With Kory Kogon, Franklin Covey’s Global Practice Leader for Productivity, Co-Author of The 5 Choices: The Path to Extraordinary Productivity
Kory is Franklin Covey’s Global Practice Leader for Productivity and one of the authors of The Five Choices to Extraordinary Productivity, and we were delighted to welcome her on to the show today.
One of the compelling topics of Kory’s work is the dichotomy of our lives nowadays. On the one hand, with enabling tools such as the Internet and mobile communications platforms, it’s never been easier to make dreams come true. But, on the flip side, modern-day technology-centric living has created an unstoppable information flow, ensuring that we barely have enough time to work towards making our dreams come true. Kory refers to this double-edged sword as the “productivity paradox”, and it’s becoming a defining quality of 21st-century life for many people.
As Stephen Covey said, “Anything less than a conscious commitment to the important is an unconscious commitment to the unimportant.” Kogon shows us how, through five choices and a few simple exercises, we can de-clutter and dramatically step-up our personal and professional productivity. She identifies three key problems and talks about breaking through the clutter to become star performers. She also offers simple templates that can help us become more productive.
Steve and Terry noted that our lives have changed more over the last 15 years than probably in the rest of human history combined. We are contactable 24/7 nowadays and not merely via one medium. In this sort of culture, prioritizing your time and using it wisely isn’t just a useful life skill, it’s essential if we are to be properly productive.
Kory touched upon some highly interesting topics during her chat with Steve, including the importance of using different parts of your brain. The brain is not just one singular entity; due to the way it has evolved, it consists of three separate portions with different features and understanding the differences between these and how they function can be key to moderating and modulating our own behavior.
Another intriguing concept that Kory discussed was the importance of getting active in order to be more productive. This seems counter-intuitive, as going for a walk, for example, seems like leisure time that achieves nothing. But Kory actually raised some compelling reasons why this is not the case, quite apart from the health benefits involved.
This was a fascinating insight into a subject that is beginning to impact on lives all over the world, and Kory’s interview and book are not to be missed.
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Steve Pomeranz: I want to introduce Kory Kogon. Kory is Franklin Covey’s Global Practice Leader for Productivity and one of the authors of a very good book, The Five Choices to Extraordinary Productivity. And it’s a book I’m having everyone in my office read. Hey, welcome to the show, Kory.
Kory Kogon: Oh, thanks for having me, Steve. It’s a pleasure being here.
Steve Pomeranz: Our daily lives have dramatically changed for many us in the last 15 years and it’s exciting and it’s daunting at the same time. You write in your book, it’s never been easier in human history to accomplish great things and be more productive. Yet, at the same time, it’s harder to accomplish the things that are important to us, the things that keep our work life in balance. You call it the productivity paradox. What is that?
Kory Kogon: So you’re right. It’s both easier and harder than ever to achieve extraordinary productivity. And in our ongoing research, being the leaders in productivity for so many years, we had to up our game on the problems we’re facing today and we started there. And it’s easier because of the technology. I mean, we can do amazing things with the technology in every way. And at the same time, it’s harder because the technology has created this unstoppable flow of information, of demands, of everything. And we just are trying to deal with all of it and just getting overwhelmed. So we have these barriers to really enabling the easier to get to extraordinary productivity.
Steve Pomeranz: Quite often, we’re bombarded by marketing companies who know how to get our attention and know how to get us to act on our basic desire for distraction or whatever. So let’s talk about three areas, you call them challenges, that we all face in this highly digital world.
Kory Kogon: So digital or not, all of us today, more than ever before and it will remain this way, are paid to think, to innovative, to create, to execute. We’re out of the Industrial Age where we were really paid not to think. It was to do your widgets and don’t talk, and you go home. So with that, we’ve identified these three key problems.
The first one is based on what I just said, we are making more decisions than we ever have before. And to the point you made about the marketing companies, our brain, which is the number one tool for productivity in the 21st century—since we’re paid to think—our brain is attracted to novelty, to the dings, to the pings, and the marketing companies know that. So they’re playing on this problem of bombarding us with stuff because they know our minds will go towards it. So we have all of this stuff coming in all day long about our decisions. Every email is a decision.
Kory Kogon: So that’s a big problem because we’re very good at what we do, but our brain wants to handle everything linearly. And so every email that comes in, and so what happens at the end of the day, sometimes we feel like where it was so busy, but what the heck, did I get done? Number two, our attention is under attack. Goes back to the marketing company, the dings, the pings while we’re trying to make all these decisions, our brain is being driven someplace else. And last is an energy crisis because we’re just worn out from it all and it’s no longer it’s an eight-hour day.
Essentially, we’re accessible 24 hours a day. So those three problems are really, when you solve those, identify them, and solve those. Now you’re on your way to extraordinary productivity.
