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Greg McKeown

The Secret to Effortless Productivity & Overcoming Overwhelm

Is productivity about working harder or smarter?

Do you believe in working hard or working smart?

The balance between the two comes down to productivity. Productivity is something that all high achievers focus on. The amount of work that we can get done in a day is directly proportional to how successful we can be.

While the current culture that we are a part of is all about hustling and grinding, there are very few discussions about the value of taking a breather and rewinding. The result — overwhelm. We get burned out, and we are unable to fulfill our goals

Each of us has not one but many things to deal with daily — work, relationships, fitness, finances, and more. Often, the reason for our productivity is not laziness but that we just have too much to focus on at once.

How do we improve our productivity while maintaining a balance between our minds and bodies? Is it possible to stay productive and take time off to rest at the same time? If these are questions that you have often asked yourself, then you are at the right place.

Our guest for today is someone who has dedicated his career to understanding why some people break through to the next level and others don’t. Greg McKeown is a celebrated author, public speaker, and leadership and business strategist. And today, Greg is going to share his expertise on how to achieve effortless productivity.

“Sometimes what you don’t do is just as important as what you do.” – Greg McKeown

Greg is an incredible man who has touched thousands of lives across the world as an accomplished public speaker. And today, he is here to share the secret to effortless productivity and overcoming overwhelm. 

Who Is Greg McKeown?

Originally from London, England, Greg now lives in Calabasas, California, with his family. He is the CEO of McKeown Inc., with clients including Apple, Adobe, Google, Facebook, Pixar, Salesforce.com, Symantec, Twitter, VMware, and Yahoo!

Greg is one of the most popular bloggers for Harvard Business Review and LinkedIn’s Influencers group. His writing has been covered by New York Times, Fast Company, Fortune, HuffPost, Politico, and Inc. Magazine.

Greg has also been interviewed by various television and radio shows like NPR, NBC, Fox, and is even a regular guest on The Steve Harvey Show. His interview at Stanford University has been voted as the #1 Must-See Video on business, creativity, and success by Entrepreneur magazine.

He wrote the New York Times best-selling book Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, which has sold more than a million copies worldwide, and he has recently launched his latest book, Effortless: Make it Easier to Do What Matters Most, where he talks about burnout amidst the culture of hustling and grinding and offers advice for making the most essential activities the easiest ones. Do check out these books if you haven’t already.

“The effortless way isn’t the lazy way. It’s the smartest way. It may even be the only way.” – Greg McKeown

I sure hope that this episode of The School of Greatness inspires you and helps you become more effortless in your goal-setting and accomplishing in your life overall. So without wasting any time, let’s begin!

The Greatest Hacks For Productivity

The key to productivity lies in a conscious effort to let go of grudges that we may have against certain people or situations. While we may consider our resentment to be justified, it is counterproductive to harbor such feelings.

“Every grudge we hold, we hold for a reason; we’ve hired the grudge to do something for us. Maybe we hire the grudge to make us feel powerful, … [and] we hold onto it to feel superior. … If [you] simply evaluate [your] grudges, … [you will find that] it’s actually not making [you] more powerful, it [just] makes [you] more vulnerable. … Grudges use you, they burn you up, they waste you out, they make you weaker. … And when you are [finally] ready to fire your grudges, ready to be free of it, [then] it can actually [help you] recuperate.” – Greg McKeown

For many years of my life, I have held on to resentment, anger, and frustration because of a lack of forgiving others. There may have been times when you were really positive, and you felt like you were flying, and then, just like that, something happens, and it triggers you back into anger and frustration mode. And this pulls you back into feeling tired, exhausted, drained, and burnt out. Those feelings typically come not from the effort you put into your craft, but because of the effort you put into thinking about the things you don’t like.

“What would be more effortless than, ‘I am flying?’ That’s the idea. … If we put [our mental energy] on grudges, … on things that have happened [which shouldn’t have], or even on our own mistakes, … we’re just putting tons of effort on the things that will exhaust [and] burn us out instead of moving forward to the things that really matter. … The productivity hack is to forgive people in your life. … If you could get back that much energy, that much of your own light and ability, it’s the best rebate available.” – Greg McKeown

The greatest keys to the highest level of productivity hacking are forgiveness and gratitude. The idea is to be productive with minimal effort. Start with ridding your lives of all the negativity brought about by holding grudges and making everything you do, whether it’s working on a project or even cleaning your room, to be a more enjoyable experience.

“When we focus on what we lack, we lose what we have. When we focus on what we have, we gain what we lack.” @GregoryMcKeown  

What Happens When We Complain Too Much?

Many people make it a habit to complain about anything and everything that goes wrong. It may not be a conscious action, but when you are in this complaining state, you start pulling yourself away from the solution and get too embroiled in the problem itself.

