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Don’t let your monkey steer the car

Be Productive. Not Busy


DO YOU FIND YOU ARE ALWAYS 'DOING' but don't actually get things done?

If so, you might just be 'busy' not 'productive'. Busy is doing things, productivity is getting things done. When you're productive, you do less, achieve more.

We've been conditioned to be busy, partly by our education, technology, society, but more effectively, by our biology. Our 'monkey brain', the amygdala, responds to the dopamine release of new tasks, new events, new stimulation. Busy makes us feel good. New, busy tasks reward us with a dopamine hit. Busy is addictive, but like any habit, we can train ourselves away from it.


By becoming aware of things, you better placed to control them. Take an inventory of your day, or even better, your week and identify the way time is spent. Are you easily distracted in your workplace, by your family, clients, your phone, emails? Observe this and be aware of the time you spend in distraction. Be aware, also, that jumping from task to distraction back to task has a 'switch cost' - the time lost to regain focus.

In observing your time, see identify if there is a pattern to your ability to be distracted. Are there times when you are more focussed, times when distraction is easier? I find that in the morning I'm clearer and more focused. This is when I work on my own business, but after lunch, I am more likely to be distractable. My solution for this is to do client work. I find if I'm fully engaged in tasks that have deadlines and measurable results, I can fight the distraction and any mid afternoon fatigue more easily.


Check out this great book by Rob Moore: Routine = Results

Routine is at the basis of productivity. Wake up at the same time, no matter when you go to bed (ideally same time to sleep, but waking up at the same time is critical). It helps you fight distraction too, as you know that if it's 2pm, you've got client work to do, if it's 12.30, you're responding to emails.

Rob Moore's process breaks our time down into 4 key areas:

KRA: Key Results Area (the activities that lead to IGT. Spend most of your time here, this will grow into IGT)
KLA: Key Life Area (gym, family, socialising, alone time)
IGT: Income Generating Tasks
Wasted Time: scrolling through Social.
REST: There is an important distinction between wasted time and REST: during rest, you're not stimulating with dopamine fixes. It's important to give our monkey brains some downtime or it will steer the car. True rest is not consuming anything.


Being aware of your distractions and getting into a routine helps propel your state of flow. Waiting for moments of inspiration before you start on abstract tasks like creatively building out your business can be an invitation to distraction. Get into your routine and keep toning the focus muscle. This makes focus the norm and distraction is more easily recognisable, isolated and avoided. The more isolated distractions are, the easier it is to turn it into a trigger for more focus.


  1. Let people know when you are not available - this is your time. If you're working from home, the door is closed to the family. If you're in an office, put on headphones and turn off phones and email. Give people clear expectations on the time you've scheduled for you.
  2. Don't be a monkey. Our primate brain loves to cycle us through boredom and fix, boredom and fix. It's an addiction that won't end unless you actively defuse it. Train yourself to accept the boredom and let it wash over you. Dopamine fixes are not productivity.
  3. Hire to limit distractions of shallow work: are clients distracting you with emergencies and mistakes - this means you need people to take care of things. 1 hour's incoming generating tasks / week should pay for a VA.
  4. Make a stop list: I won't check emails outside of the alloted email time. I won't do my own admin, I won't be distracted during my deep focus work time.
  5. Make a routine and stick to it.


Everyone has busy in their lives. It is possible to turn this into Productive. Dedicate yourself to a routine and structure that serves KRA, KLA and REST. Increase your time spent in KRA and IGT and outsource to reduce the busy even further. Do less, to achieve more.


Want to broaden your client base? Grow your business?

I'd love to talk about how we can get you online. 

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