Stop Procrastinating, Start Producing!


Welcome to Episode 04 of the FindFocus Podcast.

In this episode, productivity scientist, reformed procrastinator and creator of Focusmate Taylor Jacobson and I discuss how to “Stop Procrastinating & Start Producing”.

So if you want to create an environment that will make you productive when you work from home, stop feeling a lot of fear and shame wasting so much time online and avoid procrastination tune in now!

In this episode, you’ll discover:

  • The most existential risk and mistake that people make when they start a business from scratch
  • How to create an environment that will make you productive when you work from home
  • How to stop feeling a lot of fear and shame wasting so much time online
  • The “big big breakthrough that changed everything when you are being held accountable”
  • Why it’s no problem if you don’t finish your to do list.
  • The two big trends that define our future work
  • Why we are not designed nor equipped to handle constant distractions
  • The surprising predictor of early death that we all have to deal with (It’s far worse than obesity)
  • How to create some real human connection when we’re working alone.
  • The ridiculously effective (and free) solution that Taylor come up with…
  • How this solution helped his clients to develop new habits suddenly, no longer feeling anxious or worried and even going to sleep on Sunday night looking forward to the week ahead because they know they can count on themselves to get their most important work done

Don’t want to listen to the podcast? We transcribed this episode for you! 

Martin: [0:01] Welcome to the FindFocus Podcast. Today’s episode is called Stop Procrastinating and Start Producing!  I will interview productivity scientist reformed procrastinator and creator of Focus Mate, Taylor Jacob. Welcome Taylor and great to have you on the show.

Taylor:  [0:20] Thanks for having me!

Martin: [0:22] Can you tell us a little bit about yourself, in terms of background, education and experience with focus and procrastination.

Taylor: [0:28]  Absolutely! you could say I have, informal training. My driving passion, my whole career is been human potential.You know, productivity, behavioral change but I think less nice, we have saying that.

Taylor:  [00:58] The core drive that really sparks this fashion was actually the first time I was working from home and I was in a job or a certain partially remote, partially  in an office. And I just really struggled to get stuff done when I was remote and then when I became a full-time entrepreneur. It just only got worse so you know and I’m hate it! 

[01:23] But prior to founding Focus mate I was an executive coach for about 5 years, works with entrepreneurs top startups in New York. I really got to Intensively study behavior change but also apply it in a  real-world context and see what works and what doesn’t work, what problems are people dealing with and also saw that even these high performers you know, executive clients are really struggling to follow through with a lot of stuff themselves. So that’s really kind of the real world training. I’ve actually studied economics at Duke undergrad I was a Management Consultant briefly, I was the sixth employee I teach for India which was totally cool experience but that’s  started a core of what has led me to doing this kind of work.

Martin:  [02:23] what problems are  you talked about, I’m having problems working alone and working in the home office? How was your day looking a specifically and what challenges did you run into.

Taylor:  [02:36]  Here’s what I remember the “ how it felt”  and it always felt like I wasn’t doing anything until almost a  noon many days you know,,we’re somehow those morning hours would just get filled up and sort of this angsty timeless and I have no doubt that my computer is out a lot of that time ,but it’s just was I would.  I would stick facebook in that time I would answer emails and my email is one of favorite ways to procrastinate. So that point in my life I just wasn’t equipped  to kind of deal with that open-endedness and so I just blow through that time and if I was lucky I would start to get things moving a little bit in the afternoon but it’s not,  I’m a late sleeper something I’d really be wasting a lot of time and I just also remember how I felt so much shame and I felt a lot of fear to all this time is passing me by. And I’m supposed to be starting to this company and you know I feel  I’m spinning my wheels. 

Martin: 03:55] And what do you then,  How did you try to overcome these challenges?

Taylor:  [04:01] I think probably for most people it’s really been a lifelong thing of just you learn one skill you learn one have it at a time. You know at that point intime. Frankly that the first thing I did was I was just, I felt so crippled just by the emotional burden the shame of the unproductive that I decided I just got to. First I gotta just let go of feeling ashamed because of this,  because apparently it’s hard to work alone it’s hard to work from home so that was step one. And I started reading a lot of these things I should have went into the rabbit hole is the blogosphere of productivity techniques in box and all that stuff. You know, one of my first techniques that I tried was I would just go to Starbucks start to treat it  my office for a while that was okay, at least sort of prevent it’s more conspicuous forms of procrastination

[05:05] Just eating cheerios and watching youtube videos and stuff. I mean there’s sort of a laundry list of things that I’ve done and one is so you know, my company ultimately my startup Focus mate that was really the big breakthrough started realizing that the one saying that changed everything for me was being accountable some way to other people surrounding myself for creating an environment that pulled me for it and that.  When If I want to go for a run if I get a buddy to go for a run with me even if it’s raining I’ll show up. You know, and I’ll run a little bit faster and harder and realizing that I could apply that for productivity as well so what we can come back and talk more about that. But I think the key inside is willpower really useless and if you can design an environment so that you don’t need to use willpower you’re way ahead of the game.

