The world is full of lazy people. You can find them in schools, government jobs, businesses, and superglued to couches. They are in every sector of society. And they are easy to spot. Because they don’t move very fast.
At the other end of the human spectrum you will find the Rise and Grind crowd, the Every Day I’m Hustling crowd and the I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead crowd. Most of us self-identify with these more aggressive, work-hard-play-hard types. But there is a surprising reality you should know. Sometimes lazy people outperform the hard chargers.
How could it be possible that the tree sloths sometimes outperform the workhorses? They do this by adhering to The Lazy Person’s Key To Success:
Do small things with large consequences.
The Fallacy of Activity
It is easy to keep busy without getting ahead. Have you ever watched a human doggy paddle in a pool or pond? It’s not pretty. By swimming doggy-style (#snickering), humans create a lot of motion, but very little progress. Don’t do this. It is a waste of time, energy and calories.
Instead, do the little things that create enormous impact. Remember that 80% of your results come from 20% of your effort. Which means that you can be both lazy AND successful by performing the small tasks that generate large results.
Make the right phone calls
Ask the right question
Ask for what you want
Know a guy
Read the directions
Create a top 10 list and post it to your blog for successful people to read
You don’t have to work hard to be successful. The quality of your actions far outweighs the quantity of your actions. By doing small things with large consequences you are using minimum force to create maximum results. Find the small activities in your world that make the greatest impact. Then perform them repeatedly. It’s not just lazy. It’s efficient and effective.
But remember, when the the Rise-and-Grinders also do the small things with large consequences, they eat lazy people for breakfast. (Gulp)
Pass the syrup.
If you know someone who could benefit from this little secret, please share it with them.
When I was in college I had a great study routine. I went to the Helen C. White Library on the University of Wisconsin campus in Madison every Monday through Thursday night. I headed straight to the quiet study section of the ‘brary, found a private study cube, and focused intensely for 45 to 60 minutes at a pop.
15 Minute Breaks
At the end of each period of intense focus I would leave the quiet study space and head to the non-stop party in the Group Study section of the library. There I would talk with friends, or flirt with the ladies for 15 minutes.
Then I would head right back to quiet section for another Total Focus study session. I would repeat this routine for several hours, until it was time to take the Drunk Bus home and get some sleep.
I loved this routine. In the quiet section there were no distractions. No laptop, mobile phone, or smart watch. Just papers, pens, and books. In that environment my brain soaked up knowledge like a sponge. I felt intensely productive. I felt on top of game. And my good grades indicated it was working.
Dealing With Distraction
Fast forward 2 decades, and I don’t feel intensely productive very often any more. Ever since I launched The Weaponry, my advertising and idea agency, there are distractions everywhere. In fact, even my distractions have distractions. My ever-present iPhone is always trying to feed me news and alert me and ping me and generally mess with me like a digital Larry, Curly or Mo.
My laptop is like a 3-ring circus of emails, Slack notifications and calendar notices. All of them are vying for my attention all the time. Most of us deal with this digital sideshow. But as a business owner it is unrelenting. And it can feel as if staying on top of the pinging and dinging is how you stay on top of the business. But it is actually the death of productivity by a million beeps, blips and bites.
Going Back To College
That’s why I am going back to college. I’m not actually enrolling and going to class and keggers and the KK. But I AM going back to Helen C. White Library mode. I am getting back into my periods of Total Focus. Or ToFo as I like refer to it. As in, ‘Yo, Bro, I need some ToFo!’
I recognize that ToFo is my superpower. ToFo, not Budweiser Light, brings out my best.* ToFo helps me get the most accomplished. It helps me do my best thinking and creating. It makes me feel strong and capable. It unleashes the full power of mono-tasking. And I want more of this right now.
Scheduling The ToFo
I have at least an hour of ToFo in the morning when I write my blog. This focused, uninterrupted work helps me publish 3 new blog posts each week. I have also begun adding ToFo time into my work calendar. I am scheduling 60-minute periods of intensely focused work where I block out all interruptions and distractions.
I turn off the ringer on my phone, and the turn the phone over, so that I don’t hear or see any digital noise. I turn off Slack to avoid momentum killing Slack attacks. Then, for one hour, I am in ToFo mode. Just like I was back in the quiet study section at the library in Madison. I can literally feel the productivity and the progress at work as I am cranking through work and crossing things off on my daily to-do list.
ToFo For Everyone
I also want my team to be able to have more ToFo time for deep work. In the same way that we schedule meetings and lunch I want The Weapons to spend more time focused without interruption for longer periods of time. Which means scheduling time when they are not on a digital leash. It is good for my teammates. And it is good for business.
Find more time for ToFo. Silence your digital distractions. Be selfish. And mono-task for 45 to 90 minutes at a time. You can do this by scheduling time when you are totally available, and time when you are totally off limits to coworkers, clients and family. By scheduling this time the rest of your team knows when they can ask question and get feedback, and when the will have to wait. ToFo is your super power. You should use it every day.
