Focus On This Podcast

108. 3 Mental Shifts to Win in Q4



You’re coming to the end of the year, and you’re tired. Momentum has slowed, and you’ve fallen behind on your goals. You know the holidays are coming, which will take huge chunks of the time you have left. You feel behind before you even start the fourth quarter. Should you just write it off and start thinking about next year? Or is there a way to actually make gains in these last few months? 

In this episode, Courtney, Verbs, and Blake walk you through three mental shifts you need to make so you can win in the final quarter of the year. They show you how to hit pause and give yourself a chance to reset, so you can take full advantage of the time you have left and cross the finish line with confidence. 

In this episode, you’ll discover—

  • The mindset-shifting power of revisiting your why 
  • Why arbitrarily going down your to-do list is the wrong strategy
  • How to reset the narrative that connects what you do to who you are
  • The far-reaching effects of appreciating people versus the tasks they do

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Episode Transcript

Verbs: Welcome to another episode of Focus on This, the most productive podcast on the Internet, so you can banish distractions, get the right stuff done, and finally start loving Mondays. I’m Verbs, here with my colleagues Courtney Baker and Blake Stratton. Happy Monday to you both.

Courtney: Happy Monday.

Blake: Wow. Everyone driving in their car just breathed a huge sigh of relief, because they were like, “Oh, thank God. Verbs is back. Wow.”

Courtney: Verbs is back.

Blake: That was tough, but good to have you back.

Verbs: Thank you, sir. I appreciate it.

Blake: I’m excited for this topic. We’re talking mindsets. It’s a little scuba, you guys. It sounds like we’re going to go deep on this episode, so I’m excited for where it takes us.

Courtney: Okay. But before we go deep, can we go the opposite?

Verbs: This is at surface.

Courtney: Verbs, you missed us on the most recent episode, but Blake and I talked about Trapper Keepers. The Full Focus Community is lit up with Trapper Keeper nostalgia now. Everybody is talking about their Trapper Keepers. They’re posting which ones they had. Blake said this right before we started this episode: “Is Trapper Keeper still around, and what do we have to do to get them to produce these things again?”

Blake: More importantly, Courtney, what do we have to do to get a joint venture going?

Courtney: I know.

Blake: Full Focus Trapper Keeper. It’s kind of begging for it.

Courtney: It seems obvious.

Nick: There was some talk about somebody creating a Trapper Keeper cover for the planner.

Courtney: That’s genius.

Verbs: That would be a win.

Courtney: Well, if anybody could do it, we should do it.

Nick: That’s why you’re on the show, Courtney.

Courtney: Okay. Yeah. Good point. But, guys, I saw this message thread in the Full Focus Community… By the way, if you’re listening and you’re not in this community… This community is so great. It is such a helpful community of people. I’m serious. People ask questions, like, things they’re stuck with or something they need help with, and it’s just such an amazing group of people. I love it so much. But somebody posted about the one and only Lisa Frank. Verbs, Nick, Blake, who remembers Lisa Frank? Do any of you remember Lisa Frank?

Verbs: I remember Lisa Frank’s work. I don’t know if I would remember her by her name, but I definitely remember the work.

Courtney: You do. Okay. Well, after I saw those posts in the Full Focus Community, I was like, “You know what? I might still have a Trapper Keeper.” So I went and pulled down… I kind of risked my life to pull down this box that says, “Courtney’s childhood memories.” Guys, I did not find a Trapper Keeper, but I did find a Lisa Frank note from my friend. Check it out…Misty talking about a boyfriend. It was a really funny note. I shared it with Nick earlier. I was like, “Just so you know, I did not write this. This is a girl named Misty who I do not remember.” But just evidence of the Lisa Frank era. I really do wish I still had a Trapper Keeper.

Nick: You have to read the note.

Courtney: Oh my gosh.

Blake: I mean, is Misty… Like, are they still together? How did that go?

Nick: Well, if you read the note…

Courtney: Okay. This has to be like fifth or sixth grade, maybe seventh grade. “Well, I had a lot of boyfriends, but I’ve dumped them because of something. I dumped Jamie, the 15-year-old. So, Sam had a guy friend, and me and him got to know each other, so we both decided to go out, and his name is…” On the back: “…Beau. He’s 13 or 14, but he is very sweet and nice to me. He has already given me a necklace. We started going out August 4, and so far it’s great. Sorry so sloppy. Love ya, Misty.”

Blake: “LYLAS.”

Courtney: Oh. “Love you like a sister.” L-Y-L-A-S. Guys, this is pre-text messaging. There you go…acronyms.

Blake: Wow. Well, thank God Misty finally found love after that long pursuit.

