Charlie Gilkey | How to Start Finishing More Projects

John Corcoran 6:11

like the burden of walking there now, you know, it’s not as easy as copying a new car and driving home, too. Yeah, but this Neo thing is so funny. I’m looking at it on Amazon. They don’t even it’s not even for sale new. At least the listing I’m looking at. It’s like used for 40 bucks.

Charlie Gilkey 6:27

And I got mine for 25 Yeah,

John Corcoran 6:29

and I don’t even know how you get the content off there. I assume there is some way of retrieving it or else’s USB

Charlie Gilkey 6:34

cord man that goes into a proprietary like 2004 app that that Macs and PCs can still use. It’s like hello old school. But you know the thing about it is is I was thinking like, when have I done my best work? What am I done my best thinking What have I done my best writing and it took me back to 1999 2000 that that period of time, because you remember this john like we used to go to computer to do a thing, and then leave that computer like we would normally take a long hand. Right? Because many of us didn’t grow up typing like drafting natively, like that’s a skill we had to learn at some point. I know I sound old. I’m 39. But I was at the cusp of that, like you didn’t learn word processing in high school. So I did. Yeah, I did.

John Corcoran 7:20

I remember I was in seventh grade, and I had to take a separate class separately. Yeah, yeah. Now Now, you know what I asked a 14 year old recently, how she learned to type she looked at me like I was crazy. Because they just they grow up typing like, it’s not like a thing they learn anymore.

Charlie Gilkey 7:36

Yeah, well, and that’s great for them. But like for me, when computers really came around, I couldn’t do deep writing on the keyboard. I had to longhand it and then I taught myself how to do it on the keyboard. But anyways, so went back to that john and i was like, I remember writing all these great essays sitting out on a park beach on the park beach, on the park bench in the sun, nothing but the book nothing but the notebook In the pencil, and that’s where my best work and this was like, how do I get back to that, and that was the closest thing because I can’t longhand anymore turns out. And so I just recreated that environment so that I could get this done. And also, again, it’s really about choice architecture, which I don’t, I didn’t call it that in the book. But choice architecture is basically the idea that you can design your environment such that it facilitates certain types of choices, versus other types of choices. And so a built a choice architecture, such that the only real choice I had was to write, right, and even if there are days where I had that pressing email where like, I really had to write that. So not to go too deeply into the surgery of the Neo, but you have to switch files by pressing like FTNF 10 will open up another file, because it can only have like, 5000 words in it, right? It’s like press F 10. And I’d actually type out that email, and then I’ll

John Corcoran 8:55

get it to get it off your head off your Yeah, yeah.

Charlie Gilkey 8:57

And then when I went home to download The drafts, I would just do that and then pull it from the application, put an email and I was done, right. Yeah. But that was the choice I was there. I was going to write, right? Well, I was going to go home. But there wasn’t any sort of that sitting around and sort of being half productive and figuring out, you know, how not to get into a political fight on Twitter.

John Corcoran 9:21

So this is one strategy. I’m sure it’s not the only strategy you have. But this is one strategy for prioritizing a project that was important to you, and getting it done. Let’s talk about some other strategies for those of us who have big projects like a book that we want to get done. And yet we find that maybe in the day to day in the week to week, which turns into the month to month returns of the year a year that maybe all we’re doing is putting out fires responding to smaller issues and not getting those big projects done.

