Retreat, Reset, Results: Why We Need to Step Back More Often to Boost Productivity


“For fools rush in where angels fear to tread.” – Alexander Pope, An Essay on Criticism

We live in a world where speed and quantity dominates. Bigger, faster, better, stronger is the motto that a lot of people shoot for, but many tend to spend more time on getting faster so that they can build more things – and they feel as if they’ll do better every time they start something new with that motto in mind.

But that’s not always the case. In fact, it’s often the opposite.

I’ve fallen prey to that more time than I’d like to admit, and I did so again recently with the impending relaunch of Productivityist. I figured that if I announced a launch date, then it would happen. Heck, I had every intention of making it happen. But intention without attention is powerless, and that’s exactly what happened with the new-look website.

I failed to step back and take a look at everything I had on my plate and overestimated my ability to give the website relaunch the attention it needed to be done well. As the publicly announced launch date crept closer, I increased my efforts, but I ran into obstacles that may not have been insurmountable, but certainly were going to slow me down. Even as late as the day before the launch, I worked towards making it happen. But the writing was on the wall: the launch wouldn’t be happening. Not unless I wanted to deliver sub-par results.

So what did I do when I finally conceded that the launch would have to be wait?

I took a step back.

I really looked at what it would take to get the new site up and running at a level that I would really take things to the next level. I examined my current obligations – family-wise, project-wise, and travel-wise – and determined how much attention I’d be able to give the site with everything else going on. I also took into account what I’d need to do with other members of my team to make it happen in a manner that was effective first and efficient second.

I wouldn’t have been able to do this if I had just rushed in again. I’d already proven that. Instead, by taking a step back and really being “attentional” with my intentions (which meant being realistic, among other things) I was able to formulate a plan of action that made sense.

I’ve learned a lot in my forty years, and only one week after turning forty I learned a couple of more things about what I’m willing and not willing to do when it comes to my life and my work:

  1. I am not going to publicly announce a reveal or release until the “thing” is closer to being ready. In the past I’ve announced well before then – as a way of creating accountability – but with so many irons in the fire and more demands on my time with Productivityist Coaching now part of my work, it doesn’t make sense.
  2. I need to step back and learn to say “no” to myself more often. I’m getting much better at saying “no” to others but I’m not as good at saying “no” to my own ideas and projects. The thing about saying “no” to myself is that it’s an internal conversation, so I can always revisit the idea or project at a later date and still bring things to life if I so choose. I don’t always have that option when I turn down things presented to me by other people.

The Retreat

As I write this piece, I’m sitting in Case Study Coffee in Portland, preparing to immerse myself in another World Domination Summit experience. I’ve had a great time in the previous three years I’ve come to Portland for this amazing entrepreneurial event created by Chris Guillebeau, as I’ve written about every year:

I expect this year to be another instance of a much-needed recharge, renewal, and reset. I actually consider the World Domination Summit to be a retreat for me – a massive “stepping back” of sorts.

Back when I launched my Ready Retreat Series of ebooks (which eventually evolved into The Productivityist Workbook), I named them as such because I believe that sometimes you need to step back – or “retreat” – in order to be “ready” to move forward in the right direction.

In military terms, a retreat isn’t so much a surrender as it is a withdrawal. When military forces do this, they’re stepping back and resetting themselves (perhaps to consolidate forces or establish themselves in better terrain for combat), but they are maintaining contact with the enemy all the while in some form or another. When you take on too much, some of those things you take on can be a lot like the enemy. In those instances, the best thing you can do is consciously step back – or tactically retreat – so that you can really strategize your next move.

The Reset

I’ve made some conscious choices as I ramp up my attention to the new website while still paying attention to the website in its current iteration:

First off, once I finish my week-long decompression after this year’s Wolrd Domination Summit I’m only going to publish twice weekly – Mondays and Thursdays – until the launch (and likely beyond). As Tsh Oxenreider has said, “Consistency trumps frequency.” By delivering content twice weekly, I’m still providing content as the site is getting ready and not neglecting my readers in the process. Plus, I’ll be writing more expansive posts, which I’m really looking forward to doing.

Secondly, I’ll be spending more time on Google Plus (both at the Productivityist page and at my personal page and other social platforms sharing productivity-related news along the way to offset the shift in blog post frequency. There’s a lot to cover in this space, and a lot of what is going on can be covered in a Facebook update or quick YouTube video rather than a short blog post.

Finally – and although somewhat unrelated – Mikes on Mics will be getting a facelift. We’ll be rebranding the show as “Workflowing” (named after the collaborative website that Michael Schechter and I worked on for a bit last year). The posting date may change from Fridays, but that’s yet to be determined. The show itself will remain largely intact, albeit with having occasional guest hosts and guests as either Schechter or myself may be absent from time to time. And we’ll also be staying on 5by5, which is great news all around.

Everything else will stay the same. The Productivityist Newsletter will still be published bi-weekly on Wednesdays. I’ll still be writing for other sites, including Medium. How am I going to keep up with this workload? I have my ways.

The Results

After taking the time to step back, I feel as if a weight has been lifted off of my shoulders. I feel as if my productivity system and workflow can support me once again because I’ve gotten out of its way – and so have the other things that I brought with me to help me block its path. I know that over the next few days at the World Domination Summit that I’ll gain even more resolve to move things forward in the direction that I really want to go in. I know the only way I can take all that this event has to offer is to step back and make it happen.

Don’t be afraid to retreat when overwhelm sets in. You’ll have a much better view of where you want to go by stepping back and seeing the whole landscape. And when you’re ready to move forward with intention, you’ll have a much better chance of being more effective and efficient along the way.


  1. Ciara Conlon says

    Enjoy the Summit and good luck with new website. Thanks for the reminder to slow down I think we all have difficulty with that part!

    • says

      Thanks, Ciara. WDS was excellent once again…and I’m certainly glad I slowed down so I could take it all in and get ready for the next phase of Productivityist.

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