Ep. 113 – Productivity Partners: Next Next & a Plus 1

When I’m trying to get things done or need to do deep work, I prefer to be alone. I concentrate better in quiet isolation – well, most of the time. 

Other times, I seem to just whittle away the time through lots of little distractions. Sometimes I’m aware of these, and other times I’m just really good at justifying those distractions. 

So when I really need to do big work, I’ve learned to leverage other people to keep me accountable or for an extra brain boost. Whether it’s having a workout buddy, being part of a study group, or even when my dog takes the longer path than I want, not doing something alone can often push me to do more things or to do those things better.  It’s also why I have a business coach even though I teach business and productivity skills – hey, I know myself, even coaches need coaches. 

The Bottom Line on Top of this episode is that sometimes our brain needs less alone time and more partner power. 

I began studying brain science for many reasons, and there is always more to learn about this dynamic operating system of ours. 

A few weeks ago, I was on a podcast with a panel and we were discussing the power of neurodiversity at work. One of the guests was my pal Andre Brisson whose podcast focuses on entrepreneurs who have ADHD, which is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. In the conversation, he mentioned a practice of body doubling – a concept I’ll get back to in a moment. 

For broader context, the panel was talking about how one of the many superpowers of brains that are sometimes seen as being distracted, like those with ADHD, is that those same individuals and those same brains can hone into deep focus and get into an extended flow state. 

Over the last several years, I’ve come to learn that many professional athletes, artists, business leaders, etc. have some form of ADHD. Like any attribute, ADHD shows up in different people in different ways, so I’m always curious to hear insights and tactics on how others are able to fine tune their focus. 

This brings me back to the idea of body doubling, which I’ll call the “Plus 1” tool.  

Having a plus-one, in this case, is about having someone present (either physically or virtually) to help you stay focused or accountable. You don’t even have to be interacting with the other person or the other people – the shared space is the real tool here. 

You also don’t even need to know the people personally – similar to when you’re in a coffee shop, library, airport – the presence of other energy can become the benefit. Sometimes it can also be a distraction, so you have to know your own brain and try these tools in different environments so you can see what works for you.

I shared a similar concept earlier this year in episode 69. That was focused on the power of proximity to help with our own productivity. Earlier this year, I benefited from that because my business coach started hosting 30-minute drop-in Zoom meetings every Monday morning. He did that for a couple of months and it was an optional space where anyone could join for independent work–it was almost like a home room for my brain. 

After a few opening comments, we would put a note into the chat to say what we would be working on for that 30 minutes – and then we would just start doing. The nudge here was to try to do the things on the Monday morning we really didn’t want to do or maybe we’d put off from last week or that would likely get lost in the week ahead. 

Most of the time we were all on camera, whenever possible, but we did our work silently. There was a countdown clock on the screen for the 30 minutes, and then we dropped off and went about our day. Not a lot of conversation, but plenty of shared action. 

That’s one idea for having a live Plus 1 (or Plus Many in that case). Another tactic you could try is what I call the “Next Next.” I do this a lot with my partner during the week. 

We’ll be talking and I’ll say, “What’s your Next Next?”  – meaning what will you work on inbetween the time I see you again or talk to you again? It’s usually no more than a couple things that we intend to do in the coming hours. Adding it to the conversational clipboard adds a countdown clock of sorts for my brain to focus on what was just said.

You gotta name it to claim it, as the saying goes, so sharing a Next Next gives that focus a little bit of a brighter spotlight and accountability (somebody else knows what I just said I was going to do). 

One more point on these ideas is to try them for the efforts where you know you are likely to get distracted, or procrastinate, overthink them, or just de-prioritize them. It works best when there are identifiable stop and start points – so don’t try it at first when you are wanting to complete your annual taxes or clean out that one giant closet-start small. 

Here are a few other elements for a successful power partnering:

  • Make it timebound. You could sit next to somebody all day and not be productive. By having a time element to it that helps your brain not get overwhelmed and makes the task feel tangible. Meeting with someone at a certain time or working  for a certain set amount of time. Or both! These become a bit of productivity sprints, the goal there is to gain movement and momentum instead of cross a finish line–and if you do, great, that’s a gift with purchase.
  • Be specific. Saying “I’m going to go and clean the kitchen” or “I’m going to go do some email” –there’s a lot of off ramps to that work. Episode 48 talked about the benefit of finding the Most Important Next Steps, or MINS as an acronym. This is a forcing function for the brain to think about the Next Next in terms of the order of progress for a task. It can be as simple as looking up contact information, gathering the laundry you need to do, tracking down a receipt that’s needed for a return, etc. It’s the thing that you can’t make progress on until you have it- we all have a next something. Find the most important next step cause that’s where the progress lies.
    • Research has also shown that saying an intention out loud (even if it’s to yourself), moves it to the front of your mental line for your cognitive awareness. So say your Next Next to your Plus 1 is something that you say out loud or to yourself. It might feel silly, but it’s going to get your attention and that’s half the battle in our busy, busy days. 
  • The final suggestion is to create an ambience of action. A lot of professional athletes talk about their pre-game routine, and there is something to be said for the activities that ramp us up. Put on music you like or try specific tones like binaural beats or focus music. Set a timer, grab some hydration, go to a sunny spot – whatever you need to get into gear. Just don’t make your pre-game routine part of your procrastination.
    • For my son, he likes to have music on when he’s doing studying, but he will set a timer during homework so he can take pushup breaks. For him, he gets a physical break from what he sees as being boring, he adds to his fitness goal, and it actually gets rid of some of the extra energy in his body.

Having incentives or stacking a task with a more enjoyable task are also elements to try. The goal isn’t to get these perfect; it’s to get them started. How you do that is the recipe you get to create. And sometimes a recipe can include borrowed energy from others. 

In the week ahead, look for little ways where you can practice partnering and also where you can power up, power on, and power through. 

On a final note: If you want a little additional nerding, I’ll add a link in the show notes to the podcast episode about neurodiversity in the workplace. You can hear from other great brains as well. Off we go!

Your brain is hungry. Give it some intellectual snacks in the
Unlock Video Library.

Unlock helps you skip the line and save time with smart, simple steps that get results. Come visit the free video library to get keys to real-life ways to unlock your brain.

Share this post

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.