We all know someone that makes us wonder: “how do they manage to do *all* that?!” For many of us, that someone is Amanda Goetz. She’s a 2x co-founder & CEO, a brand-builder and 3x CMO for companies like The Knot. She’s a single mom of 3. And she’s also a prolific content creator who reaches 150k people each week on social, her blog, & newsletter. (you should sign up!)
We were lucky enough to have Amanda join us at our recent Leadership Circle event for a small-group Q&A session where she shared countless gems of wisdom for anyone looking to “be successful in their career, but not at all costs”.
Let’s dive into some key takeaways from this enlightening session:
Get more done in less time each day with the Offense & Defense framework
A major theme of the session was the importance and value of being intentional with your time. As a lifelong athlete, Amanda’s favorite way to do this is by thinking in terms of “offense and defense”. “Offense” means that you’re focused and “moving the ball forward” on your top priorities that you set for yourself. Defense means you’re responding or reacting to someone else.
When you’re on “offense”, focus deeply on making progress on the task at hand and tune out everything else for a while.
Emails are not work. Slack is not work. Sitting in meetings are not work. Yes you’re gathering information, but to do the work you need to block out time.Amanda Goetz
Carve out dedicated time
Amanda shares that it can be hard to focus on “offense” tasks without getting constantly distracted by “defense” tasks. Her solution is to have a 2-3 hour block every day where she is entirely focused on her “offense” tasks. Thant means moving the ball forward on her most important priorities with no distractions. That also means no Slack. No email. No meetings. And absolutely no social media.
She put it brilliantly when she said:
“I can get more done in 2-3 hours of focused work than most people do in a full day if they are constantly distracted and context switching”.Amanda Goetz
Protect the boundary
It’s easy to schedule time to truly focus on your most important priorities, but it’s hard to protect that time.
Learn to say no to requests and distractions that interfere with your offense time. It helps to put it in your calendar and auto-decline event invitations during that time block. Maintain firm boundaries and don’t bend once you’ve established them.
An important piece of advice that Amanda shares is that once you fail to protect the boundaries you set, that boundary is now gone. For example, if you take a meeting during a time when you normally wouldn’t, people will notice. And they’ll start to assume that you’ll be willing to do it again in the future.
The second that you bend once on your boundaries, consider that boundary gone because people won’t respect it anymore.Amanda Goetz
Swap your “to do” list for a “2 do” list
Now that you have some time and you’ve protected it, what are you going to do!?
Amanda pointed out some flaws in the usual “to do” list approach. The act of creating and maintaining the list creates a false sense of accomplishment when you haven’t actually gotten anything done. At the same time, a daunting to-do list causes people to bias towards “easy wins” when they ask themselves “where do I start?”
Instead of managing a big list, Amanda uses a “2 do” list. She defines two key, strategically important tasks to focus on during her “offense time” each day. This ensures that you’re always making progress on the most important priorities, not just checking items off a massive list.
If you only have 2 things to do per day, and they’re big important projects you’ll be blown away at how much work you’ll get done every single week, and how quickly you’ll move towards your goals because you’re focused on tee true 20% of work that delivers 80% of results.
Use the Focus & Finish principle to plan and manage projects
Amanda uses OKRs to plan goals and initiatives on a quarterly basis. She points out a common mistake that people make when setting goals and planning works is that they simply have too many simultaneous objectives.
She emphasized the importance of focusing on one task or goal and taking it as far as possible before moving on to the next, calling back to the mantra of a former colleague at the Knot: “”Focus and finish”.
It’s better to channel all of your effort into a particular priority until it’s “done” instead of scattering your attention across 8 different projects where you can barely make a dent in a day or a week. By minimizing work in progress, you make more tangible progress, faster.
This doesn’t only apply to OKRs. As the founder of her last startup, Amanda often had a “theme of the week”. For each week, she’d focused as much of her “offense time” as possible on one problem or goal. Other stuff just had to wait.
By having a more focused approach, you’ll be less likely to feel scattered and overwhelmed (which creeps into your personal life).
Apply “quality over quantity” in your personal life too
Earlier, Amanda spoke earlier about how focusing her full attention on a key priority at work helped her accomplish a lot more in less time compared to the typical distracted, context-switching office worker.
She applies the same basic logic to maintaining a balance between personal and professional life. Being focused and present in each role, even if it’s for a limited time, is more valuable than being distracted in multiple roles That applies to motherhood too.
I would rather be a focused, present mom 2 hours of the day than a distracted, chaotic, frenetic-energied mom for 4 hours of the day.Amanda Goetz
So how does she ensure that she is fully present when she wants to be in “mom mode”, or “girlfriend mode”?
