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Why Personal Pit Stops Are Critical For High Performance

Yes, I am that guy who packs his lunch everyday so that I can keep working and don’t have to leave my office. I am also the guy that will postpone getting another glass of water for an hour because I don’t want to waste those 90 seconds.

I guess I should say, I used to be that guy. Now don’t get me wrong. I still pack my lunch – turkey sandwich anyone? But boy have I learned first-hand the magic of taking breaks which allow me to reset and recharge.

It didn’t come easy! For years I had read countless “experts” tout the importance of downtime. The necessity of unplugging from technology to give your brain a much needed break which only then would allow for maximum productivity. But it seemed counter intuitive to me.

My “to do list” is never empty. I always have more to get to. But I realized that while I might have been “in front of my computer”, that didn’t mean I was actually being productive or producing work at my highest level. It didn’t even mean I was actually working!

When I really decided to take an honest look at my productivity, I realized that I was taking plenty of “breaks” to check out ESPN, Twitter, email, you get the idea. The problem was, those breaks didn’t re-energize me and in my five minute journal I kept noticing a recurring theme of low productivity in the afternoons.

Sound familiar?

I decided to experiment and try out some of the things I have been reading about over the years. I committed to scheduling in my breaks and holding myself to it. It didn’t take long to win me over as a believer (why didn’t I do this earlier!)

Pit stop Blog

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Our brains and bodies aren’t much different than that of a high performance race car. In order to get the best performance, you can’t run your engine at full speed without taking pit stops along the way.

Now these pit stops only take a few seconds for Indy or NASCAR drivers, but they have 11 individuals performing key roles and there are multiple pit stops throughout the race. Without them they would never reach the finish line.

You need to perform pit stop maintenance as well!

It can vary by individual, but there is only so long you can fully focus on an activity before you start experiencing diminishing returns.

I now focus on working in 90 minute to 2 hour blocks at a time. I have found that I can get more done with better quality in 90 minutes than I was previously accomplishing in 3 hours. My energy is better and I have a sense of urgency that greatly improves my focus.

After my time block is up, I take a break. But not just any break. Surfing the web doesn’t count. Staring at your smart phone doesn’t count. I leave my office, walk outside and take a complete technology break for at least 15 minutes.

The featured picture for this post is a picture I took on my afternoon break today. That fountain is located across the street from my office. After walking for 10 minutes I sat down, set my phone timer for 5 minutes and did a quick meditation. I simply focused on calming my mind and resetting myself to get back to work.

Before my break I had started to reach a feeling of overwhelm and I could feel my productivity slipping. In just 15 minutes I was able to reset myself for my next time block.

Those 15 minute pit stops have become a critical investment throughout the day that has paid huge dividends and allows me to get more done, but most importantly aid in me producing my best work.

So I challenge you to give it a shot! What routines can you experiment with to design what works best for you?

Your partner in success,

Josh Paulsen


Why the Pen is Mightier Than the Laptop

I know it has become more and more common to do everything on our digital devices these days, whether that be our laptop, tablet or smartphone. And that can be great. In many ways, these devices have made us more productive and offer some great tools.

There is one area however, where I will encourage you to go “old school” with a pen (or pencil) and paper. That is when you are TAKING NOTES, particularly for retention and recall.

In my classes I see more and more people taking notes on their laptops or tablets. Don’t get me wrong, I take notes on my devices from time to time as well, usually with Evernote, but when possible I prefer a good ole pen and pad of paper.

I have always felt that I retained more information when I wrote things down on paper. That has always been my preference, but I never knew if it was actually anymore effective than using my computer.

Well it seems that Pam A. Mueller from Princeton and Daniel M. Oppenheimer from UCLA did the work for me and researched this very topic! They wanted to know if laptop note taking was detrimental to someone’s overall understanding and retention of new information.

The findings?

Stick with the pen and paper!

Their research showed that when you use a laptop to take notes, you are much more likely to become more like a transcriptionist, mindlessly transcribing and typing what you hear.

In three separate variations of their study, the findings were consistent. While those using laptops were found to take MORE NOTES, those using the long lost art of handwriting scored significantly higher on conceptually based questions.

Now you may be thinking what I was at first. Maybe the use of pen and paper helps your brain in the moment to recall more information than typing on a keyboard. But if we are able to compile more notes on a laptop, maybe there would be an advantage later down the line as a result of having more notes?

Say for instance, that the test was a week later and the students were able to study their notes before the test. In that situation perhaps the advantage would sway to Johnny Laptop? After all, he would have more notes to study.

Not so fast….

Mueller and Oppenheimer used that vary scenario in their third study. In this study, participants were given either a pen or laptop and told to take notes on a lecture. They were then instructed to return the following week to be tested on the material. Once again, even though the laptop participants recorded more notes, those using pens performed better on conceptual and this time factual questions.