Charlie Gilkey 9:54

All right. Let’s talk landscape before we talk tactics first, right in the sense where I think What we don’t talk about enough is a lot of the big projects that we most want to do what I call our best work. And they’re different than the other type of work we might do in that. On the one hand, we really want to do it. On the other hand, two or three clicks under that Is it fear and frustration and things like that, that no system, no hack is really going to go, which is why you keep trying to go to another to do list after YouTube trying to try something else because we’re right, not even putting a bandaid on the right wound, just like you’re sticking it in some random place and hope that the wound is there. And the thing about it is, the more that something matters to you, the more you’ll thrash with it, right. The more that something matters, the more you’ll thrash, and thrash I mean that emotional metalwork that will do around it the quote unquote research, the many different conversations will have with people that’s not going anywhere, all the stories we tell ourselves all that thrashing doesn’t actually push the work forward. But we will Do that for stuff that really matters. Like no one has a mini existential crisis about taking the trash out about doing the dishes, we either do it or we don’t. But when it comes to projects, like getting married, when it comes to projects, like starting a business, creating your first product, starting a new service line in your business, taking on a new partner, you know, moving across United States, I can go on and on and on. Those things truly matter to us in a way And the thing about it is, is that they matter to us because we so closely associate the work with our identity, so closely associated to work with our identity so that if we try it and we fail, what’s it say about us as people, it’s like a failure, our identity, it’s like failure to our identity. And what we do is we confuse that so much so that we make the stakes so stupid high, that we can’t get forward on it. And the natural sort of response for that is to tell yourself, you’re going to work on it, but then then go do something else where you know, you When, like we can when we’ve most of us achieve and driven, you know, achievers and driven people, I figured out, we can rock the crap out of it to do list, right? It’s not what’s on that list. But getting to the end of the week, and looking back and saying, you know what, but that thing, and everyone’s got a thing. Like, it’s not just you. Everyone has a project, everyone has something that they’re not working on, we look back and say, Yeah, but I didn’t push the thing forward. When am I going to say I wanted to start with that? Because I think if we don’t start from that perspective, like people can jump into the tools and the practices and the habits and still find themselves stuck or resisting and feeling like something is fundamentally like, broken about them. Like they’re uniquely defective, because it’s just not coming together when it really out when the reality is, there are these deeper issues that are coming up that just the tools alone will not solve, right. And

John Corcoran 12:50

what if it’s multiple projects? So that’s often the case, right? People have multiple things you have to prioritize.

Charlie Gilkey 12:56

Yeah, you have to prioritize. Absolutely. And so that’s the other thing. The other reason why we get stuck is we have multiple we have multiple projects at any given time, right? my top priorities are this, this and this, this, this and this, or 17 top priorities, which is a whole nother conversation. We have this planning gap, or we have this sort of mental, faulty loop, where we sit down and we think about how long the project takes. And we’re like, oh, well, this is how long I could plan it out looks great. And then we commit to like completing it in that timeline. But normally, when we’re doing that process, we don’t consider the other projects that are currently running on top of that, right? We assume we’re working on just one project. And yeah, it might be a three week project. If you focus just on that one project, in the context of the three other three week projects, ends up being closer like nine to 12 weeks, right? Because you have to divide that time. And we also and I know I sound really dire here like here’s all the things that we do, but it’s I think it’s super helpful for people to see like, here’s what’s really going on. On, what we do is pick some point three weeks, four weeks in the future. And just imagine that day. So many people see that day like empty, like it’s a empty slate of things that they can do. But the reality is the routines of life, the errands, the chores, the food, the taking care of kids or pets, or whatever you do. That stuff’s in that day, already. You’re not starting out that day. With the full deck ahead, you’re starting that day off. Maybe if you’re lucky with half of it that you can fill with something else. If you get like an, you know, a full time job, you don’t actually have that because you have half that’s sort of for your personal life. They have half where you work or more and then you have sleep. So that’s what we’re dealing with on this one because there’s that sort of mental gap, like okay, I’m going to have all this time in the future. And I’m going to be working on this one project. Guess what, you wake up that morning, you have at least half the time you thought you did and you got three other projects that you hadn’t considered. So that’s what happens. happens, you know with that. So one, one sort of strategy that we have to work on here is really making sure that you have enough for real time in your schedule. Now there are four different types of blocks. I use block planning more so than I use sort of time based planning where you’re like, from seven to eight, I’m going to be doing this because turns out, we’re terrible at sort of that calendar planning and saying, like, you’re going to do something from eight to nine, not just you, not just me, it’s like, we people are just bad at it. We’ve only been doing it for last couple hundred years anyways. Right? And so it just doesn’t work very well for us, unless it’s for meetings, right? Because here’s the thing, if I tell john, I’m going to be somewhere at three, I’m probably going to be there three, right? I’m not just gonna be like, screw you done, because we have to coordinate things like that. But if there’s no other person on the hook for that, if I was just like, I’m going to start writing at three. Guess what, probably not going to start writing at three. Right? I’m gonna be doing all sorts of other things. Yeah, but we’re not writing. Yeah. So I talked about 40 Types of blogs, it’s maybe helpful to jump into it. So first is focus blocks, which are 90 to 120 minute blocks of time, where you can focus on something that you know really requires your deep thought, your deep concentration, and you to be really present to it. Now in that 90 to 120 minutes, it’s not like you’re sitting there looking at a screen for two hours, you might get up and use the bathroom, you might get some water, you might need to walk around the block or something, but you’re not switching to email, you’re not switching to another project, you’re just focused on that project. So first focus blocks, second social blocks, these are, again, 90 to 120 minute blocks of time, where you’re able to prep for that call or that meeting, do the meeting and then sort of do the ultra, which could be administrative stuff or switching context. That’s why they’re 90 minutes, even though we have the hegemony of the hour long meeting. And the third block is your admin block. And this is what it sounds like. It’s where you do all the email. You do. The phone calls These are not 90 220 minutes, these are actually closer like 30 to 30 minutes to an hour. Why that long? Because longer than that most of us want start getting itchy, you want to start doing something else. Like if you’ve ever tried to do a two hour block of email, you know what I’m talking about, and like it just super painful, right? So 3030 minutes. This is where things like the Pompadour technique where you work for 25 minutes, take a five minute break, they work super well for administrative things, right? Because you just have to make it through that next little block. And then the last block and this is a super important one that we often will neglect our recovery blocks. And these are, you know, the lunches. These are the meditations. These are the working out these are the sitting idly in the sun to recharge, and they need to be on your schedule because this The other thing we do, john is like, I have yet to see someone’s calendar where it’s like go to bathroom at 915 to 930. Right, unless you’re at a conference like you kind of do that. But you know what? It’s not it’s not on your schedule, but it’s in your day somewhere. Right? Right. So there’s you know, the Depending upon your biology, there’s 45 minutes to two hours of time that you’re spending in the bathroom or messing around with that sort of stuff doesn’t show up anywhere on your calendar. Yeah, right. And yet it exists in your day. So those four blocks are really useful ways to start looking at one schedule. But the priority here, when we’re talking about your best work projects are those focus blocks. Because if you don’t have enough of those, or you have zero of those, your projects are not going to go forward. They’re going to continue, whether you know, you won’t talk about writing a book, you’re not gonna get the words down creating a course you’re not going to do the development, you’re not going to do it. So as a general rule, I encourage people to be thinking about three focus blocks per week, per significant project.

