Just think of all the books we could have written if only we had time! Isn’t this the oldest excuse in the book? It’s time to overcome this and just start writing! In this episode, Robin Colucci interviews author, speaker, and high-performance expert Steven Griffith to ask about the ways we can navigate the time aspect when writing a book. Steven talks about the many distractions we encounter in this day and age and how the tools and techniques taught before don’t work anymore. He then spills the system he developed that helped him get a book deal, sharing with you how you can eliminate wasted time and bring out the best that you can give into your work. All of this on time management and more as Steven gives us a peek into his book, The Time Cleanse. Join him and catch all the great tips and tricks to add to your toolbelt in this episode.
Watch the episode here
Listen to the podcast here
The Time Cleanse: Steven Griffith Shares How You Can Overcome The Oldest Excuse in The Book for Why You Aren’t Writing
We are going to talk about a mindset or belief that many aspiring authors have, which is this idea of, “I want to write a book but I don’t have enough time. I’m busy. My calendar is full. I have many obligations. I can’t find the time to write my book.” It is painful when you want to do something and you can’t see how you can find the time.
To answer that issue, I’ve invited Steven Griffith to come share with us. He is an author, speaker, researcher and high-performance expert, who for over 25 years has been a trusted advisor and coach to successful CEOs, entrepreneurs, executives, professional and amateur athletes. Also, in organizations, including the US military, Jimmy Kimmel Live!, and members of the NBA, MLB, NFL and NHL. His book, The Time Cleanse, was published in 2018 by McGraw Hill, and he’s going to share many gems of wisdom from this book with us. You’ll be pleased with what you’d learn.
Steven, welcome to the show.When we're performing with time, we're in the flow, things are happening, and we're at our best. Click To Tweet
It’s great to be here, Robin.
It’s so much fun to be able to have this conversation with you. We’ve known each other for a while now. It’s been fun to watch your evolution as a professional, and how both of us have grown so much over the past several years. The purpose of our conversation is to talk about this amazing book that you have, The Time Cleanse, and we’re going to specifically talk about how you navigate this time aspect when you are writing a book. Maybe we could start out by having you talk a little bit about The Time Cleanse book and the gist of what it is.
When we met, I had self-published a few books. As a performance coach, while I was working with my entrepreneurs and executives, the biggest issue that would come up would be the issue of time. In one week, every client had the same roadblock and same exact language, “I don’t have enough time.” I saw how it was affecting those clients and myself as well. I made a decision, “Why is it now that we’re having such a difficult time?”
I researched and got my hands in everything I could. In that research, I found out one thing, that we had this adversarial relationship with time. That was the key to why we’re being held back. The tools and the techniques we’re using were completely outdated. A lot of those things that were established were we didn’t have an iPhone and we weren’t being distracted 24/7. When people would try to start managing their time, it was even worse. I ended up researching, developing a system, getting a book deal with McGraw Hill, and then absolutely using every one of those tools inside that book to write the book.
One of the things that stood out for me when I was reading your book was how you blew up this concept of time management. Talk to us a little bit about that because this is still conventional wisdom, “I’ve got to manage my time.”
We had the Olympics. No Olympian goes out and says, “I’m going to manage my performance.” Everybody is thinking, “I’m going to go and get a gold medal. I’m going to manage myself.” You’re going to give 100% and you’re going to perform with your time. I wrote the whole book from the perspective of performances because when we’re performing with time, we’re in the flow, things are happening, and we’re at our best. When we get into managing time, time becomes a finite amount of space, if you will, and it adds pressure. That’s the biggest thing.
When you understand that time is here for you to manifest and get all your gifts in the world, and it’s on our side, everything changes. That’s why what I write about and what I coach about is simple. Time is your most important relationship. When you realize, “Time comes from me. I’m in charge of it,” everything changes.
There’s so much powerful stuff in there. This whole idea of time being there for you, what do you say when people tell you, “I don’t have enough time?”
