With so much turmoil going on right now, our world has been turned upside down in so many ways. Many people, including business owners, are feeling this pressure to get a lot of things done or try to make an impact or shift. At the same time, they also are overwhelmed with not knowing where to focus, and so they feel stuck. Joining Amber Hawley on today’s podcast is Melina Palmer, the host of The Brainy Business and a sales conversion expert with a personal mission to make your business more effective and brain friendly. Don’t miss this episode to learn more about how the brain works and how to avoid productive procrastination to actually get things done.

How The Brain Works With Melina Palmer

I have a super awesome special guest with me. I have the lovely Melina Palmer from The Brainy Business Podcast. We’re going to talk about all things brain-oriented. Welcome, Melina.

Thank you so much for having me.

There are so many things I could say that I could just go on and on about your descriptions, but you are the show host of The Brainy Business Podcast. You are a behavioral economist.

It’s a funny conundrum of the way that the brain actually works and where it gets stuck and you realize you’re saying the wrong word.

Tell us about yourself.

I have a business and a show called The Brainy Business where I help people to understand the psychology between how the brain makes decisions versus what we think it should do and how that can be used effectively by people in business. Not just knowing how the brain works, but understanding the tendencies within your own self, as well as people you’re trying to communicate with. Most of the advice I give is catered around business because our brains are impacting everything we do.

The tips are helpful in relationships, either with people that you’re living with in your home to coworkers and peers, as well as the way you communicate with current and potential customers. My Master’s is in Behavioral Economics. My undergrad is in Marketing and Brand Strategy. That’s what I did for the bulk of my career before getting my Master’s and diving in on how the brain works and helping people with that aspect.

It’s why I love your show because being a therapist, I’m interested in psychology and how the brain works, but having somebody who translates it so well into what does that look like for yourself and for your customers or your clients. It’s the marrying of the two worlds that’s so exciting. I love all things business and all things personal development.

It’s something that I didn’t realize when I was getting into the space that it is my super power, as people have said. It seemed to me that it’s so easy to read all those academic journal articles and dig out and say, “This matters. That’s how you use it. Move on.” My brain naturally does that. Being able to then explain to someone else how to do it, I figured the academics that are doing that research and writing that must know how to explain and tell other people how to use it as well. I have found that that is not necessarily true. People get siloed into what their work is. I do connect and work with a lot of academics around the world on what their research is and helping them to share that information either through the show or otherwise to make it applicable for people. Applicable Behavioral Science and Behavioral Economics is a new branch of this already very new field. That’s where I focus my time and energy.

That’s what’s so exciting about the work that you’re doing is we often can think like, “I know myself. I wouldn’t do this. I wouldn’t do that.” Anybody who’s done any kind of work in the psychology field knows that is often not true. We have research studies to prove that. There are some big ones like the Stanford Prison study. There are a lot of those maybe not so positive feeling. The nice thing is figuring out this is what mostly goes on for people. Once you can accept that, this is where you can make changes.

I felt like it would be such a great idea to have you on because what I’m seeing with people or hearing from friends or even with myself, but also with clients is with so much turmoil going on, our world has been turned upside down in so many ways. Business owners are feeling this pressure to both get a lot of things done or to try to make an impact, pivot, or shift. At the same time, they also feel like in this swirl of not knowing where to focus, they feel stuck. It’s this immense pressure to be doing something, then they’re just overwhelming themselves and staying stuck.

How The Brain Works: We think we know ourselves and what we're going to do, but we don't. That's one of the many biases of the brain.

How The Brain Works: We think we know ourselves and what we’re going to do, but we don’t. That’s one of the many biases of the brain.

For the audiences that may not be familiar, and building on what you were saying about how our brains work, we think we know ourselves and what we’re going to do, but we don’t. That’s one of the many biases of the brain. What research has found and through the study of Behavioral Economics, if you take traditional Economics and Psychology and put it together and maybe with some Neuroscience and Neuro Marketing, it gives you this Behavioral Economics and being able to understand what people do versus what they think they should do, what they know they should do, what they want to do. What they hope they’ll do is not often reality. Being able to understand the rules that the brain uses to make choices and how it moves forward.

What studies have found is that about 99% of our decisions are done by the subconscious brain. It’s using rules of thumb that it’s developed over time to help predict what should be happening and using those proven rules to make a choice about what’s in front of you. We think that we’re in control logically of everything that’s going on all the time. We assume that our conscious logical brain space is making all of these choices. It’s informed by an admin that’s running all these numbers in the back and then we’re making the best possible choice. Subconscious is more like a receptionist or gatekeeper. It’s constantly scanning the world around you for things that it knows are normal and has a rule for. It’s making decisions when it thinks it knows what to do, whether it applies in that case or not. It will only elevate very few items to the conscious brain to be able to handle.

Your subconscious can handle about eleven million bits of information per second. It’s constantly processing through and scanning and deciding whether it’s important or not how to handle it and what to do. There are eleven million bits per second for your subconscious. Your conscious brain can only handle about 40 bits. Not even 40,000, which would still be a lame ratio. When you realize those decision points and how much is being handled by the subconscious, when you do get overwhelmed, something would have been handled by your conscious brain is now not important enough because you’re dwelling on something else.

