We all struggle with productivity…
Dan Kennedy is notoriously productive. Multiple client projects and consulting days per month. Something like five newsletters every month. Two huge annual conferences. Other smaller training events. Plus additional products and promotions for his company.
And yet, I once heard him say that on a scale of 1 to 10, he ranked his productivity at somewhere near 3.
We all see our failures, and we see our opportunities to improve.
My list isn’t as long as Dan’s, but I’m plenty busy. And many people marvel at even my daily output of these essays, which often run well above 1,000 words — I do in an hour what many people think they couldn’t do in a day.
Yet, I often find myself annoyed at how often I am being unproductive.
Something about it spoke to me.
Because it said that people will only ever do things for their own reasons. And often they’ll avoid things that are the best course of action, just because they haven’t focused on their best reasons why they should do it.
Not only that, if they start to beat themselves up with a lot of “I should…” it actually does nothing besides makes them feel bad, while they keep avoiding what they they know is the best course of action.
That describes my unproductive time to a T.
I think, “I should do XYZ…” But then I don’t make any progress. And I feel terrible. Until I run out of time and I just slam through it, often at the expense of something else (starting with my sanity).
The Instant Influence process is designed to take you from “I should…” to “I’d like to (or I want to) do XYZ because [insert personally powerful and relevant reasons here].”
Which sounds great for productivity…
So I decided to give it a try.
Here’s how I hacked my productivity with the Instant Influence process…
Dr. Michael Pantalon, the author of Instant Influence, talks about using the process on yourself.
He says that while you could simply say it, it’s better off to put your answers to the six questions in writing.
So I decided I’d turn the Instant Influence process into a form for myself, wording it in a way where it was aimed at my own productivity.
I created a copy of my personal form so your responses don’t get mixed into mine. If you want to see this in action, check it out here.
Now, basically the questions are the same as I wrote about in yesterday’s essay.
And I will cover them in a moment.
But there are two incredibly important lessons from the book and my own personal experience that apply when using this for productivity. So I want to cover those first.
Lesson #1: Progress leads to done.
This is huge. In this questionnaire, I changed from asking what I want to get done, to what I want to make progress on. Because getting started is often the most difficult. Yet if you can get started and get that momentum up, you’ll often find yourself getting done and then some.
Lesson #2: Focus on the simplest, smallest, easiest next physical action step.
This is perfectly aligned with David Allen’s Getting Things Done methodology. A huge emphasis in Getting Things Done is naming the smallest next action you need to take to move things forward. And it’s totally consistent with what’s taught in Instant Influence.
Once you know what you want to make progress on, the smallest little action you can take to start making progress, and why you want to act, there’s very little that will stand in your way.
Often the next action is too big, or too vague, or not a physical thing you can get done, and that will stop your progress. So I’ll double-emphasize here that this should be something super-simple like, “Open the document I need to make edits in, start a 30-minute timer, and start by reading the first page.”
Lesson #3: Emphasize choice.
There’s a lot of wording in the questionnaire that’s about what I want to do, what I’d like to do, and so on. This is very intentional. Because the essence of Instant Influence is that we’re only going to make a decision to be productive if we want to.
Here are the Instant Influence questions, adapted to make you more productive…
Welcome Message: Progress and productivity are YOUR CHOICE!
This, with the image of the fox I chose, is simply a reminder that I can choose to be productive and get things done, and make progress. And also, that if I choose not to, that’s also my choice. (But again, the Instant Influence process focuses on the positive, and has science-backed reasons for doing so.)
Question #1: What do you want to make progress on next?
This is a simple question to orient me to the one thing I want to move forward on next. I often end up with a huge to-do list, but I can only ever make progress on one thing at a time. So this isn’t about what all I want to have happen today. It’s about what I want to do next.
And the want language is important, per Lesson #3 above.
Question #2: Why might you want to make progress on [Answer #1]?
Here’s where I play with the magic of Typeform. It auto-populates answers from previous questions.
This question is asking me to come up with my reasons why I want to make progress. This is getting me to turn inside and consider my own motivations. Since these motivations will drive my behavior, this is an important frame for everything that comes next.
Question #3: How ready are you to make progress on [Answer #1] on a scale of 1 to 10?
It’s a simple question. I rate my readiness. I have to consider how ready I am. Which will include both mental readiness, and any logistical readiness as well.
Question #4: Why didn’t you pick a lower number?
Here’s the curveball of Instant Influence. I have to justify why I’m as ready as I am, instead of saying the reasons I’m not fully ready. Which only gets me thinking about progress, instead of resistance.
Question #5: Imagine you did a great job making progress on [Answer #1]… What would the positive outcomes be?
Here I future pace what it’s going to be like later in the day, and how I’ll feel, because I choose to be productive now.
At this point I’m basically ready to go tackle what I need to, but I keep going.
Question #6: Why are these outcomes important to you? (5 WHYs)
Here I look inside, and really consider why I do what I do. Not just the superficial reasons. But my deeper reasons, that will impact my life years down the road. Because of what I make progress on today.
The 5 WHYs is a reminder to use the process where I keep asking myself why until I get down to deeper, dimensionalized motivations.
Question #7: What’s the simplest, smallest, easiest next physical action step to make progress on [Answer #1]?
Here I’m challenged to consider the tiny action step I need to take to get moving. Nothing big. It should be tiny. It should be something I can accomplish in a couple minutes, and get the ball rolling for further progress.
Final Message: Awesome! Now go [Answer #7] to start making progress on [Answer #1], because [Answer #6]!
This just feeds the most important parts of my answers to all the questions back to me, in a way where it’s telling me what I need to do immediately to make progress on whatever project I’m working on, with my big reasons why it’s important.
Wash, rinse, repeat…
You can complete this form and answer these questions as many times as you’d like throughout the day. You can use it when you’re having trouble getting started. Or you can use it every time you’re making a big switch in what you’re working on, and want to get good motivation to dive in.
Here’s the link to my form again. I’d recommend you go through it at least once to really get a feel for it. Because it’s even simpler than it sounds in this article.
But if you are going to do this with any regularity, I recommend you create your own version of the form. It can be in Google Forms or Typeform — or you could simply write the questions down somewhere accessible, and answer them with pen and paper any time you need to.
My earliest experimentation with this tells me it’s a powerful productivity tool.
If you have your own reasons for being more productive, you may want to experiment with it, too…
Yours for bigger breakthroughs,