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Temporary hiatus, plus Struggle, and the Quest to Determine What Matters

F021417.fullYou might have noticed my sporadic posting here, and I'd like to explain the factors and ask your patience. I also ask you to indulge some reflection in this post after three full years of consulting.

First, this winter has been a challenge, both from the consulting perspective [1] and personally (two mothers dying within two months of each other, plus some surgery). I'm coming to grips with the struggle being important [2], and how a mismatch between "Visualizing wild success" and reality is an opportunity for reflection and considering strategic change. (An aside: I think this coming-to-grips is the engine behind one class of non-repeatable processes, and - to spin the saccharine "Your path is perfect" angle - it literally could not have happened differently, given the models and data I had. My TTL philosophy could not have emerged in any other way, and no one can repeat these steps. I'll flatter myself by comparing it to David Allen and his "20 year overnight success." No one could recreate his process - him, his perspective, the particular people he had in his circle, his timing, luck, and the dues he paid. Same here, I hope :-) Make any sense?)

In general, for someone making a leap into consulting like I did [3], I've found a large piece is the quest to discover what matters, AKA "marketing." I'm dissatisfied with results so far. Or rather [4], "The subject is experiencing feelings of dissatisfaction with the process. Curious."

Second, I continue to evaluate the worth of writing here. The benefits to me are of a certain class [5], and I need to spend time putting them in perspective. Like my consulting path, my blog diverges significantly from most marketing advice, such as: Decide your niche, visualize your ideal client, determine what her needs are, and give away some, but not all, content that addresses her pain via blog and newsletter. After seven drips she'll buy, return for more, and recommend you for consulting. (I apologize for the faulty summary.) While this is completely reasonable, it's not how it's gone for me. Instead, I started with the "What" on a whim to share my thinking when I got turned on by productivity. My topics are all over the place, though converging on are converging on our Think, Try, Learn philosophy. Again, all this is counter to traditional thinking about blogs, such as keep it short and on specific, limited topics. I think that after time, any writing about time management naturally widens. After all, as soon as you talk about spending your precious life, you have to face purpose. With so much to do, what's really important? That is what I was trying to get to in The Real Reasons For The Modern Productivity Movement. Putting on my grandiosity hat, it hit me some time ago thatmy blog is my book/philosophy/purpose process in action. I like to think that if David Allen or Stephen Covey had blogs 20 years ago, they'd take a trajectory like mine.

Third, I need to focus on products. While training sales have been down recently, I am extremely gratified by the sales of my first two products, Where the !@#% did my day go? The ultimate guide to making every day a great workday and You Did WHAT? 99 Playful experiments to live a healthier and happier life. This quarter I'll be adding two short-but-sweet slidecasts on managing email and a time management method, both using a light-hearted sabotage angle that was inspired by fellow consultant Johan Dhaeseleer (thanks, Johan!) They both use my adaptation to training of the so-called "Lessig Method" [6] of presentation. My clients love it ("brilliant," I was told last week :-), so I'll continue integrating it with traditional training approaches.

And fourth, I'm throwing heavy effort into our book, Think, Try, Learn: A scientific method for discovering happiness (working title). Our nascent wiki is up at thinktrylearn.com, part of my three-part software vision for a TTL Platform.

Let me wrap this up by bringing in a productivity idea I'm playing with, the thought that we each have a project "set point" that determines how many concurrent ones we are comfortable with. This is akin to ones for happiness (see Want to Be Happier? Here's How, which reviews The How of Happiness), optimism (see Learned Optimism), and ambiguity (I couldn't find a good reference - suggestions?), and is something I was aiming for in Does Having Fewer Projects Make Us More Productive?. I think my set point is low relative to others' [7], say 15-20 at once, with only 3-4 major ones (maybe best called meta- or super-projects). With the ones above, including being my mom's executor, this means I need to turn down others. I find that when my responsibilities exceed a low threshold, the stress impacts my (and my family's) happiness.

