The Wimpy Person’s Guide to Grit

Studies show that the ability to persevere in the face of challenges is pretty important to accomplish goals. External distractions are difficult enough to deal with, but mastering internal distractions may be even more challenging. Managing our own endless ability to distract ourselves is a key part of increasing productivity. As James Shelley says, “very often when we talk about the skill of “productivity” what we are really talking about is “self-control” — the disciplined ability to choose to do one thing at the cost of not doing another (perhaps more tempting thing).”

Grit Is More Important Than Talent from 99u describes The Marshmallow Test study on self control, and results from Harvard researcher Angela Duckworth, who defines grit as “the perseverance and passion for a long-term goal.”

Angela Duckworth has developed a grit scale to test this ability. I’m afraid to take it. Personally, I can really identify with Greg Haffley in the Diary of a Wimpy Kid movies and books. If you’re wimpy like me, grit can definitely be a problem. So I was glad to see this is an ability that can be developed.

Transcript of Angela Duckworth’s TED Talk, “The Key to Success: Grit”

Things to Do to Develop Grit

It’s time now for me to Grit going!

Plant Where You Grow Best

In the spring, I always plant petunias in front of our house. It’s a sunny spot, and they thrive there and produce colorful blooms. This year I bought a few too many petunia plants, so I tried to plant some under a big tree on the side of the house. But it’s too shady, and the petunias aren’t happy there. Those petunias aren’t growing well, and rarely flower. The hosta and ferns growing under the big tree love shade, and they are flourishing there. But petunias love sun, and I’ve learned that it is important to plant things where they will grow best.

It’s the same with people-we flourish and grow the most when allowed to use the strengths that are natural for us. Sure, we can tackle other projects and ideas that don’t play to our strengths, but it will be a much harder struggle for us. The more we play to our strengths, the easier it is to grow. It’s just good sense to keep your strengths in mind when choosing the best ideas and projects to work on, when you’re looking for the sweet spot.

Find the Sweet Spot with the Priority Matrix

If you study productivity, you will learn about a key concept:  Stephen R. Covey’s Time Management Matrix, also called the Eisenhower Matrix. The four quadrants show different possibilities for time use. But what happens if you remove the Urgent Quadrant from the equation? What if you had nothing urgent to worry about?

What would you do if you could choose anything? When I think about criteria for selecting the Most Important Tasks (or MITs) for the day, I’ve struggled with this. Out of all the possibilities, which are the best ones? If you are Bill Gates, and have all the money you need or want, making money may not be a factor in your selection. However, for most of us, it is something that must be considered.

Where is the sweet spot?

Here is what I’ve come up with so far for criteria for selecting priorities, when nothing is urgent.



Quadrant I $ Value

  • Does this move business forward?
  • What is the potential financial benefit?
  • How big is the appeal?
  • How big is the market?
  • How big are the margins?
  • Is it easy to understand & communicate?

Quadrant II Contribution

  • Will it make a social contribution?
  • Will it contribute to personal growth?
  • How large are the likely benefits?
  • Will it allow me to use my strengths?
  • Does it fit my goals?
  • Does it fit my value statement of what I do and why?


Quadrant III Difficulty

  • How big an investment is required?
  • Are the resources available?
  • Do you have the needed skills?
  • How many obstacles are there?
  • How big are they?
  • How hard to overcome?

Quadrant IV Size

  • How big a project/task is it?
  • How long will it take?
  • Is the time available to do something right now?
  • Is the energy available to do something right now?

The Sweet Spot is when tasks, projects, and ideas have high potential value and low resource requirements.

If the difficulty and size of the task are small, it is more likely to fit the time and energy available. Too many ideas, projects, and tasks equals no focus. This Priority Matrix has helped me to see that some of my ideas for projects include big obstacles and uncertain appeal, so there may be others that would be better to focus on now. When you aren’t sure what to work on next, it’s so easy to just check your email or Facebook, or some other mindless activity. It’s easier to avoid time wasters and default habits when you know what you need to do. If you’ll please excuse me, there’s something sweet on my list to do now.

Alex Vermeer on How to Get Motivated

Beveled Stained Glass Decorative Star Panel - Free High Resolution Photo

This week I discovered Alex Vermeer’s posts on How To Get Motivated: A Guide for Defeating Procrastination. He includes a free poster with tips:, and two lead-up posts: How to Generally Reduce Procrastination and especially How to Stop Procrastinating Right Now, which the flowchart is primarily based on. There’s also How We Use the Procrastination Equation, and a wonderful post about doing an annual review: “8,760 Hours: How to Get the Most From the Next Year,” which includes an 18 page free download. I’m so impressed with his work, and highly recommend spending some time there.

I still have much to learn from all of this great information, but here is an outline that links to some of the resources at the Daily PlanIt that tie in.

To overcome procrastination (and get motivated) you can: Increase Expectancy, Increase Value, Decrease Impulsiveness, and/or Decrease Delay.

Increase Expectancy

  • Check your mindset
  • Contrast
  • Accept
  • Plan for the worst, expect the best
  • Get inspired
  • Recognize success
  • Action is required

Increase Value

  • Find Passion
  • Mix bitter and sweet
  • Add accountability
  • Use productive procrastination
  • Keep your brain healthy
  • Create a reward
  • Get some energy
  • Create competition
  • Find flow
  • Find meaning

Decrease Impulsiveness

Decrease Delay

  • Have more immediate deadlines

Staying focused on what matters to us can be such a challenge! These methods can help us stay on track.


