You’re Not Getting Lazier, It’s Getting Harder to Be Productive

If you want to be a successful entrepreneur, you need to be good at getting sh*t done. It's no secret that I believe your personal character and skills determine the success or failure of your business.

Reading that might fill you with dread. After all, you've not been particularly productive. In fact, it seems that you're more distracted now than you used to be. You spend more time procrastinating and less time working with deliberate focus, on what matters most.

Why is that? Are you getting lazier, somehow?

Actually, that's not it. Your ability to focus hasn't gotten worse, but your environment has changed... and if being productive is crucial for entrepreneurs then succeeding is slowly becoming more and more difficult.

Watch the video to see why this is and what you can do about it.

More...

What's Your Story?

Does the message in this video resonate with you? Have you noticed your attention span shortening? Has your impulse to reach for the phone or check your favorite time-sink website gotten stronger in the last years?

I'd love to know what your struggles with this issue are and what you've tried to overcome them.

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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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  • Raul says:

    Yes, it resonates. Just during the time of the video I moved to listening mode to complete a message, got a promotional phone call, and even started some mental planning. Plus more “multi-tasking” at the time to write a short comment.

  • Peggy says:

    I’ve turned off almost all notifications on my phone that make noise. I’ve also drastically decreased the notifications that popup on the screen. By not getting interrupts all the time, I find it easier to ignore my phone until I choose to check out new info in the apps there.

    The other part has to do with habits. When I feel tempted to do the “fun” stuff with my phone rather than continuing with more important tasks, I try to remind myself to stay focused and not get diverted. It works more often than not. And the more I don’t let myself get distracted, the easier it is to not get distracted in the future because I’m strengthening that habit.

    • Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this. Turning off phone notifications (all notifications, really) is a great step. I do the same thing and I honestly don’t know how people cope with constant notifications…

  • Tommy Sikes says:

    I’m trying to watch and listen to your video Shane, but this elephant won’t get off my head.

  • Matteo says:

    Hello,
    I’m thinking about buying the new productivity course “focus & action” but would like to ask you a question first:

    Will you continue to upgrade the materials in the future? If so, will we have to pay again for the new additions or they’ll be included in the product?

    Thank you and regards,
    Matteo

    • Hello Matteo,

      The course will be rolled out in January and through the live sessions I’ll make adjustments and improvements to the course as I’m releasing it. After that, there will probably be a few more updates here and there, but I’m not planning to continually develop the course. I might, but that depends on how popular it is and how busy I am with other stuff.

  • Stretch Fletcher says:

    Bizarre. Something has to be done.

    • It’s a strange world we live in for sure. Primarily, we can do something about it on an individual level.

  • Julius says:

    Joined the course, and looking forward! Hope you will share your systems and tools you use to deal with daily email in a productive way… Topics such as: how often do you check your inbox, do you follow inbox zero philosophy, do you use folders, what email client do you prefer (desktop and mobile), ect…

    • I will cover email, but not extensively. I’ll cover online communication in great detail, but much of that has shifted to messaging systems like Slack.

      Regarding tools, folders, clients… I think those things matter very little. What email client you use might make a 1% difference, but how you communicate online in general is what makes the big difference.

  • David says:

    Yes, you guilted me back into the video :-)

  • Mark Hanson says:

    Spot on Shane!

    To help prevent me from scrolling down the page during this video episode I full-sized the video to fill my screen. That helped. A little. Temporarily. But honestly, I was STILL unable to pay full attention. I found my mind wandering around your backyard. Analyzing it. I noticed the rain falling. The pool. The plant life. I wondered where you were videoing from. Made me wish I was there, where it’s warm, and not here, where it’s cold. Then I noticed the hot chick who appeared momentarily on the patio. Okay, I assumed she was hot.

    Anyway, I was unable to pay full attention to one seven-minute video even after imposing what I thought was a helpful external limitation, full-sizing the screen. It appears my biggest distraction stumbling blocks aren’t external they’re internal. In my mind. It’s frustrating how many times I have to reread things or rewatch things because I’m only vaguely paying attention. My eyes are looking at the content but my brain has it’s back turned.

    Thanks for addressing the procrastination elephant and sharing the tips and tools to help us cope with it. I’m gonna rewind the video and watch it again.

    • Thanks for your comment, Mark!

      The distractions are internal, that’s a good point. However, why is it that our minds have become such noisy places? Why do we constantly need the stimulation of something new? I believe that we’ve been conditioned to this by technology.

