This week I had the pleasure of joining AJ Harper for her monthly event called Monday Night Readings. During the event, I read the introduction to the book and share about the process of writing my book. We also dig into my journey as an author and which chapter is my favorite one.
Join us as we discuss:
02:46 How the Great Work journal evolved into a book and who the target audience is that will gain the most from the message. Is it you?
05:05 Uncover the core message that is shared with you through the book
06:26 Enjoy a reading of the introduction
21:28 What is the change I hope to see in the world with this book
22:04 The process of doing the book versus the journal.
22:46 Writing a book is transformational for the author as well.
23:22 A glimpse of chapter 5 - The chapter on Self-expertise.
Thanks for listening!
Thanks so much for listening to the Unleash Your Great Work Podcast! If you enjoyed this edit and think that others could benefit from listening, please share it using the social media buttons on this page.
Do you have some feedback or questions about this edit? Leave a comment in the section below!
Follow the podcast
If you would like to get automatic updates of new podcast edits, you can subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts or in your favourite podcast app.
Leave us an Apple Podcasts review
Ratings and reviews mean everything to us. They help our podcast rank higher on Apple Podcasts, which brings these important stories to more awesome listeners like you. Your time to leave a review on Apple Podcasts is greatly appreciated!
Welcome to unleashing your great work, a podcast about doing the work that matters the most to you. I'm your host, Dr. Amanda Crowell, a cognitive psychologist, coach, and the creator of the great work journals. Every week on this podcast, we are asking the big questions. What is great work? And why does it matter so much to us? What does it take to do more of your great work without sacrificing everything else? And how does the world change when more people are doing more of the work that matters the most to them? So whether your great work is building your own small business, or managing a remote team at a multinational company, you'll find insight and answers here.Dr. Amanda Crowell:
What you were about to hear was recorded at an event called Monday night readings. AJ Harper, who was a guest on this podcast a few weeks ago on the episode titled want to write a book, here's how to write a good one, hosted this event as she does every month. This particular month, I was invited to share about my upcoming book, great work. First AJ interviewed me about what it was like to write the book. And then I read the introduction. I think you'll really enjoy it. And if you want to attend future Monday night readings, I've put a link to AJs website in the show notes.AJ Harper:
Okay, so Laura, and I, you know, I neglected to introduce Laura stone, so I want to do that. Laura stone is our dean of students at top three book workshop and our very own Dallas Texas cheerleader. Although now we have to say play now. Can we still say Dallas?Laura Stone:
How about Texas,Laura Stone:
either is fine. IAJ Harper:
accept both. So Laura, go ahead and please introduce Amanda for us.Laura Stone:
I'd be happy to Amanda Crowell. Dr. Amanda Crowell is a cognitive psychologist, speaker, author, and the creator of the great work journals. Amanda's TED Talk, three reasons or excuse me, TEDx Talk three reasons you aren't doing what you said you would do, has received more than a million views, and has been featured on Ted's ideas blog and Ted shorts. Her ideas have also been featured on NPR Al Jazeera, the Wall Street Journal, courts at work and thrive global. Amanda lives in New Jersey with her husband, two adorable kids and a remarkable new philippou named Ruthie, she spends her days educating feature teachers and coaching accidental entrepreneurs, about how to make progress on their great work. And I'll put a link to her book in the chat, AJ. Hey, Amanda. I.AJ Harper:
So your book started out first, you have the great work journal. And that's, that's where this started and then evolved into a book. Can you just share a little bit about that evolution?Dr. Amanda Crowell:
Yeah, so um, I have a lot of expertise in pretty straightforward time management. And so I created the great work journals, which used to be called the aligned time journals. For anybody who's, who's here. They're now called the great work journals officially. And I put them out into the world. And people really liked them. But they had a lot of questions. And I was sort of surprised by the number of questions that they had. So I thought this is also straightforward. No, it was not, it was not straightforward. And I realized, as I was telling them, how to use it, why it mattered, and the ins and outs and research and all the things that I had kind of discovered in the last many decades of being a cognitive psychologist and a coach. And I realized that I needed to write this book.AJ Harper:
Yeah, I agree that you needed to write it. It's a great book. So Amanda, who is your reader? Who do you think this you? Who did you write it for? And who do you think needs it the most?Dr. Amanda Crowell:
Yeah. So I think of it as having sort of two groups of people who need it. The people like myself over over achievers who are just super exhausted. And who prioritized expectations and meeting demands over what I wanted to do and how I wanted to do it. That's a really big group of us. And then there's a group of people who I sort of discovered on the comments of my TED Talk, people say you shouldn't go read the comments on the internet. But my comments are just lovely. And a lot of people were talking about how procrastination and perfectionism was keeping them from even getting started, even if they weren't really overwhelmed. So it's sort of a pep talk for both of these groups that there is another way.AJ Harper:
