Focus On This Podcast

106. Unlock the “Fresh Start Effect” with Weekly Preview



You get to the end of the week and feel like it was a fail. You were busy the whole time but didn’t actually get to the things you wanted to do. You’re feeling behind and off course from your goals. You wish you could have a redo. Is there a way to clear the deck and start over? 

In this episode, Blake and Courtney walk you through four steps to leverage the psychological reset button of the Weekly Preview. They discuss the Fresh Start Effect and how new beginnings often bring renewed energy and perspectives, which you can experience every week as you assess, make mental shifts, and start again.

In this episode, you’ll discover—

  • How to exit doing mode and enter strategic mode
  • Why thinking of missteps as resistance training empowers you for success
  • The question to ask yourself to define next week’s win
  • The power of treating next week as an experiment


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Episode Transcript

Blake: Courtney, you know I’m a licensed psychologist. Right? It’s just a side thing I did. No, I’m just kidding. I’m not a psychologist, but I have learned this thing that real psychologists have discovered, which is this idea of landmarks, passing landmarks, creating a reset. Think about it. When do people mostly set their goals? When is our big goal-setting event?

Courtney: New Year’s.

Blake: New Year’s. When do you start feeling all reflective about your marriage? Your anniversary. Right? Or maybe your birthday. “Hey, I’m another year. What do I want this year to be?” It can be totally an arbitrary thing sometimes, but having a landmark creates this natural reset. Are you following this?

Courtney: I’m totally following you.

Blake: So, today we’re going to talk about the fresh-start effect, and we have four steps for you to leverage that effect in your life.

Welcome to another episode of Focus on This, the most productive podcast on the whole wide Internet, so you can banish distractions, get the right stuff done, and finally start loving Mondays. My name is Blake Stratton. I am here with my wonderful cohost, Ms. Courtney Baker. Hello, Courtney. How are you?

Courtney: Hey, Blake. Happy Monday.

Blake: Happy Monday unto you.

Courtney: We should say our friend Verbs, our other cohost, is out today but should be back soon. Blake, I have on my “Happy Monday” tee shirt. For those of you who won one on our 100th episode, it’s really fun.

Blake: Very cool. You seem a little bit happier with the shirt on. I think you should wear it every day.

Courtney: I think I should too and see if that makes every day as happy as Monday. We’ll see how that goes.

Blake: All right. So, we introduced this idea called the fresh-start effect. Do you ever feel like this, Courtney, where you go through a day or a week and you go, “Gosh! I wish I could just start that again”? I do this with my daughter. She’s 2. You know, 2-year-olds sometimes have preferences that you don’t totally understand the logic, but it has to be… Like, this morning, the waffle I made her broke because she was trying to eat it, and that was a problem. It was a problem that the waffle was not whole.

So, she let me know that was a problem in the way 2-year-olds do. I said, “Oh, Felicity, that’s so sad. Do you want to have a redo? Can we do a redo?” She goes, “Yeah.” So then we made another frozen waffle, and we had a fresh start, a redo. Courtney, do you ever feel like you need to…? I don’t know what your waffle routine is in the morning, but have you ever felt that way?

Courtney: Yeah. Definitely. I think a lot of times where I feel that most severely is when I mess up. You have some kind of interaction, and you’re like, “Oh my gosh!” Sometimes it even sits with you over the weekend or for a longer period of time, because that interaction… Maybe it was a conversation with a coworker or a friend or a spouse. You said something you shouldn’t have said or something you didn’t intend, and it’s like, “Oh! I want to clean the slate, clear the deck and start over.”

Blake: Like, when you cussed me out last week, that was really intense, and I was like, “Wow. I think you need a fresh start.”

Courtney: Oh, yeah.

Blake: I feel like, for me, it’s getting to the end of the week, and sometimes I’ll look at what I actually got done or the results. I’m part of our sales team, so I’m always looking at conversations I’ve had, deals that closed or didn’t. Sometimes I get through the week and go, “Wait a second. I felt busy, but I feel like I’m not close to my goal right now,” for the month or week, or whatever, and I felt like, “Oh, gosh. That conversation didn’t go well” or “I got distracted over here,” and whatever.