  • Rick Wilkes says:

    Yes, I joined the course, too. What resonated with me is acknowledging the Reality that these companies have figured out how to make my lizard brain and elephant mind react and respond and engage way way more than is healthful, much less productive. Yeah, I’ve had some denial about how much this is / has affected me. But when I have not been able to follow any system to get me focused and taking consistent action day-to-day, I know that the “what I’m up against” is BIG. And for BIG, having help and support makes a difference. So, delighted to be starting 2019 with you on this.

    Rick
    P.S. Ahhh, it’s already making a difference, too. I decided as I started playing the video to stay focused ~ that this was my chosen focus and action for this NOW, and I did. And yeah, I felt the desire to scroll and also text a friend during the same 7 minutes. Ugh. They “got me” and I want Freedom to express without distractions like that.

    • Thank you for this comment, Rick! I can relate to this very much. Just like you, I was in denial about how much I’ve been affected. And once I realized how bad it was, I knew that I needed to make a real change.

  • John Rivers says:

    Hi Shane

    I want to join the course but it will not take PayPal. Is this a mistake? I am going out of town for the New Year and I don’t want to miss the deadline. HELP!!

    • Hi John,

      It’s not a mistake. For technical reasons, I didn’t include PayPal in the payment options here. But we can work something out.

  • Srini says:

    In a below comment you said to RIDE the Elephant (Emotion). Need to find a way for that, as procrastination comes due to not taking hard decisions and moving forward. A constant concern that what is done is not good enough / how people will perceive your work. Breaking this barrier for me is very important.

    • Those are interesting points! There’s an inner struggle at play, which basically adds a whole lot more “work” to what you do, having to think and worry about all these things. It is possible to train your mind to think differently.

  • John Wagner says:

    I think that you are correct. I have realized this fact myself and the way I have overcome it follows.
    I turn off the TV and cellphone and am looking for a switch to turn off my hardline phone. This seems to work very well. I am not listening for anything. I can then get down to work.

    • Yes, this is a really important part of the solution. Make the distractions unavailable. This is an example of changing your environment instead of try to use your willpower.

  • Conny Graf says:

    I actually learned that when I want to really focus on a video without slides (like this one) I am more attentive if I at the same time play Solitaire on my phone. It sounds crazy but by playing Solitaire I can listen better and my mind doesn’t drift off and starts thinking other stuff and I am also not tempted to multitask in any other way. I compare this with the old days when we doodled while being on the phone :-) Hey maybe I could start doodling again, that might work too. I have all notifications off on my phone and desktop, I even have my phone on silent most of the time – I can’t understand how people get any work done with notifications on. I look forward to your course.

    • That’s interesting. Doodling sounds like it might be better than playing solitaire, since it would give you a chance to sketch or write notes related to what you’re listening to.

      Actually, I’ll have to try this myself!

  • Chris says:

    Brilliant again, Shane.
    Go on with that kind of quality coaching to the world.

    Imo absolutely right to suggest to forget about guilt and willpower aka discipline. It never works that way.

    One has to change discipline for passion. That’s the only way it works in the long run.

    As a tactical self-defense instructor, I have already discovered a new field to work on with my clients. It’s called digital self-defense.

    Basically, it’s about how to protect yourself from being spied by the various net game players. You are bringing in an extremely important point here.

    It’s not only about someone selling your data. It’s about forces that have much more in mind – to get you addicted and to control your mind.

    So we are not talking about the usual idea of productivity as how-to-get-things-done-better?

    We are talking about freedom, protection from mind-control and empowering people?

    If that’s the case, I’m definitely in with your course.

    • Chris, I love the term “digital self-defence”! And it’s something that I think more people should learn about.

      Regarding my course, the main emphasis is on getting things done better (and determining what the right things to get done are, in the first place). But as I allude to in this video, getting “un-hooked” from external influences is an important step in this process. I agree with the viewpoint that Jaron Lanier lays out in his book “Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now”. Social media and smartphones are behavior modification devices. They work in subtle ways, but are very effective at what they do. And while we can’t know who’s currently paying to nudge our behavior or in what way, we can be sure that their goals aren’t aligned with ours. No one is spending ad money and data analysis money to help us lead better, happier, more productive or more fulfilled lives.

      Our chances of being productive and successful are severely hampered if we can’t focus. So, we have to look at the current reality we live in and we have to take steps to unshackle ourselves. If we don’t do that, then any productivity tips and tools added on top won’t make much of a difference.

      • Chris says:

        Makes perfect sense to me, Shane!

        Let’s do it.

        I’m in.

      • Chris Schmidt says:

        Shane, just a side question (if inappropriate here, just delete it).

        When using the sendowl checkout I noticed this advice:

        ‘Note, if you’ve already created an account to access free courses on ActiveGrowth, you can log in with your existing account.’

        This is exactly the set-up that I need. Do we already have a tutorial on how people can set up a free account first and purchase via sendowl later?

