How to Turn Productivity Problems & Procrastination Into an Advantage

You may be suffering from procrastination and a lack of productivity. Feeling stuck, even. But in this, there's also a potential advantage...

Doing focused, deep work, being productive and avoiding distractions and procrastination is getting harder for everyone. It's not just you

I would go so far to say that focus is a rare and somewhat exotic skill, these days. And that means that if you learn it - if you build this skill - you gain a massive advantage over (almost) everyone else.


The Future Investment Problem

An obstacle to putting the advice in today's video into action is the "future investment" problem. It's a problem with the human brain: we are disproportionately attracted to instant gratification. Inversely, we are terrible at valuing long term investments properly.

The human brain's default setting is to favor even the tiniest of instant rewards over long term gains.

Knowing about this doesn't make it easy to overcome, of course.


It is possible to overcome this problem.

It's possible to build your "productivity muscles", to build the skills of focus, discipline and follow-through.

With the right systems and some patience, you can build up habits and skills that can transform your life. If you've ever wondered why I've been obsessed with productivity and skill building for the last decade, this is it.

The payoff from this obsession is slow. But immense.

What Will You Do Differently?

Does my message help you re-frame your priorities? Can you see how all the hacks and tips and shortcuts are actually distracting you from making real progress?

Let me know if this message resonates with you. And let me know what you think you can do differently, to escape the "shortcut trap", in the next 12 months.

Shane's Signature

P.S.: if you feel like you're "too busy" to watch the video... you should definitely watch the video.

About the Author Shane Melaugh

I'm the founder of ActiveGrowth and Thrive Themes and over the last years, I've created and marketed a dozen different software, information and SaaS products. Apart from running my business, I spend most of my time reading, learning, developing skills and helping other people develop theirs. On ActiveGrowth, I want to help you become a better entrepreneur and product creator. Read more about my story here.

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  • eugene says:

    Hi Shane,

    Thank you for sharing this! I have a total lack of focus and acknowledge that I do need help in my career and sidegig.

    I have signed up for your upcoming focus & action course and look forward to be more productive in 2019 and beyond !

    • Thanks for your comment!

      I’m looking forward to helping you with your productivity goals in 2019!

  • Michaela Thiede says:

    Hi Shane,
    Thank you for sharing the truth, “we” don’t want to hear. ;-)

    By the way – what about adding a sharing button?

    • Thank you for listening!

      Sharing button: I’ve had them and removed them again. Doesn’t seem to make a difference…

  • Christine Strauß-Ehret says:

    Hi Shane, your content is really important. I know this, since I have read the book slight edge. And I do build my discipline- muscles every day. Thanks for sharing. I look forward to your course.

    • Thank you for your comment! Is it a good book? Should I add it to my reading list?

  • RandalV says:

    I believe all of that. It feels right to me and matches my observations of myself, if I’m being honest with myself. All of those hacks and blog posts on the internet with “click bate” headlines; well I’ve read a few and learned they’re mostly rubbish and now, I don’t bother with any of those.

    Basically, I don’t trust that they have quality recommendations. Many of the things I’ve seen are just “half a loaf” – they don’t seem to be comprehensive, validated systems.

    So, that’s why I’m going to a source of proven, quality information. And when I say proven, I mean that I have determined first hand that Shane’s suggestions on this site in areas of productivity (and other areas too) are valid and work for me. Therefore, I expect his comprehensive system to likewise be valid and effective. And of course, should anything to the contrary pop-up; I’ll be back here to set the record straight.

    Looking forward to the start of the program.

    • Thank you, Randal! I’m glad to have you on board and looking forward to teaching you my system. :)

  • Anthony says:

    Thanks for another insightful and honest video Shane. I’m a huge fan and have signed up for your forthcoming course. :)

  • Bjarne Ravn says:

    Hi Shane, spot on. I am not hunting quick fixes. BUT I am curious in a very changeable world. New methods. New tools. News. I get disturbed. I get frustrated. I do not get the important things done. I need a change. I need to focus better. Starting now.

