Two and a half words that will improve your productivity

Our Midlands ninja Grace Marshall is back on the blog with the small communication changes that make a massive difference…


I’m happy to admit, I’m a bit of a word geek. I notice language a lot; friends and clients will testify to that.

I’m trying to teach my son the art of speaking persuasively, especially when his little sister is being particularly annoying. Yes, he’s perfectly entitled to say “Get out the way” but “Can you come this way?” is likely to be met with less resistance.

In the same way, the words we use with ourselves can affect our own levels of resistance and motivation.

Here are two and a half little words that can affect your productivity, amongst other things:


“I’m confident at what I do, but running a business/networking/public speaking is all new to me”   

scrabble time by uberzombie, Flickr

“Website’s lovely but the font’s too small.”

“Written 5 chapters, but there’s 20 more to do.”

“I’m excited, but I’m scared.”

“99 happy customers this week, but one complained”

‘But’ changes the tone of the story? We have good news…yay! But there’s bad news… Oh cr*p.

‘But’ has an effect of negating whatever came before. Good news gives way to bad news. Confident becomes not confident. Praise gets overshadowed by criticism. Progress leads to stuck. Excited is overwhelmed by scared.

Replace ‘but’ with ‘and’

“I’m confident at what I do, and running a business/networking/public speaking is all new to me”      

“Website’s lovely and the font could be bigger.”

“Written 5 chapters, and 20 more to do.”

“I’m excited and I’m scared.”

“99 happy customers and one complaint this week”

Notice the difference? Both parts of the sentence can exist alongside each other and have equal weight. In fact, the positive statement lends itself to the rest.

I’m confident and this is new. This is great, and this is how it can be even better. This is what I’ve done and this is what I’m working on. 5 down, 20 to go – progress all the way. I’m excited and scared – it’s ok to be both. 99 right and 1 wrong – we did well and what can we improve?

Try it! Notice what happens when you say ‘and’ instead of ‘but’.

am vs doing

“I am” speaks to our identity. It feels permanent, part of who we are.

“I’m doing” describes an action, something we are taking part in, at this moment in time, which is temporary and detachable.

So when clients say to me “I’m a terrible procrastinator” I remind them that procrastination is something you do, not who you are.

We can all do procrastination. How do you do yours? What do you say to yourself or out loud? What actions do you busy yourself with? What goes through your mind? What do you imagine? Where do you allow your attention to go?

Once we know what we’re doing, it becomes much easier to decide what to do differently.


So often we focus on what’s done and what’s not done. What about the stuff in between? What about the work we’re actually doing?

My friend Jenny once asked me, “What are you working on?”

“How’s business?” would have prompted a static answer: great / good / ok / not bad / could be better / awful / don’t ask!

“What are you working on?” prompted a much more enthusiastic response. “Well, I’m putting together a… and it’s really exciting because… I’m still working out…. and I’m looking forward to launching it in…”

Progress isn’t static. So much of what we do is work in progress. Building a business, raising a family, growing in confidence…

What are you working on? What are you creating? Where are you growing? What are you building on? What are you reaching? What are you celebrating? What seeds are you sowing? What harvest are you reaping? What results are you seeing?

And when you do take a snap shot and review what is done and complete, where is that leading you?

If you want the momentum and flow of being in progress, make sure your language has plenty of “ing” in it.

Over to you. What words help or hinder your productivity? I’d love to know. 


If you live in or around the Midlands and you’re working from home, building a business while juggling family and other commitments check out Grace’s clarity retreat



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