Everything We Know About Productivity Is Wrong

I talk about core lessons inside Ali Abdaal's "Feel-Good Productivity" and translate them into how you can apply them as an osteopath.

Podcast Episode Transcript

What if everything we’ve been told about productivity is wrong?

Former British junior doctor and YouTube productivity expert Ali Abdaal reckons that the secret to productivity isn’t what we’ve been told for decades. Things like discipline, grit and determination aren’t in fact the key. Ali reckons it’s joy.

Feel-Good Productivity uses psychological and neuroscientific evidence to show how positive emotions fuel success. Ali says that when projects feel enjoyable, productivity follows suit.

Ali’s book made me think about things differently, which is exactly what us as osteopaths need to do when we’re too deep into a problem. We need to shake things up and that’s what Ali’s book does with what we believe productivity to be.

Do yourself a favour and give this episode a full listen because it’s packed full of ideas that will get you thinking – because is it so crazy to think that we can make running a business fun? I know, how dare I suggest such a thing. Go into this with an open mind and I promise you’ll take lots away from the lessons the book has to offer.

Alright, welcome back to Behind The Osteopath. If you’re new, my name is Alan Zaia, I’m an osteopath, Founder of Osteohustle where we plan, build and grow dream careers for osteopaths.

Regular listeners know that this podcast is all about my belief that you should never open a clinic without fully understanding what it takes.

So, I’m translating a bunch of business, marketing, entrepreneurship and self-help books into the context of being an osteopath.

In case you didn’t know, I left uni and opened my clinic straight away, I didn’t have the money to pay a coach or buy courses to learn how to start a business, so I dived into the business books world which defined the beginning of sharing what I know today. And that’s why I’m sharing the core lessons with you!

This is a first for Behind The Osteopath, because all the books I’ve spoken about are ones that I’ve read in the past. Ali’s book came out in early 2024, so this is the first time I’m reading it.

As always, I won’t be covering every lesson, so go support your local library or book store and grab a copy for yourself.

One last thing: Ali’s YouTube channel is in the top 5 of my favourite YouTube channels. Especially if you’re a student, because he creates a lot of his videos for students. Go and check it out.

Alright, let’s dive into Feel-Good Productivity by Ali Abdaal.

Structure Of The Book

So, how does Feel-Good Productivity work? The overarching theme is that success doesn’t lead to feeling good. Instead, feeling good leads to success. Ali’s book is broken down into 3 parts: Energise, Unblock, and Sustain. Each of those parts is further broken down into three subsections.

I really enjoy books that are structured like this one because it dives straight into the point and then makes it super simple to understand with supporting evidence and concepts.

And this is my favourite part: each pillar includes experiments for us to try as readers because Ali believes that, and I do too, that productivity can’t be a one-size-fits-all approach. We must find what works for us, and we do that by experimenting. Knowing the experiments is the hard part. If you’re interested in more experiments to help you with time management, check out episode 8 where we spoke about a great book called Make Time.

With that being said, when I finished reading this book I felt like it would be better to go deep into one of Energise, Unblock or Sustain rather than superficially into all three chapters, so I’m going to cover the Energise chapter and then if you like it and want to read the rest for yourself, you can grab a copy of the book yourself.

Alright, let’s get started with Energise.

Part 1: Energise

So, Energise is split into Play, Power and People. Ali says that these are the three ‘energisers’ of productivity. We’ll start with Play.

Play

The first pillar of Energiser is play. Ali says: “Life is stressful, let’s make it fun.”

Ali states the importance of curiosity and adventure. Children use play to learn and develop skills in a new world. But Ali says: “We stop being curious, pushing boundaries, seeking new adventures and allowing ourselves to fall down.” The headline of play is that play releases dopamine so when we’re curious and having fun when learning new things, we can enjoy the business side of being an osteopath more by retraining ourselves to have fun with it.

Here’s the breakdown:

  1. Be more curious. Curiosity makes learning something new easier. Put it this way. You’re a student and you have an anatomy exam coming up at the end of the year. You have two choices. Memorise the information so you can pass the exam or understand the information so you can recall it easier for the exam and for when it’s helpful to have the information in the future. If you choose to learn how something works because of your own curiosity and intrigue, you’ll have more fun. Ali says: “What would this look like if it were fun?” I’d go as far as saying that if you’re not curious or intrigued by the nuts and bolts of owning a business, you’re going to have a rough time.
  2. Reframe failure as a learning process. I love how Ali describes learning something as collecting data points. Now, I’m not a maths guy, so I pulled this from Google: “A data point represents a single piece of information. A collection of data points can be used to determine if a pattern exists in the data. You have to be okay with failing because it’s how you learn what you need to do differently. It’s hard, but if you reframe your mindset, you learn that it’s okay to scrape your knees. Dust yourself off. Figure out what happened. Smile and try something different. The book talks about how important it is to learn to enjoy the process rather than the outcome and I’m telling you that failure is a part of the process, so you’ve got to learn to enjoy that too. A great quote is: “Success isn’t down to how often you fail. It’s about how you frame your failures.
  3. Stop taking yourself too seriously. Ali explains how everything we do should be done with sincerity, you know, honesty and trustworthiness. The first thing I thought about was associates asking for help at work and principals asking their associates for what they need. Don’t take yourself too seriously, have that transparent conversation with each other and tackle the issue together. If you’re hiring an associate, forget about the skillset and just try to get to know the person. You can’t change someone’s personality, but you can improve their skillset. If you’re building your own website for the first time, god I remember how bad my first one was, own it. It’s okay to be an amateur. If you’re looking to connect with other small business owners in the area, be open and honest with them. Know that it may be a bit awkward and clunky, but it’s easier if you’re not putting on a fake front. Be yourself.

