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5 Pillars to Increase Productivity and Move Your Dial Today

Wonder why you’ve had slow progress? Conquer the traps, myths, and oversights that could decrease or increase your productivity

Photo by Braden Collum on Unsplash

This post was first published on my Medium blog—follow me there for the most up-to-date entries!

The Full Focus team lists 5 pillars of productivity, which are integrated throughout the Full Focus Planner. I’m a certified Full Focus Pro, but I’m not yet sure if I agree with this taxonomy. However, looking at these pillars helped me to recognize some traps, myths, and oversights that might decrease or increase productivity.

Full Focus’s five pillars of productivity are not to be confused with my five pillars of success for entrepreneurs! Either or both will be a great starting point for anyone wanting to move their dial.


There’s good research to show that making our goals visible is a major factor in achieving them. But just because goals are written doesn’t mean they’re visible.

Here’s the big trap to avoid: Don’t assume that you’re looking at your goals. Set reminders and keep looking at your goals. There are multiple ways to keep track of habit goals (i.e., a daily activity or “trip”) as well as achievement goals (i.e., a “destination”).

Personally, I’ve used multiple ways to make my goals more visible. It depends on what the goal is, whether I’m at the office or at home or on travel, and what visual aids I happen to have handy at the moment.

Yes, sometimes I use paper-and-pen, which could mean entering tasks and projects and obligations into my planner. I also use digital means. My team and I use Asana for business-related tasks and goals, and we review it as part of our start-up routine each day. However, I also use Habit Bull for habit goals. Sometimes I put a sticky note on my bathroom mirror. I’ve also put annual goals on my computer’s screen saver.

And those who are in my small group coaching session each week know this: I’m a big fan of boiling those beautifully written SMARTER goals down into one word I can write or say each day as a reminder of the goal. If I find myself with a goal or a task that is eluding me, I write a one-word reminder on a sticky note and put it on all 5 pages of my planner that week.

When goals are “out of sight out of mind”, they end up being out of reach. Keeping goals visible helps keep them top of mind and therefore increase productivity.


What the heck is focus, really? Is it merely a lack of distraction or interruption? No.

To me, it’s a matter of planning and doing the right things (not all the things), prioritizing, and knowing when to say “No.”

Along the way, I’ve identified big focus killers:

  • Multi-tasking
  • Boredom, and accepting the resulting distractions and interruptions
  • Hunger: Without glucose to the brain, we can get a little fuzzy
  • Distractions, including worrying
  • Inadequate amounts of sleep
  • Cognitive issues: Exposure to substances (prescription drugs, alcohol, and more) can affect our ability to focus

Identifying your own focus killers and figuring out how to avoid them can be a big help to increase productivity!


Command is about being in control of your time. To me, this equates to execution of priorities, not just planning them.

Here some common traps:

  • Allowing others to hijack your time.
  • Not setting clear constraints for yourself.
  • Waiting for the muse to come. (I loved Steven Pressfield’s book, The War of Art, where he talks about the “Muse” and “Resistance” — yes, he capitalizes the word because he personifies “Resistance”.) If inspiration comes, that’s great. But when it doesn’t, we can’t sit around waiting for it.

When I think about command, I think about discipline. That’s because discipline is, in its purest form, the ability to give yourself a command and follow it. Note that part about “following” your command to yourself.

“Discipline” comes from a Latin word with the ultimate root of “learning” or “training,” same as “disciple” — self-discipline is the art of training yourself, of becoming your own master.

See, here’s the thing. Humans are basically thinking, feeling, and doing. We use our conscious minds to give ourselves commands and follow them. Those somewhat infrequent conscious commands produce results. But most of our thinking is done in our subconscious mind. That means that any time we don’t hold ourselves accountable to our own plan, we’re giving our subconscious the ability to control our behaviors.

In short, left to its own devices, our always-awake subconscious mind will make itself comfortable, not productive.


Consistency is vital to increase productivity. In its rawest form, I’d say consistency is about forming a habit.

People often base their understanding of habit on myth or opinion. Here are a few facts:

  • It’s not a matter of 21 days or 66 days or any other number of days. The more difficult the task, the longer it takes to form the habit.
  • Solo habit-forming is tough. Most of us do better when we have built-in accountability mechanism such as an accountability partner or a weekly accountability group.
  • Cue-and-reward is not enough, as shown in some classic scientific studies. In his book, Charles Duhigg summarized those studies in a few sentences:

Countless studies have shown that a cue and a reward, on their own, aren’t enough for a new habit to last. Only when your brain starts expecting the reward — craving the endorphins or sense of accomplishment- — will it become automatic to lace up your jogging shoes each morning. The cue, in addition to triggering a routine, must also trigger a craving for the reward to come.

So, if you’re having trouble consistently planning or executing your big goals or your daily tasks, try to find a way to create habits that will enable you to do both and increase productivity.


In my view, lack of confidence in yourself (and, maybe, confidence in your team) is a massively overlooked reason for a lack of productivity.

Confidence is a feeling of utmost trust and belief in oneself or in others. According to psychologist Richard Petty at Ohio State, “Confidence is essentially the stuff that turns our thoughts into actions.”

I’m no psychologist. But when I don’t get stuff done, I ask myself:

  • Am I waiting to get it perfect because I’m fearful of someone’s disapproval?
  • Am I just second-guessing myself?
  • Am I hyperaware of the risks and underestimating the rewards?

But here’s the most important thing I learned from Dan Sullivan’s book: Commitment must come before courage or competence or confidence. We must wade out into the deep waters to get important tasks done. Standing on the shore, dipping our toes in the water, or waiting for our ship to come in won’t move the dial for us.

Increase your productivity today

These are the 5 Pillars that the Full Focus team uses. As I said, I’m not sure they’re a perfect fit for me, but I do find them intriguing. If you’re finding your productivity lacking, see if any of these categories explain why!

If this taxonomy works for you, or if you’ve got something else, what’s your number one pillar to increase productivity?

This post was first published on my Medium blog—follow me there for the most up-to-date entries!

I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to and affiliated sites.

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