*Click on this link to see some memorable beer commercials that treat beer as if it was Gatorade or Red Bull. I was totally inspired by these spots when I was a little kid. Go Beer!
Today, May 25th, is my birthday. I consider my birthday the most important day of my life. Seriously. If it wasn’t for my birthday I doubt I’d have a wedding anniversary. Or kids. Or my birthday suit. Or a blog.
The Real New Year’s Day
I think of my birthday, not New Year’s Day, as the starting point of my year. And this year I am focused on some very important goals. Or as a Mexican soccer announcer would say, I have some ‘Muy Importante Gooooooooooals!’
My 5 Goals For The Next Year
1. Get More Aggressive. Recently I’ve done more leaping and less looking. I’ve taken several premature steps forward on initiatives rather than taking the time to properly prepare, and consider all of the possible outcomes. The results have been impressive. By simply moving forward when I get an inkling I am creating more progress than I do when I carefully consider my options. So in the year ahead, less thinking. More doing. Or as Toby Keith said, a little less talk and a lot more action.
2. Write more. I already write like I am Orville and Wilbur’s third brother. But in the year ahead I have goals to crank my typewriter up to 11. In addition to this blog that I post to 3 times per week, I now have 3 book ideas started. I also met with a couple of magazine publishers yesterday about writing a regular piece for their pub. (That’s slang for publication. I am not writing for an Irish bar.) How did this opportunity come about? I got aggressive and contacted them on an impulse, before I really thought it through. (See Goal #1)
3. Create Another Business. There is something about entrepreneurship that is like Pringles. Because once you pop, you can’t stop. I have 3 leading business ideas I am currently working through. One involves cheese. (#WhenInWisconsin…) One is a franchise opportunity (not to be confused with a french fry opportunity). And the other involves fo real estate. (#forealdo). Of course I have other ideas that get added to the list daily. So I want to bring at least one of the ideas to life in the next year. But no matter which one wins, I want to eat more cheese.
4. Become A Greater Connector. I am a dot connector. It is how I process the world. I love creating, maintaining and facilitating connections. This is my most meaningful contribution to the people in my circles. Because at the end of our days the only thing that really matters is the impact we have on each other’s lives. Wait, did that just get real serious, real fast? #crickets
5. More Quality Time With Family. I put my family at the top of the list of people I want to connect with. Like the meatball on top of spaghetti. My family includes my wife, Dawn and children Ava, Johann and Magnus. But it also includes my parents, sisters and their families. As well as my very large extended family. Especially now that I am about to make my first lap around the sun without any grandparents. Which means my generation needs to prioritize and facilitate our gatherings now that my 4 grandparents are sitting together at the great card table in the sky.
Birthdays are important. They serve as an annual reminder of the scarcity of time. To make the most of each year, reevaluate what is most important to you on your birthday. Set new and higher goals and expectations. Then charge forward to meet them. It’s how we create a life worth writing about. Which, if I’m lucky, would be book number 4.
My Birthday Wish
If you want to do me a special free favor on my birthday, please subscribe to get this blog gift wrapped and delivered to your inbox. It would really mean a lot to me. The subscribe button is on the home page.
*Also, Happy Birthday to my sister Heather. Yes we share a birthday. No we’re not twins. #howweirdisthat
Earlier this week I faced a problem. And the problem was on my face. On Sunday night I noticed that a blood vessel had burst in my left eye. It didn’t hurt me, but it hurt anyone who had to look at me. Unfortunately, my advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, had a significant first meeting scheduled with a brand new client’s executive team.
If you haven’t already read that post, you may want to take a look at it before proceeding with chapter 2. Or you could be a rebel and read them in reverse order. You so crazy…
Here’s What Happened
In addition to writing the blog post, I called Calla Stanford, the Account Leader on the business. I told her about my eye. And then the plot thickened… It turns out that Calla was extremely sick and was about to go see her doctor. UFDA! (Ufda is not a text-cronym. It’s Norwegian for whatever you need it to mean.)
I sent a message to our client explaining that my eye had suddenly gone Red Rum, and that Calla was sick and would not be able to attend the meeting. I inquired about the possibility of moving the meeting. But I added that I was still willing to attend alone, and wear something that would protect their team from my evil eye. Like sunglasses, a grocery bag or a 1920’s dive helmet.
A few minutes later they called to tell me that they were looking for another meeting time. They called back again within the hour to say that it would be weeks before the same team could assemble. So they preferred to proceed with our original meeting time. And they were mentally preparing themselves for Eyemageddon.
Let’s Do This
I prepared to handle the meeting solo. Meanwhile, helpful friends, family and blog readers were offering great advice. Many people encouraged me to proceed as if there were no problem. Others said call the client to explain the situation and ask them how they want to proceed. Which, of course, is what I did.
