My approach as productivity coach







March 15, 2022

An overview of how I think about coaching in general and productivity coaching in particular, with a focus on soft, inner productivity skills.

I do 1:1 productivity coaching with a select number of people. Below is an overview of how I think about coaching in general and productivity coaching in particular. Book a free consulting slot on my calendar here if you'd like to know more about Saent and productivity coaching.

A definition of coaching

A coach facilitates the performance, learning, and development of another person. The purpose of the coach is to "enable individual genius."

The coach believes that people have their own answers because they are naturally creative, resourceful, and whole. The coach helps create an environment of safety, clarity, and reflection in which such answers can emerge.

Coaching is not the same as mentoring. A mentor acts as a role model, gives advice, and is considered more knowledgeable than the person being mentored. A real coach doesn't offer advice but leads the coachee to their own solutions. For this reason, coach and coachee are not on different levels; they are peers.

My Co-active coaching trainer Jeff Jacobson, a senior faculty member at the Coaches Training Institute, gave this metaphor for the difference between excellent versus ineffective coaching:

"Let's imagine a football match. The ball is the issue that the client needs to deal with. An ineffective coach might focus solely on the ball, and how to get it closer to the goal, but a good coach focuses on the player. The player needs to deal with the ball. The job of the coach is to make the player realize he can indeed deal with the ball, and to help him grow to be the best player possible."

This view of coaching doesn't mean the coach never takes the role of mentor, teacher, or advisor. The coach might do so when "there is a technique or approach that the coach knows, and that the player could not work out for himself, or that it would take more time for the player to work out himself than is available."

My approach to productivity coaching

"To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts." - Henry David Thoreau

The purpose of human productivity—as opposed to the economic variant—should not be more output but more fulfillment:

  • The achievement of something desired, promised, or predicted.
  • Satisfaction or happiness as a result of fully developing one's abilities or character.

Productivity should create a positive feedback loop between working and living. A rich life fuels creativity and energy, which improves your work. You'll perform well because of this balance and experience fulfillment on most days.

Inner versus outer productivity

Our productivity coaching helps people find such fulfillment by developing soft, inner productivity skills. This "inner game" of productivity is mainly unrecognized but matters most to a creative knowledge worker's performance and well-being.

The hard, outer game of productivity is well-known. Most productivity, management, and startup theories are still based on efficiency and maximization of output, not on creativity, well-being, and fulfillment. They focus on to-do lists, time management, and goal setting. You'll hear terms like Inbox Zero, hustling, and getting shit done.

Inner productivity doesn't ignore those topics but believes that, in modern knowledge work, every idea, action, and creation starts within your mind. If we skip that arena of the inner game, we might get some results from improving our outer game, but they'll be suboptimal at best.

As the Agile Manifesto does with activities related to software development, our productivity approach sees value in hard, outer productivity skills but values the inner ones more.

Four elements of inner productivity

Our approach rests on four fundamental areas that reinforce each other and together make up inner productivity.

1. Calm

The definition of equanimity best captures the purpose of calm: Mental calmness, composure, and evenness of temper, especially in a difficult situation.

Calm spans a range of topics, from having a clear mind to dealing with stress and self-doubt.

2. Understanding

The ability to understand something, but also having good judgment and accurate perception.

Understanding touches on topics like dealing with inputs (information), learning, and self-awareness.

3. Focus

The ability to give your full attention to the most valuable activity you could be engaged in at a particular moment.

Focus touches on topics like concentration, attention, distractions, and prioritization.

4. Balance

Appropriately distributing your attention and energy across the areas of life that matter to you, leading to harmony and synergy.

Balance touches on topics like work-life balance, time-management, energy, and health.

The purpose of (inner) productivity coaching is to find an individual's optimal state in each area, leading to outer productivity and fulfillment.

An inner productivity approach also acknowledges that each person's life and work styles are different. Therefore, coaching—as defined earlier—is essential, not teaching, mentoring, or advising.

Our understanding of productivity isn't static. It's constantly evolving as participants and coaches make discoveries together, experiment, and learn from each other.

I do 1:1 productivity coaching with a select number of people. Book a free consulting slot on my calendar here if you'd like to know more about Saent and productivity coaching.


Footnotes and references

The above definition of coaching takes inspiration and quotes from Effective Modern Coaching (book) and the Co-active Coaching methodology.

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