Cheers, and stay in touch. I plan to be back by spring. -- matt


Reader Comments (10)

In addition to your reflections and reasons I'd like to add a massive 'Thank You' for writing here, Matt.

I came to you via a trusted friend and have pointed others to your blog. You are authentic, in my view. Yours is one of the few blogs I actually read, you get me thinking. I am grateful you are there, reflecting and writing on the productivity canvas.

My kind regards

March 3, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRichard Maybury

Much obliged, Richard. Your kind words mean a lot to me.

March 4, 2010 | Unregistered Commentermatthewcornell

You've always had great content, Matthew. One of the few productivity blogs with content you can bite into. Thanks for your dedication.

March 13, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterHugh Hession

Hi Matt,
I've been reading your blog for about a year now, and I can't tell you how much difference it has made to my daily productivity levels. I have learnt so much, been turned on to so many other wonderful things like Mr Allens GTD, and have shared many of your tips with my work colleagues.

I understand you are in a period of reflection now, but please don't doubt the worth of what you are doing. You have made an enormous difference to my work, goal setting, and home life by sharing your knowledge.

From a 48 yr old govt. worker lurking down in Australia, a massive, massive thankyou.

all the best, Kim

March 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

Much appreciated, Hugh. Thank you.

March 29, 2010 | Unregistered Commentermatthewcornell

Thanks a ton, Kim! Kind words :-)

March 29, 2010 | Unregistered Commentermatthewcornell

Every up has a down. Every down has an up. And a left has a right. Summer is followed shortly by winter. The point Matt is every thought you have has an opposite. If you are stuck in sorrow or marketing hell, look to the bright side and know there is an upward positive on the other end of those downers.

The choice is yours. Choose to be happy, be productive, or allow the dredge of the day to drag you down. I encourage you to pick yourself up and move on. There should be no rest for those of us who are real change agents for the world. You and your words have struck me as that type of person.

Allow me this; We tend to read "How-To" books by the ton. I truly wonder how many are worthy. Seems they are professing the same ole same old stuff. They are pitching mediocrity. Be bold and jump outside bounds. Make your own path forward. Seven contacts is something someone made up. It is not a perfect science. Many of those other things you list are the same as the example I just wrote. You need to "Give me the same, only different!" This was a quote by Samuel Goldwyn.

Start your attitudinal shift by gathering all those books of mediocrity and piling them high, dosing them with lighter fluid, and then striking a match and letting them burn. Next, pull out a clean sheet of paper and build a success plan that is simple, has only six steps, and begin right now shifting your life and outcome. Then come visit me often at MondayMorningGold.com.

April 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSpencer

Thanks very much for your encouragement, Spencer. I agree re: trashing common advice as needed. In my case, definitely. I'm slowly coming out of my low cycle, and I have a good balance between acceptance and resistance. Re: ups/downs, lefts/rights, I get it. Check out [ Sometimes Laser, Sometimes Blind: How Natural Converge/diverge Cycles Explain Progress | http://matthewcornell.org/2009/05/sometimes-laser-sometimes-blind-how-natural-convergediverge-cycles-explain-progress.html ] for my take. Re: chosing to be happy, that's 100% why I'm creating Think, Try, Learn. Standard advice from ages (living in the moment, work with your control, manage your thinking, etc.) updated for a analytical, science-appreciating audience. Re: burning the how-to books, I definitely see your point. My TTL colleague argues that all self-help books are non-repetable processes - what worked for the author is implicitly assumed to work for the reader. She also says that perspective matters/has value, which means what speaks to you may or may not speak to me.

Thanks for writing!

P.S. I like your work (http://MondayMorningGold.com). Well done!

April 26, 2010 | Unregistered Commentermatthewcornell

Great reasons to take a hiatus. I do this at least 3 times a year to refocus on what is truly important to me and to make sure that my life is headed in the right direction. Good luck!

May 4, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRalph

That's helpful, Ralph. I've periodically done reviews of my consulting practice, but never a broader whole-life one like you do so frequently. Thank you.

May 10, 2010 | Unregistered Commentermatthewcornell

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