Productivity Part 2: On Purpose, with Purpose!

A look more at the ‘why’ than the ‘how’ of Productivity.

Do you ever feel like you’re working on the wrong things?

Do you lose motivation half-way through a piece of work?

Do you have a strategy when adding to your To-Do-List or does everything go on it?

Have you ever tried to take a step back and think if there could be a different perspective you could take to get more and better stuff done?

If you ever find yourself asking these questions, this piece might be of interest.

In late 2017, I posted an article (and a podcast) focusing on 11 ways on How to get stuff done. I had been receiving questions from listeners asking how I was managing to keep all the balls in the air and release content on a regular basis. My response, jokingly (and true), was down to me having a lot of free time. I was single and didn’t have any kids. However, I did have a very busy day job, was podcasting regularly, was just finishing up a diploma in Executive Coaching, and was in the habit of signing up to adventure races and the like. From my viewpoint, I didn’t feel like I had productivity mastered (the opposite in fact), but when I stood back and looked at things objectively, my productivity was high. I recall a colleague at the time remark that I seemed to have “mastered time”.

In preparation for this piece, I took a quick glance back at the 11 approaches from 2017to see if they still hold true. Reassuringly, I still use all of them. One is sleep so I’m glad that’s happening and valued. Most of them are absolutely foundational to my productivity. Planning, exercise, creating lists, arising early, setting SMART goals, meditating and using the Pomodoro technique to hold me to account for 25 minutes (or however long I set it) to call out just a few more.

Then & Now!

Flash forward to the present moment. A lot has happened since. Getting engaged, welcoming a baby boy (Jake) into the world, a house extension, keeping the day job going, releasing over 100 new podcast episodes, developing my coaching skills, creating videos and articles (like this one), speaking at events, delivering coaching workshops, and trying to keep myself as physically as active as possible to keep my Type 1 Diabetes under control to mention just a few things that jump out. With all of these in flight, I’m glad to say the management of my time remains in a good place. But I’m not an exceptional case as almost everyone I know are spinning just as many plates as me.  

What has changed for me is the lens through which I look at productivity. My view has gradually shifted, from a time focus and how I could get as much done as possible, made up with practical tools & methods, to a why focus and more on doing the right things.

I’m convinced now more than ever that you can be productive, get Sh1t done, and still have time to be a good dad, husband, friend, and all the other roles you want to have in your life. It just takes some discipline to regularly question and validate what you spend your time on! The more you do this, the quicker you’ll be able to confirm you’re on the right track. Through all of this learning, reflecting, and critical thinking, I’ve become more deliberate about the choices and decisions I make, all leading to time spent better.

I don’t typically quote Nietzsche. However, this one stands out for me. I read it in Victor Frankl’s ‘Man’s search for Meaning’ and it has stuck with me since. It goes “he who has a why to live can bear almost any how” and while this is a bit extreme when it comes to productivity, I believe that it is important to ask yourself if the work you’re focused on is in line with you own why!

That’s what the rest of this article looks at. Some ideas and questions that you can ask yourself about the why before you dive into the how. Let’s begin with a question on productivity itself!


  1. Productivity is a Choice

Think about the word for a minute. What does it really mean? Is it about getting stuff done? Or more about the choices & decisions you make?

To be productive, you are making trade-offs, choices and decisions to do one thing over another with your most valuable resource – time! Highly productive people, teams, or organizations recognise this. They tend not to blindly dive into busy work. Work that is never ending but yet has to be done to convince yourself you’re being productive. Instead, achieving high productivity is about taking a more calculated approach to deciding what to work on and then, using some of the practices and tools, how best to get it done. We all have to-do-lists (TDLs) that never stop growing, and that can be demoralizing, especially as you seem to be ticking things off them all day.

Think about productivity as a choice. Please Choose wisely.


  1. Procrastination without a clear Why!

Procrastination is probably something we can all relate to. It’s a very real thing! Do you find it popping up a lot? As you scan your TDL, do you find yourself putting certain things off again and again in favour of other tasks? You might notice this happening a lot, yet you keep doing it. It’s a whole lot easier to move a task from today to tomorrow than doing it now, right! Maybe it’s time to ask why!