I love it. I’ve heard it 1,000 times. A good example is I was flying back from a speaking engagement and I was sitting next to a retired teacher. She’s a nice lady. She asked me what I was doing and I said, “I’m on a final manuscript to turn in. I just got done speaking.” She was asking a lot of good questions. I got into a little deeper conversation with her and I said, “Have you ever said, ‘If time allows or my schedule allows?’” She said, “Absolutely.” I paused and I looked at her and said, “Whose time? Who’s allowing you?” Her jaw dropped.
I said, “The reason I’m asking you this is this belief system that somehow time is outside of us, and then we need permission.” She finally said, “A long time.” I said, “Exactly.” When I was researching, I did a deep dive into words that are being researched. By the way, time is the number one researched personal development word. It’s also my research that the number one excuse why people don’t have what they want, they’re not doing what they want, New Year’s resolutions, and all of that stuff is it’s related to time.
That is the other one, “I can’t find the time.”
I’m doing The Time Cleanse process with thousands of people now. When I start, usually people are arms across, “You’re not going to teach me anything. There’s no time.” One of the things that we found in the research is that when you inventory where you’re spending your time, people become shocked at how much is being wasted. When people say, “I don’t have enough time,” the first thing I tell them is, “It’s an absolute illusion.” The average person, when they go through The Time Cleanse, gets back a minimum of fifteen hours a week. Until they go through it, they don’t believe it. I had to reduce the average amount of time back that I see because my publisher was like, “Those numbers are too big.”
People will believe you. I thought it was more like twenty hours.
Especially with technology, that’s an area where people get back their time. In the process, the first thing that I do to give your readers an overview is, first of all, decide what’s important to you? What do you want? Why do you want it? That’s number one, getting yourself aligned with your values and your purpose. The second step is inventorying every place you spend time, the worksheet we take people through. That’s where you start getting the time back. The third part of the book is where do you reinvest it? What we’re going to talk a lot about is how do you perform? How do you set up your day? Perform half time on your side and not just drop into a heap of dust at the end of the day.
Talk to us a little bit about your process of how you found your performance in order to write your book.
We’ve talked in detail, self-publishing is its own process. When you’re with a big publisher, that’s a whole other process. It’s still writing a book, but it is apples and oranges as you know. The thing that I needed to do and that I did do is number one, you have to create the time to write. I’m running a business and now I’m writing a book, which is another full-time job.
I talk about this a lot when it comes to New Year’s resolutions. The reason people fail their New Year’s resolution is not motivation. It’s time. You can’t put an exercise and nutrition program on top of a full schedule and think it’s going to happen. That means you have to eliminate the things that are absolutely not aligned with your purpose. That’s the space you have now to go for that goal, that New Year’s resolution, or what we’re talking about here, writing a book.
The first thing that I did was eliminate all distractions, people that were stealing my time, where I was letting them steal my time, and behaviors and habits that weren’t supporting me. I’m in my writing room creating an environment that supports you in your writing, a place where you can sit and be comfortable in dedicating those hours to scheduling. I knew what I was doing every day, “Here’s what I’m writing.”When we get into managing time, it becomes a finite amount of space. And that adds pressure. Click To Tweet
One of the things that’s important is to understand what hours of the day you are a good writer. For me, first thing in the morning, that golden 4 or 5 hours. I start setting up my day and say, “How can I perform at my best? It would be in the morning.” As deadlines start to get closer, that starts to extend. There’s something that I talk about, which is making it non-negotiable. I wrote every day. There are days that I woke up and that’s the last thing I wanted to do. It’s having agreed to keep going.
One of the things I found helpful for myself is when I was in that area where I didn’t want to write, I was a little bit more self-compassionate with myself. We know with self-compassion, that’s kindness to yourself in the face of adversity or challenges you might have. We know from the research that the more self-compassionate we are, the higher we will perform. We become the inner coach, the inner supporter versus beating ourselves up, all the negative self-talk. That was helpful because it also reduces time pressure.