Because that’s about enough that you can keep momentum on that project and keep it going forward. Without it sliding back into the closet and you figuring out what you need to do without it being so onerous that you can’t see how the hell you’re going to come up with two hours, you know, somewhere in your schedule. Yeah. If you can’t come up with that for project, I hate to be the voice of reality here. But it’s probably better to decide not to do that project then and figure out what you need to do to free open that time. Because, you know, john, you know this because of because of the conversations we’ve had in the past, like, I don’t want people to be carrying a bunch of projects that they’re not actively working on. by that. I mean, there’s just all these commitments you’ve made to yourself, you’re carrying 17 different projects. None of them are going anywhere and produces the things it over you when you’re thinking about it. Yeah, yeah. So I’d much like if you can do one project, just carry that one project. Don’t commit to the other ones, right. And when you’re done with that project, pick up a next one, right, right, and go on fourth, and then it’s a mind shift shift for people because we always feel like we’re not doing enough. But you know, what, if you’ve only got room for one project, doesn’t matter how many you say you’re going to do? You’re going to do one project, right? Right. You might as well just commit to it and before focused on that and use displacement, which is the idea that doing this one thing and time displaces you doing other things, use that as a friend, and being like, you know what, I’m not going to commit to anything else until I finish this thing or decide not to do it.

John Corcoran 20:11

Right? Finish it or decide not to do it. How do you deal with you know, we all have failures in our past where we’ve attempted a project we failed, gotten stuck along the way. And then that’s kind of like a baggage that we carry forward with us and, and it kind of gets in the way of these new projects. So how do you deal with that kind of baggage that we all have?