      • Yes, you can do this by creating forms that register a WordPress user account on your site. This article explains how that’s done in detail.

  • Kofi says:

    On Point. Never really thought of it this way though. Eases me of quite some guilt I have been feeling really. I read recently that alloting blocs of time to specific activity helps. will like to know more about the systems you spoke about. Really need to be more focused this 2019. Thanks

    • I’m glad to hear this message resonated with you!

      Yes, time blocking can be very effective, I agree. Definitely worth trying.

  • Rhonda says:

    Hi Shane,
    This is Rhonda, who’s old enough to remember life without all these distractions. I could watch the whole video without scrolling down, because I wanted to show my appreciation for what you’re providing and concentrate on what you’re saying. This takes longer, but is much more effective. I’ve always had a problem with procrastination. I ordered the course the first time I saw your offer. I can’t wait to make progress in this area. My biggest problem is shiny object syndrome and not feeling comfortable about making a plan, sticking to it and getting it done with changes horses in mid-stream or just giving up all together. I look forward to your advice on any of these aspects during the course. Thanks for everything you’re doing to help those of us getting into the digital world.

    • Hi Rhonda,

      Thank you for your comment! Shiny object syndrome is very common and we’ll definitely address this in the course. I’m also going to publish another video shortly with one possible solution to this problem. :)

    • Kim Davis says:

      This sounds just like me. Seems to be so many “fabulous, you will miss out” offers that it is hard to evaluate which ones will contribute to my goal and which ones will just be a time waster where I feel cheated. Not so much by the money but the emotional and mental investment

      • It’s not great to have this problem, but good to recognize it. The bright shiny object syndrome CAN be fixed.

  • Hi Shane,

    Great video!

    It’s actually quite scary that we spend so much time with the smartphone and its Apps. Technology has really made our mind restless and unproductive.

    One method I’ve been using is keeping my phone in a different room… But there’s always this temptation to know what’s going on inside the social media world!

    • Thanks for your comment! Yes, leaving the phone in a different room is great! It can be hard to do, but it’s a much better way to “un-distract” yourself than when the phone is close by (even when it’s in silent mode).

  • Stein Varjord says:

    Hi Shane, nice video and good points. I agree with them all, but find that the development I see in my own life goes the opposite direction. The better the online operators get at searching for my attention, the more they annoy me and the less they manage to attract me.

    I’m 58, have been into IT for more than 30 years and had Facebook since 2003, when it was still for cool young people. I loved it. Now I never look at the news feed and look in maybe once a week to keep in contact. I actually think the algorithms in Facebook and elsewhere are too “smart” for their own good. They’re just annoying.

    So, am I not procrastinating? Yes I am! I’m the type of person most vulnerable to that. Extremely curious and unable to look away when something catches my attention. But I hate the feeling of being distracted by something that later shows to not be worth it. I feel cheated. That makes me vengeful. Thus: 15 years ago i trashed my TVs and will never again allow one in my home. I love the ocean of free time that gives me. Also as mentioned, almost no Facebook, zero Instagram, Twitter, etc, and very little YouTube. They’re all interesting, but also annoying.

    So, did this “deprivation” make me productive then? Not really a big difference, but an ongoing gradual improvement, I guess. The big differences lie in better life quality. More peace of mind, more happiness, more time with the loved ones, more creativity, and maybe most important:

    More awareness and pleasure from each of the ingredients in life. I don’t need to be productive. I do need to feel happy. Mission accomplished! (But I still aim to become more productive, to get to some goals I find interesting, before I’m 158 years old.) :-)

    • This is really interesting! It looks like you found a way to escape the trap that most of us fall into and you reframed things in a very positive way, for yourself.

  • Audrey says:

    OMG so true. Sadly.

    • It is a sad state of affairs. I’m sure it will continue to evolve and it may get better. But for the time being, we need to protect our time and attention.

  • Scott Love says:

    Guilty as charged. I was reviewing emails while listening to you. I made a conscious effort to restart the video and watch it without interruption.

    I guess that is a pretty good reason for working through the course.

    • I commend you for taking a moment to practice your “focus muscle”. That’s a great step.

  • jpaton says:

    Shane, you are speaking true words. I am finding myself and the behavior in my life with the new technology. Great video!

    I want to share something with you:
    The term “captology” and
    “Computer Aided persuasive technology”.
    Big enterprises are doing research since years to hack the brain and feed the elephant.

    Tristan Harris started the “time well spent” organization.

    And here something to procrastinate ;-) :

    https://www.ted.com/talks/tristan_harris_the_manipulative_tricks_tech_companies_use_to_capture_your_attention

    • I love that talk! I’m glad that people like Tristan are forming a counter-movement to captology (a new term for me).

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