Steve Pomeranz: I like this quote from your book. It’s from Stephen Covey and it states, “anything less than a conscious commitment to the important is an unconscious commitment to the unimportant.” And I think that needs to be said a few times. So if you’re not making a decision to be consciously committed to what your goals are and what you’re trying to accomplish, then in a sense, you’re being committed to something that’s unimportant. So how do we organize our life to concentrate on the important?
Kory Kogon: Well, Stephen Covey, what he’s so well known for is his timeless principles, and what you just talked about is a timeless principle. And what we’ve done is dug deeper to get to the neuroscience around it and really understand how the brain works to support those principles ‘cause they’re natural laws, which is true.
And so it’s not even just, boy, I need to be conscious of my goals. We need to be at an even more practical level. Just be mindful, start with being intentional about all of the things that are coming in. Use your thinking brain versus your reactive brain, which is the back of your brain, which is the part where we mindlessly just go through and brush our teeth and do whatever and get attracted to dings and pings and stuff like that.
So that’s step one, is if we can all just be intentional and mindful of the incoming. Then we can say, well, what’s the process then by which I can really discern what’s important, what’s not. And that includes some goal setting as well.
Steve Pomeranz: Well, it all sounds great on paper, right, but actually living this takes a certain amount of structure and re-thinking the process. You have a matrix, a simple matrix in the book. You call them, Q1, Q2, Q3, and Q4. Let’s go through that a little bit. Let me start with Q1, which you title, Necessity. What is that?
Kory Kogon: Okay, so Q1, for the financial people on the phone, in particular, means quadrant one, versus quarter one. And so, it’s the confluence of the word urgent and important, quadrant one in the matrix. And so, something is incoming, the phone rings, it’s the school, that’s urgent. The school called, my child is sick, that’s important.
So, I’m saying to myself very mindfully, that’s necessary. Put down what you’re doing. Go pick up your child or there’s serious consequences. So, quadrant one are all things that are necessary right now, crises, unexpected things.
And we’re always going to have that. Unfortunately, some people have really big quadrant ones because they’re addicted to the urgency of it. I think everybody knows people like everything is a crisis to them. The adrenaline of it, and it’s a great way or a place to go to rewire your brain and mitigate that as much as you can.
Steve Pomeranz: So, Q3 just to skip along here, I read a quote from the book and this describes Q3 to me, which is titled, Distraction. “If you’ve ever Googled something important and then 45 minutes later found yourself watching brainless videos or reading things that had no value. you have experienced how easily your attention can be taken from you.” And the reason that I responded personally to that is sometimes I’ll be taking a look at the Facebook page and at the news feed, and 20 minutes later I’ll go, oh my God, I just wasted 20 minutes of my life. I don’t know what drew me to this, but I’m just thumbing through this Facebook page. And that’s a true distraction.
Kory Kogon: So quadrant three is the greatest place to reclaim time, attention, and energy. And so many times people will say, well, other people are doing it to me. My boss is making me work on stuff that’s a waste of time or a distraction. And in fact, the example you gave is a great example about how we can help ourselves. If we get more mindful about when we do go on. Hey, I like Facebook.
And sometimes I will do that just to take a break, a ten-minute break, but I’m very conscious of how much time I’m putting to it because I have other more important things to do. But it does happen. You go mindlessly, it’s the back of your brain. You’re going link after link after link, and sometimes it could be sad, the news or something like that, but it may not be the most important thing to be doing at that moment. And you have to constantly hold yourself accountable to stay out of quadrant three.
Steve Pomeranz: The book is, The Five Choices to Extraordinary Productivity. The coauthor that I have on the line with me is Kory Kogan from Franklin Covey. She’s a global practice leader. Tell us about quadrant two, it’s titled, Extraordinary Productivity.
Kory Kogon: So just starting with the word extraordinary, some people say, extraordinary, that’s so high minded. We’re not looking for world peace here unless you choose that. What we’re looking for, our definition of extraordinary is, I feel like I’m making a high-value contribution at the end of every day, I’m going to sleep feeling like I did the right thing. And so quadrant two, not urgent, but really important.
And so this is where your pro-active work, your high-impact goals, your preventative stuff to avoid, quadrant one. Your planning, your renewal, these are the things that you schedule, that you go, and I’m going to do high-quality work on this because I want to give myself a time to do it, and it’s really important. So we need to fight our way to quadrant two, and clarify it first. And then fight our way there, and mitigate quadrants one, three, and four to reclaim time, attention, and energy to make sure we have the oxygen to do a great job with quadrant two.
Steve Pomeranz: If yesterday’s work was brawn and today’s work is about the brain, does quadrant two contain the creativity aspect or the creative thinking aspect of what we all need today to do well?
