How To Be More Productive

Penelope Trunk guest post for Get In the Hot Spot

Editor’s note: Guest post by Penelope Trunk, founder of Brazen Careerist.

There is so much productivity advice. I have been reading it for a while now, and honing my to-do list, and my goals, and finding my best time of day to work, etc. All the advice is good. But there are three things I think are essential if you want to put the rest of the advice to work and really know how to be more productive.

1. Show up when you don’t want to.

In a perfect world, each day is great, and you are a productivity genius. In the real world, though, we all have our ideal day, and then we all have a hard time doing what we had planned to do. If you have lofty goals, then you will have some things that are intimidating to do.

On Tuesday night, I did a webinar for about 200 people about how to blog. I hate webinars. I like writing way more than I like being on video. I like that I can change the writing and think about the writing. The video is so immediate. It’s intimidating. But I know the webinars are good for my company, and good for helping me connect with new people. So I dreaded the webinar all day, but I showed up.

A lot of being productive is showing up for the stuff that’s hard. If you have a to-do list full of stuff that you can knock down, boom boom boom, then you’re probably not growing. And really, productivity isn’t about getting things done, it’s about growing in interesting ways.

2. Take risks.

Annabel Candy interrupted the webinar to ask if I would write a guest post. Right after I said that guest posts don’t help with traffic, and that I don’t like having guest posts on my blog because they are so hard to manage.

I liked Annabel’s guts. So I said yes. And she reminds me that the best way to surprise yourself with how much you can accomplish is to take risks.

Ask for long-shot favors. Make unreasonable phone calls. See if something good comes of taking a risk. Regularly.

If you are getting things done, but it’s all predictable, you will be bored, and you will never know how much you can accomplish. If you take risks each day, in some way, you will surprise yourself with how much more productive you are spending ten seconds taking a huge risk than spending ten hours doing something you’ve done a million times before.

3. Follow rules.

Lists should always be three, five, or seven. That’s how the human mind works best at comprehending information. So I am having three things here, because we reach our goals more often if we follow as many rules as we can.

So, hopefully you liked the post because, in part, I followed the rule of three.

And, hopefully Annabel will be happy. Because I broke my own rule about not doing guest posts. It feels good to break some rules and good to follow some rules.

Check in with yourself to know what works for you; the best test of how productive you are is how good you feel about yourself.

About Penelope Trunk

Penelope Trunk is the author of Brazen Careerist: The New Rules for Success and the founder of 3 startups ~ most recently, Brazen Careerist, an online social network to help young people manage their careers. She writes about careers and life with flair and passion. Penelope’s a columnist at Yahoo Finance and the Boston Globe, and her syndicated column runs in more than 200 publications worldwide. She’s been featured in TIME magazine, the London Guardian, the New York Times and Business Week.

It’s an honor to have her join us at Get In the Hot Spot and share these tips on how to be more productive. If you aren’t already one of the 50,000 people who’ve subscribed to Penelope’s blog check it out.

Editor’s Note

It’s true, I did cheekily ask Penelope Trunk if she’d write a guest post for me but I swear I didn’t interrupt her! I like to force myself to do something scary every day – sending my writing to an important editor, asking someone a favor or going to a dance class where I’m 15 years older than everyone else. I recommend you get out of yor comfort zone daily too.

Thanks so much to Penelope for being a good sport, agreeing to my cheeky suggestion and actually following through by sending me this article.

I love her article and couldn’t agree more: it pays to take risks and you have to break the rules every now and then. Especially your own rules.

Have you taken any risks lately? If not, what are you waiting for?

Thanks for visiting

Thank you for reading Get In the Hot Spot.

If you’re new here make yourself at home and check out some more articles. I hope you’ll like what you see and take a moment to subscribe to Get In the Hot Spot. It’s a brilliant way to stay motivated and inspired plus it’s totally free.

Subscribe now by email or to choose the RSS Feed for updates in your feed reader.

Brazen Careerist and Me

I only joined Brazen Careerist last week but I already like it more than any other networking site and I’ve met some cool people too like Penelope, JR, Ryan, Paul, Mehul, JenG, Jay, Aaron, Neeraj, Heather, Jessica (who did the sketch of Penelope) and many others. I’d love it if you can join me on Brazen Careerist.

Who’s That Girl?

Many thanks to Jessica Schanberg for creating the wonderful portrait of Penelope. Jessica’s a graphic designer, illustrator, writer and blogger based in Chicago, Illinois. She grew up in Manhattan and was inspired by the graffiti and street art that surrounded her. Check out more of her illustrations and writing at her blog, Lemons to Llamas.

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  1. Karol Gajda March 9, 2010 at 7:30 pm - Reply

    Thanks for being cheeky Annabel! :)

    It’s interesting the juxtaposition of “take risks” and “follow rules.” Taken out of context it wouldn’t make sense, but in the way Penelope explained, it makes complete sense. Fantastic article.


