Episode 224 – How to Stay Focused and Productive

Rob ShallenbergerAlright, our friends around the world, welcome! This is Rob Shallenberger, your host for this short podcast. Right now, it is a beautiful spring day in Utah. I’m looking out the window, the temperature’s about 60 degrees, leaves are starting to change – it’s just a really beautiful time of year in the midst of total chaos. 


So, this podcast is really about focusing on what matters most during such a turbulent time in so many lives and businesses. I mean turbulent because I’ve talked with numerous executives over the last few days, who are literally hanging on by a thread right now with their business. I mean, literally hanging on by a thread! Today, a friend is releasing all of his employees – he has 100 employees; today, they’re all gone. I just read that two weeks ago in Las Vegas, more than 280,000 people have now been laid off. So, these are just small subset examples of what is happening around the world. There is a lot of pain right now in the world! And this is a podcast about optimism and hope and what you can do to survive and thrive from your home. Especially if you’re working at home and you’re no longer able to be with your team right now, how do you take this challenge and turn it into an opportunity?  


So, we’re not going to spend all the time or any time, really, from this point on, on the pain or on the challenges – we’re all acutely aware of what those are out there. We see it. Instead, let’s look at the next few weeks as an opportunity because think about this: if you approach this with the right mindset, and we apply the skill set to it, you can turn almost any challenge into an opportunity. And it may be difficult while we’re in the middle of the fiery furnace to see that, but that’s the truth. We can take any challenge and turn it into a blessing or an opportunity. If you look at Uber and Airbnb, these were born out of the last recession in 2008. They were born because people were forced to pivot; there were new opportunities and a handful of people seized those opportunities, while others basically gave up, quit, folded their cards.  


So, I’m hoping that what I share here will help us turn our faces forward, face the challenges, and come out stronger on the backside when that happens – and it could be months, this could stretch a lot longer than months. Well, we’ll see. But the point is, how do we come out of this surviving and thriving? Here are just a few things that we can do. Some of these, if you’re a Becoming Your Best listener and you’ve been through trainings or keynotes, should sound very familiar to you. If these are not familiar to you, I invite you right now to go to our website, get a copy of “Becoming Your Best: The 12 Principles” and read that book in the next 30 days. You need to understand how powerful these principles are and what impact they can have on our personal and professional success.  


Before we do that, one little admin item: on our website, if you’ll go to, we have just redone the assessment that’s there. There’s a personal productivity assessment that will rate you in several areas, based upon how you answer the questions. It takes probably about 8-10 minutes to do the assessment, and it’s well worth your time because it gives you a very clear snapshot of where you are today, with specific things you can do to really move the needle in those areas. It’s powerful, it’s well worth 8-10 minutes, and it’s free. So, go to – it’s a pop-up – and you’ll see the assessment; go ahead and take that, and you’ll get your results emailed to you within a few minutes of you finishing the assessment. Alright, jumping into this! 


So, here’s a few things. I wrote these down. I’ve really been pondering – as I’m sure many people have over the last couple of weeks – what really matters most? So, this will be a little refresher for anyone who’s read the book or been through our trainings. This time is more important than ever to make sure that, number one, we’re clear on our vision – what is our personal vision – and making sure that we have a written vision that supports the thoughts and feelings behind that. Number two, what are your roles and goals for 2020? Now, some of those may change. I get it. This has changed a lot of things and some of those may adjust. That’s okay. The point is, what are they? And some of those will stay consistent; They’re not going to change, regardless of what happens. But, the point is being focused on what matters most. We can’t lose that amidst the chaos of the storm. It’s kind of like a lighthouse. This is a lighthouse. The lighthouse is the guide, it’s the focal point, so that the sailor knows where to sail to, or, in some cases, what to avoid. In this case, we’re going to call it the harbor so they know where to sail to. Vision, goals, and the third is pre-week planning – it is the hinge upon which everything else swings.  


So, if you’ve heard of pre-week planning, if you’ve done it in the past and maybe slipped and aren’t doing it, this is your call to action to get back on the horse and do pre-week planning. Now, Becoming Your Best is a very specific process that, again, if you’ve been through the training you’re familiar with. We’re not just saying, “Plan out your week.” No! We’re taking it to a much deeper, higher level than that: it’s taking 20 – 40 minutes on either Saturday or Sunday, and first, identifying what are your roles – parent, spouse, friend, philanthropist, coach, whatever your current title is in your work – and the most important role is personal: taking care of ourselves mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and physically. Heart, mind, body, and soul. So, what are your roles? And then, within each role, what are specific action items or weekly goals that you could focus on this week in that particular role? And so, what you’re doing is creating a balance of success stories across every area of your life.  