I love that and did you I don't know if you noticed, but you started to talk about who the reader is. And then you said we and Oh, yeah. So it's because I that's relevant because so much of your One story is in here, just as Julie's story is in her book. So what is the core message that you share in this book that you realized in your own journey?Dr. Amanda Crowell:
Yeah. So I think the core message is this, it seems like when you look out into the world, across the expanse of successful people, it seems like the only opportunity for success is hustle to work just way past your comfort, stretch and exhaustion deep into burnout. And the core message here is that there is another way that there is a way that you can do great work that really matters to you, and not sacrifice everything else, like your health or your happiness or your relationships.AJ Harper:
And for people who read the book, what's promised to them by the time they finish it. Yeah. SoDr. Amanda Crowell:
are you. I believe that if you do what's in this book, that you will, in fact, have a lifetime of great work ahead of you.AJ Harper:
That's a bold promise, and I love it.Dr. Amanda Crowell:
Because that's yes. Thank you. I'll leave it there.AJ Harper:
Yeah, you shouldn't leave it there. Okay, so So set up the excerpt that you're going to share with us tonight.Dr. Amanda Crowell:
Yeah, so it doesn't need too much excerpt because it's the introduction to the book.AJ Harper:
It's a great introduction. So I'm gonna I'm gonna let you go ahead and get started. And, and then I'll we'll do some chatting afterwards. Off. Good,Dr. Amanda Crowell:
thank you. What am I going to do? As the other 70 people left the webinar, Beatrice waited silently. Finally, as the last person logged out, Beatrice asked her simple question. What am I going to do, she said again, but this time, mostly to herself. Beatrice had just attended an hour long presentation focused on how to do the work that matters the most to you, what I call great work. One of the activities we do is the project audit is a rough assessment of how many projects an attendee is trying to cram into their life at one time, the numbers can be staggering. 15 or 20 projects is on the low end, and some discover that they're trying to manage 50 or 60 different projects at the same time. The project audit regularly stops people in their tracks. When you're juggling 60 projects, it becomes clear why the most important ones aren't gaining traction. Beatrice, it turns out, was keeping 45 projects running. She was running her own coaching business, managing the back end of her husband's creative agency, renovating her house in preparation to sell it and taking care of her aging mother. Though she was exhausted, she was keeping these projects afloat through sheer force of will. What she wasn't keeping afloat was her great work. Great work is my term for the work that matters the most to you. We often think of it as our life's purpose. And sadly, it's usually the first thing to go when we get busy or life becomes complicated. This is certainly what happened to Beatrice. She was not writing her book or launching her group coaching program to projects that excited her and would have taken her coaching practice to the next level. Beatrice knew that if she could just get her ideas organized, she could move from one to one coaching to a one to many coaching model. And this would pave the way for more impact and more money to things she badly wanted. And yet, there simply wasn't time. Beatrice understood that she wasn't prioritizing her great work. But she felt that she had no choice. Everything else felt entirely non negotiable. Everybody needs me, Beatrice explained, my husband can't stay on top of his company without me. My brothers and sisters live out of state and we need to sell our house because we cannot afford it. And now there's a pandemic which has made it all worse, and I am at my wit's end. In fact, the only thing I can let go of is my great work. And I really don't want to do that. But I don't see another option. Beatrice, a beautiful, fierce, powerful woman who is admired by all meet her, put her face in her hands in despair. I'm so tired, Amanda. I just don't think I can do all of this. She looked up at me. And I got the sense that she would be crying if she was sure that she could stop.Dr. Amanda Crowell:
This is one time when the webinar format just did not hold up to an in person event. I wanted to put my hand on her shoulder and really look into her eyes. But instead I leaned forward and looked directly into the camera. Beatrice, I promise you don't have to do at all. There is another way. Beatrice puts her heart and soul into everything she does. She is driven and focused and a great coach. The problem is she spreads herself too thinly. She struggles to say no when someone else needs help. She rarely delegates and because she doesn't want other people to know how hard things have gotten. She almost She never asks for help. Beatrice is deeply committed to her family and to grow in her coaching business. There is no question that if she knew how to do it all she would. And I know exactly how she feels, I created the great work method because I simply couldn't keep up with everything I had to do, let alone find time for what I wanted to do. I began to worry that I would die. Before I wrote the books that were calling me from the inside, delivered the workshops that I knew would help other people or spoke at least once on a really big stage. All of this, so I could respond to a tsunami of emails and attend a lot of meetings, I began to have an existential crisis, and wondered what I go through my whole life and never get to my great work. I thought that if I could just work harder, be more efficient, and stop procrastinating than I could finally get to what mattered. This was how I earned my all of my success. After all, there was no way I could afford to pay for college. So I went over and