No Productivity Hack Will Ever Eliminate Hard Work

Growth hacks give you more result for your effort but that doesn't mean you can stop bothering with the effort.

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By Tracey Boudine


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Of course you're doing the work. Your If This Then That (IFTTT) recipes have your Asana, Slack and Evernote accounts buzzing with digital glee 24-7.

Yet, the reality is your business isn't taking off or growing like you'd hoped post launch. Customers aren't materializing; would-be clients aren't committing; or sales are still mostly hypothetical. The needle hasn't budged, and momentum seems reluctant to make an appearance.

Among the growthhacker culture, social media fame and overnight success mindset, entrepreneurs - and people who want to be -- are led to believe you can leapfrog your way to an $100 million exit, or quit your job tomorrow and make $100,000 selling an online course, teaching the latest guru strategies, in a single month. This is not quite the reality.

Our culture is famous for its overnight successes, - that really took 13 years and may have been conceived in a parent's spare bedroom or garage -- a robust bullshit industrial complex and becoming Instagram famous - Kardashian-style.

Below are three common scenarios, which can keep your dream, progress and ultimately, your personal definition of success, at bay.

1. Gym membership syndrome.

We all know folks, who have a desire to get into shape, so they join a gym - often in January. They buy the latest athletic wear from Lulu Lemon or Under Armour; create perfect playlists; and get a Fitbit, but they never really go. So they experience no change.

Good intentions and the purchasing of fancy gear is not a substitute for putting in the required work.

In business, this can be the equivalent of building out your marketing tech stack with a bunch of cool SaaS tools to automate everything from your email marketing and social media posts to your lead generation and morning coffee.

A combination of ax-sharpening, a bootstrapping mindset and genuine effort can help. Spend enough time to determine the real problem, and research the best solution requiring the absolute minimum investment of financial resources that will successfully overcome the challenge and make real headway. Nothing more.

Then put in the effort. Master each stage of the process, and see the necessary progress, or troubleshoot until you do, before moving on or investing more.

Related: The Only 3 Ways to be More Productive

2. Cheat code epidemic.

Thanks to Silicon Valley and the growthhack culture, everyone is obsessed with shortcuts and cheap tricks. They're in hot pursuit of cheat codes that bypass having to put in real time and effort so that fame and fortune are their's today.

Shortcut culture can manifest in a variety of ways, such as the illusion of guru status and fame based on a massive Twitter followers; writing hyperbole-filled LinkedIn posts; or procuring press coverage that isn't tied to any concrete strategy.

A Silicon Valley version of this is developers, who game the iTunes store to increase app downloads, then get no active user engagement. In publishing, this is the equivalent of manipulating the Amazon algorithm so your book gets labeled a best seller for 11 ebook downloads in some obscure niche category.

Popularity or fame does not equal growth and profitability. It's why you might feel famous yet you're still broke. No lasting success comes from cheating the system. Plus there's also karma. Reprioritize; develop a plan; and work it into existence.

Related: Make Your Next 30 Days More Productive Than Your Last 3 Months

3. Empty effort disorder.

This is where a lot of time and energy can be spent in the doing of things and getting nowhere exceedingly fast. Let's look at two common causes.

You spent all your time and energy doing the wrong work, often the work in your comfort zone (networking, schmoozing, paying for more bells and whistles or tweeting) instead of what really needed doing - upgrading or learning new skills; and deep diving into the tedious unglamorous stuff.

Or maybe you knew exactly what needed doing, but you didn't get any results or make any progress. Skimping on the follow through, or not spending time troubleshooting to fine tune your strategy, can make all the effort seem fruitless.

Step back, and make sure you've been honest about the real work that's required at this point. Follow through until you get results or know why you didn't do it so you can make quick revisions based on the lessons learned.

Related: 9 Things Ridiculously Productive People Do Every Day

There are no shortcuts to genuine growth and success. Too much focus on shortcuts, or feeling famous, and you never get there, or when you do, things quickly crumble.

Take a cue from Abraham Lincoln, and spend more time sharpening your ax than you do talking about it; chasing shiny objects; or paying for the latest solution. It'll reduce the amount of swings you need to take. That can be a real time and money saver.

Tracey Boudine


Tracey Boudine is an accomplished New York City communications and digital marketing strategist who has spent her career helping brands, CEOs, startups and entrepreneurs achieve success through leadership and visibility. With more than 15 years in the advertising and marketing industry, including the Havas, Saatchi & Saatchi and Omnicom networks, she has secured high profile media coverage with Bloomberg TV, CNBC, PBS and USA Today, among others, on behalf of clients and colleagues alike.

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