Courtney: If only we knew Misty.

Nick: A Google search for “Misty and Beau” did not turn up any marriages.

Courtney: Darn!

Verbs: No registries out there for Misty and Beau.

Quarter 4. The good thing we have working in our favor is it’s not over yet, and there are 90 days left. So, even though we see that the end of the clock is winding down, we still have the advantage of using the time we have left. It’s not over yet. Holidays are coming. They’ll come anyway, but let’s just start to think about these 90 days and how we can use them best with our time with high-leverage activity, just think through those things before we count it all a loss as the year is about to wrap.

Blake: This is real for me, you guys. I just bought something, and I keep it on my desk, because I need to be inspired for Q4 to not worry about the scoreboard but to be worried about my processes, how I’m going to show up, what I’ve decided I’m going to do, who I’m going to be. So I bought this just to see my friend here. Now, for our radio audience, you guys can’t see this.

Verbs: I’m on video and I can’t see it.

Blake: Here’s my guy.

Courtney: I can’t even tell who that is.

Verbs: Is that David Hasselhoff?

Blake: It’s Sir Thomas Brady, and this is his book The TB12 Method, which is a glorified big magazine ad for all of his products, but it’s fantastic, and I love it. I literally keep it on my desk, because I’m like, “What would Tommy do? Is it 28-3 right now? Is that what it feels like? No. It’s not over yet. Let’s go get the ring.”

Nick: They probably taped the other locker room.

Blake: Oh, Nick is a sore loser. He’s a Kansas City Chiefs guy, I assume.

Nick: I was a Rams fan, of course.

Blake: Oh, you’re a Rams fan.

Nick: We don’t have time for this.

Blake: He has basically beaten everyone, so you could be a fan of anything.

Courtney: So, Blake, what you’re saying is when it comes to the fourth quarter, the way you motivate yourself is you put people who can crush the fourth quarter, literally… Again, we talk about sports analogies all the time because, really, we are playing our version of sports. Our sport is our profession. In a lot of ways, it is good to look at those parallels of “Okay. How do you leave it all on the field?” Instead of being like, “Okay. Let’s just forget about this year. Let’s start fresh,” to really use the urgency of what’s left in this year to make the most of it.

Blake: So, if you’re struggling, if you’re looking at the scoreboard and going, “Gosh. Is this year just a wash? I’m so far behind,” or whatever, remember that you can have a mental shift. You can pause. I think a way to trigger this… You can just look at Tom Brady. That helps me. But if you really want to grab ahold of it or if you’re a sore loser like Nick, what you need to do is revisit your why.

Think about “Wait a second. What is this all for? What am I building toward? What really motivates me?” It’s not just about this year. It’s about the life you’re building. So, don’t look at the scoreboard. Revisit your why and decide “How do I want to show up in the fourth quarter regardless of how it lands?” I think that’s the mindset that will take you to a really strong finish of the year.

Verbs: I would add to what you just said, Blake… Not that this is a pushback, but I would say it is important to at least look at the scoreboard so you know how much time is in the game, and then you can formulate a plan accordingly.

Blake: That’s true.

Verbs: I would say, for me, at this point in the year, going into Q4, I want to enjoy the holiday time with my family with as little pressure as possible. Once Thanksgiving hits and we’re in that zone between Thanksgiving and Christmas, it’s like, “Man, we’re winding down the year. I want to be able to enjoy these things with my family and have a good family time.”

That signals me to say, “All right. Well, if you want that to happen, then you have to look at whatever is on your work plate a little bit differently and make sure everything has its necessary spots to be able to land the plane into the holidays and be in that mode of ‘Okay. I can enjoy this. I can be present as well.’” That helps me start to think through my Q4 a little bit more intensively, especially coming into the end of the year.

Blake: So, the first mindset is “It’s not over yet.” The second one we want to talk about today is the right stuff, not all the stuff. Courtney, what do we mean by that?

Courtney: Well, when we get to the fourth quarter, our to-do list can start looking like a junk drawer. All of those things that we’ve said, “Okay. We’re going to delay that. We’re going to push that to the fourth quarter…” You know, that house project you just kept putting off because it was really hot this summer. Just all of the things you’ve wanted to do. You can keep pushing them, and now you have so much here at the very end.

In addition, a lot of times, people are taking vacations in the midst of the fourth quarter. Usually you have fall break. You have, obviously, Thanksgiving and Christmas. It can be very overwhelming when you look at everything you have to do with a limited amount of time as far as a quarter goes. We talk about this all the time, but productivity isn’t about getting everything done; it’s about getting the right stuff done.

