Ep. 101 – The Highlight Episode, Part 2: Excuses, Words & Time

Welcome to episode 101. Today we are going to continue to look back on the first 100 episodes of Fewer Things Better. Over the last nearly two years, I’ve had a chance to test ideas and habits on my own, through this podcast channel (and your feedback from it) and live in front of groups big and small. 

The Bottom Line on Top of this episode is that small steps taken today can carry us farther than big ideas never acted on. 

Initially, people tend to think of productivity as a collection of time management practices. We learn things and then we do those things. But sustainable progress comes first from managing our energy so we can then better manage our time.

It’s the decisions we make on where we spend our time that matter more than effort expended during that time. 

But it isn’t always clear on how to do that, which is part of what Episode 100 explored by outlining three key themes seen on the journey to fewer things better. 

Those three themes were the fact that first: We’re tired. Really tired. That’s a big part of energy management as well. 

The second theme is that We do too much, and we play too little. Which makes that tired feeling just come along with us as we go. 

The third theme is that We are distracted – a lot. It’s not that we’re not doing things – we’re trying to do all the things for all the people and for all the reasons. 

And this is where we pick up the second collection of themes today, the first of which is We avoid risk. That includes the risk of failure, the risk of other people getting mad at us, risk of being embarrassed, etc. etc. 

I’m going to step into science for a moment to explain why this is very, very normal. Our brain operates as a “prediction machine,” according to neuroscientists. By using analytical processing, the brain looks at our previous knowledge – and behavior – to make inferences about the incoming sensory information. 

Then it will review this historical information (and our feelings about it), to help navigate options and possibilities for the course ahead. The more unknowns there are at play, the more the mind wants to return to the historical archives. 

Episode 96 outlines how the brain can also help as we assess risk. The neocortex portion of the brain processes the initial historical input but then it uses our current intelligence and reasoning to explore the more nuanced tradeoffs of trying new things and exploring how we value risks worth taking today.  

Episode 41 put this into an investment framing by exploring the concept of a Sunk Cost, which means an investment that has already occurred and cannot be recouped. Based on the who, what, when, and how long, we tend to assign current value to previous expenditures we made in different times and in different areas. 

Like saying: “But I’ve been at this job for so long” or “we’ve been friends since high school.” And the challenge here is to really say–what is the current return on investment that you are getting? And keep in mind, there is no extra credit for staying longer in a place you have outgrown.

Episode 12 encourages you to honor and appreciate the places you’ve been and the people you’ve been with by creating personal graduation ceremonies. We can – and should – graduate from levels of education, jobs, people, places, and ideas. Just like with our primary education, we are not meant to stay in one place indefinitely. 

Another theme as we go along is We don’t always know what to say or do.

Even as a self-proclaimed word nerd, I have often struggled with finding the right words to offer to others or to use to advocate for myself. Episode 88 takes a closer look at why Yes and No are hard to say and how to recognize the signals when we start to resist one answer over the other. 

On a more simple note (and simple doesn’t always mean easy), Episode 8 introduced the BLOT, which means Bottom Line on Top. As you might notice if you’ve been listening awhile, I use a BLOT toward the beginning of each episode. I do this for you, not me. It’s meant to give you, the listener, the courtesy of clarity from the beginning so you can decide if you wish to continue listening. 

In doing 100 episodes, I fully realize and expect that not every one will be relevant to everyone. Giving a BLOT, whether it’s in your interpersonal communications, and your writing–it allows people to understand what you’re sharing before you start sharing it.

Words matter. In so many ways. One of the most popular episodes in the last two years is Episode 18 on seven words that can change your life. Specific words aside, the key nudge here is that words unspoken often leave larger regrets than those shared. It’s not how well the words are prepared that count in the end, it’s the effort to share them that requires the real work…and hopefully the real rewards. I hope you’ll take a few minutes to at least see what those seven words are and how you might be able to use them in your life.

It’s not always what we say that matters most. It can also be how well we listen. Episode 77 offers insights about how to be a better listener through what’s called active listening. And Episode 51 encourages you to pay attention to your own body language and see where you might be subtly sabotaging your own words. 

On a final note, if you find yourself stuck for ideas on what to say or do, check out Episode 36 which offers 10 ideas on efforts that cost little and can mean a lot. 

The final, and most impactful, theme of the last 100 episodes is Just start

You don’t need anymore books, advice, TikTok tips, or podcasts (yes, even this one) to see real progress. You’re the only expert in “you”. And the drive to get more information, it’s just another way we are putting off the action that we know is needed. There are many of what I call Ridiculously Small Steps that can give you micro-boosts to get a little momentum. 

Start with Episode 78, which outlines what you can do in 5 minutes or less and a personal favorite tip of mine is the 2-Minute Rule. You’d be amazed how happy you can make your brain in just 2 minutes–and how much progress!

A close companion of the Ridiculously Small Steps and the 2-minute rule is in Episode 48, and the concept of the Most Important Next Step related to the words we use and the projects and energy we prioritize. 

How you start is how you continue, and Episode 89 offers three simple actions to take in the first 30 minutes of your day that help boost both your brain and body. 

Once you’ve put these tips into practice, you might enjoy trying the Key Three technique in Episode 47 which is about selecting three priorities for the day. It’s not necessarily about achieving all three, but more about knowing what your priorities are among the busy buzz of the day ahead. 

And if you’re feeling extra motivated, listen to Episode 23 on the 7 Day Sprint. This is where you do the same effort every day for a full week. This helps us shake off those excuses and schedule changes that tend to take us off track. We overestimate what we can do in a day but we really underestimate what can get done in a week. 

And as a final nerdy bonus, tune up your intuition for Episode 26, which looks at the science, psychology, and math of coincidence bias. 

So to recap the six themes that stand out from 100 episodes, they are:

  • We are tired. Just really tired.
  • We do too much and play too little. 
  • We are distracted, a lot. 
  • We avoid risk. 
  • We don’t always know what to say and do; and 
  • We need to just start. 

I want to offer a sincere thanks for being part of this grand experiment of mine. My key takeaway is that there are many, many, many ways to take care. And I can’t wait to keep learning out loud with you. 

If you want to learn more about these key themes, keep listening for a couple of ways you could explore them more in the months ahead. 

Thank you again for being a part of this and I hope your day today finds a little more time to take good care of you. 

Your brain is hungry. Give it some intellectual snacks in the
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I'm Kristin

I left my corporate work and dove further into how to navigate this noisy, digital, exhausted world. The result is a methodology centered on communications, productivity, and culture that blends theory with practice and helps people better enjoy the life they worked so hard to get.