Become more focused and more productive by adding more pressure.

I recently moved into a new house. Moving is like putting your world into a blender. Or a tornado. Or a tornado full of blenders. You box up all of your belongings, move them into a foreign space, then you have to find spaces for everything in the new house. It creates chaos, disorganization and discomfort. It can be hard to know where to focus your efforts to make progress before a producer from the show Hoarders shows up on your front steps with a contract and and a pen.

Last Week

This past week I had a plan to help add focus to the chaos. I knew that Sunday night the Patriots were going to play Tom Brady and the Buccaneers for the first time since Brady left New England. #Boo

Under normal circumstances the game would have created a good opportunity for me to have some guys over to watch the game in the lower level of our new home. The problem was that the lower level was a high level disaster.

Despite the disaster, I invited some friends to come over for the game. #WAAZZZUP #ChillinHavinABud

Then I got to work. Like Daniel in a Karate Kid training montage.

I unpacked boxes, and put things in cabinets and drawers. I moved furniture. I organized the exercise room. I calibrated the downstairs refridgerator and filled it with a variety of beverages. (Ok, so my wife Dawn did that.) I set up the ping pong table, I mounted the downstairs TV and put the video game station together. I moved the piano into its new space. I organized the bar and pulled out the bottle opener. I made sure the downstairs bathroom was clean and ready. Then I stood in the middle of the basement and did The Crane Kick.

The result was that by Sunday night at 6:30 pm the lower level of our house was organized and ready for my friends. The false deadline gave me focus and motivation. It spurred me to action. And I checked a major to-do off my list.

You Can Too.

You can do the same thing. Invite guests over to force you to prepare your home. Sell a product, service, or event before it is ready. Then work like crazy to deliver it on time. Sign up for the race or competition to make yourself train. That pressure is great for you. It turns your electives into requirements. Which is where the magic happens.

Key Takeaway.

Force progress and growth by adding pressure to pressureless situations. It is a great way to create motivation and urgency. It’s a simple trick that makes you immensely more productive. And the rewards of the pressure often compound far into the future.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them.

To accomplish more, learn to quiet your curiosity.

Curiosity is a powerful force. It drives creativity and innovation. It fuels growth and understanding. It inspires us to challenge assumptions and explore new frontiers.

However, just as curiosity can be highly detrimental to cats, it can also be the kryptonite to your success. Because unchecked curiosity kills focus. And focus is the key to progress.

When attacking your work you need a singular focus on the task at hand. (Even if you are in a relationship.) Curiosity is constantly working to distract and disrupt your focused efforts. Like a gremlin. Or The Noid that used to ruin your pizza in the 80s.

Curiosity, paired with the access to infinite information and endless rabbit holes at your fingertips, means that a fleeting thought or a sparkle of a question in your head can be instantly acted upon. By following your curiosity you destroy the momentum, thinking, and effort that pays off in the form of progress, creation, and accomplishment.

You have to train yourself that curiosity is not to be acted upon when you are in total focus mode. Or what I call ToFo. Which is when your most important gains are made. You need to fight curiosity like you would defend your house if you wore Under Armor. Or the way you would combat an opponent during competition.

It is valuable to train your brain to take greater pleasure from defending itself against the sirens of curiosity than from the scratched itch of answering trivial questions. Learn to recognize the negative influence of ill-timed curiosity. And don’t be afraid to tell curiosity, ‘You be illin’. (Just like I told spellcheck that it must not be a Run DMC fan.)

The Question

Ask yourself, ‘If I pursuit this curiosity now, will it distract me from more important work?’ When the answer is yes, simply don’t pursuit the answer. That simple act of denial will help you accomplish more every day..

Key Takeaway

Curiosity is a double-edged sword. While it drives innovative thinking, it often distracts us from our most important work. Make social media, search engines and other curiosity sucks off-limits during sessions of Total Focus in order to enjoy maximum progress. Put in the mindpower needed to accomplish the task at hand. Keeping curiosity at bay is the single greatest step you can take to accomplishing more. Focus on feeding your focus. There will plenty of time for curiosity when the work is done.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them.