Getting crystal clear on our whyhas become very popular over in recent years. Ever since the explosion into the zeitgeist of Simon Sinek’s ‘Start with Why’ book and TED talk, it has become a question I ask myself more and more. Why am I doing what I’m doing? If I do this, will it bring me closer to my goal? Is it in line with my own values or what I believe in? (If you’re not clear on what your core values are, check out this post I shared on how to identify them).

If you can get clear on your why, what your purpose is, your set of core values, and get into the habit of looking at your work through this lens, you’ll find procrastination fades. Why? Because it’s work you believe in and take value from. It might not be easy work and it can take a little practice to build this habit but there is a huge return on investment if you do it. And you’ll see a difference in motivation, which is the next point to cover.

So, take a pause, check purpose, then proceed!


  1. A Motivation check on Language!

Maybe you are good at unlocking the procrastination door. You can get started easily but find yourself stalling and find it super hard to get back into it (whatever it is) again?  The motivation is gone. Being motivated by the work you’re doing is essential to progression. Even more so if what you’re working a big goal which looks to be very far in the distance when you start. Even if it does align with your purpose, keeping motivation high can be difficult. I’ve found that using the right language can help!

Back in 2018, I interviewed Jim Breen for an episode of the podcast. He shared many great and impactful insights from his experience and lessons learned. One that has stuck with me since is around using positive language that can motivate instead of creating a blocker. In our discussion, Jim talked about how important exercise was for his mental health. Like all of us, Jim often found it difficult to motivate himself to go for a jog. By making a change to the language he used, stating he “gets to go for a run” instead of saying he “has to go for a run”, motivation increased and the likelihood of taking that first few steps was much much higher.  Changing just one word made all the difference.

I get to wake up at 5am each morning as I want to spend time before work on personal development. I get to write this blog post. It’s empowering and exciting. It’s a choice, not a chore. Take a look at what you’re doing? Are you having to do it? Or are you in a privileged position to get to do it?

Transform from a chore to a choice and keep your motivation high.


  1. Locus of Control

I get to read a lot! 🙂 

Earlier this year, I read two books from Charles Duhigg back to back. Both have been very influential in my thinking and in putting this piece together. In ‘Smarter Faster Better’, he outlined the concept of locus of control and whether you’re on the internal or externalside. An example here perhaps will help. Have you a friend or a colleague that is always blaming others for things when they go wrong? That it’s never their fault? That would suggest they have an have an external locus of control. That the world is against them. It’s probably a draining experience to be in their company?

On the other hand, what about that other friend that looks for feedback and asks how did they do? What could they have done better?  You can instantly see that their approach is to become a better version of themselves. They display a huge amount of self-determinism to make things better. How do you view this person? They’re probably much more fun to be around and their energy can be infectious in a positive way. That’s what an internal locus of control looks & feels like.

How does this connect with productivity? Taking an internal locus of control allows you to determine your own future. You’re controlling the controllable, not ‘passing the buck’ or giving yourself an ‘out’. Do you find yourself putting off that task because you haven’t heard back from Tom or Mary and until you do, there is no point? Sounds like an excuse to me! What if you take control and brainstorm out some ideas on what the potential feedback could be, so when that when you do, you’re ready to take action? You’re in effect taking control.

Take a minute now & do a self-check. What is your intuition telling you about your own locus of control? What can you take more ownership on? It’s empowering to make decisions instead of waiting for them to be made for you.



Setting a SMART Goal is one of the 11 tips shared in part 1. It’s been around for years, very easy to remember and implement, and the data proves it works. Most of the time. What I’ve learned since is that it has one big flaw. A SMART goal can lack emotion. It doesn’t clearly call out an emotional connection to the goal and if I’m not emotionally invested and connected to the goal, if there is no heart in it, I’m less likely to complete it.

Pick a work or personal goal that keeps stalling or going off-track.  Take a step back. Is it SMART? If yes, then check is it really something you believe in? Is it in line with your vision, values, and motivations? Does it excite you? If not, can you reframe it, so it connects deeper with you? Make it align with your why!

