouble in my writing. Talking to the duck is a strategy I learned from Daniel Pink in one his earliest Pinkcasts. When I am getting bogged down in my tendency to be abstruse, pedantic, or byzantine, I explain the passage to the duck, who insists on plain and simple and direct. He’s annoyingly relentless about it. That’s a good quality in a productivity superhero.
Accountability, routine, delightful companions, and an uncompromising insistence on keeping it simple – these are the elements of a writing practice that feels less like gun-to-the-head and more like so-glad-to-be-here. They’re the reason I don’t even think about blowing off writing time any more.
I’m currently experimenting with similar ideas for getting to the gym more often. The duck is willing to give it a go. Both of us need to slenderize our thighs. (It’s probably all that time we spend writing.)