Don’t spend your whole life busy and not make progress.

Being busy is not the same as being productive. In fact, busyness is like Fool’s Gold. It looks like business to the uniformed. But it is easy to be busy without getting ahead. In fact, you can spend your whole career extremely busy but not make any progress. The same thing can happen in your personal life too.

The 80-20 rule says that 80 percent of the results come from just 20 percent of the work. (And that 80-year olds seen with 20-year olds have money coming out of the wazoo.) In other words, if you are spending your time on the wrong things you could get little to no results. 

Earlier in my career, when I was with a very large advertising agency, the majority of my time was sucked up with meetings. And meetings about meetings. And to the uninformed, it looked like we were all super busy beavers. But very little wood was actually chewed. And we weren’t building any damn dams.

Today, as an entrepreneur, I see a direct link between how I spend my time and the value that time creates. The goal of any business is to make money. And if you are spending time on anything that ultimately is not helping your organization make more money, you are wasting your time.

Your wasted time and wasted motions at work hurt your career. Because they rob you of time that could be used for self-improvement, networking or creating value for your organization. Those are the 3 keys to making your company more successful, rising within your organization, and earning more for yourself.

If you find yourself in meetings that are not adding value, do one of the following:

  1. Change the meeting. Take the initiative to alter the meeting to make it more valuable to your organization and the people in it.
  2. Shorten the meeting. Help fast forward to the information that needs to be shared or decision that needs to be made, and be done. Often we take a lot of time to do what could be done in just a few minutes. 
  3. Pull the cord. Just like riding the bus, you can pull the cord and ask to get out of the meeting at any time. Be polite, but clear that you don’t feel it is a valuable use of your time. If you feel that way, it is likely that others do too.
  4. Text someone outside the meeting to pull the fire alarm. That works every time.

Key Takeaway

Time is your most precious commodity. Evaluate the way you are spending your time. Look for inefficient and ineffective uses, then eliminate them. Don’t let others waste your time. The opportunity cost is too high with this non-renewable resource.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them.

Why a midweek crisis is so good for you.

I have a confession to make. I love Mondays. I dislike the term Hump Day. And I have disdain for the term Finally Friday. Although I dig the song by George Jones. Wait, I think that was 4 confessions.

Your Week Is Your Life

I believe that your workweek is not something to survive. It is your life. In fact, 71% of your time is non-weekend. Which means the workweek is not your enemy. It is your greatest asset. If you dread Mondays and finally feel good again on Fridays, you are doing it wrong. Bang a gong. Now it’s time to get it on.

Rethinking The Week

Think about each week as if it was your entire life. Start Mondays like a youngster. State your goals and plans for the week. Then get to work. If you accomplish your goals by Friday you can enjoy a happy retirement. Which in this case, is your weekend.

Monday

I have been using this simple life-week construct for most of my life. There are 3 keys to making this construct work. The first is a clear Monday plan. Knowing what you want to accomplish during your week is key to keeping you focused and progressing.

The importance of Monday is no surprise. Although in my perfect life-week construct I actually start the plan on Sunday night. Which is probably a bit like planning your life while you are still in the womb. Like Womba Thurman. Or Mr. Wombastic.

Work Like Boots

The 2nd key is putting in the work. You have to put in the focused effort to make strong progress towards your goals. Without putting in the focused work you are simply wishing for success. And if wishes were fishes we would all have a fry.

The Wednesday Breakdown

However, the third key to this approach is not so obvious. If you think of your week like your entire life, then Wednesday is not the day to celebrate getting over the humpty-hump. Wednesday is the day to have your midweek crisis.

Having a midweek crisis means having a legit concern that you are not where you thought you would be at the midpoint of the week. This will cause you to closely re-evaluate your plan for the rest of the week. It will force you to make important adjustments in your priorities and productivity. The crisis and refocusing will help make sure you reach the end of your week with the type of progress and accomplishment you set out to have.