A very personal example I’ve shared a few times over the last 18 months is my own Dry18 adventure where I gave up alcohol for 2018 (check out the free e-book about this here). This was very much a SMART goal (some might say not very smart at all). Using insights that I took from the book ‘Switch’ by the Heath Brothers, I made sure it was not just a black & white goal but one that connects with my motivations. I reworded the goal numerous times until it was something that really energised and motivated me. One that I could connect with. When that happened, I was more bought into it. It became visceral.

Let’s be clear. None of us want to be wasting our time working on goals that don’t serve us. Take the time out at the start or during your execution to ensure you believe in it. It’s a big factor in staying the course.

When I shared the 11 approaches to get more stuff done, it quickly became one of the most read and listened to pieces of content I shared. I know it wasn’t down to the amazing writing style or never seen before ideas. More about the universal need to get more stuff done and gain control over the never ending to-do list. At the time I knew there was more digging required.

Diving a little deeper, questioning the motivations and really challenging the why instead of just running with the how has helped me keep moving forward and increase my level of satisfaction. Now, with life even busier, with time even more precious than before, filtering out the important from the busy, and the high value from the low has been huge for me.


The Best time to start?  

To get started, maybe the best thing is to do nothing at all. Just sit and think about what’s on your list for today. How does it match up against any of the points above? Could you do some ‘Task to Purpose value mapping’and see what tasks jump out as ones you’re excited to work on, are in line with your purpose, and you can control. These could be the ones that will give you the best ROI, fulfilment and set you up for success. Have a listen to that internal voice inside the head. If it’s louder than ever giving you all the reasons not to do it, maybe that’s exactly the sign you need to start.

Taking these few minutes out to assess and resist the temptation to get busy could be the best time you’ll spend all day. You’re starting it off on purpose. With purpose.

Thanks for reading all the way though. It shows you’re serious about making improvements and want to get better. I’d love to hear back from you if you enjoyed this or if you had some feedback or different views. It would be even better if you shared it in your own network.


During the course of brainstorming and formulating this piece, a few other more How-to focused approaches emerged that I’ve been using that didn’t make it into part 1 and didn’t naturally fit into part 2. So, I’ll be releasing a part 3 in the near future. These tips actually sit at the intersection of How and Why so could be worth a look when it’s out. If you sign up to the newsletter, you’ll get notified when that’s out. Link to that below.

Rob is a qualified Executive Coach (ICF) and has been Mentoring and Coaching over the last decade in various roles held during his career. In 2017, Rob launched the Rob of the Green Platform which hosts the 1% Better Podcast. Rob currently is a director of Project Management and Leadership Coaching at Dell in Cork, Ireland. Rob also publishes articles on productivity, leadership, goal setting, meditation, and other topics, like this one!

Connect in with Rob on the socials or via email on the links below:

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I had always planned to write about my experiences (or lack of) while going through the Dry18 challenge. I’d have a bit more time on my hands, so decided early on to keep a journal along the way! Initially, it was for my eyes only. When I put together the first 100 days piece, it was more for me than anyone else. I very nearly didn’t post it at all. I always tend to have that internal battle, the voice inside the head shouting at me, providing me with many reasons not to. I experienced the same sense of resistance before releasing podcasts or videos too sometimes. But, I can’t let that stop me, and I’m glad I didn’t again with that piece.

The response from it was, and still is, very positive. It’s always nice to hear from friends that it connected with. It’s also nice to hear from people you don’t know that it resonated with too. In many ways, that’ even more powerful. So, when Maddy Lawson, from Alcohol Concern UK got in touch, to say the article was something they’d like to share, I was delighted. It made it all worthwhile. Even better, Maddy asked if me I’d be interested in putting out a series of posts over the rest of the year on the Dry18 adventure. I was delighted to oblige. She suggested that I start with one that gives a bit more detail on my backstory and why give up alcohol at all. So, I put together the following piece to give some context on my ‘why’. I hope you enjoy it.

My relationship with alcohol has been what you might call quintessentially Irish in nature. I don’t drink Guinness (often), but ‘the drink’ has been part of my life for a long time.