Power

The second pillar of Energise is Power.

Ali starts by challenging what most people think about when they hear the word power. He uses Netflix’s Chief Talent Officer Patty McCord’s definition which goes as: “When McCord uses the word, she meant a sense of personal empowerment: the sense that your job is in your control, that your life is in your hands, and that decisions about your future or yours alone. This power isn’t something that we exert on others, it’s something we feel, the energy that makes us want to shout from the rooftops ‘I can do it!’

Ali explains that: “Feeling confident about our ability to complete a task makes us feel good when we’re doing it and helps us do it better.” So here Ali is talking about self-efficacy.

He describes an examination of 114 studies involving almost 22,000 participants which drew a direct correlation between self-efficacy and work-related performance. The takeaway being that “believing you can is the first step to making sure you actually can”.

We’ve spoken about this before like Mark Manson in episode 5 David Goggins in episode 11. As cheesy and cringe-worthy as it sounds, the evidence is clear: positive self-talk is powerful. Ali talks about what he calls the confidence switch. He says: “Challenge yourself to behave as if you’re confident in your task, even if you’re not. The next time you’re not feeling good enough to take a chance, simply as yourself: What would it look like if I were really confident at this? What would it look like if I approached this task feeling confident that I could do it?

Let’s take this idea further.

Can positivity go beyond being positive to yourself? Yeah, unsurprisingly it can. I’m going to read directly from the book, about halfway through an experiment, I won’t explain it because you’ll get the idea, so just bear with me.

What the scientists were really interested in was the next stage: three days later, the participants were asked to come back to the lab to exercise for about 30 minutes and asked to rate how much they enjoyed this new session.

The results were striking. The researchers found that those in the high confidence group – who had been told how very fit they were – enjoyed the exercise sessions a lot more than the low confidence group, who had been told they were unhealthy. This was even truer for exercise, that was more intensive and challenging; when the participants were asked to cycle harder, and for longer, the difference between the two groups became even more stock.

When the going got tough, those who believe they could do it – regardless of their ability – were the ones who actually could. And crucially, the students who were primed to be more confident ended up enjoying the exercise a lot more too. Feeling confident about our ability to complete a task makes us feel good when we’re doing it and helps us do it better.

So, what can we take from this as osteopaths? There’s loads, but I’ll pick two.

  1. If you’re low on confidence and are working by yourself, surround yourself with people who make you believe you can do it. It helps if those people have done what you’re looking to do.
  2. If you’re a principal and you want to get the most from your team, create a positive, supportive confidence-boosting culture. More about that in episode 7.

People

The third pillar is Energise is People.

This one I’ll summarise as things are more fun and energising if you surround yourself with good people as well as people who challenge you in a healthy, genuinely supportive way.

It’s no secret that if you’re working by yourself, osteopathy is a lonely job. The problem with working by yourself is that our productivity takes a dive.

Ali says: “When we work in synchrony with other people, we tend to be more productive. Synchronicity makes us want to help others. And it makes us want to help ourselves. If we want to harness the feel-good effects of people, try find people with whom to work in sync – even if you aren’t actively collaborating on the same task…Even though we may be working on different things, working in tandem with others has huge effects on my ability to focus, and helps me feel better too.”

You can take this on a few levels. Here’s two.

  1. You’re working by yourself and have competition around you. You could either make your competition a friend by working together. “You win, I lose.” turns into “You win, I win.” “My success.” turns into “Our success.” Or you can pair up with a group of osteo mates using a group chat or equivalent and help each other. It goes without saying that a business coach helps here too. Here you have a cheerleader and the act of supporting others, and visa versa, will help you feel good. I’ll leave a link to our Business Quiz so you can get a bird’s eye view of what you need to work on in the episode description.
  2. You’re working in a clinic. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a principal or an associate, you can come together to figure out what needs to change or needs improving. Everyone wins. Again, take a look at our Business Quiz.

It goes without saying that osteopathy is about people. The easiest way to think of this is with your patients. The better you are with people, the more successful I reckon you’ll be as an osteopath. But the same can be said with the people around you that aren’t patients. Your friends. Your principal. Your associates. Yourself. Work on all aspects of people, do things differently, challenge yourself and I promise you that you’ll get to where you want to be faster and even with a smile on your face as you’re figuring things out.

Summary

We’re half way into season two and I’m looking to reach 50 5 star reviews and 200 followers on Spotify.

We’re at 46 reviews and 186 followers, so if you haven’t already and you find the podcast helpful, hit the follow button and leave a 5 star review – it really does mean a lot and it’s the best way to tell me you want more.

Share the podcast with your osteo mates, stick it on your social stories and I’ll see you for the next episode. Cheers.

Written by Alan Zaia M.Ost

Founder & CEO of Osteohustle. You’ll find Alan coaching osteopaths, travelling in a van or writing our weekly newsletter, The Hustle.

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