Productivity Books and Neuro Different Brains: Maybe We Should Question That

“Willpower is a myth.” Dr. Phil


What a great concept productivity books are. “Eat that Frog”, “Seven Secrets to a Highly Effective People”, “Checklist Manifesto”, “Get Things Done”, and so many more. They have such a good purpose in our lives and can be valuable tools for discovery.  For the neurodiverse, they are not the only option or not the best option. 

If you are not neurotypical and have read and tried to implement all the things in a productivity book and failed at the highest level, so what. Let it go. Stop making yourself wrong and a failure.  It really is a nonconstructive way to use some perfectly good energy.  

I recently read “Eat That Frog” by Brian Tracy. I used to enjoy listening to Brian Tracy and thought of him as motivating. Not anymore. While I was listening to him read this book in audio, the shame, blame and guilt he was using to motivate me was painful to hear.  While reading this book I realized I had read so many of these books over the years in an effort to become more productive and become a better person. I have tried all the systems and through that process, I have created my own process that doesn’t look a bit like what all of those authors have told me was going to make me successful. Good thing I already know I am successful, or this last book would have had me believing I was a total failure.

I don’t think productivity books are good or bad. I believe that we have to understand the type of person who becomes a professional consultant on productivity and who their target audience is.  It all gets down to the marketing.  

Let me break it down for you.

The person that becomes an organizational and productivity consultant usually is a neurotypical person, who requires a high sense of order and who works well under detailed systems.  In PQ language they are a high achiever, have a strong stickler and a good level of the controller going on. I could hear it in the language the author was using. He said things like, “If you are not doing these things, you will not be successful in life.” And “The only way to achieve success is by doing this.” BS and more BS. These are all options, concepts and ideas that’s all.  

Their publishing companies are banking on the fact that so many people struggle with organization and productivity that they will sell millions of copies of their books and have lots of presentations and consulting jobs to fulfill. They know this because the statistics show this to be true and we line up again and again. Maybe we should look at this a little deeper.

For those of us who are neuro different, this type of book might have some good IDEAS we should TRY. In experimenting, we will find our best process and way of organizing and being productive. But please, I beg of you, don’t make yourself feel like a failure when their system does not work for you.

When I started my entrepreneurial career, I went into the professional organizing business.  What I learned in the years helping people get organized is what led me into this career. A vast majority of the people I was hired by were neuro different in one way or another. I am including anxiety, depression and PTSD in my neurologically different group. I would study how they made decisions, where they placed things, what they would keep and what they would toss. I would build them custom systems that they could achieve some amount of success with. For many of my clients, the strongest measure of long-term success was going to be in their ability to hire someone to maintain the system. They did not naturally think or process in this way.  That doesn’t mean that they didn’t want to live a life full of too much stuff and a level of disorganization. It did cause them stress, heartache, and abandonment. Being hyper-clean and organized wasn’t in their neurology. I could really relate to the fight they were having with society and themselves. Society told them they should be neurotypical and be able to keep their house clean and not have so much stuff and because they couldn’t do that, they felt a lot of shame, blame, and guilt. That wasn’t cool and I really wanted to help them see that we all have strengths and weaknesses.

Now in my coaching I use this as one of my key coaching foundations.

NCT process:

Name It
Claim It
Tame It

Name It: You have to be able to put a name on something.
In this case, naming it is saying, “I can’t get organized.”

Claim It: You have to take ownership and responsibility of the facts.
In this case that would sound like this, “I don’t have a brain that naturally organizes things.” With that in mind, stop making yourself wrong for not being a hyper-organized person. Let that be someone else’s gift. It doesn’t have to be yours. (BONUS to learn more about this read Spotted Zebra

Tame It: You have to take action in a whole new direction.
In this case taming it is saying, “Who can I hire that has that brain and help support me?” and doing that.

If an organizational client was able to go through this whole process and come to an end, they had the greatest success with their organizational goals. My rock stars in the group would even have a backup person in case their number one person ever went down.

If you want to read a productivity book by a gifted delegator, technology nut and neurodiverse individual read 4-Hour Work Week by Timothy Ferriss. There are lots of podcasts and groups on FB and in Clubhouse by ADHD and dyslexic persons just focused on organizing, check out some of those. That will give you some real-world ideas. You will also start to understand that being productively different can just be part of being neuro different.

Don’t allow some book to tell you that you are not successful. Trying to apply the teachings of a book, without a teacher, coach, support community or class is just willpower and as Dr. Phil likes to say, 

Willpower is a myth. The problem with trying to use willpower to achieve and sustain a behavioral change is that it is fueled by emotion. And as we all know, our emotions are, at best, fickle. They come and go. When your emotions start running down — and they will — even your best-laid plans will fall flat.” 

So, stop “shoulding” on yourself. So, what if you are not following the productivity advice from some guru. That doesn’t mean you are not productive; it just means that your productivity might not look like everyone else’s way of doing it. I have found that often people are more successful than they realize, and they just want to move to the next level in life, level up a bit, and being more productive might not be the best way to do that. 

There are other options to the situation and now is the time to choose a new path, try a new approach, or just stop and hire someone else’s gift.


JoyGenea Schumer
Business Owner, International Neurodiversity Coach and Speaker

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