    • This is a really interesting comment, because I was just working on part of a presentation that’s exactly about this. There are so many distractions out there, that focus has become difficult for everyone. If it’s not social media, it’s news sites… or niche magazine sites… or gambling… or something. It’s a challenge for everyone.

  • Bill Hoye says:

    I find it very easy to focus and continually work to get better at the things I like to do. If the task is something I don’t like doing (e.g. invoicing, bookkeeping, writing, etc), then I always look for that shiny tool which offers instant gratification.
    I have so many tools now and I don’t know how to use many of them. Instant doesn’t mean that the tool will work if you don’t make the effort to learn how to use it.

    Really like your suggestion, to look at problems and boring tasks, for the skill I need to learn. Looking forward to the productivity sessions starting in January.

    • That’s an interesting topic you bring up, Bill.

      The way I see this, the ideal outcome is that you spend as much time as possible working from your strengths and make enough money doing that, to delegate all the boring stuff to other people. Even if it’s not directly tied to your business, I think in terms of life quality, it makes a lot of sense to try to make enough money doing what you love and are good at to pay other people to do things like bookkeeping, laundry, dishes,…

  • Wayne says:

    What things will I learn through your course? Your statement “The payoff from this obsession is slow. But immense.” I am intrigued but would like some sort of breakdown on what I will be paying for. Is this a course on using Trello? A, do this, then that, type of training. Will you be involved directly or will I be watching videos. Looking forward to your response before I purchase.

    • It’s a complete productivity course. That includes “how to use Trello”, but it starts with mindset, digital detox, creating the right environment, etc.

      The course is taught through videos and some live webinars. And it also includes office hours during which you can ask questions and interact with me directly. If you scroll down on the sales page, you can find some details about what is covered in the course.

  • Thanks for sharing this perspective, Shane. I appreciate the perspective that underlies your work with Thrive Themes and I am psyched about going through your upcoming course. I resonate with the clarity, systematic orientation and the efficiency in your approach to things. Onward!

  • Conny Graf says:

    Great message Shane, it goes along with what I tell my clients when they want to get organized. There is no quick fix or magic wand out there, actually the slow and steady IS the magic wand, “a few minutes a day keep the chaos away”

  • Michael Hartrich says:

    I’m a Thrivetheme subscriber. My webmaster loves it. Any questions get answered quickly by your team.

    Your Thrive University has great content. I’m learning a lot by going through the courses. Your Product Launch Formula series is an excellent summary of Jeff Walker’s PLF. I have his training. It’s good but much too long.
    (what about a course on creating videos using video, slides, Screenflow…?)

    You recommended WPX hosting and I switched over to them. The transition was a bit rough, which you had warned about, but it’s been worth it. That was a good recommendation.

    Basically, your recommendations have proven themselves. I can use some productivity training so I’m on board. Looking forward to the course.


    • Thank you very much, Michael! I’m very pleased to hear that you’ve benefited from my advice and tools so far! :)

  • Anil Rajkumar says:

    Success and productivity principles and strategies is also a passion topic of mine. I invest and gobble all training . Can’t wait to see what’s in your course Shane. As well, the proof is in the pudding with Thrive Themes being such a phenomenal resource for us, and a success for you guys…so you did get it right! You’ve therefore, by all means, earned my attention here. Keep up the great work!

  • Paul Webster says:

    Great post Shane. Spot on as usual. I have struggled so hard to overcome the urge for the quick fix and still fall foul of it occasionally. All that hard work though, means I can now help others facing the same struggle.

    • Thanks for your comment, Paul!

      It’s almost impossible to resist temptations entirely. Whenever you fall for it, it’s basically good marketing or good “engagement design” on someone else’s part. What’s important is that we don’t let these distractions run our lives.