The Go In Goals

Your goals are your guides. You can’t just set them and forget them. You must check in with them often. They should guide your daily and hourly actions. They must drive your priorities. They tell you what you must sacrifice and what your non-negotiables are. So set your goals every Monday (or Sunday night). Then every Wednesday you must refocus on what is most important in order to hit your targets by Fri-yay.

Key Takeaway 

If you want to be more productive every week, start thinking of your week like your entire life. Set your goals at the start of the week. Have a serious evaluation of your progress on Wednesday. Refocus your efforts. Use your time. And achieve all that you set out to. Your life is built week by week. Don’t let another one slip by waiting for Friday.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them by Wednesday.

How to protect the time you need to achieve your greatest goals.

When I was a student-athlete at the University of Wisconsin my schedule was booked solid. I was at class every day by 8:55am. Classes lasted until 2pm. At 2:30pm I was at track practice. I left practice at 6pm and went to dinner. I ate at the Sports Buffet until they kicked me out at 7pm. By 7:20pm I was at Helen C. White Library studying in the quiet section (seriously). By 10:30pm I was taking the Drunk Bus home.

Focus Pocus

During this time I had something magical working for me: large chunks of time with completely focused effort. First I was totally focused on my classes. Then track practice. Then on eating (which felt like a job because I was the smallest discus thrower in the Big Ten Conference). And finally, on studying.

All 4 of these time blocks helped me focus my undivided attention on my largest life goals. Plus, there were no smart phones back then to distract me with an Instagram feed full of hilarious Pro Wrestling fails. (@Wrestlebotch)

Scheduling Focused Time

Today, I am revisiting the focused scheduling I employed as a student-athlete. As as result, I hope to achieve the same level of productivity, growth and progress I enjoyed two decades ago. That’s why I have time-blocked my calendar to help create deep focus on my most important tasks. The tasks that will help me achieve my long-term goals.

The Time Blocks On My Calendar Now Include:

  • An hour of blocked writing time every morning starting at 6am.
  • 2 hours of totally focused work on my most important tasks from 10am to Noon.
  • A regular 1-hour lunch, starting at noon every day (which also helps keep my energy high, as I wrote about in 5 Things I do to keep my work energy high.).
  • 1 hour of total focus on my most important issues in the afternoon from 2pm-3pm.
  • Dedicated open time for meetings, calls and emails to start and end the day.
  • A 30-minute planning session every Sunday night when I can plan my most important tasks for the week. Tasks that will help me achieve my long term goals.

The One Thing
Make this the next book you read.  Then let me know how much you loved it by writing me at  adam@theweaponry.com.

I loved how my calendar blocks helped me in college. But a book I am reading has influenced me to reintroduce this useful scheduling technique again. In fact, The One Thing by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan may be the most powerful book I have read in the past 3 years. It teaches you a system that always leads you to the one, most important thing that you should be doing at any given time, in order to help you achieve your loftiest goals. A critical part of the program is creating calendar blocks that are reserved exclusively for your total focus on your most important activities. Spoiler Alert: The one thing you should be doing at any given time never involves WrestleBotch. #PriortitiesVsDistraction

Key Takeaway

It is not enough to have goals. You need to put in the work required to achieve them. That’s why it is so important to block large chunks of time on your calendar that allow you to completely focus on your most important tasks, every day. Add a chunk of focused time for planning on Sunday evenings, and it will ensure that you make demonstrable progress each and every week. Remember, scheduling your time costs nothing. But the dividends it pays by helping you achieve your goals could be enjoyed for generations.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them.

An unusual life hack for people who work best under pressure.

I love advertising. Some people find it is way too stressful. But for most of us who thrive in advertising and other high pressure jobs (like deep sea diving and Instapot cooking) we love the pressure. It brings out our best. We are motivated, excited and engaged when the heat is on. Like Glen Frey.

The Heat Is Off

But sometimes the heat isn’t hot. For heat seeking professionals it can be harder to be as productive on days when there aren’t looming deadlines, freaking clients and nail biting coworkers. On those days, I have a life hack that’s fun, motivating and really grabs your attention.