Then I’m like, “You know what? I need to just sort of, like a movie director, have another take.” If you listening have felt that way, it’s okay. That happens. That’s life. It’s not about getting it 100 percent correct all the time, but I like the hack we’re talking about today, the fresh-start effect. Courtney, do you want to talk about how that works, and then we can get into the practical steps?

Courtney: Yeah. We’ve named a lot of examples and times where you certainly do need that kind of resetting. We talked early in the episode about those big events, like New Year’s or birthdays or even the beginning of school, if you have kids; that there’s kind of a natural landmark that gives us mental clarity for something new to begin.

What’s really incredible is the Full Focus System has that built in. One of those ways it’s built in is with your Weekly Preview. You can kind of use that to reset. No matter what happened last week, no matter if email ran your to-do list or none of the important things got done, you can use that time to clear the deck and start fresh. So, we’re going to give you some steps on how to utilize that and make that true every week.

Blake: Awesome. Well, let’s dive into the four steps to leveraging this concept of the fresh-start effect in your life. Courtney, what’s the first one?

Courtney: The first step is just to name the beginning. Really, this is the mental shift I was just talking about. You can just do your Weekly Preview to do it. You can get in the habit of it, and it’s like, “Okay. I’m going to plan for the next week.” But it’s really important to frame that as a fresh start, that you’ve cleared the deck. Anything that happened last week, you’re going to process that as part of your After-Action Review, but then from that point forward, you’re looking at the future, and you really have that fresh start.

Again, this is not really action oriented. It’s all about shifting your mindset and saying, “Okay. This is the beginning of the fresh start. This is the beginning of this new week I’m going into.” I don’t know, Blake. Does that help when you’re thinking of your Weekly Preview, like, that mental shift?

Blake: Yeah. I feel like when I do my Weekly Preview it’s kind of an activation trigger to shift… To me, the mental shift is I’m exiting achieving mode and doing mode and acting mode and entering into strategic mode, almost like I’m zooming above the trees and looking over my own life.

In a way, kind of detaching from the experience of the week is mentally really helpful for me, because it reminds me that “Oh, I’m actually…” Even if the week was really hard or my month has been hard, I’m still powerful to create the life and the results and experiences I want to create. It’s kind of stepping into that and going, “I get to clear the deck, and I get to do some life design right now.” It’s super empowering to me, I find.

Courtney: I feel like it’s worth saying what you just described is the perfect definition of productivity. It’s that intentional thinking about what you’re doing. I think a lot of times we think of productivity as the actions, but what you just described of pulling out of that and looking and being cognizant of how you’re going to spend your time is a really great definition of productivity, and it’s built in so well with this system.

Blake: So, do you think we should call Michael now and have him agree to me writing the foreword to his next book? Is that what you were saying? It sounds like that’s what you were saying.

Courtney: That’s exactly what I was saying.

Blake: Okay, cool.

Courtney: But I feel like if you’re going to be part of the foreword, I should also be…

Blake: Well, you can do the prologue.

Courtney: Okay, great. I’m glad we have that settled. Michael will be excited to hear that.

Blake: Are there prologues in nonfiction books? I don’t think so.

Courtney: You know what? We’re trend setters.

Blake: You could do the afterword. You could do the call to action. Right? That’s more your zone. Okay. So, that’s step one: name the beginning. Let’s do step two. This step is accept your missteps. Accept, as in receive, your missteps. I’m an expert at missteps, so I could talk about this one a little bit, Courtney. This is the part of the Weekly Preview where you allow yourself to be honest about what happened, including the stuff that wasn’t so great.

This, for me, comes out in the section where I’m writing down my Big 3 from last week and being honest about “Did I get that done? How far along did I get? Did I do what I said I wanted to do related to those three objectives?” and then in that After-Action Review section where I’m being honest about “What worked and what didn’t work?” which, I think, is a very gentle way of framing “Where did I screw up?” (“Oh, this didn’t work” or “This did work.”)