This is one thing I want to share, especially with writing. We can get caught up in time pressure, “I’ve got to get this done.” As soon as we’re in that talk, we’re no longer having a relationship with time as supportive, and our performance goes down and our stress goes up. Knowing that there is enough time, and if I use it right, I will perform and I will get it done, allows the process to be easier.
That requires that you be conscious because it seems like it’s almost a default or an automatic response for a lot of people, including myself. I can point to many times I’ve been like, “You’ve got to do this. You’re messing it up if you don’t get it done on time.” To have that self-compassion piece, how did you come to that realization?
It’s a great question because it wasn’t easy. I am still a recovering non-compassionate person. It is a work in progress. As an athlete, I grew up with, “It’s never good enough,” and you’re always trying to get to the next level. The coaching that I received as a young man was not compassionate. It was personalized about your identity.
One of the words that I introduced in the book is called timefulness. Timefulness is a niched-down version of mindfulness. It’s being present, aware and intentional with your time. If we break it down, present means, “I’m here now. I’m here where I’m sitting. My feet are here. I’m intentional and focused on what I’m doing with my time.”
Your question is good because it creates awareness. There’s an awareness of what’s going on. That’s the first step to performing and getting in the flow state. We’ve got to be aware, “Where’s my mind? Where’s the body?” My daily practices of exercise, meditation, good nutrition and getting in nature, I kept that all together while I was writing. I knew that I had to keep my North Star because there are highs and lows when you’re writing. You get your manuscript back. You think it’s the best thing and now you’ve got to go back in there and make the adjustments.
No matter what was coming at me, it was taking that break and going, “What can I control? What is good right now? What could be good?” That’s the optimistic mindset. Utilizing time and always getting back to my why. With the lowest days of my book writing and when it felt overwhelming, the thing that was my life raft was the why, “Why am I doing this? What is it that I’m going to birth into the world that will help people?” I took it out of me, focusing on me, tired, it’s not going well, and that always put me back on dry land.
I see that come up so often. It’s also the key to happiness. Instead of figuring out, “What can I do to be happy?” If you start thinking about, “How can I bring joy to someone else?” That always is the key to getting out of your funk. At least that’s what I found.
I shifted my belief a lot in my coaching. There was a lot of language that I would coach in my career about being happy. I realized if I want to focus on being happy, I’ll be 40 pounds overweight and watching Netflix all night. Now, my focus is happiness as part of it with success, but it’s about how to be relevant? How do I connect to my gifts and talents, and then bring them to the collective? That shifted me, as well as lots of my clients, in allowing a higher level of grit, facing adversity with passion, and it continued to go forward. If you’re only thinking about happiness, your happiness and grit don’t connect.
You’re not going to be happy every moment you’re writing your book, that’s for sure.
If you think you are or that’s what you’re focused on, it’s going to be a hard process. It’s difficult to write a book. You’re an amazing coach and writer yourself. You see with your clients where it gets a little sticky, and it should get a little sticky. If it doesn’t get a little sticky, how are you going to push yourself?
That reminds me of something else because I know you and I have both done a lot of study around the subconscious mind and how it can interfere with our goals. What I found is at some point in the book writing process, everybody hits their own wall. Sometimes it’s early, sometimes it’s at the end. A lot of times, something will come up that has the potential to steal their time. Tell us a little bit about that mechanism and how you navigate it.
It’s a good point because I was working with the collaborator who helped navigate the process, and in that, we were missing deadlines. That was an initial roadblock. They’re all part of the process. I had to double down on what I can control. I took back more of the project on my plate. Early on, right after I signed my book deal, they gave me the offering in December 2018 and finalized it in 2019. In the first month of writing, one of my close friends died. It was sudden. He was a medical professional, had a blood clot, and passed away instantly. No warning. It hit me hard because I’m writing about time, and part of the book that I talk about was we have a limited amount of time.