  2. Heather March 9, 2010 at 8:24 pm - Reply

    Great seeing Penelope here- BTW you are two people who probably don’t need any advice about or help with their productivity, so I’m taking yours.
    Great seeing Jessica here as well- I love the collaboration and that’s what I love most about BC – it’s the connections that are made so easy by a well designed and thought out network site. I look forward to your post on PT’s blog Annabel. Love it!

  3. Tom | Build That List March 9, 2010 at 8:35 pm - Reply

    I don;t think you can find a better tip than ‘continue to show up when you don’t want too’

    The main reason that some people succeed when so many others fail is because the decided to stick it out and just keep working – even when they didn’t feel like it.

  4. Connie March 10, 2010 at 1:46 am - Reply

    I love the idea of taking a new risk everyday. Thanks Annabel and Penelope! :-)

  5. Srinivas Rao March 10, 2010 at 3:02 am - Reply

    Good stuff Annabel. I’m glad asked for the guest post. I’m a big fan of taking a risk everyday. I’m guessing you are too (assuming the waves have been good ;))

  6. Ryan Paugh March 10, 2010 at 7:16 am - Reply

    Thanks for the Brazen shout out Annabel. Way to take a big risk and get a big reward!

  7. Annabel Candy March 10, 2010 at 8:40 am - Reply

    Karol – Yes, you have to make it a rule to take risks:)

    Heather – Thank you! There’s always room for improvement and refinements though. Sometimes things that used to work well for us stop being so effective so it’s good to reevaluate and keep changing things so you stay on top.

    Tom – You’ve hit it there. It’s the power of grit I wrote about in a post called 10 Ways To Get the Life You Want:

    Ryan – Great to see you here!

    Connie and Srinivas – I’m guessing you two have already discovered the joys of risk taking:)

  8. Anne March 10, 2010 at 10:32 am - Reply

    Hello Annabel!

    I’m back! I have a question for you…I noticed that you recently went to including your entire blog post in your “e-mail newsletter” – as you did with this guest post. I have noticed other bloggers do this too. This is something I am debating with my new website, whether or not just to include a teaser in my e-mails with a link back to my blog page, or to include the entire post and hope people will then visit the website.

    Can you give me your opinion and why you choose to do it one way or another?

  9. Robin Dickinson March 10, 2010 at 11:50 am - Reply

    That’s a wonderful lesson and encouragement, Annabel. Be brave and step out!

    I’ve also just made contact with Jessica as a fellow blogger/illustrator.

    Thank you!

    Best, Robin ;)

  10. JenG March 10, 2010 at 10:41 pm - Reply

    Annabel- you crazy girl! I’m learning so much from you. Great post by Penelope, great on you for asking. I’m going to try to do something scary today myself. Brava on the whole thing!

  11. AndreaVLewis March 11, 2010 at 3:42 am - Reply

    You can never go wrong w/ Penelope! Great tips in this post, I especially like the line: “Productivity isn’t about getting things done, it’s about growing in interesting ways.” It is so inspiring. Great job recruiting Annabel and btw, LOVE your illustration! =]

  12. J.D. Meier March 11, 2010 at 4:59 am - Reply

    Showing up when you don’t want to is such a key.

    I see people wait for inspiration. What they don’t know is that motivation comes after action.

    Imagine if athletes only practiced when they felt like it.

    Showing up gives you a chance to make a shot.

  13. teresa March 12, 2010 at 2:52 am - Reply

    :) I think you’re smashing Ani!

  14. Annabel Candy March 12, 2010 at 4:36 pm - Reply

    JenG – Go for it! And if today’s doesn’t work out try another one tomorrow:)

    Andrea – Great quote I agree. We have Jessica to thank the wonderful sketch!

    JD – Showing up when you don’t want to, writing when you’d rather be reading, exercising when you could be sleeping. You’re so right we have to make the effort or our train isn’t going to be leaving the station, let alone going anywhere interesting.

    Teresa – Lol:) What can I say?!

  15. Alex Blackwell March 12, 2010 at 10:41 pm - Reply

    I love “show up when you don’t want to.” Sometimes it’s doing the hard things, or the things no one else is willing to do, that sets up our success.

  16. Dave Doolin March 13, 2010 at 8:12 am - Reply

    Showing up no matter what is really, really important.

    So many people don’t really get how important it really is.

    Working construction, if you didn’t show up, you didn’t get paid!

    It’s really the same when you’re in business for yourself, it’s just that when you don’t show up, you’re stealing from your future.

  17. Annabel Candy March 14, 2010 at 10:18 am - Reply

    Alex & Dave – Brilliant point wasn’t it?! Surf’s up here but I’m still checking out my blog before I hit the waves:) It’s all about persevering even when the temptation is to give it a break!

  18. Tina Su June 12, 2010 at 3:22 pm - Reply

    I love this article. Thank you Annabel for making a gutsy move.

    It’s good to be reminded to do something that scares me… to challenge myself to stretch and grow.

  19. correction March 24, 2011 at 6:38 am - Reply

    Actually the rule is 7 +- 2. That would be 5 (7-2), 7, 9 (7+2), not 3, 5, 7.

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