Pre-week planning, tied in with goals and vision will help someone’s productivity increase by a minimum of 30 to 50% and easily can well extend into the 100% range increase on productivity. This means that your health will get better, it means that your relationships will improve – at least, you will be doing things that you can control in those relationships – your productivity and performance in the workplace will go up, which means you become invaluable to the team and to the organization; you’re a solution-focused person and an idea creator. That all ties back into vision, goals, and pre-week planning. I just can’t tell you what my life would be like if I took those out of the equation. It would be chaosit would be high stressAnd while people are working from home, while they’re not with their team, it is more important than ever, to make sure you’re connected to that vision, have your specific goals focused on what matters most by role, and have that weekly habit of pre-week planning.  


So, if this has slipped at all in your life, this is my call to action to you to get back on the horse and start pre-week planning. At some point, we’ve all slipped and missed a week here and there. This is the time where it’s more critical than ever, to get focused on what matters most so that we can survive and thrive.  


Now, in addition to those basics that I like to call the foundation to personal productivity and success – vision, goals, pre-week planning – knowing where you’re going, specific milestones, the goals how to get there and pre-week planning every week – what are our roles and specific action items to what matters most. That keeps us centered on the things that really matter most. Now, in addition to those, some of us may find ourselves with more time on our hands, from home; others, you’re going to be completely task-saturated right now trying to keep businesses afloat. There’s a lot of people in different situations right now. Regardless, it’s important to take care of ourselves, individually, and of our families in this process. And I say “process”. We’re going through the next two to three months, and we’re going to see where this comes out on the backside. That’s a process. It takes time and it takes patience, and it takes this focus on what matters most to come out stronger on the backside, and not be ragged, or high-stressed. 


I saw a pretty funny meme the other day: if you’ve seen the play “Annie”, you know the old lady there who used to have them in her foster home or her care center. It said, “Day one of quarantine” and it had this really nice, meticulous lady who is old-enough, with all this makeup on. And then it said, “Day six of quarantine”, and it had Miss Hannigan – I think that was her name – with a bottle of alcohol in her left hand and the hair was messed up. So, the bottom line is, yeah, being in the home or the quarantine is a game-changer for a lot of us. So, here’s some things that you can do from home that really do keep us focused on what matters most and might actually help us thrive coming out the backside. Again, we can either flip on the TV for two or three hours a day or this is our chance to do things that we haven’t done in the past and really get focused on what matters most. So, here are a couple of more things you can do in addition to vision, goals, and pre-week planning. I share this because I’m doing this exact thing right now and have been over the course of the last few months.  


Number one, if you don’t have a vision board, I invite you to create a vision board. If you’re working from home, this is the perfect time! And there are so many different ways to do this. Here’s the big picture. It doesn’t really necessarily matter how you do it – just by having a vision board you’ve done what so few people actually do. It’s one more way of getting focused. It’s one more way of saying what matters most to you. So, here’s the most simple form of a vision board: think of some long-term things that you want to do or accomplish or become, get those pictures – look for them on the internet – print them out and put them on this vision board, and then put that vision board in a place where you will see it, literally, every day. The point is that somehow we’re connecting our mind and our focus to what matters most.  


And man, the research behind this is so strong! A person is 90% more likely to accomplish something when they have a clearly written vision or goal. Well, less than 10% of people have any form of written goals. In our research of more than 1200 executives, less than 1-3% have a written personal vision. 68% of people feel like their number one challenge is how to prioritize their time, and 80% of those same people do not have a process to do that. So, just by doing these simple things, you’re putting yourself in a very small percentage of people that are living these high-performance habits, and it will have a huge impact on you.  


So, number one is, create a vision board. I mean, this is fun! On mine, right now, one of the pictures is Everest Basecamp. At some point in the next five years, assuming that God will allow me to live – and my plan is to go until 100 years old, and of course, I only have some control over that – so, assuming that I’m still around then, at some point in the next five years, I will be standing in the Everest Basecamp with some friends and family members. But it’s awesome! It’s on the vision board; I see it every single day, and it’s that focal point. Finances: there’s a very specific number on that vision board, and it’s amazing how quickly the needle moves in that direction when we have the focus, and the goals to get us there. I don’t know how it happens, but things seem to work out in our favor all the time if we’re doing the right things. And so, it’s just a matter of getting focused in so many of those cases. So, create a vision board! 