However, the most popular advice I received was to proceed with the meeting as planned, but rock an eyepatch to cover up the offending eye. Several people encouraged me to take it one step further and brand the eyepatch with The Weaponry logo. Surprisingly, no one encouraged me to guzzle Visine.
Looking For An Eyepatch
As I was getting ready for work on the morning of the meeting, I asked my wife where we might have an eye patch. She told me to check our 8-year old son Magnus’ room. I went to his room, opened the drawer in his night stand, and within 5 seconds found an eyepatch! Yay! But a minute later, when I tried to put it on, I realized the elastic band was way too small to circumnavigate my head. Boo!
So I went back to the same drawer in Magnus’ room to see if there was any chance that there was another eyepatch that fit a more mature cranium. Sure enough, within 10 seconds of searching I found another eyepatch! And this one was big enough to fit Jack Sparrow’s head after a full day of compliments.
I went to the meeting, solo, as planned. And it was great. I had properly warned them about my issue. I had given them the ability to choose how they wanted to proceed. So there was no surprise. And no disappointment. (That I know of.)
The issue created a great topic of conversation at both the beginning and the end of the meeting. But the eye was a non-issue in between. Instead, we focused on the business at hand. I also positioned myself at the front, on the left side of the room. This meant that the team primarily saw Righty Winksalot, (my nickname for my good eye).
After we wrapped up the business end of the meeting we all gathered for a photo. I always enjoy a good group photo op. But under normal circumstances I would not have taken a pic after a kickoff meeting. But then again, this wasn’t a normal circumstance.
Ask and Ye Shall Receive. I received a lot of good, supportive and humorous feedback from my people that helped me make my decision. Thank you all.
Honesty is the best policy. I shared my challenge with the new client and let them decide how they wanted to proceed. And they said Let’s Roll! So we rolled.
Everyone loves an eyepatch. The amount of love shown for the eyepatch was a significant surprise. Then again, eyepatches are intriguing. Like a good ad, the eyepatch makes you stand out from the crowd, and makes people want to know more.
Things go wrong all the time. You will never be able to avoid all problems. Learning how to deal with whatever comes your way is one of the most valuable skills you will ever develop.
*If you know someone with a bad eye, a nasty rash or simple chronic halitosis, who you think could benefit from this story, please share it with them.
**For those of you paying close attention to the details, the photo used as the featured image for this post was taken as a selfie, using Instagram. Instagram doesn’t un-reverse a reversed image. Therefore it looks like it was my right eye. But it is my left.
Time is the world’s most precious resource. That’s why great success requires great time management. In fact, knowing how to properly budget and invest your time is even more important to your ultimate success than budgeting and investing your money.
When I began planning to launch The Weaponry, my advertising and ideas agency, there was a tremendous amount of work to be done. I knew that how I spent my time during that first year would determine the fate of my startup. As I neared the end of each work week I noticed something interesting about my progress. I repeatedly saw how the activities on one particular day were making all the difference.
The Most Important Day
There are at least 7 different opinions on which day is the most important. Elton John thinks it is Saturday. Mick Jagger is a Tuesday guy. The Mamas and Papas all say Monday, repeatedly. However, 3 years into my entrepreneurial journey I know Paul McCartney was right. That’s why I can state wth great confidence that the most important day for achieving great things is yesterday.
All of your success comes from what you did yesterday. The relationships you developed yesterday strengthen your support system today. The progress you made yesterday becomes momentum today. The exercise you performed yesterday creates today’s strength, endurance and health. The time you invested yesterday becomes the time you saved today.
The reading you did yesterday creates the knowledge you have today. The travel you did yesterday becomes today’s memories and experience. Your preparation yesterday makes you ready today.
Yesterday At Work
As a business owner I know that today’s workload comes from yesterday’s business development efforts. As a professional ideator I know that my creativity springs from what I absorbed yesterday. As a capable human, I know that my confidence grows based on both the successes and failures I experienced yesterday. And the eviction notice I didn’t get comes from the rent I paid yesterday.
One of the things I am most grateful for are those activities I had the foresight and energy to do yesterday. The workout I completed. The process I created. The book I read. The research I performed. The relationship I fostered. In the moment procrastination often feels like the easier route. Which is why it is so valuable to view the moment as if it were yesterday.
There is a great Chinese proverb I think about often.
The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is right now. -Chinese proverb
The truth is that in less than 24 hours today will be yesterday. And when the clock strikes midnight you will either be smarter, stronger and more prepared, or you will be in the exact same position you are in today.
Big success is a result of the accumulation of small actions. The To-Do list you complete today will become tomorrow’s momentum. That momentum will help you power past barriers that would have previously stopped you.
