Increasing Personal Productivity Part 3

In the two previous posts we talked about the importance of habits and determining your core talents and strengths. In this post we will explore the third chunk of clarity.  Lack of clarity or lack of clear purpose is a major reason for poor performance and a mediocre lifestyle. If you ask most salespeople “how much money do you want to make next year”, they’ll give you some sort of vague answer like, “I want to make more money”, or “I want to increase my income,”, or if you ask a business owner “What do you want to do next year?”, most will say “We’d like to increase sales”, or if you ask somebody “What’s your plan for this month or this year in terms of improving your health,” they’ll say something like, “I want to lose some weight”, or “I want to start an exercise program”, or “I want to do a better job at time management.”  All of those are vague generalizations that lack clarity and produce little or no results.

Power Of Focus

There’s an interesting story in the book, “The Power of Focus” by Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen, ‘The Chicken Soup’ guys. In their book they tell a story about a guy named Peter Daniels from Adele, Australia, who had a learning disability when he was in grade school. Because of his learning disability he didn’t do very well in school and was constantly ridiculed by the teacher and kids. You could imagine what a poor self image that produced. Peter learned the trade of bricklaying, and after a few years of bricklaying he decided that he would start a business.  He started the business and within 12 months he was completely bankrupt. He then did a very smart thing, he started another business.  Within 18 months he was bankrupt from that one too, and he figured, ‘well, at least I’m not making the same mistake twice so I think I’ll try this again.’  So, he started a third business and that too failed.  He had three business failures and three bankruptcies in five years, but he had a very patient wife who decided that she would support him one more time in business.

Peter was gifted at selling so he went into the real estate business. Long story short, Peter became a hugely successful real estate broker in Australia, making tons of money. As he explains it, one of the reasons for his success is that he spends one full day a week doing nothing but thinking. He goes to his office where no one is allowed to interrupt him and he just thinks. Thinks about his life, his business and what he wants to accomplish.

How Much Time Do You Invest?

Question for you – how much time do you invest each week to sit and think about what it is you want to do with your life?  Dennis Waitley, the psychologist for the US Olympic team in 1980, and the former Blue Angels pilot says, “most people do not get what they want in life but they do get what they expect”.  Until you sit down and really define what it is you want you will continue to lead what Thoreau called, “a life of quiet desperation”. If you want to succeed in a big way, schedule time each week just to sit and think.  I’m not saying take an entire day, but you might start with 15 or 20 minutes and start thinking, and by thinking you can be writing in a journal what you’re thinking, regardless of what it is you’re thinking, begin to journal and think about what it is that you would like out of this life.

Any personal productivity session would be lacking if we did not address the issue of goals. Another subject that’s been beat to death and most people reject. Goals really have several purposes. One of them is to provide clarity for you for what you want out of this life.

I don’t know how many of you are familiar with the name John Goddard, the father of our space program.  There’s even a Goddard Space Center named for him.  John Goddard, at the age of 16 sat down and wrote out a list of 101 things that he wanted to in his life. They included things like travel all the major rivers of the world, climb the 12 highest mountains in the world, learn to fly an airplane, and another 98 things.  By the age of 50, John Goddard had accomplished all but 27 of those things, and when he was interviewed they asked him why he did that. And he said, “I realized at 16 that I did not want to get to the end of my life not having accomplished everything.  So I made a list and I sat out to do those things so I would not regret that I didn’t accomplish much of anything in my life.”

That should be a lesson to all of us about the importance of deciding what we want to do with our life.  Setting goals gives us a purpose and roadmap for what we do on a day to day basis.  The lesson in Goddard is he wrote those down. Unless something is written down, it has very little power.

Another thing that will help you in providing clarity is developing something called a picture book.  You may think this is Mickey Mouse but I learned this when I was in the Amway business.  It involves taking magazines and cutting out pictures of things that I wanted to acquire, places I wanted to visit, etc.., etc.., etc.., and pasting them on the refrigerator or bathroom mirror or wherever, I did that. In the early 80’s I cut out a picture of a Mercedes-Benz and I put it on my bathroom mirror and for four years that thing stayed on my bathroom mirror until it turned yellow.  I finally took it down when we moved from that house. Interestingly enough, it was a picture of a 1985 silver 300 SD Mercedes coupe. In 1987 I bought a 300 SD silver Mercedes Benz coupe, 2 years after I took the picture down.  So, it was 6 years from the time I put the picture up until I actually was able to do that. Same thing happened with the boat I have right now, same type of thing, I don’t know how it works, I don’t understand all the mechanics of how it works, but I know this, it does work. Set up a picture book; go get a photo album and start cutting out pictures of things you want.

You have two choices in this life.  You can consciously choose what you want in this life and pursue it with all of your energy or you can ultimately become “quietly desperate”.

Stu Patterson


I had a moment of clarity triggered by your posts on productivity. I un-subscribed from a number of lists that only clog my inbox.

Yet, these posts get bookmarked, saved, printed and shared because they are excellent.

Thank you for sharing your wisdom and we’ll see you soon.


Richard Lindsey

Great post Steve! Clarity of purpose is got to be one of the major keys to success. Without it we’re like a ship without a rudder, drifting aimlessly from port to port, or more likely, running aground.

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