Charlie Gilkey 20:33

Yeah, that’s a great question. Um, so here’s the thing, if failure in the past is just a misalignment of resources or misalignment of priorities and misalignment of effort, right, it doesn’t say anything about you, it could be a misalignment of competencies at that time. So a failure is a one time event. It is not a determiner of your character. And I think unfortunately, we we can make that look like I failed in the past. Therefore, I I’m the type of person that fails, or I’m like, I have that propensity within me. When we think about it, wherever you are today, you’re better than you were a year ago, you’re more competent, you probably have a better network, you’ve had more wit, you have more wisdom behind you, you’re better off. You’re a better person today than you were a year ago. So if you failed a year ago, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to fail today. What I really want people to think about in those situations is what if it was just a misalignment of one of those things I mentioned, like you, you know, had the wrong people on your project. And that’s why it failed. You didn’t put the amount of effort in that you needed, like you tried to do a big project and you didn’t have the focus blocks that you needed to do it. Okay, that’s a misalignment of resources and time, or maybe it’s a misalignment of priorities, like you committed to doing something and something more important came up and you did it, you did the more important thing. It could be an alignment of resources in the sense of you didn’t have the money that you needed at the time and you ran out. Okay, those are all one events. And so going forward, what we want to say is like, let’s learn from that misalignment and say, what was the missing piece or pieces? And then look at this new project and say, Okay, how do I make sure I have the pieces that I need? So that I can go forward with this project? Because again, that one time that event in the past says nothing about what’s going to happen for you now, right? So that’s how it works. And I know like that can be hard because some some, some failures can be so defining, right? You walk into the office, or you give the presentation, right? And just the whole room is silent. You know, you the whole conference room is silent. And you’re, you could just see like the Oh, crap, I’m fired from this and you get fired. Like, those can be really, really terrible events. I would still say it’s a misalignment in different ways, right? But I understand the weight of those failures. I’ve had some myself, right. But again, yeah, that’s a moment in time that says nothing about your current capabilities and I think we can suck the marrow out of that bone and say really what what was off at that point? And then how do I fix that in the future because it I wouldn’t want people to do and this is a thread is I want people to externalize failures and externalize some of these challenges, as opposed to internalize them. And what I mean by that is when you externalize a failure, you look at the conditions, the external conditions that led to that particular external outcome, and you don’t necessarily make it about your internal conditions because it turns out we are really resilient. thrifty, creative folk, that’s who we are as humans, right? That’s how we take this really weak creature that’s become the apex predator, but the apex predator on this planet, right? We do that through wit and and intelligence and can do and all sorts of different things. So when you look at your internal capabilities, our internal capabilities are far vaster than we give credit for but in Yeah, unfortunately, we sometimes will make these internal, you know, sort of conclusions about ourselves. So, externalize both success and failure in a way, right. So that is all about putting the right pieces together. And much like we would build anything else and try not to inject so many so much of the head trash that you have about yourself to it. Because it turns out, head trash is normally wrong. And it doesn’t have to be true. for it to work on you though. That’s the thing, you’re believing that you’re a failure, or you’re not a planner, or this isn’t going to come together, can can lead to that outcome.

John Corcoran 24:35

So assuming we can overcome these pieces, then there’s a related issue which is it team so if you have others who are working with you, and how you rally them to finish these projects and and to work better together, what are some suggestions and ideas you have for that?

Charlie Gilkey 24:53

Okay, so I’m going to start with what we what not to do and then start with what to do what not to do is done Put naysayers and derailleur is on your team. naysayers are those we know who they are the haters gonna hate. Right? There’s, it could be uncle Ron, we’ve all got that uncle Ron somewhere, right? No matter what we say is going to kneecap as a colleague. You know who your naysayers are? Yeah, stop trying to please stop trying to accommodate them. Because you’re the worst case is that you actually do and then you’re beholden to them. Yeah. Right. You gotta play by their rules. And that’s very, very fickle rules that can be taken away from you,

John Corcoran 25:30

because that’s who they are. And I had to say, I totally agree with this. And I think one of the best decisions I ever made, I’m thinking of some people, you know, in my past, but it was just like, tuning them out. Like, making making that decision in the past really was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