Being intentional about thinking about your work is really what’s going to move you forward on figuring out “What is the right stuff?” versus just arbitrarily going down a list of things that need to get done. I don’t think that’s going to get you anywhere but feeling overwhelmed at the end of this quarter.

Blake: Something I’ll do, kind of a mental exercise I’ll do when I’m having a consultation with a small business owner is I’ll say, “Hey, imagine that it’s New Year’s Eve. You’re pouring your spouse a little flute of champagne. You’re so happy. You feel so proud. Why? What things happened this year?” I’d ask our listeners this question. Imagine that it’s New Year’s Eve and you’re like, “Oh my gosh! What an amazing finish. I’m so glad that…” Fill in the blank.

What you’ll find is that it really clarifies, almost filters, all of those little things. It’s like, “Oh man. I’m really glad I always showed up to that weekly meeting that didn’t really go anywhere that we probably should have just canceled,” blah, blah, blah. You’ll think about the major things. “I’m so glad we were able to find and buy a house” or “I’m so glad I was able to sign on X number of clients,” or whatever it is that would give you that feeling. Let that be a guiding light as you consider “What should my Big 3 be for the quarter in terms of goals?” or “What should my Weekly Big 3 be this week?”

Courtney: That’s a really great tool to use, that frame of mind of how you want to feel at the end of this year. It is a great hack. But I think every day, as you’re evaluating what your Daily Big 3 are for the day, it’s just to ask yourself, “Am I doing the right stuff today?” Because it is really easy, when you feel overwhelmed, to get sucked into the trap of just doing what is easy, which, for a lot of people, is just doing the next email in your inbox or spending all day answering Slack messages, just doing the stuff that is easy, but not the important stuff. So, this is a really great mindset shift for this quarter when, probably more than any other quarter, your to-do list can be really long.

Verbs: All right. Moving on to the third mindset, and this is an important shift for everybody, because we all have to process through this. The third mindset is “I am not what I do.” It’s easy for all of us to get mixed up with what we’re able to bring to the table or what we produce as a person at work or even at home, and we work ourselves into the ground because we’re in this mode of trying to continue to be productive, trying to hit the deadline, and our identities get connected to that sometimes.

Blake: All right, Courtney. As the resident Enneagram Three of the bunch, why don’t you put on your scuba gear and see how deep you can go on this one.

Courtney: But I don’t want to. I’m kidding. Gosh, this one hits so home for me.

Verbs: Take your time. Take your time.

Courtney: I know, Blake, you’re just ready to go. You’re like, “Let’s have all of the feelings and jump in.”

Blake: Yeah. I’m just seeing if we can get Courtney to cry on this episode. That’s kind of my main objective. I try to put that in the edit. We’ll see. No, I’m teasing, but I think we all struggle with this to some degree…I know I do…where you feel like, “Hey, I’ve fallen behind.” To me, Verbs articulated really well this need to always be doing more.

For me, what it looks like is this feeling of “I haven’t done enough” or if I’m behind on a goal or it’s the fourth quarter and, realistically, it’s “I probably need to adjust the timeline on that” or “I have to change that because it’s just no longer going to be possible…” To me, I can take those losses as losses or failures. You know, treating a missed goal deadline as a failure… It’s like we’re just one step away from going “Oh, I’m actually a failure. I don’t do goals well. I can’t do X, Y, and Z.”

The reason we need to shift this mindset before we get going in the fourth quarter is because taking that feeling into the end of your year is not a recipe for success. You’re asking for tougher days. You begin to live with that expectation of… You take on that identity of “I’m behind. I can’t manage it. I’m overwhelmed all the time because there’s always more to do.” So, that’s sort of what it looks like more in my life, you know, this one of shifting to “I’m not what I do.”

Verbs: I think that’s good, because then we’ve created not only a time hurdle that we perceive is coming but also an emotional and mental hurdle, that whatever we set out to try to accomplish begins to drag, and it makes it that much harder to try to just make it to the end of the year in a healthy place.

Blake: Probably a scuba level we won’t be able to reach on this podcast is where you’re going to source your identity from. We could start a whole other podcast, and I would host that podcast gladly. That answer is going to be different for people in different walks of life, different belief systems, and so on and so forth, but it does kind of naturally lead to that. Right? Probably the easiest way to stop believing you are what you do is to start believing that you get your identity from something else besides what you do.

We’re not here to necessarily prescribe that, but I would prescribe searching that out or reinforcing that. Maybe it’s a religious or a God belief you have. Maybe it’s “Hey, I create who I am, and I’m choosing this, and this is what I’m…” Whatever the case may be, I think that’s the way out of this: recognizing you have permission to not be held hostage to what you do as your source of what you are, but you get to actually be an active participant.