The Hook and Bladder

To maximize productivity on low pressure days, I challenge myself to get absolutely as much work done as possible before I visit the restroom. What I have found is that this self-imposed deadline turns my productivity into a game. It forces me to rapidly knock things off my to do list, and quickly look for the next task, project or chore.

The mounting bladder pressure creates a looming deadline. And a challenge. For people who like to prove how tough they are, the Bladder Beater Challenge pushes your can do attitude, while you think about what you could be doing at the can.

Key Takeaway

If your slow-day productivity could use a little kick in the pants, try the Bladder Beater productivity challenge. Try to get as much done as possible before you take a bathroom break. You will zip through that to do list faster than Game Of Thrones goes through leadership changes. Now if you don’t mind I really have to go…

400 words on how my Dad taught his kids to be successful without using words.

In 2015 I started The Perfect Agency Project blog when I began planning the launch of my advertising and ideas agency, The Weaponry.  I wanted to share my experience, learnings and insights with others. Today I publish a new post 3 days a week. I enjoy writing this blog because I like sharing what I know. You name a topic and I can write about it. Because I have philosophies on everything. In fact, even my philosophies have philosophies. The wide range of topics I cover include:

My Father

Today is Father’s Day. So naturally I am thinking about my father, Robert Albrecht. He knows so much about so many subjects that he could easily write a great blog and share all of his accumulated wisdom with the word. But he won’t. That’s not his style.

My Dad is not a writer. He is not a philosopher, reflector or pontificator. He would never write a book of Roberts Rules of Order. Although that title sounds like it would be a hit.

My Dad didn’t tell me and my sisters how to be successful, productive or impactful. He showed us.

My Dad is my action hero. Because he is always in motion. He’s a doer. A maker. A baker. A builder. A griller A gardner. A fixer. A shower-upper (meaning he shows up, not that he shows you up). And he’s a see-things-througher. (meaning he completes things, not that he has X-Ray vision).

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My Dad taught me the most important ingredient of successful entrepreneurship: Action.

He is a Can-Do, Will-Do, Did-It, What’s-Next? kind of guy.

He is an early riser. He’s a frick’n workhorse. He makes the most of each day. And he’s really hard to keep up with. I love that about him.

Thank you Dad for being such a great example. You didn’t have to write a blog, a book or a manifesto to teach Heather, Alison, Donielle and I how to be great at life. You showed us. So we get up early. We put in the work. We make and we bake and we do and we don’t complain. We are people of action. Just like you taught us, through your actions, not your words.

I love you Dad. Happy Father’s Day. Thanks for stopping for a moment to read this post.

Why you should invest more of your time in Total Focus.

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.

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Helen C. White Library is the big white building by the lake. Did I mention that Madison is beautiful?

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.

Key Takeaway

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!

Why today is the best day of the year!

Today marks the end of Daylight Savings Time. Which means that today it will get darker one hour earlier than it did yesterday. According to my AcuRite SmartHUB weather station, today the sun will set on my backyard at 4:41pm Central Standard Time. If you have a Charlie Brown outlook, you might think this is the worst day of the year. But good grief people, you couldn’t be more wrong.

The Best Day

Today is absolutely the best day of the year. Why? Because if you have ever wanted to get more out of your day, and more out of your life, today is the day to make it happen. Today, Ladies and Gentlereaders, is the Unicorn of Days! The Once-In-A-Blue Moon Event! Today, is the needle in the haystack, and you have found it! Today is the 25-hour Day!

Your Chance To Do More

Today is like a bigger pair of jeans, which means that you can squeeze more in. I woke up today like a kid on Christmas morning. At 5am I was fully cooked and ready to get after this 25-hour day. I hope you are ready to make the most of it too. Because it’s go time!

Think Of The Possibilities

Today you can literally spend more time with family and friends (kids, notice how I literally used the word literally correctly). You can get to church or your place of worship (God knows we could all use it). You can find time for exercise without feeling like you are running behind.  You can go for a hike, or a drive, and fall in love with fall. You can visit a museum. You can read and get inspired and learn something new.