Charlie Gilkey 25:47

Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Thanks for the confirmation on that is such a powerful thing. And that’s, we can’t choose where we’re born when we’re born who were born to, but what we can choose are the people We interact with and how we choose to interact with them. Absolutely. Yeah. So those are your naysayers. Obviously. The retailers are well meaning folks probably have your best interest can be in your family can be friends who, they don’t mean to kneecap you and sort of, you know, throw you off, but they do. Right. No matter what you say to them. It could be that overcritical boss that like, you can’t take a half formed idea to her without her shooting it down. It could be your partner, your life partner who’s a little bit on the miserly slash thrifty side, and every time you start talking about needing to spend something will always come up with all the reasons like the regulars are trickier because it’s not like they hate you. It’s not like they’re always at bay, but they can SAP enough of the energy from your project and kneecap you and make you feel like you gotta wear the armor to talk to them that it becomes a chore to interact with them. So they are not on your team. I want people to focus exclusively on there, yea Sayers, which are the opposite. These are the people who automatically believe in you. They’re the people that will hopefully say like when you finally, like reveal that, like you’ve done something great or you’re trying something they’re like, of course you are. That’s who you do. I’ve been waiting. We’ve been waiting on you. And you’re like, what, what are you talking about? Right? These are the people who don’t question whether you’re going to be successful, they might question how you’re going to be successful. And that’s a big difference. Right? So when we start talking about your naysayers, there are four different kinds that I want people to put in their success packs, which are this group of people who make you successful. The first are your guides. These are your Yoda Dumbledore elves, Gandalf Morpheus is right. And these more important than than how they interact with you or your project is that they shift your mindset they shift the paradigms that you look at, and they will typically say things like use the force or remember who you are something that in the moment never makes sense when they tell you that, but Somewhere along the road, you get it, you’re like, oh, oh, right, and then it comes in and you get it. And so they’re not directly involved in that way. But their whole point there is to remind you of your capabilities and remind you that the world you’ve locked yourself into is not the world that you have to live in. Right? So and they can be deceased guys as well. So if you want to pick a spiritual leader or religious leader, if Jesus is your guide, that’s fantastic, right? Be careful that if you choose a religious figure that you don’t go, like, you know, it’s really like love one another. Great message, walk on water and not so much, right? Not super helpful. So guys are your first group of people the second are your peers. And these are the people who are at about your same level of competence, their status or their at least people that you can talk to you this could be your co coaching buddies, these could be your mastermind buddies. These could be that person, you go have coffee with every two months to figure out what’s going on. You can actually have deep substantive conversations and they continue And help and help you sort of figure out how you’re going to go. Third are your supporters. And these are the people that are actually working in the project with you. He’s going to be your professional team. But it could also be the neighbor kids who watch your kids, like, you know, two times a week so that you can work on your project. Could be you know, a house cleaner could be the person who does your yard, it could be the barista that makes you the coffee and whatever you get every day and you don’t have to order it first thing in the morning, by the way, I had some great supporters at the coffee shop because I would walk in I wouldn’t have to order like what I was like, you know, here’s what you’re going to get. And I was like, yep, that’s pretty much it, which is great. When you’re stumbling in you’re thinking about words and not to figure out what your order so yeah, small things map small things.

Unknown Speaker 29:41

A guy with a weird calculator is going to be working in the corner. So just get him his drink and let him go. So critical thinking Yeah,

Charlie Gilkey 29:47

pretty much. Yeah, it’s like, oh, he’s back. Yeah.

The fourth group, are you beneficiaries. Now? beneficiaries are the people who benefit from you completing your project. JOHN, when I give This talk, usually the first thing people will be thinking about is how do I get more guides on my project? I want people to be thinking, How do I interact with my beneficiaries more? Right? I want you to not think about the top as it were, but think about the bottom and here’s why beneficiaries to to really powerful things for you. One, whenever you get cognitively stuck with the project, and you don’t know which way to go, you don’t know what you’re building makes any sense. If it’s working. You can do that thing of just like asking the person you’re building it for whether it works, right, like, hey, john, I’m building this course I’m thinking is doing this. I have no idea where it’s going. Did this work for you? Right? And you get a yes or no, yeah, that’s super helpful. You got to be a little bit vulnerable and got to be a little bit courageous. But at least you don’t spend four months researching different ways to do something. Yeah, probably that doesn’t get you any further than just sending an email, asking it like sending a phone call or you know, calling someone sitting them down and saying, Hey, does this work? So that’s the first thing they do for you. The second thing is that when you get emotionally stuck, it helps you remember that the project is not just about you, because whatever you’re doing, if you don’t do it, that person is not as well off as they could be. Great, right? And so like, whatever pain you’re solving, whatever delight you’re trying to deliver, if you don’t finish that, there’s someone still in that pain. Yeah, there’s someone absent of that delight.