Kory Kogon: It houses all of that. I hear a lot from clients around the world. They’ll say, boy, if I just had, I just need some time to think. And in today’s world of knowledge work and being paid to think, innovate, create and execute. It is absolutely essential we have the planning systems in place, which go to choice three, that allow us to raise the probabilities of accomplishment of those things in quadrant two in order to be able to do our best thinking.
Steve Pomeranz: Well, some of the material you’ve given me says choice three says, schedule the big rocks, don’t sort the gravel. Tell us what that means.
Kory Kogon: So Stephen Covey, very famous for the big rock metaphor. Those represent the important things. Gravel is the less or not important things. And if you took a bucket and you filled it with all the small gravel and then tried to fit all the big rocks in to fit in the bucket, it’ll never happen. You have to put the big rocks in first and then the gravel will pour in around it and it will all fit in.
That’s the graphic that we need to have in our minds when we’re thinking about getting quadrant two things done. So when it comes to calendaring, there’s tools in the book that help you make sure, like the 30-10 promise. 30 minutes before the week starts, what are your big rocks? What are the most important things that need to be done next week, and get them in your calendar in a time slot Sunday night before Monday starts pouring in on you. And by just doing that research shows you increase the probabilities of accomplishing those things by 2 to 300%.
Steve Pomeranz: Interesting. Let’s even go further granular to use the rock metaphor. I’ve got emails coming in every single day, they all seem important. I mean, there’s the obvious ones that aren’t. But how do I control my time there? How do I prioritize what’s important so I don’t spend all my time answering emails? Now you may have achieved a day of answering all your emails, but I think you would ask yourself the question, what have I really accomplished?
Kory Kogon: Well that goes back to the original problem. We’re making more decisions than we ever have before and we’re doing it linearly. So email is a perfect example of that. Email, once you know choice one, act on the important, don’t react to the urgent, which is the time matrix. I know how to discern all the incoming. You do the exact same thing with your email. Every email is a decision, and so you have to just ask yourself, should I answer this right this minute? And by the way, if it’ll take you two seconds to answer it, answer it. Or is this something that I should schedule to work on later, should I delete it?
So you really need to look at it, and make sure you’re picking out those things that are really important. Turning them into your task list, turning them into a meeting appointment and all of that. So you’re not just mindlessly answering emails all day long. Second, if you can, you should block time for email. We’re so addicted to the dings and the pings, we are constantly interrupted, which research shows dramatically takes away from the quality of work that you’re trying to get done besides that. And so, if you can block time, even ten minutes every hour, to then turn your attention to answer the emails that have come in, that is extremely helpful.
And third, I’m a big proponent, and this goes to choice four, rule your technology, of setting up rules or filters in your email system because that will automate 20 to 30% of the decisions so you don’t have to do it over and over and over. So those are a few ways to handle your email.
Steve Pomeranz: That’s a good point. The book is, Five Choices to Extraordinary Productivity. My guest is Kory Kogon, coauthor. Choice five, fuel your fire, don’t burn out. I think we all know what that means, those of us who operate businesses or are leaders, or even not, we have so many tasks that we’re asked to do. And really at the end of the day we’re pretty much burned out. What can we do to help ourselves there?
Kory Kogon: So I heard what you said, Steve, and we hear this a lot, that we also didn’t know what we’re supposed to do here. Let me be clear. We’ve said that we’re paid to think, innovate, create, and execute, particularly if you’re a business owner. And our brain is our number one tool. So the goal of fuel your fire is neurological. You have to give your brain lots of oxygen and the right kinds of nutrients in order to make those high value decisions and stay focused in the midst of the marketing companies trying to get our attention.
So five energy drivers—eat, sleep, move, relax, and connect. In the book, there’s a ton of research as to, if you’re not doing those things, the effect on your brain and cognitive ability. So we say pick one of them, just make sure you’re moving. Even now, to have this call, I’m standing up, I’m looking out at the mountains because that is giving my brain the ability to be 7% more cognitively better, if you will, to have this call with you.
Steve Pomeranz: Something as simple as just sitting all day can really have a negative consequence to your energy.
Kory Kogon: Sitting is known as the new smoking. The research is more astounding every day how deadly that is. As human beings, we were not made to sit.
Steve Pomeranz: The Five Choices of Extraordinary Productivity. I think you all get the idea here. This is a very good book. And for those of you, for those of us who are suffering from brain drain and all of the things that go along with this modern technology and modern technological world. I recommend that you get that now. Kory, the website is the5choices.com with the number 5?
Steve Pomeranz: And we only have a few seconds left, but you also have online training as well.
Kory Kogon: We have all kinds of online training, in-classroom training, around the five choices. Very application based so people that want to take it further, organizations, we are there to help.
Steve Pomeranz: Kory Kogan, thank you so much.
Kory Kogon: Thank you, have a great day.