It was one of those things where I had to put into context what I was doing. I gave myself some time. I flew to Hawaii and did his eulogy. I used it as fuel to go deeper into what I was writing and why because you never know when your time is up. That’s one of the things that can be challenging in our life’s purpose. I talk about how death is one of the most motivating things that we have because we have a beginning and an end. If we didn’t have that, you and I probably wouldn’t be doing this show now.
We’d be talking about, “One day, we’re going to do it.”
The question is understanding that things are going to come up. It’s not a surprise. That was a surprise, but life’s events continue. The thing that I was a little naive on, I was like, “I’m going to write this book, run my business and stay healthy.” I’ve got three things going on here at once. I’ll jump into what was helpful for me.
I have one of my most important tools, and it’s expensive. Just kidding. It is a timer. One of the tools that I write about in the book for all people in performance is to start doing interval writing. What that means is setting your timer and shutting every single thing that can be shiny and flash. I like the interval of 55 minutes and a 7-minute rest. What I would do, and the reason I’m using this and not my iPhone is because that’s a dangerous tool, is I would write for 55 minutes, get up, get some tea, go outside for 7 to 10 minutes, and come back. That kept me on track. I started doing a couple of intervals.
I want to call it WIT or something.
What I realized is if you do 2 or 3 of those, that’s the equivalent of six hours. I was an Olympian at the WIT. For the last three weeks of writing, I was doing ten intervals a day. I had built myself up. I knew I couldn’t do that right away but once I was in that zone on the finish line, it was ten hours a day for a couple of weeks. It did take me a couple of weeks to recover after everything was finalized. What I tell people is, “You’d surprise yourself at the abilities you have once you go all in.” For me, it’s being unreasonable. Stop making reasons why you can’t. That was a great tool to advance my work production.
That’s incredible. I love that concept. Of course, with your athletic background, it seems like a perfect thing to come up with.
The thing I’ll add to the things that helped me is being clear with the people in your life. I did not know this ahead of time or something I developed and coached many times afterwards, which is communicating with your environment. Boyfriend, girlfriend, partner or whatever it might be, and making clear boundaries about what you’re willing to do, what you’re not, and what your writing time is.
I didn’t do that right away, and then I had all these pressures, “Can you go to this party? Can you come over here?” Finally, I compassionately communicated some boundaries, then it got a lot easier. It’s important in your life environment who you’re with, and that you’re communicating what you’re willing to do or not, and what the boundaries are.Death is actually one of the most motivating things that we have because we have a beginning and an end. Click To Tweet
Getting that cooperation or buy-in, if you will, in your life that is what you need.
99.999% of the people have never written a book and they can’t comprehend it. They don’t know, so you’ve got to explain to them what that is because they have no idea what you’re doing. You can sit down and read a few pages and all of a sudden, magically, there’s a book on a shelf.
How hard could it be?
I’m self-publishing a few books before I have even a more immense honoring of any book that’s in a bookstore. I don’t care what I believe about that book. What it took to get on that shelf is not easy, and it can be done.
I’ll never forget when I was at the Barnes & Noble on Fifth Avenue in late 2019, and there it was The Time Cleanse.
You sent me a picture. We hadn’t talked for a little while. You’re like, “I’m in the bookstore.”
You made it to Fifth Avenue.
That was a joyous day when you said that out of the randomness of life.
What fun it is to see a good friend’s book on the shelf. It’s a true joy. One of the other things I remember from your book is you were talking about time as an asset. Share a little bit about that point of view because that stuck with me.
We were investing money. I invest money in a home, my pet and experiences, but we don’t think about time like that. The paradox is this, as we know, we’re all going to die but we’re not thinking about that. We’re not waking up like, “This is my last day.” The calendar pages can start flipping. When you start thinking, “This is an asset for me to be relevant and to make a difference on the planet. For me, my family, my business, the collective, it becomes more relevant to what it actually is.”