Martin: [06:05]  Exactly I think that’s what both our companies are all about. And you mentioned starting a business, where do you see making a people the most mistakes in their business? when they start a business, transitioning from corporate job into being a freelance or something like that.

Taylor:  [06:27] Where did people make mistakes? I think, Probably, the most existential risk and mistake that people make is not solving a real problem. For some reason we just like. We got big ideas and ideas are really exciting, and we start to think about the products that we want to build, right!.  If you’re an engineer you want to start coding and you can pretty quickly lose sight of what’s the core pain points that you actually addressing for people. And frankly, even if you don’t have a product, even if you don’t have a solution, like you  much better off I think if you really deeply understand that pain that you’re going after. Because, sure people would buy something if it promises to solve their problem even if it doesn’t do that good for a job versus people will not buy something that could be a beautiful piece of software but if it doesn’t report solve real problem then people won’t buy it. I think that’s far the biggest mistake people make .

[07:49] Then  once you’re in execution mode, I think we will easily get distracted you know, we were just talking before we started the show. Is it marketing is the classic example where there’s literally unlimited number of things you can do for marketing and you know, when starting a business your job is to do everything and yet your job really is to figure out what’s one thing that’s most important that’s going to move your business ahead and forget about literally everything else even though it’s really painful.  I’ve got to say you got to let, got to let a lot of small fires burn. And don’t grab the fire extinguisher the hose you just let him burn because you don’t have time for that you got to just choose that one thing. So, I think that’s really common mistake as well if it’s just start trying to do everything when you really can’t and shouldn’t.

Martin:  [08:45]   I think that’s totally right and it’s so hard to do for for me and myself. We get bombarded with all this great content what kind of marketing there is and what kind of marketing channels we could use and track and about if you’re not helping anybody. What do you want to to amplify what do you want to use the marketing for and so I’m thinking it’s really about the pain that you solving and your maybe you can tell us about your solution I think that’s a bunch of its called virtual coworking and the solution you build to to overcome this challenge of procrastination.

Taylor:  [09:25]  I think your points really good though let me come back to that but I just wanted to give you an example, I mean I think my core weakness is I would be sort of like OCD about doing my to do list and I’m sure there’s some listeners out there feel that same composing, right!  where you you feel you’re getting things done when you do your whole to-do list. And now you know, I don’t think I ever finished my to do list, the next day comes and then you know I’ve try and I try I try to ask myself “okay! what’s the most important thing I need to do today?” and you sort have like this little moment of heartbreak where you just “Okay 8 other things that I didn’t do! ” no I’m not going to get you today or maybe ever. So anyway, I just wanted to paint that picture on a slightly more personal level.

[10:27] So, virtual coworking! thanks for asking. So, I think taking a step back, I think  there’s two really critical pieces or trends going on in the world, right! one is that we are just so freaking distracted. We are human beings are not designed for not equipped to handle constant distractions and stimulation in options that we have to just get a quick, head of satisfaction and it feels good to check facebook, but it really feels bad ultimately to just not do the things that you really want to be doing right!. And the data on this is terrifying, you know people who are out there listening and feeling you know. 

[11:15] They are the worst! This is increasing this is everybody, everybody is procrastinating everybody’s distracted ADHD scripts have gone up four times in the last 15 years or so. Chronic severe chronic procrastination is now over 20% of the adult population, so you can start over imagine what that implies for middle of the bell curve normal people everybody’s procrastinating.  So that’s number one is just for all really distracted 

[11:50]  Number two is where working alone in the offices have stuck around for a long time but that’s starting to change actually. About a third of computer workers are now predominantly remote and of course we have  people taking courses increasingly online now so you’re not going to a classroom or campus anymore you’re just sitting at your house maybe like after work trying to chip away at that course people are trying to start businesses on the side and other the side hustler so to speak. so you have these really big and growing cohorts of people who are working alone and it’s actually really unhealthy and unnatural. I saw this data point that blew my mind recently that loneliness is a greater predictor of early death than obesity. 

[12:50] This is kind of the new world that we live in.  We’re distracted and we’re alone and for those two things get together it’s just the tsunami of bad news for our productivity. Our goal we know we talked about building a virtual coworking products, that’s our business at Focus mate, our goal is to solve those two problems. Let’s not be distracted and let’s create some real human connection when we’re working alone.  