Unknown Speaker 31:27

Yeah, it’s so motivational to remind yourself of that.

Charlie Gilkey 31:30

Yeah, absolutely. And so when you get stuck, and you probably will get stuck at some point, because you’re human. And that’s what happens to us, like you have both of those sort of ways of getting going. And just, you know, much like I said earlier about not skipping meetings, like, we will choose a different path for ourselves, or maybe we’ll give up on ourselves. But when we set that relationship with someone else, and we’ve made a promise that we’re going to do something that makes them better, or that delivers a delight and they know that’s coming. It’s just a Little bit of motivation, a little bit of extra to keep you going. When times get dark.

John Corcoran 32:04

Yeah, well, we’re running low on time and you’re reminding me of two things. One, reminded me why we did a double episode about a total of two hours last time. We did this, I’m not going to do that this time, because the books about finishing so I got to finish this podcast interview. and secondly, you reminded me that man, I gotta have more Charlie Gilkey in my life. And it’s we got to make sure that it isn’t another six years that goes by in between these podcasts interviews. But for anyone else listening to this, who haven’t discovered Charlie before, I hope that this gives you a sample of the depth of this man’s knowledge and expertise and how much value you can bring to your life. So I’m going to wrap things up with the question I always ask, but please, you know, be sure that you learn more about this man, and take some action after you are done with this podcast interview. But the question is, look, let’s pretend we’re at an awards banquet. Charlie, you’re receiving an award for lifetime achievement for everything you’ve done up until this point. And what we all want to know is who do you think who are the mentors who are the friends I know I know a few of them, but I’ll let you mention them, the people that you would acknowledge and your remarks.

Charlie Gilkey 33:05

I both love and hate this question.

I love it because it lets me acknowledge that, whether it’s this book or whether it’s my business, whether it’s my life, like I am not doing this alone, and I am only able to do it because of the interaction and participation of a lot of different people. And so, you know, you know, the statement, it takes a village to raise a child, I need like a friggin metropolis of people around me, it turns out, so is this true, but there are Oh, the second and the reason I hate it is that I always forget people and then I feel like a butt hole, right? I really, really happens everyone, but with those things, said Seth Godin has always been a really great inspiration and mentor from afar. For me one of the really most accessible dude’s so if you haven’t tried emailing him, do it. is really worth talking to. Pam slim Jonathan fields Susan Piper. Way back in the day Naomi Dunford, I don’t talk about nearly as much as I should. She is one of the catalytic people that got me started a long time ago.

It is document now me

so I could keep going. Let’s see. I mean, Mike party we go way back. We should we should jam sometime about him being a door greeter which I have a different a different term for the love

John Corcoran 34:29

Mike. Love to run into. He’s like a conference junkie. I’ll see.

Charlie Gilkey 34:35

He is a conference junkie.

John Corcoran 34:36

Yeah, he’s a great guy, though. Great beer lover.

Charlie Gilkey 34:39

Yeah, great beer lover. All of my team from Team PF so Shannon, Jess, Joe. Angela. I need to pause on Angela because Angela is my wife. She’s been on this crazy journey with me for a long time. I can’t do anything without this woman. She’s literally like, where the super organism set and where when one of us is not involved or something like that. limb is missing. And you know, those are a small sampling and I missed a lot of people but I think on any given day Oh, Corey huff Noah Brockman on any given day those are the five people that I’m talking to. Yeah that are really powering so much of all of this sort of stuff so if you don’t have a success pack if you don’t have a tribe go get you one.

John Corcoran 35:23

Yeah, right. Because it just makes all the difference between You doing okay work and you living an okay life versus you doing your best work and living your best life and being around people that inspire you to do that and get that done, which is such a great thing. productive flourishing calm is the website start finishing book calm is the website for the book. Start finishing is the name of the book. Where else can people learn more about you, Charlie?

Charlie Gilkey 35:49

You’ve listened Mater, they all go back to productive flourishing and right now it’s all about start finishing. Because the more of the stuff that you finish that really matters. You the better of a life you will create for yourself

John Corcoran 36:03

and for others and for others. Yeah, Charlie, thanks so much.

Charlie Gilkey 36:07

Thanks for having me, john.

Unknown Speaker 36:08