I was at my local gas station here and I’m hyper-alert at where people are stealing my time and attention. They’ve got some new gas pumps. I put my card in and all of a sudden, I see this fifteen-inch screen pop up, and it’s blaring ads. This was the last time I went to that gas station because it’s my time and attention. I’m thinking about it as an asset.
I was on a TV show with athletes. It’s an athlete program in Chicago, my hometown, WGN. Walter Payton, who is a famous football player, his son was the interviewer. I got to train with Walter when I was a young man. I told his son, Jared, “Time is the most important asset for an athlete.” It’s not only where do I invest it, but how am I monitoring my progress? We get better by putting intentional time and focus on a performance with that time. We can go out and run a 5K with no time, but we can go out every day and run in a timer ourselves. That’s how we get better. It’s the thing that we can’t get back. When it’s gone, you can get money back but that, you’re not getting back.
That’s the point. I remember when I read that, I was like, “That is so true.” It’s one of those hard truths but it’s good to remember. I remind myself of that frequently because it’s true. Wherever you spend your time, that’s it. It’s not a renewable resource. It’s not something that you can go and earn again. No matter how much money you have, by the way, you can’t buy it.
It’s interesting that you said that. When I did my research, the number one thing from a few studies that people wanted wasn’t more money, kids or all the things you think you want. It’s more time. It’s the thing that we’ve got to protect. Part of that protection is saying no. I have a client, true story. She sent me a picture of a tattoo of the word “No” on her wrist. I was talking to her, I was like, “You’re taking us on.” That hit her so profoundly about how much she’s been saying yes to. I wrote this, and some people laugh when I say this or not, “A no to the outside world for requesting your time is a yes to your hopes and dreams.” That doesn’t mean that you’re not generous or you’re not giving back, but being clear once I say and if it doesn’t align with my values, I’m going to say no.
It goes back to prioritizing what matters to you and investing your time there.
No one at the end of their last breath, if we’re so lucky to be in a home or someplace with everyone around us, is saying, “I wish I would have had a red Corvette too. I wish I could have had another Rolex. I wish I would have had another house.” It doesn’t happen. So much of our time is being distracted and being influenced by what we should get as possessions and things. There’s nothing wrong with that. I like nice things, but that’s not what matters. It’s the relationships we have and it’s who we’re being in this journey. What I realized writing this book is if it was going to be a wild success or wasn’t. The book itself became the bonus. Who I became in writing it, it’s hard to put words to it and I didn’t realize that until I wrote it.
That is something that’s core to my whole philosophy on writing a book and the value of writing a book. It’s not having a book to hold in your hands and say, “Look at me, I’m an author.” That’s not what makes you an author. That’s not what makes you a better authority and elevates your authority. It’s the process that you go through. It’s a transformation, gaining greater awareness of who you are, what your actual message is, what you’re committed to, and what’s an idea, but also what’s core to your teaching. It gives you superpowers for the rest of your life in your ability to communicate that value.
I love what you said there because something came up when you said that. I’ve never articulated this way, but I found that the more vulnerable I became in not knowing certain things, the deeper I went and the more profound the information was. I had a whole bunch of stuff written at the ready to research and write, and then when I looked at the final product, I was like, “Look how much I’ve built on my initial concept.” I’m already a subject matter expert. I could have written what I already knew. That was the one thing having a good collaborator initially, the questions that were being asked and things about my life, and life experiences that added a texture and flavor to the messaging.
I’ll tell you one quick story. At the end of the book, I talked about grit. Time is an important concept of grit because it’s perseverance and passion over time. If you don’t have time, it’s hard to have grit. I certainly talk about a lot of grit. It’s like, “Yeah, we have grit but we need time.” I expanded on some of the research out there, but what came up was my mom. My mom raised me and my brother on her own. She worked multiple jobs.