Today will soon be gone. Tomorrow is a mystery. But yesterday is your library, your museum, your toolbox and your bonding agent. Yesterday is where the wind in your sails comes from. And the winds of yesterday determine both the direction and the speed at which you travel today.
*If you know someone who could benefit from this story, please share it with them. And if you want to see where this ship heads next, consider subscribing to this blog. Tomorrow you’ll be glad you did.
Over the past week my family and I enjoyed a spring break trip to Texas. On Good Friday my son Johann and I got up early to nab poolside seats for our last day before returning home. In fact, we got down to the pool before it was open for the day. But there was no moose out front telling us the pool was closed for two weeks for cleaning and repairs. So we found some Adirondack chairs near an outdoor fireplace, and sat and talked, like fathers and sons should.
Good Talk Russ
Johann is one of my favorite people to talk to because his mind dances. We talked about whether Star Wars took place in the past or the future. While I said it all seemed futuristic, he reminded me that it took place long ago in a galaxy far, far away. We covered funny Chris Pratt lines from Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. And we talked about the leaning tower of Pisa.
The Leaning Tower
As we discussed the leaning tower from a long time ago in a country far, far away, Johann shared an interesting observation. He said, ‘You know Dad, no one would care about the tower if it wasn’t leaning. It is the leaning that makes it interesting.’
I asked Johann if he thought there was a life lesson to be learned from the leaning tower. He quickly replied,
‘Even our failures can be a work of art.’ -Johann Albrecht (age 11)
Don’t beat yourself up over your failures. They make you and your story more interesting. Make the lean in your tower work for you. Make a wrong turn at Albuquerque, then make that your catch phrase. Don’t avoid your mistakes. Embrace them. They are often blessing that pay dividends for years, or even centuries to come.
*If you know someone who could benefit from this story, please share it with them.
I never wanted a mobile phone. In fact, I held out as long as I could. I finally broke down and bought my first non-land line phone in August of 2005. My wife, Dawn was 38 weeks pregnant with our first child. I wanted to be a responsible parent. That meant being accessible when my wife went into labor, and for all of the craziness that would inevitably follow.
The Garter Snake
My first phone was harmless enough. It was a little blue flip phone that was used for phone calls, and nothing else. Yes, it had a camera. But the images it captured were no better than what I could sketch with a dull crayon.
Two years later the ad agency I worked for issued me a Blackberry Pearl, which meant that I could get my email on my phone. Now I could never escape work. Oh, there was also a rudimentary mapping feature. And buttons. Because back then we thought it was more important to have buttons that screens. Those were quaint times.
The Black Mamba
In 2009 I was issued my first iPhone. It had an amazing camera that could capture hi-def photos and videos. It had apps that did everything but make me breakfast. Since then I have rarely been more than 50 feet from my iPhone.
The technology packed into these smart phones is mind-blowing. They have completely transformed life as we know it. And right now I am focused on how much of my time and focus have been stolen by this little fucker.
Don’t get me wrong. I fully understand that this technology has put the world at my finger tips. That is precisely the problem. I was born with a curious mind that likes to connect dots. I like information. I like to be entertained. I like to know what my friends are doing. And the smart phone has fed my every desire.
Listen All Y’all It’s A Sabotage!
Like Lorelei, the Sirens, and The Gameshow Network, smart phones create a constant distraction. Distraction is the enemy of productivity, imaginative thinking and quality time. My smart phone has repeatedly broken my focus. It has stolen some of my most valuable time, both at work and in my personal life.
On my drive home on Friday afternoon I was analyzing my week. I hadn’t accomplished as much as I thought I would or could. But why? I kept coming back to the little black distraction.
The smart phone is the Everlasting Gobstopper of distractions. On any given day I could grab it to check my emails, texts and Slack messages. Then when I am curious about the weather I can grab the phone again. If I want to check in on my company’s cash flow, I can check that on the phone too. Along with the latest updates on my bank account, flight itinerary, the financial markets, and my favorite sports teams.
I can tune in to a quick podcast, listen to music, or get breaking news anytime, anywhere. Then there are the all-knowing twins of Google and Wikipedia that can answer any question that has ever been asked before. This is all before we even mention social media like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat. The distraction is broad and deep. So I am making changes.
This weekend my phone became a phone again. I haven’t used it to explore any curiosities. I didn’t carry it with me yesterday. I didn’t plug it in last night. I don’t even know exactly where it is right now. As a result I have been productive. I have made great progress on several important goals. I had a great new business idea. And I feel more like myself.
When you discover chronic distractions you have to eliminate them, or they will prevent you from accomplishing your mission. Smart phones can cause the same type of sabotage as alcohol, drugs, gambling and other vices, simply by diverting your attention. Smart phone time seems harmless enough until you recognize the opportunity cost of that wasted time. Time is our most precious commodity. You must defend it vigilantly if you want to achieve great things.