The importance of this step is the honesty of accepting your missteps sets you up to succeed and have a fresh start in more than just sort of a “rah-rah” way, but in a more tangible, useful way. You can’t improve on what you don’t acknowledge is broken. You can’t fix something you don’t acknowledge is not working. So, that’s what this step is about. Courtney, do you have anything to add?

Courtney: Well, I think this can be really hard for achievement-driven people. People can fall on two ends of the spectrum, and, Blake, I suspect you and I probably fall on the opposite ends of it. There are those people who see their missteps and can fall into feeling discouraged and kind of sitting with that maybe longer than they need to, and then the other extreme is you don’t want to acknowledge it at all. You’re just like, “Let’s just plow forward.”

Blake: I wonder which sides we’re on.

Courtney: Everybody listening is like, “Yeah, we don’t need you to tell us.” I think that’s why it’s such a good practice for whichever side you may lean toward. Again, the way you said it, it’s a really gentle way of saying, “What went wrong?” but in a way that feels objective and actionable, saying, “Okay. This didn’t go the way I wanted it to, but I can improve it. I have a lot of agency, and I have a fresh start to do that differently this coming week.”

Blake: A couple of perspective shifts with this. If this step is hard for you to really acknowledge the missteps or to be honest about what’s not working… You just want to blow past that and go, “Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know. Some crap happened. Let’s move on to what I have to do next” or “Let’s go bigger” or “Let’s try harder.” There’s an illustration I heard once that was super helpful for me to learn to embrace the struggles rather than try to resist them or pretend they’re not happening. Think of those missteps or those challenges or mistakes as resistance. They’re literal resistance to you hitting your goals.

Well, if you were training for… Like, an athletic trainer. You’re training to be a bodybuilder or something like that. No bodybuilder who gets super ripped says, “Man! I got so buff even though I was lifting all of those weights.” It’s like, “No, no, no. That doesn’t make sense. You get so buff because you’re lifting all of those weights.” Right? The resistance and acknowledging it and going through it is what empowers your success. So, if you want to be really buff, so to speak, embrace the resistance. That would be my perspective tip for you.

Courtney: That is so good. I love that so much. A lot of times we talk about, as a company… We’re a performance coaching company, and a lot of times you hear that language with athletes, but for all of you listening, whatever your career is, you need to think about that. That is your arena. That’s where you perform. So, I think that analogy is really, really powerful. You have to do the reps. You have to go through those things. That’s why we value experience so much in hiring. It’s because you have had to go through that resistance. That’s really beautiful what you said, Blake.

Blake: All right. Courtney, what’s step three?

Courtney: Step three is define the win. This is all about defining the win for your upcoming week. You have this fresh start, but you need to determine, as you move forward, what is going to be a win for that fresh start. That’s exactly where your Weekly Big 3 comes in. Just like New Year’s or your birthday are these landmark things that we talked about…

Usually you come up with what the destination is going to be with that fresh start, if it’s a new workout routine or a new schedule with the school year you’re rolling out. It’s important to determine what that destination is going to be, and that’s exactly where your Weekly Big 3 comes in. And you’re going to write them down. Just exactly what it says to do in the Weekly Preview.

Blake: I want to double down on what you just said at the end there, Courtney: writing it down. I’ve found if I’m coming off a week where I feel not great… Maybe I feel rushed or I’m just trying to get through the Weekly Preview. What you end up writing as the Big 3 is the name of a project you’re working on. It’s like, “Oh, recruiting project. Hiring [whatever].” It’s too vague or you don’t write it down at all, because you go, “My week is packed. I kind of know what I need to do.” There’s a lot of power in writing down, defining what the win will be. So, write it down as if…

A question I’ll ask is, “What’s the result that would bring me a lot of excitement?” It has to be what’s reasonably going to be achievable given my other commitments this week, but what would make me really excited? What would that outcome be? Write it down in terms of an outcome. So, if you handed it to someone else on your team, they would be crystal clear on what that outcome is and would be able to even hold you accountable to it. You may want to take that step too. The point is by writing it down physically, it’s going to stick in your mind a lot better and kick in that fresh-start motivation you need.