I dedicated this book to my boxing coach, Tom DeLaney. There’s a story in there throughout the book, you may remember. I used to think I got grit from sports and from a boxing coach. As I was going into it, I was like, “It came from my mom.” My biological father emptied out our house when I was a year old, he took everything out of the house, including the bank account. My mom came home from work and I was next door. The neighbor was taking care of me. She had $3 to her name. I reflected back on what that must have been like for her.
That’s a big deal.
Women didn’t have credit cards.
You couldn’t get a bank account unless your husband co-signed.
It’s the grit. It’s using time. In the face of adversity going forward, that ultimately is what’s going to lead to our success. These concepts are life skills for kids. That’s an area that I’m expanding into teaching them how to use time.
Can you imagine if we’d been taught that when we were 8 and 9 years old?
It wasn’t even a concept.
I was moved by the story of your mentor as well.
Tell us a little bit more about Tom.
I always wanted to box. I played sports. My mom would not let me box. She’s like, “You can do whatever you want.” I played football but boxing was not it. When I turned eighteen, I went down to a local boxing gym. God was shining down that day because that was the day I met Tom DeLaney. Irish bus driver, Greyhound bus driver, beer belly, white t-shirt. He had the most interesting scent of Old Spice cologne and sweat.
The short story is he was a man that saw my potential, but also saw the anger, frustration and lack of confidence. He was able to step in and guide me in a compassionate, mindful and loving way in a violent sport of boxing. In writing the book also, he taught me how to use time. I never saw these two worlds come together because in boxing, you’ve got three minutes and a minute rest.
I remember when I first started, I always wanted to spar. I’d be looking at the clock, he came over and he goes, “If you keep looking at the clock, time will take care of itself. Just focus on being present,” and then everything changed. I was like, “2 minutes 30 seconds, 2 minutes 40 seconds.” It was painful. His guidance early on allowed me to blossom as a young man and as a young athlete. It wasn’t until years later that I understood those principles are the ones that I carry forward now for myself and my clients.Time is not a renewable resource. It's not something you can go earn again no matter how much money you have. Click To Tweet
Now, you’re getting into performance coaching with athletes.
We’re doing some work called A Game with young high school and college athletes, men and women, and teaching them the components of mindfulness, compassion, optimistic thinking, and how to use time to be resilient and be your best. That is in academics, athletics and life. This is a passion that’s focused in time and I’ve been working with him my whole career. This is a place where I’m more relevant or can add relevance to this next generation that’s coming through.
It’s so great. It’s like this beautiful circle.
I worked as a strength coach. I was an athlete. I did all this performance stuff for twenty years. Now, I’ve come full circle and it feels right in my heart. The feedback in the work that I’ve seen with young people already has been tremendous, so I continue to focus my time in that area.
Are there any questions, Steven, that I should have asked you that I haven’t yet or you love me to ask, or you’re like, “I know that our readers are going to miss out,” because I didn’t ask?
You’ve asked great questions. I’ve been looking forward to this. When you invited me to come on, I said, “I’ve done all these shows but I’ve never done one on the concepts of using time to write a book.” I’m super excited. I’ll finish with this, I produced a video and you may have seen it called the Dash. We come into this world with a date, that’s our birthday. In the end is whenever we pass on to the next level of whatever we believe that to be. In the middle, there’s that dash. That dash represents every moment in time, every dream fulfilled and unfulfilled.
I think about that often when I’m with myself and others that there’s going to be a day where the clock will stop for me. No one is going out alive. It motivates and inspires me to understand that we’re all here for a divine purpose. The reason we’re here by the Law of Nature is to do something and to never forget that because there will be a day where there’s no longer time on the clock for you. Make each one of those days matter.Using time in the face of adversity going forward, ultimately, is what's going to lead to our success. Click To Tweet
What a beautiful thought to close with. Thank you for sharing your time with us.
Thank you for all the great work you’re doing. It’s a pleasure to be here.
Thanks again, Steven.