What can we learn from this?

The pen is not obsolete – Even with all of our technology, sometimes the best solutions are low-tech. I love technology as much as the next guy, but if you are looking for optimal performance, it is more important to choose the right tool for the job.

Don’t just mindlessly take notes – If your note taking is for a grocery list and your list is of no value to you once those groceries are in your cart, then your smartphone may work just fine. When you are taking notes for the purpose of retention and learning, it is critical not to just mindlessly transcribe what you are hearing. Take notes in your own words and translate what you are hearing into examples that you understand. Summarize concepts into core components instead of just transcribing information as it is presented in front of you.

Next time, if your ultimate goal is mastery, understanding, retention or skill acquisition, grab a pen and paper!

Do you still use a pen and paper for most of your note taking, or have you switched over to digital devices?

Your partner in success,

Josh Paulsen


Thank you to the Harvard Business Review and Maggy McGloin who’s article was the inspiration for this post.

5 Ways To Reduce Overwhelm and Improve Your Decision Making

Have you ever been faced with what you thought would be an easy decision and then 20 minutes later you are still deliberating over a myriad of choices?

I certainly know I have. I am deliberate by nature and am guilty of spending 15 hours preparing for a Disney World vacation. My last car purchase involved using multiple spreadsheets to compare features and specs during a car buying search that spanned weeks and countless hours of analysis. I have even found myself staring at 40 different kinds of soap trying to decide which one to select in the grocery store.

In this post I want to share five ways you can reduce overwhelm and not only make faster decisions, but be more satisfied with the decisions you do make.

First let’s start with why this is important.

Barry Schwartz wrote a book called The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less. The book’s theme is an interesting one.

 While we assume that having more choices and options will lead to greater satisfaction, too many options or too many choices can actually lead to LESS satisfaction with your selection!

Dan Gilbert has a great TED talk on The Surprising Science of Happiness that discusses the same topic.

  • The more options you consider the more regret or buyer’s remorse you will experience
  • The more options you encounter the less fulfilling your ultimate outcome will be

Ask yourself this question. When making a decision, would you rather have an acceptable outcome and be more satisfied, or have the optimal or best outcome, but be less satisfied?

You might be thinking, “but wait, if I have the best outcome, wouldn’t I be the most satisfied?” Not exactly.

For example, let’s take my car buying example. Would you rather spend months deliberating over 10 different car choices, the pros, cons, options and specs, select the best one, but second guess yourself during the next five years you owned the car? “Did I make the right decision, would I have liked that model better?” Or would you rather end up with a car that might be almost as good, but never second guess your selection?

Which result is better? It reminds me of a quote.

You can be RIGHT or you can be HAPPY”

So which is it for you? Is it more important for you to be right, to make the absolute best decision, or do put a higher value on satisfaction with your choice or happiness in general?

For me, I choose happiness and satisfaction, but there is another consideration as well, TIME.

Time is the most precious commodity there is. Once it passes, it is gone forever.

If I spend 60 hours analyzing my car choices, that is 60 hours that can’t be used for anything else. I could have used some of that time to play with my kids, spend time with my wife, socialize with friends or write a blog post!

So where do you go from here?

Try setting rules for yourself that will create a structure and framework to help you make better and faster decisions. This will not only free up more time, but give you greater satisfaction and happiness in the process!

Here are some ideas to get you started

1) Don’t go round and round with decisions until you can ACT on it. Don’t waste time ruminating and going round and round in your head with a potential scenario until you can take action on it. Consciously decide to set a time and place to consider any future decisions that you are unable to act on in the present. Setting a time and place for future deliberation can help release your brain from the open loop that will drain your energy and motivation.

 2) Don’t postpone decisions just to avoid uncomfortable situations. I can think of an example just last week that comes to mind. Our neighbors invited us over for dinner. My wife wasn’t up to it and knew she would decline, but delayed responding for three days. Over those three days, she brought it up to me at least 6 times and there is no telling how many times it popped into her head knowing that this situation was hanging out there. With that decision looming over her, it caused unnecessary stress for three days. A simple text immediately in the moment would have not only freed up time, but unnecessary worry and stress. She didn’t want to hurt their feelings by saying no. But she ended up saying no anyway in the end. A simple, “I think we have a commitment / conflict already, but let’s get together soon” is a soft approach that would have allowed both parties to move on immediately.

 3) Make non-fatal or reversible decisions as quickly as possible. Not all decisions are created equally. The less risk, the quicker you should strive to make a decision and move on. Next! Move on to more important things.