Now, here’s the second thing. Maybe you’ve done this before, maybe this will be totally new to you. If you’ve done it before, but haven’t done it recently, this is a good chance to do this again. Create a bucket list. Now, I’m going to force you to stretch a little bit here: create a bucket list of 25 things that you would like to do or accomplish in your lifetime. We’re not talking over the next one or two years, we’re talking in your lifetime. So, maybe it’s a trip to Bali; maybe it’s Everest Basecamp, like in my case, or Antarctica; maybe it’s to have a home in Hawaii; maybe it’s to do some form a service – a service mission to Africa or to build five wells in Africa, or to go to South America on one of the islands in the Pacific and help build homes for those who don’t have the means to do so; maybe it’s philanthropy to start doing something for other people and you start a fund. The point is, create a bucket list of things that you want to do or accomplish for the remainder of your life. And then, highlight if you can – this is really going to force you to get focused – highlight the top five. That’s not easy to do, speaking from experience. Highlight the top five, try and narrow it down to five and see where these align with your vision, goals, and pre-week planning. And it’s amazing how much clarity this simply will bring into your life by doing this.  


Now, if you’re in a relationship with a partner or a spouse, go out to dinner, go to lunch – or in this case, maybe go to the park so you’re not around other people – and share your lists. See where you overlap with each other. And this is a great chance to sync up your lists. Hopefully, you’re not 180 degrees out on each one of these. Hopefully, there are some places where you overlap. And then, those can become a part of your goals and vision for the rest of this year or the coming few years. But, the point is, we’re shifting the focus away from all the problems, and all the challenges that constantly surround us, and puts us in a place of hope and focus to get us back onto the things that say, “Alright, let’s figure out a way forward. Let’s figure out a path. Let’s not be victims to the circumstance.” 


And here’s another one – this is the last one I’ll share here. Instead of just wasting away our time sitting in front of the TV or whatever, how about learning a new skill in the next 30 days? So, maybe that would be, for some of us, cooking or maybe for other people it could be carving wood, learning how to weld. I mean, there are so many things out there to choose from; there are, literally, thousands of things. It could be learning how to fish, how to shoot a gun, how to draw a picture using oil or watercolor-type paintings. The point is, what’s a new skill that you could learn in the next 30 days? And where’s that going to happen? Where are you going to make the time for it? Pre-week planning! 


So, hopefully, just throwing around a couple of ideas has been helpful to you. The bottom line is, we’re in a pretty tough challenge right now, as a world across the board. Virtually, no one’s going to be exempt. It’s going to touch people in different ways, so to speak – they’ll have family members who get sick, they’ll have other family members who will lose their business. I mean, it’s just what’s going to happen. At the same time, there are so many positives that can come from this; even a lost business is an opportunity to pivot and find something new. So, there’s always hope. Where there could be darkness, there’s always an opportunity to see light in this. And it’s ultra-important in the coming days, weeks, and months to be focused on those things that matter most: our vision, goals, and that habit of pre-week planning, so that we don’t just get stuck in the groundhog day mentality that is so easy to slip into, when it kind of does feel like Groundhog Day, to a degree. 


So, in addition to vision, goals, and pre-week planning, I invite you to create a vision board and put it in a place where you’ll see it often; create a bucket list of 25 things and highlight the top five; in the next 30 days focus on a new skill that you could learn to develop yourself. And one thing that I’m going to commit to, is to take the same concept with me when we’re on the backside of this crisis. I’m going to continue to learn a new skill every month of something – I’m not going to perfect it in most cases, but I at least want to learn a new skill. Maybe it’s to speak German at a very base-level conversation – focus on that for the next 30 days. We’re sharpening our mind, we’re staying focused, we’re controlling things that we can control, rather than all of the noise and chaos that exists in the world.  


So, I hope this has been helpful. We value so much you being a part of the Becoming Your Best movement, sharing this with your family and with your friends. This is how one person can make a difference. So, again, I’m going to go back to where I started. Take that assessment on our homepage – – there’s that pop up there. It’s a great starting point to show us where are we today, and specific things we can do to move the needle. It only takes a few minutes.  


So, remember this: in this time of challenge, one person can make a difference! This morning I went on a mile-and-a-half run, came back just as the sun was rising, and it was so beautiful just to sit there and watch how light, 100% of the time, dispels darkness. The sun came over the horizon and it was just beautiful! I felt the warmth of the sun coming there and I thought, “Man, there’s still hope!” There are so many good things that we can focus on right now that will help us come out stronger on the back end of this because we will win this! We were destined for greatness, we’re not destined for mediocrity. We sure appreciate you and hope that you have a fabulous day and a great week, wherever you are in the world! 

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