above in high school to get a full scholarship to a local private university. I worked harder and faster than most other people. And I earned my PhD from an Ivy League school in four years, where the average completion timeline is seven years, I moved my family halfway across the country to pursue a prestigious postdoctoral fellowship while caring for an infant and finishing my dissertation. At every term, I worked as hard as was humanly possible, and I succeeded beyond anything that was ever expected of me. And yet, succeeding through brute force turned out to be a lot a losing battle long term. I couldn't stay ahead of my own ambition and drive. I was my own worst enemy. The more efficient I got, the more I took on the more I took on more exhausted I became and suddenly, I was back to seeking even more efficiency. There is an inconvenient but incontrovertible truth here, there will always be more than week that we could, should and must do, then there will be time to do it. This truth found me cycling between two settings. I was either striving so hard on so many projects, that I drove myself to the brink of exhaustion, or so desperately trying to recover from overworking and burnout that I slipped into patterns of avoidance and procrastination. I call this the productivity roller coaster of doom, and it's no fun at all. To stabilize my own experience, I turned to my obsessive researcher tendency home from decades as a cognitive psychologist, drawn ideas from across traditional time management methods, brain science, mindset research, burnout, prevention tactics, change management processes and behavioral change theories. I experimented on myself relentlessly. Out of this process of trial and error came a potent combination of research strategies and tactics. That allowed me first to slow the productivity roller coaster of doom, and eventually get off entirely. I no longer worked every night and weekend. Instead, I painted matte play with my kids, and read novels again. I was more energized and less distracted, which made my work better and me happier. By doing less and making time for fun. I became without a doubt, a better writer, coach, educator, and not to mention a better friend, mother and partner. It works so well in fact, that I started sharing these ideas with my clients. Now my clients are universally high achievers, passionately seeking to make a difference in the world with their work. They, like me, were daunted by the sheer number of things that they were already doing, let alone the endless projects, collaborations and responsibilities they could take on. And, like me, they needed support and encouragement to shift focus to their health, happiness, and their great work. I was happy to discover that the great work method worked for them to one client finally completed all of her licensing paperwork and exam in three months, a project that had been hanging over her head for 10 years, several clients found the courage to start their own businesses after years of waiting to be ready. Many of them wrote books launched, podcasts, started blogging, and discovered that sharing their unique perspective felt wonderful. They discovered that what had felt impossible was in fact more possible than they could have hoped. And all of this happened while they felt better, more grounded, joyful and invigorated. This is because great work flows better when we are happier and healthier. After discovering that these ideas worked, not just for me, but also for my clients. I crafted a series of journals to help the habits to create the habits outlined in this book. The great work journals are used by people around the world to create healthier habits, build businesses and finish their education. The demand has been strong, which means leads me to believe that we are not alone. You die. Lots of us are desperate to finally get to our great work in a way that doesn't require that we sacrifice everything else.Dr. Amanda Crowell:
The interest in I spoke about four times over the next year, she agreed to be part of a pilot group for the great work journal. And she checked in with me regularly to let me know how it was going. There were hard moments, like when Beatrice told her husband that he needed to find someone else to do his books, and relieving moments when she found a woman at her church, who would take her mother for walks a couple of times a week, and exciting moments like when she launched a small cohort of her group coaching program. She's doing her great work, and she's not sacrificing everything else. Beatrice told me, I'm happier than I've been in a long time. One of the things I hear most from people who have had success with this method is how much better they feel almost immediately. And even though the impact can be felt, it's still extremely difficult to convince people to give it a try. The promise that you can do the work that matters without sacrificing everything else can feel like a dangerous lie. Many of us have spent most of our adult lives being rewarded for hard work that goes above and beyond receiving compliments and praise for our hustle, commitment and willingness to go all out for the team. It can be very confronting to hear that our success at all costs workstyle might be optional. Even when that same workstyle is crushing our spirit delaying our great work and harming our health. Michael, a lawyer at a mid sized law firm in Texas heard me talking about time management and burnout prevention on a podcast a few years ago. He was working around the clock trying to make partner and hearing these ideas made him outright angry. He shared his reaction with me in an email.Dr. Amanda Crowell:
It just felt like a fairy tale. I knew in my bones that to succeed, I had to work harder than anyone else. I had to show up early, work late and meet every opportunity with enthusiasm. I thought that burnout was for losers, people who couldn't hack it, people who didn't have what it took to succeed. I thought about that interview a lot over the last couple of years. I can't tell you when I switched from being angry to considering it might be a little bit right. But I do remember when I decided to take it seriously. I fell asleep on the couch in my office for two days in a row when I was working on a case. When I finally dragged myself home on that third day, I discovered that the water had been running in my bathroom for two days, I must have wandered off. While I was done shaving, I was probably on my phone responding to email. Water had flowed out of the bathroom and more than halfway into my bedroom ruining the carpet. I could already smell mold. I sat down on the bed and my crumpled suit and just stared at the ruin floor too exhausted even to wrap my head around who to call. Then my phone rang. It was a partner at the law firm telling me she found an error in my work and I would have to redo it. I heard your voice in my head right then saying that even when we think we can do the impossible, the day will come where we realize we haven't really done it. We've made mistakes on things that matter ignored things until they blew up on us and let our health gets so bad that we had to stop everything to recover. That was my rock bottom. I looked up your website saw the journal you made and I've been using it ever since Michael wrote this email to me after he had made some serious progress. He took a vacation for the first time in three years. Thankfully, returning home just before everyone got locked down for COVID edit his workday by seven and began exercising more regularly. Basically, he made space for his health and happiness in addition to accomplishment and success. This is Michael, imagine my surprise when I heard you on a podcast for lawyers recently, you were talking about how great work tends to flow better when we're happy and healthy. And you know what? I think you're right. It wasn't until I gotten those crazy hours under control and figured out how to take better care of myself that I started to take on pro bono work again. I suddenly remembered why become a lawyer in the first place. Michael was not alone in his initial rate rejection of the great work method, I get plenty of pushback. Most of the advice you'll hear about productivity aligns with Michael's experience. According to the world at large. The keys to success are hard work commitment, willpower and discipline and these things do matter. You will struggle to be successful if you won't work hard, aren't committed and don't have the willpower and discipline to keep going in the face of challenge. These are not usually the struggles of those of us yearning to do great work. Our problem is on the opposite end of the spectrum. For us, it's very easy to take things like willpower and discipline too far. We hustle beyond the point of healthy we push through our natural breaking points until we are thoroughly burned out. And we say yes to so many things that the important ones get put on hold. It's hard to deny that people can be very successful by pushing as hard as they can and dominating through hustle. There are examples of this everywhere. But what my clients and I have discovered has also become hard to deny. There is another way you can do great work that feels good prioritizes what matters to you and maintain space for your happiness and health all while meeting your most important obligations and responsibility. This book provides a blueprint for this other way. I'm here to promise you that you can figure out what your great work is align your time to it and make remarkable progress without overworking. In all three parts of that promise matter, making progress without a clear idea of where you're headed is an exercise in futility, and can be a source of great frustration. At the same time, it doesn't help to figure out what your great work is if you don't move it forward. And it's definitely not worth it to pursue great work at the expense of your happiness and health. Now, in order to experience the benefits of the great work method, you will have to change how you spend your actual time, you'll need to do things differently in the hours and the minutes of your life. To make progress on stalled projects like Beatrice, you need to roll back your commitment and ask for help to reinvigorate your passion like Michael, you need to set boundaries and make time for your health. And if you want to get off the productivity rollercoaster of doom like me, you need to build in regular time for fun recovery and creativity, not just striving and accomplishment. When you do these things, you'll experience a change that goes far beyond how you spend your time. This work will impact your passions, your relationships and your career. Because how we spend our time is how we spend our lives.AJ Harper:
Man that. Oh, good. That is a great intro. That's a great intro. Thank you for reading it. So how did it feel to read that?Dr. Amanda Crowell:
It was great. It was really good. It felt like a nice culminating experience.AJ Harper:
Yeah, good. I'm so glad. And everybody here was really engaged in what you were saying. So now I'm asked turning the question over to you. What is the change you hope to see in the world with?Dr. Amanda Crowell:
Yeah, well, I sort of two levels of change. On the one hand, I just want everybody to sort of pull the crisis out of their life and calm down enough so they can see what their great work is and get started on it. Because that will enliven them so much, that they will love their lives so much more immediately. And then I really do believe that long term if more people were doing great work in the world, the world itself would be a lot better, will be a lot less trauma and polarization and divisiveness.AJ Harper:
I agree. I agree. So how do you feel doing the book versus the journal? I mean, how was the process for you?Dr. Amanda Crowell:
Oh, my gosh, wildly different. The Journals are very straightforward. It has 211 pages. And 110 of them are the same because it's the it's like the day after day after day. This was completely different. Because this was this really required me to kind of walk back in my own mind and say like, what do I really think about this very exploratory and illuminating? Experience, actually, and I'm grateful to you for helping me withAJ Harper:
it. Well, I've always believed that writing a book is transformational for the author as well, the process you have to go through to clarify, like you said, What do you really think about it? And then also make that accessible to other people? And to decide, does this matter? Or does that matter? Or do neither of them matter? Or whatever, you know, to make those decisions? Is it's it's transformative for the author as well. And then of course, what you have to go through with your own insecurities that come up for every author, every book every time. So yeah, so I'm glad it was transformational for you. And what's your favorite chapter? Amanda?Dr. Amanda Crowell:
You know, I think my favorite chapter is chapter six way No, five, it's the chapter on self expertise, is one of my nemesis is MSI, is the sort of high performance productivity people. And I feel like we all get trapped in this like, multi step process that we feel like if we don't do it exactly right, we're not doing it right. And we could be being more productive. And so instead, self expertise says all of those people, all those high performance productivity people out there are just your research and development arm, they're making suggestions that you can try for yourself. And that if you sort of take that perspective, you can discover a magic almost elixir of success that works for you, and know how to shift it and change it over time. As your life shifts and changes with you.AJ Harper:
I do have to say having read your book that it does feel I'm related with Michael in the intro, it does feel like this may be some Hocus Pocus, I don't know. Um, but I feel but I see the proofs and what you accomplish and in your client stories and you have so many great stories in the book. So every year on the same you guys have the same launch day and I don't know why I didn't know that until today. That's great. It's that's your your book besties June 7. Amanda also if you would be great if you could preorder Amanda's book, because those parameters also help Amanda to make sure books are available on launch day. If it fits your budget, of course, and if you know someone who needs it, please share this information as well. I think everyone here knows at least one person who needs both of these books, um, just just Ghassan. So Julie, if you would come off mute, I would just really love to ask a couple quick questions, because both of you are in top three author club, and we meet at 9am and 4pm, Monday through Friday, for just an hour. And I usually see one or both of you in there, whenever I'm in there. And you for months been showing up and doing a little bit at a time. So can you maybe both of you talk about the process of building a book just a little bit at a time? Start, Julie?Unknown:
Sure. Um, I would say I came to you with the idea. I had been sort of workshopping the idea. But I needed the structure to actually put words on the page. And you and Laura gave me that structure with, you know, showing up and, and when I sign up for something, and I pay for it, I feel an obligation to show up, honestly. And so I started showing up and I would show up. And if you did you missed a day people would be like, Hey, we missed you. I'd be like, Oh, I got to show up more often. And so it like, but it did, it gave me the internal pressure that I needed to be expected. And I also learned to just put words on the page and stop worrying about whether they were good or not good. Or, you know, but to just write. And, and and after I found your group and joined you, I think it took like five months. And I've written the whole book.AJ Harper:
It is amazing how fast it's so funny. It's just this a little bit every day Monday through we don't do weekends. And most people don't show up to both of them every day. And just little by little all of a sudden there's a book and seems just kind of like what Amanda said about. You know, it feels a little bit like Hocus Pocus, but it actually works. Yeah. Did you? Amanda did you feel because I believe when you have writing practice, whatever it is, it doesn't have to be every day. But whatever the irregular writing practices that you get different connection to your work and inspiration than if you do just in spurts fits, fits and starts. What was that your experience? Yeah, itDr. Amanda Crowell:
was. And I you know, I also wrote my book very quickly. I think I started in May. And the final the first terrible, awful, terrible, terrible draft was done, maybe middle of August. So it was sort of a frenzy. But I had tried to start writing it many times before. And what I found was I would do some and then like a whole bunch of time would go by and I'd forget all the things I had said and like was it. You know, it was you know it if I wasn't in dialogue with myself about it in a way that was useful. When I was walking around. I wasn't pondering a small thing that I could like, fix up. The next time I was sitting down there I was I was thinking bigger things sort of put me in a very pit put me in dialogue with myself in a way that moved it forward. I was always having ideas. It was always thinking of stories. And then there was a time to get those things down when I was back in author club.AJ Harper:
Yeah, I love I love to see. I love to see that work for both of you. Well, I'm so proud of both of you. And the cool thing is I know I'll see you in Sprint's even though you're done because you continue to work on everything related to the book. And we really appreciate appreciate everybody showing up for Julian Amanda today. Thank you everybody have a great night.