[13:24] And so our first test if you will, I won’t even really called a product that first test was we. We basically set up two users, who sit side-by-side remotely over video call will they both get work done so it’s sort of study buddy.  I actually alluded to going for a run with a friend. In this case it’s not, it’s not a collaborative thing you’re not chatting with each other there’s no coach and client it’s actually peer-to-peer accountability partners who you know show up and sit with each other while you got your work done and it’s just  it’s a ridiculously effective. Format or environment can we talk about environment see you help you get stuff done it’s kind of.

[14:20] For me back at school I would ask a friend to go to the library and sit with me because I knew that having somebody there and having that quiet environment. I was basically guaranteed to get stuff done where I live I went anywhere else there’s a good chance I get distracted so we’re sort of trying to create, that kind of environment that gonna locks you into being productive.

Martin:  [14:42] Well that’s awesome!   I found for myself I, I created my software also to change the environment on the computer and I notice I would use my software when I’m at the computer to not go on facebook or watch youtube videos. But your software, are your service being accountable with some with some real person make me actually to show up in front of the computer and that was really really helpful for me.

Taylor: [15:08]   We hear that a lot, there’s actually a lot of people that say “ You know,  I’m waking up two hours earlier to start work just because I’ve been using Focus mate and now that have these appointments you know I get out of bed and magically I’m there I am at my computer at 6am everyday getting work done” which is amazing.

Martin:  [15:25] So who are the people who typically use Focus mate?

Taylor:  [15:30] So we’ve talked about some of them,  it’s freelancers, it’s remote workers , people who are separated from their teams and their company, lots of students really every age and level,  people whether they’re just taking an online course or they’re doing their masters or they’re part of an online university, alot of entrepreneurs and side hustlers. It’s tough especially if you have a day job to make yourself show up at the computer either before work or after work on the weekend. Those people use Focus mate to just what I want to, I want to bang out for hours on Saturday! so I’m going to use Focus mate.

Martin: [16:17]  Can you share some specifics how the software helps, maybe something or  some pictures or what do you do to to help people get into the process of virtual coworking?.

Taylor: [16:29]  Let me turn describe what happens on a Focus mate session. When  you have an appointment.  So, today it’s actually very simple and we can talk about to where we gonna going, but the  focus mate appointment is a 15 minute appointment and  when you show up you spent about 60 seconds and you greet your partner and say “ hey Martin!  good to see you, what’s your goal for this for this hour” and you tell me “ “You know,  I have to edit this podcast” or something right and then you write that down, we have a chat interface and then you’d say “ Alright Taylor! what’s your goal for this session”  I’d say “ You know,  I’ve got to go to follow up with Martin and you know to ask him for an introduction or something you know “ and I would write that down as well so and then.

[17:28] So 60 seconds or so goes by we both specify exactly what we’re going to do we both written it down. By the way there’s lots of research that shows that really helps and then work just quietly working we get to work we leave the video on a lot of people will either use a dedicated device so that they can have that video up with their tablet or their phone or I have two screens which is really nice and every time you finish a task you’ll update that in the chat you know, you’ll say, “ Alright I finished that”  and you’ll write down what your next task is.

[ 18:01 ] You  have a little timer there so you can see the 50 minutes going by and then session ends. serve the end of this intense productivity sprint, it ends and you’re, “Hey! Martin and how’d it go?”  you know when you have this little you this moment of reflection which another there’s again more research that shows that stopping to reflect periodically is really the eyeball for productivity so you do that together as well you reflect on how it went and you kind of get to have them shared moment of celebration as well. Because you just cranked some important workout for 50 minutes.  That’s what happens in an appointment you know, if you sign up for Focus mate what you’ll see is basically a calendar in your face where you’re just saying. “Hey! these are the times that I want to get work done!” and part of what we are and what we offer as you don’t have to think about anybody else.

[19:00] You are just saying this is what I’m free you schedule your session then we take care of the rest and we’re heading is really creating a custom experience so that the people that you’re working with, the style of work so they do, do you  really like to have a quiet session? or do you really like to have a slightly collaborative session? do you want to do just one-on-one? Do want to do a small group? do you want to work with somebody who’s working on something similar as you ? .

[19:24] So that’s where we’re heading is almost  a social network for productivity. Really, a tailored tribe of people of co virtual co-workers  that you love and can count on and I really supportive for you.

Martin: [19:40] how many people are in this tribe right now?

Taylor:  [19:46] I think our Facebook group just stopped 1300 people this week so. You know, growing fast.

