By Brenda Gazzar, California Business Journal.
Ellen Goodwin nearly let procrastination ruin her professional life. She was on the verge of losing her creative advertising business of two decades due to the self-destructive habit.
So the San Diego resident dove into the brain science behind procrastination and focus and put together systems and programs to keep herself inspired and save her business.
When clients and friends saw her success, they solicited her help and a new business, EllenGoodwin.com, was born.
Goodwin now speaks and trains people on “how to get their s**t done.”
“My husband tells me I unwind people,” she says. “People get caught up in trying to figure out what to do next. I have the ability to show them what their next moves should be and how to do them, without being overwhelmed.”
Since launching her enterprise five years ago, she has helped clients such as lawyers, entrepreneurs, analysts and corporations become more effective and productive. She considers herself “a middle-aged action hero” who sizes up people’s situations while helping them tap a range of tools to overcome their problems.
“All of our issues come from our brain, which sometimes works with us and a lot of times doesn’t,” she explains. “The secret is working around your brain when you need to and working with it when you need to and knowing the difference.”
Goodwin published her first book “Done: How To Work When No One is Watching” in early December to help people build stronger habits, overcome procrastination and become more focused.
“I wanted to make it easy for people to try various techniques tailored to their specific challenges,” she says. “My goal is to give you the options and find out what works for you when it comes to productivity. There is no one-size-fits-all tool or technique. It’s kind of a disservice to think that there is.”
In the book, Goodwin shares some of her favorite productivity hacks, like using an interval timer on her cell phone to time-focus sessions or rolling dice to determine what task on a to-do list to take care of first.
“Throughout our days we have moments of choice,” she says. “When the phone rings, do we pick it up or keep doing what we’re doing? It’s our moments of choice where it’s easy to get off track and start procrastinating.”
Goodwin also shares the story of a time she struggled to put together a workshop and told her neighbor what she needed to accomplish. To motivate herself, she decided to give her neighbor a check for a political party that she opposed. If she did not complete her task on time, the check would be mailed out to that party as a donation.
“Every time I thought about procrastinating, it was like ‘no, no, no, I work too hard for my money to give it to “those” people,’” she says, adding that she finished the chore a day early. “It’s a great way to get things done.”
With America’s remote and gig economies expanding “exponentially,” there’s greater opportunity for procrastination and a greater need for people to avoid distractions while working outside the office.
“Distractions are not going away,” she says. “Any sort of technology is going to become more distracting. It will be a bigger problem as more people try to wrap their heads around what to focus on and what needs to get.”
Research has found that it takes, on average 23 minutes to get back on track after being distracted, “costing both time and money,” Goodwin says.
With the rise in distractions comes a rise in productivity apps aimed at combating them, she adds. The Forest app, for example, encourages you to stay focused on your work for a designated amount of time as virtual trees grow. If you use an unauthorized app during that period, you get a warning to put down your phone before your virtual tree dies.
Another app, Flipd, also allows you to block some or all of your distracting apps for periods of time that you chose. While technology is certainly helpful, there’s no substitute for having your own productivity trainer, Goodwin contends.
“Because then someone is watching,” she adds. “It’s hard to go to someone that I’m accountable to and say I didn’t do what I said I was going to do because I was on social media for three hours.”
With a trainer you also have the benefit of having someone who can show you where you might be encountering issues and guide you, she says.
Goodwin has gained valuable support and knowledge from a mastermind group for entrepreneurs called ShankMinds: Breakthrough. “It’s like having my own board of directors,” she says. “There’s always someone who knows more about something than I do.”
She pauses and adds: “The biggest thing about productivity is human connection. It changes your level of productivity. It changes how our brains are wired.”
[Editor’s Note: Goodwin’s book is available both on Amazon and on her website, EllenGoodwin.com.]
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