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Go out and fall with your people today!

You can trade in some fast food for slow food by cooking, baking or grilling yourself (I mean that you are doing the cooking yourself, not that you are literally cooking yourself). You can organize your closet, garage, basement or sock drawer, which will help you enjoy this day for many days to come.

If you like to draw, write, paint, sew, knit, build, photograph, or create any of a billion other things, do it. Do it now.

Today, you can even catch up on the sleep you never get enough of.

Plan Your Next Chapter

You can start planning your next vacation. Or that job or career change you wish you had more time to think about. You know that business idea that you think would be so exciting to launch, but never seem to have the time to focus on? Well, today is a great day to tap into your inner Richard Branson and sketch out a plan, even if you are an entrepreneurial virgin (see what I did right there?)

Time To Give Back

Today you can spend time thinking about how you can give more of yourself to others. You can think about giving of your time or money to worthy causes and charities. Or create a new worthy cause or charity to benefit others.

Key Takeaway

Today is a great day to put the electronic time wasters in a drawer, so that you can get the most out of this beautiful, rare 25-hour day. Go do more. Take time to recognize, embrace and wallow in the good that is all around you. If time is precious, and life is a gift, a 25-hour day is the most valuable present we will ever have. So be present. Be productive. And spin your extra time into gold.

*If you want to read about more great things consider subscribing to this blog.

It’s time to be more selfish with your time.

Today, millions of  people will be robbed by their co-workers. This thievery is the most under-reported crime in America. Your co-workers are not stealing your cash, or phones or heirloom quality Tupperware from the break room fridge. What they are stealing is far worse.

Time

Time is your most precious commodity. And people take it from you on a daily basis.  They stop by your desk to chat for too long. They cause meetings and phone calls to go longer than necessary. They are turning their lack of planning into your emergencies. The next thing you know, the whistle blows, Fred Flintstone is sliding down his dinosaur, and it’s time to go home. You spent eight hours of your life at work, but your most important work is still undone.

So McGruff The Time Dog is here to tell you that you have got to protect your time. If you want to make a valuable contribution to your organization, you need to use your precious time to execute. You can’t do that when someone stops by to complain that Lucy and Ethel are terrible at packing up the chocolates.

Time Makes The Difference

As a business owner, I look for spare time like spare change in my couch cushions. Because every time I find a few extra minutes, it enables me to spend time working on my business. I can use that valuable time to create new offerings, improve processes and find ways to deliver better work for our clients. But that all takes time.

It is easy to spend all of your time dealing with the needs of others. It may even feel like you are busy working. But you are not advancing your own projects. At the end of the year it is easy to look back and see that you did little to advance your department or your initiatives.

I Must Protect These Hours!

Protecting your time means finding and protecting hours of uninterrupted progress on your own work. That may mean working from home, or a coffee shop, or Chick-Fil-a (which is my secret work-away spot). It may mean blocking off large blocks of time on your calendar so that no one schedules you up. And it may mean putting a sign up in your office space that says you are working on something really important and can’t be interrupted. If that doesn’t work, tell people you have the Bird Flu. Actually, you may want to start with that.

Lock Down The Digital Entries

You will also want to turn off your email, Slack and phone. Because in the digital age, people try to get sneaky and steal your time digitally too. Once your time is fully protected, use it to crank away on your most important work, uninterrupted. Find time to do this every day and you’ll be amazed how much more you can accomplish each week when your are not be constantly chased by Smokey and The Time Bandits.

Key Takeaway

It’s great to be a team player. But you can’t let others take away your scoring opportunities. That’s exactly what happens when you sit in meetings too long, are regularly interrupted, or get sent on wild goose chases (no one ever chases the domesticated geese). Don’t be afraid to be selfish with your time. It’s the only way to advance the work that you are directly responsible for doing. It also keeps your work at work. And prevents you from having to steal time from your personal life to get your work finished.