 4) Limit your options. Another solution is to set a personal rule to limit your options for any decision. As quickly as possible, narrow your choices down to just three options. Immediately cutting it down to three choices will reduce overwhelm and speed up your decision time immensely. It will also help reduce buyer’s remorse and regret.

5) Set a time limit on decisions. Give yourself a deadline and stick to it. Whether it be 60 seconds for minor decisions (think soap at a grocery store), or 1 week for a major decision, giving yourself a deadline will help provide focus and keep you from over analyzing and getting lost in endless back and forth deliberation.

If you can set parameters for your decision making, these can work as guidelines to not only help you make decisions more quickly, but will lead to greater satisfaction with the decisions you do make!

Give it a try and let me know what you think!

Your partner in success,

Josh Paulsen

This post was inspired by a Podcast I listened to by Tim Ferriss last week. Thanks Tim!

3 Great Options To Help Manage Your To Do’s

There are probably endless strategies and approaches to staying organized and productive. They key is to experiment and find what works best for you.

I can remember when I purchased my first IPhone (I was a little late to the party) wondering what all the fuss was about with Apps. Fast forward quite a few years and now there are plenty of apps I use every day some of which are key aides to my productivity.

Evernote is probably my favorite. It has been instrumental in helping me keep track of all my notes and research from being scattered all of the place. I will take some time later this year to post specifically about Evernote, but today I want to focus on something that everybody can appreciate.

To Do Lists

Did you cringe at those three little words?

Some of you may love your lists, some hate them, but it is difficult to accomplish much without some type of system to keep you organized. Our working memory can only hold about 5-7 pieces of information for approximately 30 seconds in our head at any given time. If we don’t do something with that information – it will vanish. No, it’s not just you and you don’t have a memory problem, that’s how the brain works.

Because our working memory is not much bigger than a post it note with invisible ink, we need to come up some type of strategy to stay on top of our priorities.

You can get as complicated as you like, but at a minimum you need a simple list of priorities, or some type of “To Do List”. Call it whatever you like, if you don’t enjoy that label.

Don’t get me wrong, you can get great results just using a simple piece of paper with pen or pencil. However, these days many people have their smartphones with them all day long and love using it for everything. With that in mind, I wanted to share three great options for you if you are looking to add a little technology to your “To Do”.


This app is available on both IPhone and Android phones. is designed to be simple, clean and easy to use but is still packed with lots of great features.


–        Syncing is smooth, even with a family member or coworker

–        Breaking tasks into “Today”, “Tomorrow”, “This Week” and “Later” helps with overwhelm of having to many tasks in your face, but gives you peace of mind knowing they are captured

–        Easy to set up reminders and notes

–        “Plan Your Day” feature


–        If you do most of your to do organizing on your desktop, you will need a Chrome Add-on, there is no desktop app last I checked

2)     Google Keep

Keep is a synching notepad that not only allows you to keep lists, but photos, voice notes as well across multiple devices and in the cloud. It is stored on the web or is installed on Android devices. For Android users or Google fans, this can be the easiest to start using. No accounts to set up etc.


–        Can be great for not only to do lists, but for people like me that like to take lots of notes whenever inspiration hits

–        Easy to get started for Android or heavy web based users

–        Simplest option of the bunch


–        Not available last I checked for Apple users

–        Doesn’t have as many features as some of the others like reoccurring tasks, or calendar views

3)     Wunderlist

Wunderlist has desktop and mobile options for Apple, Android and Windows. It is easy to use and supports features such as reoccurring tasks, timed reminders, notes, and multiple categories to name a few.


–        It is supported on just about every platform out there, meaning that no matter what technology you use – you will have access to your lists

–        Higher level subscription offers collaboration tools, file uploads and comments on lists – great if you are looking for an enterprise solution


–        There have been a few syncing issues in the past, but it looks like they have that worked out

Fancy technology and lots of features are great, but only if you use it. The key is to pick something you are comfortable with and USE IT!

If you don’t currently have a great system to stay organized, experiment with one or more of the solutions above and see what you think!


Your partner in success,

Josh Paulsen

A creative approach to productivity!

Raise your hand if you feel like you don’t have enough time in the day to get everything done?

The interesting thing is that TIME is the one thing that is equal for everybody.

It doesn’t matter whether you are CEO of Google, a stay at home mom, or a college student – everyone has the same 168 hours to accomplish their goals, tasks and fit everything in. In a previous post make everyday the day before vacation, I discussed a great strategy to increase your productivity. In this post I have another productivity, or time management strategy for you that can even be fun to implement.

I picked up this idea from a CEO that was running two large companies AT THE SAME TIME!

I have found that many of my entrepreneurial clients struggle not only with getting everything done, but many feel that they are putting out so many fires that it can be tough for them to be proactive and spend time on things that can really make an impact on their business. Things like developing staff, training, getting more organized and creating systems that will leverage their time.