Courtney: Right. I think that idea of what the win is going to be… You might even, this week, just to test it out, cross out “Weekly Big 3” and just write “Weekly Wins.” I do think there is a certain amount of challenge with that. It’s like, “Oh, I have to work to check off these. To get these wins is going to take some time.” I don’t know what Joel Miller, our chief product officer, would say right now about my suggestion to mark out “Weekly Big 3.”

Blake: Yeah, you’re defacing his life’s work. It’s not a big deal. It’s fine. Let’s move on to our last step. This is step four, which is try again. This is the beauty of a new start, a fresh start. If you think about New Year’s, it’s like, “New year, new me.” You cross over that threshold. This step is simply the part where you get to give it another shot.

Keep shooting your shot. Shooters shoot. You don’t need to wait for a new quarter or your birthday or New Year’s to do this. You can start right now. The Weekly Preview is nice because it’s almost a ritual that can kick you into that gear of a fresh start. You have a fresh set of pages, daily pages, and your fresh Weekly Big 3.

One thing I want to say about the “try again” step is to… I don’t know if it was Michael or Joel who used this word first, but a word we use a lot around here is experiment. To treat things like experiments takes some of that pressure off a little bit and allows you to go, “Oh yeah. What we’re trying to do is grow. What we’re trying to do is develop and explore and, yeah, to have success, but we’re going about it in a way that is through trial and error and through experimentation, a systematic kind of process.”

If you find yourself needing some emotional relief when you think about trying again, think of your next week as an experiment. “Hey, I tried something last week. Maybe it didn’t work so well, but I have a fresh start, and I’m going to try something new, and then I’ll evaluate the results next week.”

Courtney: Right. Intuitively, in that word… You would not expect a scientist to conduct an experiment and it be perfect the very first time.

Blake: Right. That’s not the point.

Courtney: No. You’re going to have a series of failures, and you’re going to learn from those. That’s what is going to ultimately, hopefully, have greatness at the end of it. Again, I think this episode a lot is just reframing some of these things in our minds. Sometimes that takes reps to habitualize, but I’m really hopeful these can help you as you go into the next week.

Sometimes with a new thing like this, a fresh start… I love with fresh starts… Just like when I start a new workout routine, I might get new shoes or a new workout outfit… Do your Weekly Preview at a fun place. Make it an experience. Give yourself a little bit of luxury as you have a fresh start next week.

Blake: You don’t have to feel stuck, ladies and gents. If you’re feeling stuck on the journey toward your goals, you don’t have to stay there. Leverage the power of the fresh-start effect. I’m going to start saying it that way, Courtney. When you open your Weekly Preview this next week, think, “The fresh-start effect.” Every time you do your Weekly Preview, think about that. It’s a fresh start. And follow these steps: name the beginning, accept your missteps, define the win, and of course, try, try again. All right, Courtney. Any final thoughts for the Focus on This listeners?

Courtney: The way you say that reminds me so much of The Holiday when Cameron Diaz… You know, her life is being narrated.

Blake: Absolutely.

Courtney: Everybody is going to think about it this week when they’re doing their Weekly Preview. Well, my final thought here is when you are doing your Weekly Big 3… I know sometimes, for me, I find that I may lose sight of that during the week if I just have my planner open to my daily pages. So, as you’re going about this, if you’re thinking about “What are the wins going to be for this week?” I highly encourage you to stick up a Post-it note or write on your whiteboard what the wins are for that week. I think that extra visibility will really help you as you pursue this fresh start.

Blake: Awesome. Thank you, everybody, for joining us on another episode of Focus on This. The word on the street is this is the most productive podcast on the worldwide web, so share it with your friends. Don’t be shy. Tell them you think they are completely unproductive and you would like to change their life. And don’t forget to join our Full Focus Planner Community on Facebook. Listen. Facebook is a scary place, but there’s a safe community filled with a lot of smart people who are there to help you: the Full Focus Planner Community. Search it out on Facebook.

Courtney: That’s right. We’ll be back next week with another great episode. Until then…

Both: Stay focused!