More Free Planner Inserts

The planner inserts last week were so much fun, I was inspired to make a few more! This week’s installment includes a list for repeating or recurring tasks, and one for yearly tasks.

PLUS the Super Simple To-Do List of quick tasks to do when you have a few minutes.

Five Minutes:

  • water plants
  • clean out a drawer
  • file some papers
  • write an email
  • read an article
  • make a phone call
  • breathe
  • feel gratitude
  • thank somebody
  • throw something away
  • back up computer
  • listen to a video on Coursmos

Ten Minutes:

  • listen to music
  • review goals & projects
  • yoga
  • meditate
  • plan a surprise for someone
  • clean desk
  • delete an outdated computer file

Fifteen Minutes:

Eighteen Minutes:

Here are the new free printable planner inserts (pdf)

See two new videos: one demonstrating how to automate repeating tasks, and one explaining how I use a paper planner for the weekly review. Happy Planning!

The Study of Productivity

When it comes to time managment systems, I have wondered about the percentage of people who:

  • use only paper
  • use only electronic
  • use a combination
  • have no time management system

I couldn’t find any statistics on this, but a good percentage of 61 experts at use a combination. Everyone is different, and what really matters is to come up with a productivity system that works for you.

Still, it is fun to see how others manage their time, and sometimes you can even get ideas that will work for you.

How much time do you spend:

Check out the infographic based on research in productivity at The Science of Productivity for a daily routine, and learn more at Time management 101.

It can be a lot more enjoyable to spend time learning about productivity than to actually act on the information. Keep in mind the ratio of time spent studying vs. the number of ideas you find that will work for you. Try to set a limit on the amount of time on these activities and focus on getting the important stuff done.

The Perils of Criticism

I have a confession to make: I sometimes rather enjoy a well-written snarky movie review. Like this one about Jupiter Ascending that made me laugh out loud. And this one about Fifty Shades of Grey. Opinions will vary and viewpoints can be quite different. It’s far easier to be the one dishing it out than to be the one who put their hard work out there and now sees it being unappreciated.

Critics can definitely get it wrong sometimes, as “12 Classic Books That Got Horrible Reviews When They First Came Out” from the Huffington Post demonstrates. Many people who went on to become famous persisted through failures and rejections.

“You’re Awesome: Firms Scrap Negative Feedback” from the Wall St. Journal reflects a movement away from performance appraisals to more of an emphasis on developing strengths. Why Evaluate Performance from The Huffington Post mentions maintaining a ratio of more positive feedback than negative, similar to research on predictors of survival or failure in marriage from researcher John Gottman.

How Are You Doing?

Walking the line between constructive criticism, appreciation and feedback can be like balancing on a tightrope. Feedback and appreciation are both keys to engagement at work. We need to know how we’re doing. Though it can be difficult to listen to, at times we may even need to hear about areas where there is room for improvement. Requesting feedback is one way to take charge of our own engagement at work. We can also devise ways to build in feedback on our progress with checkpoints on goals and projects to see how we’re doing. Learn more about The Art and Science of Giving and Receiving Criticism at Work at Fastcompany.


The Keep It Super Simple (K.I.S.S.) Productivity Award

Watching the Academy Awards recently has inspired me to suggest nominations for the Keep It Super Simple (K.I.S.S.) Productivity Award. The criteria for winning is to be the simplest method or tool. Some methods and tools are obvious winners, but the results are undecided in some categories. Add your nominations and cast your votes at the Daily PlanIt facebook page.


Nominations in the Priorities category:

SupermanAnd the winner is: The MITs or Most Important Tasks Method from Zen Habits

Nominations in the Paper Category:

SupermanNo clear winner in this category.

Nominations in the Apps for Lists Category:

  • Evernote
  • Google Drive
  • Other

SupermanThe Daily PlanIt Keep It Super Simple (K.I.S.S.) System uses Google Calendar and Google Drive for lists.


Nominations in the Take a Break Category are:

SupermanAnd the winner is: Peter Bregman’s 18 Minutes, since this method is flexible enough to work with most jobs.


Nominations in the Find Your Focus Category are:

I declare a 3-way tie! These are all Daily PlanIt tools, and they each have a place in finding focus.


Nominations in the Weekly Review and Plan Category are:

SupermanProbably Zen to Done, what do you think?

clockIt’s not too late! Add your nominations and cast your votes at the Daily PlanIt facebook page.

Optimize Your Day With the Science of Productivity

ResearchSometimes there is resistance to the idea of a routine, but the most productive people follow a Putting the things we need to do on a regular basis on autopilot allows us to focus on more important matters. Studies have revealed statistics about the effects of interruptions and multi-tasking, the best environments for productivity and more. Do some experiments to see how you work best, and shape your daily routine (as much as possible) with these results from research in the area of productivity. While some aspects may not be within our control depending on our workplace, others may be possible to regulate.

A Daily Routine based on the Science of Productivity
  • Dan Ariely, Professor of Behavioral Economics, concludes that generally people are most productive in the morning for two hours after fully waking. Don’t waste your most productive time from New Republic.

Learn more about productivity at the free tutorial Time Management 101.