“Complaining and whining about [your problems] will just make it harder. … Once you [make up your mind] to do [certain] things in life, … you just have to decide [whether] you want to do it the hard way or the easy way. … At one point, I was researching [on] what are the easiest things to do in the world, … and one of the first answers that people agreed upon was that complaining was the easiest. … The complaining state … is not a great state to be in … because it is going to limit [your] creativity. … It’s going to be harder for you to attract good talent. … So every time [you] complain, [you] should say something that [you] are grateful for.” – Greg McKeown

At a certain point in his life, Greg found himself to be complaining about a lot of things. He then started noticing that the more he complained, the more there was to complain about, which is when he came up with his strategy of gratitude.

“As soon as I introduced this new habit [of feeling grateful], I was surprised by how fast my state changed, … because you can’t be fearful and grateful [at the same time]. … Gratitude is the real stuff; it is the way to accelerate success in any area of your life. … I [realized] that as soon as I would say that I was grateful, I could see people’s eyes light up, … it just brought more positive feeling. … And I think it is the fastest way to get back into the effortless state.” – Greg McKeown

That’s a habit that we can all imbibe. Whenever you notice yourself complaining about something, just take a pause and think of a few good things that happened to you that day. Soon enough, you will start noticing how the cloud of negativity around you starts making way for more positive thoughts, and you will be surprised by how it impacts not just you but also those around you.

What High Achievers Get Wrong And How They Can Make Their Lives More Effortless

No matter who you are, we all strive to reach new heights. And while there is nothing wrong with the idea of becoming a high achiever, not all of us get it right. Some of us get so bowed down by pressure that it directly starts affecting our productivity and all hell breaks loose.

“The primary thing that high achievers get wrong is that they go after the wrong things. … High achievers know how to … focus on [their] tasks, … but the problem is if you target the wrong goal. … [Like maybe you decide] to run a marathon, [and you even end up winning it] … but what you [actually] wanted was a great relationship with your wife. … You focused on the wrong thing, … [and this could be defined] as unsatisfying success. … [The other thing that high achievers get wrong] is doing [things] the wrong way.” – Greg McKeown

When you find yourself in such a situation of unsatisfying success, then there are some questions that you must really ask yourself. Greg goes on to elaborate on what these questions should be.

“There is [one] question that … has changed my life. … [It] is [asking yourself], what is essential? … Another way of asking the same question that cuts through all the clutter is, what is one thing that’s absolutely essential that I am under-investing in? … It’s [basically] the same question, but the [second] one is a slightly more precise way of asking it.” – Greg McKeown

The thing about this question is that you don’t have to waste time on the answer because you already know what is essential to you. For achievers, it’s usually relationships or health. High-achievers often don’t invest in their health — they are just putting in more and more work on their accomplishments. And that’s the most significant error because when you get to the end of your life and have all the money, you still struggle to find meaning because your relationships and fitness have suffered.

Why You Should Listen to This Greg McKeown Podcast Episode Right Now…

There was just so much that I learned from my conversation with Greg in this episode of The School of Greatness, and I am so grateful for him being here. I tried to fit in as much as I could in this post, but there is still a lot that I missed, and for that, you can use this link and watch the complete episode.

To learn more about Greg and his various accomplishments in life, do check out his website. And to shadow him more closely, you can follow him on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube.

Before I close this out, I would like to share Greg’s unique definition of greatness:

“[I] like to distinguish primary greatness and secondary greatness. Primary greatness is the private victory. It’s all the stuff that’s going on inside of you, … and no one gets to see that. … Secondary greatness is the public victory, … and that’s what people see, … that’s the success. … If you get primary greatness, you will often achieve secondary greatness [too]. … So greatness to me is mostly the first, but it’s also what powers the second; it gives life to it.” – Greg McKeown

If you really found value from what we discussed in this episode, then please share it with as many people you feel would benefit from watching this. And it would be wonderful if you could tag Greg, @gregorymckeown, and me, @lewishowes, on Instagram with a screenshot of this episode and your greatest takeaways.

To Greatness,

Lewis Howes - Signature

“Don’t use up more energy today than you can recuperate today.” @GregoryMcKeown  

Some Questions I Ask:

  • What was the hardest idea you had to let go of to achieve effortlessness?
  • What happens when we complain and why do we do it so often?
  • What are your thoughts on delegation vs. leverage?
  • How do we get clearer on the agreements we make in our relationships?
  • What do high achievers get wrong and what is one thing they can do to be better?
  • What is essential to you that you’re underinvesting in?
  • What happens when we complain and why do we do it so often?

In this episode, you will learn:

  • The greatest keys for productivity.
  • The 5 questions to ask yourself before starting a new project.
  • How do we stop beating ourselves up for relaxing instead of working?
  • The two questions that changed Greg McKeown’s life.
  • Plus much more…
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Greg McKeown

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