In the world of advertising, so much attention is devoted to finding the right u.s.p. or unique selling proposition, the term coined by Rosser Reeves.
What about a u.s.p for motivation?
I found mine last week on Alcatraz, the most notorious U.S.P. — not related to selling — but standing for “United States Penitentiary.”
As I walked the damp, dark and forbidding corridors of the former federal prison, now under the custody of the National Park Service, I got a dose of the physical, mental and spiritual assault the prisoners experienced every moment while on “The Rock.”
And though I was free at any moment to hop the ferry back to sunny San Francisco, the atmosphere was so oppressive (in the moment), it was hard to think of anything else but the immediate surroundings.
It was fascinating to observe the other visitors’ behavior.
For instance, even though the doors to the solitary confinement cells were wide open for visitors to step inside, not more than 1-in-20 exercised this option. I did…and found it nearly impossible to smile for the camera.
So what’s the convoluted connection between Alcatraz and improved motivation?
I turn to Rule #2 of the REGULATIONS FOR INMATES U.S.P., ALCATRAZ
#2 GOOD WORK RECORD means the reputation you establish as a willing, capable workman, doing your best at whatever work you are told to do.
What a concept. Doing your best at what you are told to do.
Other than my wife (and the I.R.S.), no one has told me what to do for years. And for an entrepreneur like me, who’s 100% responsible for the success of his business, this can be a problem as much as a blessing.
Because with no manager looking over our shoulders and virtually no oversight, there’s often a struggle getting the important things done.
Inspiration or desperation?
In the past, I was someone who was driven to action by desperation. Forget the carrot-and-stick or dreams of greater things. If there were sufficient dollars in the A.T.M and enough potato chips in the bowl, I was content on the sofa with remote control in hand.
But if I faced an imminent catastrophe, risk to life and limb, or threat of insolvency, I’d spring to action on all fronts with surprisingly good performance most of the time.
Of course, this a terrible motivation strategy, and fortunately I’ve found a better approach, but there are plenty of my former brethren still operating this way.
Gary Halbert was a proponent of the “gun to the head” motivation strategy. Hyper-talented marketer and Brazilian Jujutsu champion, Lloyd Irvin, took him one further. Lloyd gave a stellar presentation at The System last year in which he used the starker metaphor of a “gun to your loved one’s head,” in addition to sharing his numerous martial arts grounded motivation strategies.
But the gun-to-the-head metaphor has never worked for me and may not for you. First of all, unless you’ve ever had a weapon pointed at you, it’s impossible to know whether you’d be mobilized for action or paralyzed with fear. And the thought of a gun pointed at a child’s head just robs me of any clarity of mind to do anything.
Give me Alcatraz
So here is my motivational epiphany gleaned from Alcatraz. While walking the long, haunting cell blocks, I envisioned myself in one of those damp, dark cells with my laptop computer and project in hand. (Maybe a sweater…it’s pretty damp in there.) I imagined being required to work productively on my main project for four solid hours daily and then being freed if…and only if…this were accomplished.
Would I mind extending this out to six or seven hours? No way. I’d want to be out of there as fast as possible and so would you. Would I dare check emails, product sales, stock quotes or web stats during these four hours? If it meant spending an extra moment in that cell, not a chance.
Wouldn’t you, too, be immensely productive in the four hour time frame of this Alcatraz hypothetical? I think you know the answer. So, why do so many of us do the above in addition to taking pointless phone calls and doing tabbed browsing…when we can choose to focus on our main projects? After all, we’re free.
So with this in mind, I humbly offer the…
8 rules for maximum productivity inspired by Alcatraz
- Commit to making these four hours unassailable time with no scheduling of meetings or phone calls. Consider yourself “on call” the same as an emergency room physician, a metropolitan fire fighter or jet pilot, except you are on call for yourself and your business. Take a few minute break not more than once an hour.
- Buy, read and practice “Getting Things Done” if you haven’t yet. This book offers a system for addressing all the open loops in your life that are pummeling your psyche and wrecking both your productivity and creativity. The “2 minute rule” alone will give you 10% more efficiency this year if you haven’t yet implemented it.
- No checking emails…no answering emails…no thinking of emails. This is a senseless compulsion which seems to rob half the population of its productivity. See rule #8 for more.
- No phone calls during this four hour block. Train your family and friends (or staff and p.a. if you have them) not to interrupt you during this time. And forget about “what ifs” as in “what if I don’t answer the phone…abc may be calling about xyz.” Switch to thinking in terms of, “what if I don’t finish this important part of the project right now?”
- Keep only one or two widows open on your PC. Unless you’re a day trader, you’re mauling your productivity by keeping multiple windows open. This especially holds true for tabbed web browsing. A cluttered computer desktop is the equivalent of a messy office. Remove the numerous windows and tabs and you’ll remove the temptation to check emails, sales, stock quotes and the like. Few highly successful people are multi-taskers.
- Say “no” early and often (except to your kids). This may be the single greatest liberating skill and all it requires is consistent practice to make it a habit…even if you’re a “yes man.”
- Regularly monitor your self talk and completely eliminate “I have to” and “I’ve got to” when referring to your main projects. “I have to” utterances trigger subconscious battles in certain people and derail focus. Say instead, “I choose to do this now” or “I really want to get this done now.” Take it from a former procrastinator like me, this works.
- Follow Sam Walton’s “sundown rule.” (Now is the time to fire up your email program.) Sam made it a practice to return all phone messages, faxes, letters and inquiries by sundown. Even if just to acknowledge the message was received. Example, “Mr. Walton received the message and will get back to you within 48 hours.” Of course, this needn’t be done by sundown but you should establish a set time every day for it. It will add oodles of productivity to your weekly output.
Oh, what’s that sound? The bars have opened…I’m free. And headed out for a late February meltdown under the Southern Arizona sun.
Til next time.