Martin:  [20:00] What your favorite success story that somebody may be shared in the Facebook group or emailed you or something that what kind of success do should do people see when they use it? 

Taylor:  [20:13] You know  there’s way too many to count and or even play favorites. But one that was just post just a few days ago, this woman she was working on her master’s thesis and she was really starting to freak out because she was so far behind schedule and this was you know, I think she must have graduated or finished completed her thesis just a few weeks ago and she only joined Focus mate maybe 3 months ago so she was really far behind schedule and she just shared a photo of herself  with a glass of wine sort of and some certificate that she share to toasting having finish this thing and she basically said “ You know, I was nowhere near gonna get this thing done  and focus mate just totally turned it around and I just got really productive and I crushed it and delivered my Master’s thesis on time”  So,  we see stories like that often times.

Martin:   [21:19] That’s  also I remember I  getting an email for somebody using my software and it’s got this eager stand that I procrastinated for 8 month or something within the week of using my software it’s really good feeling to know to solve this pain point that we talked about earlier and really  help people to solve for problem there.

Taylor:  [21:45] And actually sometimes the best emails I’ll get are from people who they’re really vulnerable they don’t always post these on facebook but they say “You know I was really anxious” or is really worried or “I was really to know I was beating myself up I was”.  start to relate to ourselves as we relate to ourselves as procrastinators but we also use much worse words in our head to describe ourselves and so a lot of people to reach out and say that they sort of turned around that narrative and They don’t know their feel a procrastinator. They’ve developed these new habits suddenly and and they’re no longer anxious or no longer worried you know, they go to sleep on Sunday night looking forward to the week because they know they can count on themselves to get their most important work done that. Hearing that, that feels really good.

Martin:  [22:42] How much I do you charge for it for your service? As I think a lot of people

would like to try it and maybe afraid of, afraid to spend a lot of money on that.

Taylor:  [22:52] Well there and lock Focus mate as free. So no reason not to give it a

shot Focus

Martin:  [23:00] Okay! that was my next question where people  can get started and

how can people find out more about you and what you do it’s I think it’s right!?

Martin:   [23:14] It’s focus You know, it so you can check out our website lots of information on there and also have a facebook group which you know if you want to see what other people are saying. You know you go can on our website and can I have to take my word for it, there’s some testimonials but the great thing about our facebook group is that’s the community with real people you can pop in there and just listen. You’re not gonna  be a wallflower for a little and you’ll see how it’s an incredibly positive and supportive group of people and we’ve been talking about, creating an environment that helps you be productive. Well. an environment like your software prevents you from going somewhere, tracks how you’re doing, Like tracking things helps the focus mate interaction with that partner that’s a great environment but part of your environment is also the community that you’re part of in. The people that use voices in your head when you’re debating something or who you know you’re going to see tomorrow and have to give an update on how things are going. So when you have a really supportive community that actually creates a really positive environment as well so  that’s part of what we have achieved with the focus mate facebook group and I definitely encourage people to check that out to.

Martin:  [24:40] That’s some one point I think a lot of people underestimate, and I think

24:45 have wrote about this in his book “The Power of Habit” that it actually takes belief and being part of a community creates and reinforce the belief to really change and change your habits and change the habits of a procrastination. 

Taylor:  25:02] Oh! man that’s such a good point Martin,  because where we think of ourselves, I think sometimes we relate to ourselves is almost machines that have to be optimized or something and I’m just broken you know, that word is actually that’s really make sense for human beings that makes sense for a machine is program. But, suddenly your thoughts on your behave if you go around people who are behaving a different way who have different beliefs set. You don’t even have to do anything it just starts to affect you and change your beliefs and change your habits and behavior so  it’s really the ultimate hack right, is just change your environment.

Martin:  [25:50] It exactly and I think do you have any other last thoughts for this interview?

Taylor:  [25:57]  No, this is fantastic I really appreciate you having me.

Martin:  [26:01] Thanks Taylor for being here and you think everybody for listening andcheck out focus mate it’s a great service it’s free and I really  to use it and it will definitely help you to get productive.

Taylor:  [26:15] Awesome! thanks Martin.

About Taylor Jacobson

  • He is a productivity scientist, reformed procrastinator and creator of Focusmate.
  • Taylor was featured in Forbes, CNN, GQ, Huffington Post.
  • He believes that most global problems would get solved if everyone could do their best work. His mission is to make that happen.
  • He invites you to experience the life-changing benefits of virtual accountability by exploring the Focusmate community for yourself.

More Information

Learn more about how you can stop procrastinating and start producing working from home using virtual coworking with Focusmate

Links & Mentions from This Episode:

Focusmate community of Facebook 

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