I think I had my first drink at the age of 16. The guilt of breaking my confirmation pledge still sometimes floats into my mind (and has just now as I write this). For the first year, it was the occasional alcopop on a Saturday night (didn’t like the taste of anything else). Then one night, that all changed. I was introduced to whiskey. That was the first night that I got ‘drunk’.

For the following 23 or so years, alcohol has always been a part of my life – sometimes a big part. Too big. It was a prominent feature during my college nights (and sometimes mornings) in Galway. Throughout the rest of my twenties nights out, weddings, holidays, and any other social occasion always had a ‘session’ at the epicentre. Even sporting activities, like playing for my local football team, where you’d think getting and keeping fit was the main objective, had booze as a key component. We would often celebrate victories (and defeats) after the match on the Saturday, often into the Sunday, and I seem to recall a couple of Mondays too. Hardcore.

Somehow, I was able to juggle a busy work life with the busier social life and, for the vast majority of the time, I kept the show on the road.

I’m not hungover, I just got something in my eye!

While all this was ‘only a bit of fun’, the pain of the recovery after a heavy weekend, where I may not feel 100% again until Wednesday or Thursday, was outweighing the fun. That was a sign, but one that I mostly chose to ignore until I hit my thirties. I didn’t have the self-awareness to realise, or maybe the confidence to make the change.

Then in 2008, I did. Job cuts where I worked, with the Big Crash looming, gave me an opportunity to leave with a few €uros in my pocket. I hit reboot, moving jobs and cities. My relationship with alcohol started to change too. Sure, they say don’t run away from your challenges, but sometimes a change of environment does help. And it did for me.

Flash forward to 2017. I’d been living in Cork nine great years. I had settled in great with the city, the people and the culture. Work was fulfilling and I was in good place. I had made a lot of positive adjustments in my life, running half marathons, cycling and eating better. Developing a practice for Meditation was a big deal for me too. Lots more on that on the blog page.

Over the years, my relationship with drinking had softened but never completely stopped. There were still a few occasions each year when I’d drink far too much, and I’d feel demotivated and down for a few days as a result. As someone who loves to get the most of my time outside of work, being hungover on a Sunday had a double negative impact on my mood; not only was I feeling like crap as a result of the booze, I was missing out on getting good stuff done in my time off!

I had often contemplated going off drink 100%, but never been able to commit. But as my own life was getting busier, I just had no time for or interest in spending any time with a hangover. Developing Type 1 Diabetes at 35 was an additional wake-up call. I had a lot of incentives to make me want to quit. I just needed do some experimenting.

Dry January is a Great place to start!

First up was Dry January in 2017. That was a relative breeze. I came through with flying colours. I learned that going dry wasn’t so bad – the opposite in fact.

Then, on the weekend of my 40thbirthday in November 2017, despite great fun and celebrations, I knew there was gloom and doom lurking around the corner. After two days/nights ‘enjoying’ myself, I felt like enough was enough. As we wrapped up the Sunday night, my friend Richie and I started to pick into the ridiculousness of our boozing and how it would impact our mood for the next few days. Richie started to explain how he heard a guy on the radio the week before detailing how he had given up drink two years earlier.

So, as this conversation developed, both Richie and I started to play with the idea of going off drink. Before we knew it, the idea of a Dry18 was born. Both of us are pretty stubborn so when we make a commitment, we tend to stick with it. We added in some financial incentives that a charity would gain from if either of us were to break. The bet, even though made after numerous pints, gave me a lift.

And so it came to be, that, at midnight on 31 December 2017, Dry 18 officially came into being. It felt right. I like to set goals at the start of every year and try to make them SMART, which stands for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timebound. This one had all of these ingredients (even if my friends and family questioned the ‘achievable’ part). Plus I had a big incentive: zero days wasted in 2018 as a result of a hangover.

Testing SMART Goals to the limit

While the goal was exciting, I was under no illusion that it would be easy. Jumping from 31 days in January to 365 days is a bit of a leap. But I wanted the challenge and knew it would be the perfect year to try this out. With huge optimism, and a clear plan of attack for the year in place, I was ready for 2018. Time to walk the walk.