Jack Dorsey is the co-founder of Twitter and was also the CEO of Square – leading both companies at the same time! I am sure you can only imagine how much he has on his plate. What was his “secret”?

Give each of the days of the week a “theme” so you can ensure that you are not just putting out fires, but working on things that will really impact your company and your results.

Since Dorsey was running both companies at the same time, he founds spending one day a week working on “Products” for both companies and one day focusing on “Management” allowed him to stay more focused and away from the typical day to day distractions.

You may not be running two large companies at the same time, you might just be managing yourself. But you can use the same principle to ensure you are putting your focus on what will have the greatest impact, not busywork that will lead you no closer to your goals.

Let’s look at an example of what this might look like…

Monday: Customer and client focus

Tuesday: Staff development and training (or your personal development)

Wednesday: Sales and Marketing

Thursday: Accounting and Finance

Friday: Catch-up and organization

The themes will look different depending on your situation. How might you use this principle to structure your week?

Your partner in success,

Josh Paulsen

Productivity Power – Make everyday the day before vacation!

One thing I have found is that I seem to produce more results and get more done on the day BEFORE I leave for a vacation, than any other day of the year! I think there are a couple of reasons for this that we can use to increase our productivity on a daily basis.


When I know I have 8-10 hours to wrap up any loose ends before I am going to be out of the office – it gives me laser like focus. I want to walk away from work knowing that I have left no loose ends so I can fully relax on the beach with my Corona. I start the day knowing I must get results and there is no tomorrow to push things off to. This focus takes my productivity to an entire new level. It keeps me from getting caught up in distractions. You want to stop by my office to chat about the game yesterday? I would love to, but sorry, NOT TODAY! I am going on vacation and have things to do!

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My limited timeframe gets me clear in a hurry. I am always able to get clear on what exactly needs to get down before I leave the office. I am also able to very quickly decide what is not important. I write down specifically what it is that must get done before I leave for my vacation and that gives me a clear picture helping me to lock out anything else.


Am I pumped about my vacation, you bet I am! That energy provides an emotional fuel that allows me move at almost twice the rate I normally do. I move from task to task with speed and I enjoy the process. I am thinking less about any activities, especially those that are unpleasant and more about the end result. In this case, it is leaving for my vacation with a clear head and being able to fully leave work behind.


Delegation is something I normally don’t do as much as I could – that all changes the day before my vacation. Am I going to be able to get this done today? If the answer isn’t a solid yes, boom, DELEGATE it to someone else. If I take on this task, will it allow me to complete all my other tasks? If not, boom, DELEGATE. Usually everyone knows you are going on vacation, so delegation is expected and that is one of the reasons I think it comes a little easier for me in this instance. I have a free pass to delegate, delegate, delegate!


The day before vacation, it is all about results. I get clear on what needs to be done and focus like a maniac to ensure those items are completed either by me, or by someone else. There is no tomorrow, so the urgency propels me to work while avoiding all distractions. It is easy to get caught up in a to do list most days. To do lists typically have you focusing on all types of tasks that need to be completed, some important, some not important. I am sure all of us have had days where we mark plenty of things off of our to do list but still don’t feel like we have accomplished anything. It is a recipe for overwhelm. I never have this problem the day before a vacation. I know what results must get done and I know with certainty that they will get done…TODAY!

How do you use this to your advantage for all the other days in the office?

Unfortunately, I don’t go on vacations every week, or even every month. But what I have learned in that day before a vacation has helped me every other day. To be honest, I might not have the same gusto every day, but I can use the same principles to increase my productivity 5x.

– Get clear on the RESULTS I want. If you are like me, if you ask yourself what needs to get done, there will always be more things than there is time. Instead I ask myself – what outcome or result is most important today? This helps to provide focus and clarity, but most important it has be focused on results and production, not just being busy.

– Look for items to DELEGATE. For me and most of my clients, delegation does not come easily. We may believe that nobody can do it as good as we can, we may be hesitant to off load our tasks, or not want to deal with training someone on how to do it. We all only have 168 hours in a week and are limited in our focus. More importantly, if you are in a position of leadership, or are a high performer, there are tasks that are more critical than others towards your success and that of your organization. Maybe someone won’t do it exactly as you would, but is that so bad? Free yourself up to focus on those items that are most critical to your success.

– Celebrate your VICTORIES. You may not be able to celebrate your wins with a Corona on the beach every day, but take the time to review your accomplishments and acknowledge them. Reward yourself and take off early every so often and spend some extra time with your family or loved ones when you do stay focused and achieve your desired results.

Here is to you treating every day like it is the day before your vacation!

Your partner in success,

Josh Paulsen