Be intentional about what mode you’re in at any given time
No surprise here, but Amanda emphasised the importance of knowing which mode you want to be in at any given time. Don’t let yourself accidentally get pulled back into work mode (for example) when you’re supposed to be spending quality time with family, friends, or a partner. The more explicit you are, the better, as being being fully present in the moment and dedicating focused, undistracted time to each role is allows you to be more effective in each role.
I don’t feel guilty for not spending more time with people because I know that in the limited time we did spend together, I honestly gave them 110%Amanda Goetz
Create a ritual to honor the transition
To transition effectively between different roles, it’s important to allow yourself time and space to switch your mindset. Since she works from home, Amanda takes a “commute bath” at the end of each workday with music. She allows herself to indulge in TikTok videos, etc. This marks the transition out of “work mode”, and into a more relaxed and playful mood before picking up her children.
Pay the sanity tax
Amanda suggests identifying tasks or chores that are particularly draining or time-consuming for you. If possible, outsource them. She refers to this as paying the “sanity tax.” This allows you to be more focused, present, and successful. In Amanda’s case, it’s simply a person that comes once a week to take care of all the household laundry.
Do the “inner work” to set yourself up for success
While the strategies that Amanda to be both productive and present are conceptually straightforward, they can be derailed by your own limiting beliefs, fears, impulses, or imposter syndrome. For example, it’s hard to protect your boundaries for focus time when you’re afraid of letting people down. It’s tempting to
For that reason, Amanda repeatedly highlighted the importance of self-reflection to show up the way she wants to in all areas of her life.
This includes addressing limiting beliefs, understanding your past, and recognizing the subconscious drivers that influence your behavior. To do that, Amanda highly recommends both therapy and coaching, but was also kind enough to share some powerful nuggets that have helped her on her own journey:
Shift your mindset from fear to abundance
Amanda has learned to identify when she is acting out of fear, and aims to approach hard decisions from an “abundance” mindset. According to Stephen Covey, and “abundance mindset” means believing that the world has ample resources for you to achieve your goals. This allows you to see more options and have more choices.
Through reflection, Amanda has learned to identify when she is acting out of fear.
She aims to approach hard decisions from an “abundance” mindset. According to Stephen Covey, this means believing that the world has ample resources and time for you to achieve your goals.
This mindset allows you to consider the possibility of many positive outcomes, see more options, have more choices, and access more resources.
Surround yourself with positive influences
Amanda spoke about a limiting belief she had as a content creator that related to “giving [herself] permission to take up space online” and monetizing her content. She found that it helped to surround herself with people who were making money online. They didn’t have the same hesitations that she did, which helped encourage her to venture out of her comfort zone.
Know which version fo you is “driving the bus” and what they need
Many of our fears, limiting beliefs, and emotional reactions stem from our past, and especially our childhood. Amanda describes an exercise where you imagine that you are driving a bus. On the bus are several different versions of your past self. You at 5 years old, you at 8 years old, you are 12, and so on. When Amanda recognizes that she’s having an emotional response in her daily life (such as feeling afraid or obligated to do something), she asks herself: “who’s driving the bus right now? Am I still in control, or is one of those past versions of me taking over?”
She also shared that when you’re feeling afraid or worried, you can close your eyes and imagine yourself as a child (the version of you that might currently be “driving the bus”). Ask them: “what do you need right now”? The answer might help you unpack the underlying reasons for your feelings. In Amanda’s case, it helped her realize that a lot of her struggles come from a fear of being alone. This was negatively affecingt her ability to set boundaries in both her personal and professional life.
A 3-step process to overcome emotional responses
Lastly, Amanda shared that when a “fight or flight” response takes over, she tries to use a three-step process:
- Awareness: recognize the emotion
- Distraction: physically or mentally shift your focus
- Redirection remind yourself of your goals and boundaries.
She had an especially clever tactic for the “distraction” step called the Hot or Cold Technique. To deactivate the “lizard brain” responsible for fight or flight responses, use hot or cold sensory experiences. For example, you could drink something hot or cold, or apply cold water to your wrists.
Now it’s your turn!
We hope you enjoyed Amanda Goetz’s insights on how to achieve success in your career without compromising your personal life. By setting boundaries, managing your time effectively, and focusing on well-being, you can find that sweet spot where success and life satisfaction coexist. It’s not about working harder but smarter, and most importantly, it’s about enjoying the journey. We hope you’ll be able to apply some of these ideas yourself!
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