The article is posted on the Alcohol Concern blog page also here.

Rob is a qualified Executive Coach. In 2017, Rob launched the Rob of the Green Platform which hosts the 1% Better Podcast. Rob also publishes articles on productivity, goal setting, meditation, and other topics. Rob is currently a director of strategy and business operations with Dell IT in Cork, Ireland.

Connect with Rob via,email, twitter, Facebook or his website.

Check out all the great work that Alcohol Research UK are doing here

Consider the two options below for a goal I’ve set for myself in 2018.

A) No Alcohol for the entire year of 2018


B) Make each day count & Wake-up fresh in 2018, free of alcohol and hangovers!

I’ll leave that sit there for a bit and return to it later.

So, it’s that wonderful time of the year again. Time to lock in on 2018 goals! In truth, I’ve been in brainstorming & planning mode for a while. Now it’s a matter of breaking them into categories and critically looking at which of them are really worth doing, which align to my core values, ensure they will be of benefit to myself and others and, lastly, which are challenging enough to take on!

This was the first year in which I was quite public about some of my personal and professional goals. The subject cropped up a good bit in the weekly podcast. I’ve also posted some articles in the last few months that touched on goals I set for myself in 2017. This was by design in lots of ways as I definitely believe that, by putting them out into the public domain, my own levels of accountability to them has increased, in a good way for sure.

Looking back at the 2017 goal list, I’ve completed almost all of the big goals. Buying a house, releasing 50 podcasts (originally the goal was 30), completing a diploma in executive coaching, spending 100+ hours in coaching sessions, sticking to a pretty strict fitness programme, forcing myself to get up at 6 am on weekdays and meditating every day have all been mostly nailed during the year. One final goal was to spend a week away around the turn of the New Year. This has been one I’ve failed on for the last few years but managed to make it happen this time around (I’m writing this from Sunny Gran Canaria – sorry!). Overall, I’d rate the year from a goal perspective at around 8/10.

Why only 8/10?

Well, two reasons. I don’t think it’s possible to get a 10/10. It would indicate perfection and that’s not a thing in my view. I’ve taken the perspective in recent years that striving for excellence works better. It keeps things moving forward, focuses more on the journey, with less pressure and more enjoyment. The other reason I’m around the 8 mark? Due to multiple failings on a goal I set out last December, one I blogged about intermittently during the year, appropriately called 12 challenges in 12 months! Bit of a mouthful but pretty self-explanatory. I endeavored to either stop, start or increase a specific habit or activity each month of 2017. The first of which was a Dry January with a total alcohol-free month as the goal. This started the challenge off with a tough one considering I probably had not gone a full month without at least one beer since the age of 18(ish). That said, it was the month that I was most successful. Surprising even myself.  Februarys challenge; to resist reading work email on my phone/in the office before 10 am daily. The hoped benefit here was to instead focus on productive deep work prior to getting caught up in the email time warp the usually began from around 8 am. I didn’t think this would be harder than the drink ban! It started well but fell off a little towards the end, however it did start me on a path to where I now don’t have work email on my phone at all – that’s a big achievement and has had a very positive impact on my productivity in the mornings. Some of the other months were quite successful (one was to go with my intuition more for decision making – I bought a house this month) but others I failed miserably at (some bulging disc issues so running 5km every day for one month didn’t happen & I didn’t swim 20 times another month to name just two). Overall, the challenge was an experiment but one I really learned from.

Ok, so now on to 2018 goals and back to the options I posed at the outset. As a reminder, these were:

A) No Alcohol for the full year of 2018


B) Make each day count & Wake-up fresh in 2018, free of alcohol and hangovers!

You might be thinking neither sound good with 365 days without even a glass of wine. But if you had to go for one, I’m hoping you’d opt for B! Can you explain why? Did B feel better than A?

Both goals you could consider SMART, referring here to the goal setting methodology where the goal you set is specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound (it’s probably not smart, however – time will tell there). Up to a few weeks back, I probably wouldn’t have thought of wording an option B.