  • Sandra von Känel says:

    Hi Shane,

    Thank you for your thoughts. I am most of the time quite ok with managing distraction from the outside, but am running after my ideas for another project, which I plan (in Trello :-), start and never follow-through. I was looking into that for some time and think, I have two issues there.

    1. The follow-through feels terribly boring because I already thought through everything at the beginning and my brain makes me feel like I have it already done. Which is of course not true.

    2. I am a big picture and planning girl and when it gets down to write the text, I get lost in the details and comparing what I wrote to what would be the perfect (Yep, another trap) solution and that hinders me of finishing and publishing eg a new website.

    I hope, you will have some advice on that topics to – that would really increase my productivity – getting things done.

    Looking forward to starting your course! I btw booked that because I like your way of thinking and explaining in your thrive themes video.

    • Thank you for your comment, Sandra!

      These are points I will address in the course, yes. Part of the solution here – or at least something worth trying – is to keep your goals and reasons more present. Like you already realize, your brain is tricking you in some ways. If you can hold your goal and the reason why you care about that goal more present, you might find it easier to follow through.

      Another thing here is that maybe your talents are in big picture thinking and strategy and you can try to build a system in which you can spend most of your time doing that and other people take care of execution and details. This can work, but of course it’s a long term goal that requires that you follow through for a time, before you get there.

  • Attila says:

    Will be english transcription below the online course video?
    No problem for me to understand the written english, but hard to understand just by hearing the english word.

    • Thanks for your message, Attila!

      I wasn’t planning to have a transcript of the videos, no. Maybe I can make something happen, though.

  • Andrew says:

    Yet another spot on observation and important message to share Shane, thanks! Even though I come from a sports coaching background and know results are not instant, it’s hard to be on a personal journey and not see the ‘big’ wins yet.

    We get focused on the ‘big’ goals and don’t allow ourselves to appreciate the small wins along the way that are necessary to get us to the finish line.

    Two years ago I finally realized I needed to get my brain right if I was to achieve the ‘big picture’ things I wanted to. In an against the norm kind of way I started working less on work – and yes, to the detriment of my bank account – and working more on me and my mind.

    As you mentioned, it’s hard to keep up with this mindset since there hasn’t been any instant gratification, but I do try to remind myself that the small dividends I am earning from what I’ve been doing and implementing are compounding into larger gains – sorry, I used to be in the financial industry as well so I couldn’t help myself there :).

    I think we forget that the brain is a muscle and decades of bad habits will not get overturn in day, months, or even a few years so make sure to celebrate every little win along the way and train it just like you would any other muscle in your body.

    P.S. I’ll second Christine’s recommendation of the book – The Slight Edge – it’s a good read although I need to work harder at implementing what I learned. I’m currently reading Hardwiring Happiness and one thing that has stuck out is along the lines of what you are referring to in your video – that we have been trained to want ‘big wins’ and to get them quickly and don’t allow ourselves to appreciate or feel grateful for small wins like just replying to email or even leaving a comment like this one that could potentially help someone else out.

    • Thank you for sharing your experience with this, Andrew! I really appreciate that.

      Indeed, our expectations are formed in strange ways. In our culture, we love to celebrate the extreme outlier. The teenager who develops and app and becomes a millionaire over-night. The rising star. That kind of thing. This warps everyone’s expectations of what success and progress looks like for 99.999% of people.

  • John D says:

    Hi Shane, thanks. All your points have hit home with me. I am trying to turn my low margin side hustle (children’s books, a web/tv series and related) into a freedom giving full income source and with a full time job and young kids finding time is a challenge. While I think I have my priorities in order, I am constantly finding my self less than productive when I carve out time as my focus wanders. Looking forward to the course!

    • Thank you for signing up, John! I’m looking forward to having you on the course.