Your belief system around that is huge, because if you believe, “Failure is just part of the process. I am successful. My nature is I pursue and achieve success,” then a failure doesn’t feel like a failure. That’s why it’s so powerful to take that into the fourth quarter: because regardless of the scoreboard, regardless of other people’s behavior…your clients, your boss, whatever…you can still win.

Verbs: I think we can say, if you’re listening and you are a human being, then that alone… You have inherent value in who you are, which far surpasses anything you’re going to be able to do at work or in this lifetime in general. By the fact that you are a human being you have inherent value, and that’s important for you to know.

Courtney: I would just add… For me, when I’ve had these seasons… Again, this is a really deep topic, but once you get in this cycle, it’s hard to get out. It can keep propelling itself deeper and deeper. For me, one of the ways I’ve been able to reset in these moments is just putting voice to those feelings.

I think a lot of times we just let those simmer, and we start creating narratives around those things, and we start projecting what people may be thinking about certain failures or our performance at work. It can really shape your worldview. So, I think giving voice to those, either with someone you trust or your therapist, who would certainly be great at guiding you through that, or Blake… I think that’s really important. It has really helped me reset in my life.

Verbs: Courtney, that’s good. Another way we could possibly also help others is anytime… Let’s say you’re working on a team, and somebody does something that helps somebody else out, and they say, “Hey, I appreciate you getting this done,” or something that’s attached to a task or an effort they’re just appreciating them for.

But also adding on to that, “Beyond what you’re able to do, I just appreciate you as a person,” just so we add a little bit of friction against “Well, they’re just thanking me because I was able to provide this for them,” but bringing it back to, “Hey, I appreciate what you did, but I just appreciate who you are as a person.” Thinking through that, I think, is a way for us to help others break that flow of thought of “Well, I’m only important and have value because of what I bring work-wise to a team.”

Courtney: Verbs, that’s so good. I think that’s true with our kids too. That applies on so many different levels. That’s really, really wise.

Verbs: So, the good news is you don’t have to fall behind or burn out in the fourth quarter. You can achieve success by resetting your thinking to remind yourself that it’s not over yet, that the goal is to get the right stuff done, and that you are not what you do. Blake, Courtney, any final thoughts for our Focus on This listeners today?

Blake: I have a final thought.

Courtney: I’m scared.

Blake: The good news is it’s not as deep as you think it’s going to be. It’s really not deep at all. I’ve tried to go deep and do a big mental shift before, and sometimes I find a lot of resistance to that. Usually, it’s because I’m making that attempt almost like… To continue the scuba analogy, it’s almost like I’m making that attempt with low oxygen in the tank.

So, my final thought is if you’re feeling down, skeptical, critical, cynical about this upcoming quarter and how you could finish out the year really strong, my advice is to do what you need to do to get to a place to feel good, to feel inspired, before you start to look at things like, “Man! How do I make this mental shift?” or “How can I do this better?” or “How can I brainstorm?” Don’t brainstorm or try to do this type of stuff from a place of feeling really down or feeling really exhausted.

For some of you, maybe it’s “Hey, I need to set an appointment where it’s just a few hours, and all I’m doing is reading a book that inspires me,” or a biography or listening to an interview. You know, go on YouTube, and who are people who inspire you? Search out an interview you can listen to. I do this all the time, almost every day, just to get up for the day, like, “Oh, yeah. People are doing amazing things. I can do amazing things too.” Then, once you feel that energy and that emotional lift, that’s the time to try to do… That fills the oxygen tank, so to speak, so you can do that deep dive.

Courtney: I also have a final thought.

Blake: Double final thought!

Verbs: Bring it.

Courtney: Verbs, Blake, I think you did exceptionally well in this episode, but I would also like to tell you that I appreciate you both.

Verbs: Yes!

Blake: Just for who I am?

Courtney: Just for who you are, even though you don’t text me.

Blake: Thank you, Courtney.

Courtney: You’re welcome.

Verbs: Thank you, Courtney. I guess we should say we appreciate you too at this point.

Blake: Yeah, I know. I appreciate you too.

Courtney: You can save it for later. I’m just kidding.

Verbs: When it’s more authentic, I will. Yes.

Courtney: That’s right.

Verbs: Thanks for joining us on Focus on This. This is the most productive podcast on the Internet, so please share it with your friends. And don’t forget. Join us in the Full Focus Planner Community on Facebook. This is where you will catch all of the Trapper Keeper conversations and many more ongoing references from the 80s and 90s. We can’t wait to see you there in the group. We will be here next week with another great episode. Until then…

All: Stay focused!