What is different between A & B is not just how they’re worded, but how they make me feel. Option A is very much a restrictive goal. Uninspiring, sounds very tough and can be termed as, what is referred to in the book Switch, a

”Black & White Goal” – Heath & Heath.

It’s very much all or nothing and doesn’t really connect in with much emotion. It’s not one to get excited about and that makes this one all the harder to get motivated by.

With Option B, however, I’ve tried to look at it a bit differently. I’ve asked myself what goodness will come out of doing this. What is the Why? What could make this more exciting? The overriding feeling that is driving me to achieve this goal is joy and satisfaction. Not to have any wasted Sunday mornings/afternoons that invariably follow on from a night out where a few too many IPA’s have been consumed. Another advantage of doing it would be the increased productivity that comes with a clear head. Again, taking great inspiration from the book Switch, I needed more than just a SMART goal.

‘SMART goals presume emotion, they don’t generate it’ – Heath & Heath.

The goal needs to connect on a more emotional level and make it one that is full of feeling and hits me in the stomach. This was something I wouldn’t have naturally thought of in the past when setting goals. I probably have always made them pretty clear and time-bound but, looking back, lacking in inspiration, maybe slightly boring and not so clear on the value or benefit. They were SMART but lacking some feeling. For a year without a beer, I definitely needed to get clear on the emotional win.

So #DRY18 (not sure if that hashtag will take off but feel free to use it) is my BHAGfor 2018. Thankfully I’m sharing it with a good friend (hang in there Richie, we’ll get through this) so I’m not doing it alone! It’s a lofty goal and maybe, being Irish and fond of the occasional night out, the antithesis of smart! But with it worded as Make each day count & Wake-up fresh in 2018, free of alcohol and hangovers, it sounds more appealing. It still sounds difficult and I know it’s going to be a challenge but I’m up for it. Serendipity had a role to play here too as if I hadn’t read the book Switch in the last couple of weeks (it had been on my to-read shelf in the office for the last 6 months), I wouldn’t have had the foresight to make the goal emotionally charged. That gives me further incentive to achieve it. The goal gods are smiling on me!

Some of the other goals on the radar for 2018 that I’ll state publicly include the 12 challenges in 12 months again. First up in January is a 5km every day! February, I’m aiming to learn to swim ‘properly’ and feel comfortable doing it (just purchased the total immersion book & DVD so going all in with this). No cell phone between 10 pm & 7 am, getting up at 5:30 am and giving Bikram Yoga a go are just a few others that are lining up to make the monthly cut. Other goals that are more point-in-time include completing a Masters in Q3/4 2018, a 10-day silent meditation retreat, running the New York Marathon in November (fingers crossed with the lottery), complete Season Two of the 1% Better podcast (that will include some live podcasts with an audience) and a few more besides. Sure, sharing these out are scary and exciting. Less scary than this time last year, however. That’s progress and knowing I might have a few folks reading this over the coming weeks really makes them more real.

How are your goals worded for the year? Are they SMART and in Black & White? Or in brilliant emotionally fuelled Technicolour? If you’re putting the final touches on your own 2018 goals, take a closer look at them to see if they’re SMART and are hitting you in the gut, bursting with feeling and emotion. It might be the difference between achieving them or not!

IMPORTANT NOTE: If you’re reading this a few days or weeks into 2018, it’s still not too late to set yourself goals for the month/year. Don’t use that excuse. It’s never too late. I’ll be updating on progress over the course of 2018 as the months pass by.

As always, please leave feedback, comments and even share some of your own goals for 2018 here. I’m also looking for more #Dry18 Buddies so feel free to reach out or coax a friend to buddy up with you! 

Email me – [email protected]

About Rob:

Rob currently is a director of strategy and business operations with Dell IT in Cork, Ireland. Rob is a qualified Executive Coach and has been Mentoring and Coaching over the last decade in various roles held during his career. In 2017, Rob launched the Rob of the Green Platform which hosts the 1% Better Podcast. Rob also publishes articles on productivity, goal setting, meditation, and a host of other topics and areas of interest. Lots more to come in 2018.

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