  • Belle says:

    I have to say, too, that framing it as an advantage DOES tickle the brain – in a good way. It makes ‘being focussed’ seem like a challenge that’s worth pursuing, if only because it’s harder and harder to do, and just being able to do this will change our lives in large and small ways. The visual of the surfboard is good, too. I want to re-use this concept in my own work (i’m a sober coach) as i continuously remind my group that there’s no hack. there are small, regular, repeated actions that grow. I am SO looking forward to this class. i know it will help me be focussed. and i’ll be able to take what i’m learning here and share it – imagine that, shane, you’ll be helping all the people linked to the people taking the class…

  • Scott Love says:

    Unfortunately, I have to agree with you. The shiny thing gets attention. I am really looking forward to seeing how your method for getting past that mindeset.

  • Rose Bennett says:

    Wait what!!? Somebody that’s REAL on the internet?? No! This can’t be! Much love for you Shane. ALWAYS THE BEST CONTENT HERE! Thank you!

  • annie says:

    I’m so glad you are talking about realistic learning time and goals. Those business hacks only make us feel incapable, unable to achieve anything if we can’t apply their magics. I know first hand that many people only want magics in their life. I’m in the coaching business using tarot cards, and many people only want “predictions”, magics and quick fixes. They are surprised when I talk about “work to do” to create a purposeful life. I have a lot of “education” to do to help them realized that they are the creator of their life and that they need to change their state of mind to build new skills and make many changes. Thank you for speaking the truth. I’m looking forward to your training.

    • Thank you for your comment, Annie!
      I agree with your point about unrealistic expectations. In fact, my next video is about this topic, because I think it’s a real hindrance to our ability to get things done.

  • Rick Ellwood says:

    Hi Shane,

    Yes, I know you are correct of the fact that procrastination and focus are not issues or habits that can be fixed quick.

    They are usually the most popular problems we have in our lives when it comes to getting started and following through with something to get the results we are trying to achieve.

    I have tried numerous things from goal setting to desktop software to overcome my procrastination habits and nothing has totally cured it and I can not see any other program or system completely solving it either.

    Why not?
    Because it takes the person who has these issues time and effort to follow through with whatever actions or daily habitual lessons to complete ideally without fail and usually these are not fun or something to look forward to.

    The closest I have got to a plan that worked for me is Mark Joyner’s SimpleOlogy program. I still use it but not every day being honest but it does have some great tools for attaining some form of focus for those who can stick with it.

    I recently came across a simple time chunking app via google called the 25 minute timer called the Tomato-Timer which is based on the Pomodoro method that helped me get a blog post or two completed last month, but I fell back into the spell of drifting the next day lol.

    I look forward to more videos on your methods of keeping productive while suffering from procrastination.



    • Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

      Indeed, it’s a daily struggle. Even for highly productive people, it’s a struggle with temptations and distractions and laziness. I don’t think it’s a problem you can ever completely solve. At least not in the sense that you just become an unstoppable productivity machine. But you can optimize and build good habits and change your environment to get better over time. You can get to where you have fewer bad days and more great days, on average.

  • Mark says:

    Good stuff Shane!

    It seems to me that we intuitively know that learning new things of a physical nature, like surf boarding, is going to take lot’s of hard work and time.

    I’m a life long juggler and when people watch me juggle they ooh and ahh and tell me how talented I am. Not true. I’m actually one of the least naturally talented jugglers on the planet. Yes, I can juggle five balls with ease. Now. Forty years of practice later.

    But when it comes to other things, like making money online, we don’t want to take the proverbial thousand-mile-one-slow-step-at-a-time journey. We want the get me there right now, super-sonic jet style. We sucker the instant success promises to avoid the “It’s gonna take awhile wisdom”.

    Thanks Shane. I’m all in on the “It’s gonna take awhile but it’ll be worth it” wisdom.

    • Yes, too true. There’s this whole culture around “growth hacking” and explosive success. Of course, every once in a while, there is such an incredible success story (usually fueled by investment money, rather than real-world value), but it’s really not much different from winning the lottery. Just because every once in a while, someone does win doesn’t mean playing the lottery is a good strategy.

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