Your subconscious ends up handling all those important things. You’re focused on some small tasks that’s not important but feels incredibly important in the moment because your subconscious is stressed. Our brains don’t like change because the subconscious is predicting based on what it knows is going to happen and what’s worked before. This time, we can’t go into an office, we don’t have our normal routines, and we’re having to teach our kids science and see ourselves on video when we hate it. All these other things are causing our brains to get overwhelmed in a way where things were okay. It’s being much more obvious to everyone in the day-to-day now.

A theme that I hear a lot is people beating themselves up about that fact of like, “Why am I tired? Why am I not doing this or XYZ?” I’m like, “There’s a lot going on right now. There’s a lot of good reason for that, as frustrating as it is.” You said so many important things about how the brain works. Even when you said that one of the first things you were talking about is how we think we use logic. Everyone thinks it’s like this neutral thing. It’s not subjective. It’s this factual thing. I’m like, “No. We all use logic. Data points are shaping our logic.” That’s the big thing of what you’re talking about is we’re extracting consciously very few data points in reality of what’s going on. That can easily shape and shift our behaviors in what we’re thinking and feeling.

Taking that eleven million to 40 ratio and putting it in this context, that means for every one thing that the subconscious allowed to hit the conscious brain, there were 275,000 other things that weren’t important enough to make it to that level. Is it possible that your brain filtered one of those 275,000 things that my brain didn’t think was as important in that moment? Yes. We can be seeing and talking about two completely different things and still be correct. Just because we see things differently and filter things differently doesn’t mean either one is wrong. Neither one of us has to be wrong for me to be right.

That’s like the crux of most of my work as a therapist with marriage counseling. It’s getting people to understand that because it’s huge. If you think about it, is our brain going to send up the information that tells us how we were wrong and tells us the things that we contributed? Often, it’s not the case. There’s all that other stuff that filters into that. Even understanding that on a basic level, anybody who’s been in relationship with somebody where they have this conflict and it’s like, “We see it so differently.” There are so many reasons for that. Understanding as we approach things in our business, the same thing is happening. We’re getting inundated with all this stuff and what’s coming up may not be what you’re wanting or what’s most useful or the thing you’re trying to make yourself do.

This is the thing where I see people so very stuck. This is where having somebody on the outside giving you feedback or giving you a neutral point of view can be helpful. When I talk to somebody and we’ve established what their pattern is like, “This is my pattern. This is what I do.” When we see it come up and I’ll say, “This is your pattern. This is why your brain is telling you that these things are going to happen but we know that that’s not true.” They still have a very hard time moving past that.

If you were to go ahead and say like, “Brain, effective immediately, we will no longer associate the color red with apples. It’s not a thing anymore and we’re never going to think that ever again,” that’s not going to work out very well. You can’t stop your subconscious brain from the associations that it’s making. You can help yourself to be more aware of them. Every episode of my show and my email signature and everything, I always say, “Remember to be thoughtful.” Be thoughtful is what I am constantly reminding people of. It is about stopping and asking a question. Just because it’s a rule doesn’t mean it has to be, and you can’t possibly handle all eleven million things per second.

You have to be selective about what you’re questioning. If there is a behavior or something you want to change, if you stop and think about it for a minute and say, “Is this what I want to do? Why do I feel like this is a good thing? Why do I think it’s a bad thing? What if I thought something else?” Asking yourself those questions and being open to the responses at the beginning when you’re trying to change any behavior. It takes some conscious effort to train your brain to move it into your subconscious space. People that have been bad at public speaking, or if you hate seeing yourself on camera, where we’re all having to get used to seeing our face on video a lot more, I have a whole episode about that.

If you hate it and you’ve been telling yourself, “I look weird on camera. Everybody’s looking at me. This looks bad. I’m terrible at this,” you have reinforced that to yourself and said it so many times. When you go and are trying to change it and you think, “I told myself that it’s not bad,” once and it didn’t stick, that’s not going to work. It’s the same whether it’s public speaking or anything else. You can’t say, “I don’t hate this now.” It’s helping to force yourself to think the positive thoughts about that process and say, “I have important information people want to learn about. People want to hear from me.” It doesn’t have to be about how you look or whatever. You can focus on something else to help get over that hurdle and move forward. It’s not something that happens in one statement because you’ve been constantly reinforcing this other thing, in the best case, for a couple of months. For many of us, it’s been for our whole lives.

How The Brain Works: When you're trying to change a behavior, it takes some conscious effort to train your brain to move it into your subconscious space.
How The Brain Works: When you’re trying to change a behavior, it takes some conscious effort to train your brain to move it into your subconscious space.

Two things come up when you say that. This is why we say awareness is the first step of a problem. Being aware that something’s a problem for you is the first step. The integration is a whole different thing. You can’t talk yourself out of anything usually on the first try. That would be fantastic. I don’t know if it’s accurate or not, but often when I talk to clients, I’m like, “You know something.” Logically, you can know something. Integrating it into your being takes more time. It takes believing that. You have to get to the point where you accept it. If you keep saying, “Apples aren’t red,” you’re never going to integrate that because you know that’s not true. There are green apples and there are other ones, but you know that that’s not the truth. I don’t know that that will ever integrate for you.

It’s about sticking in on what matters and knowing you can’t change everything at any given time. I’m a big believer in only having a maximum of three big goals that you’re working on. That’s in your entire life and business and everything. If you’re trying to focus on too many things, then you have too many tasks and priorities. It’s easy to use each one as an excuse to productively procrastinate on the other thing that you want to be working on to where you never make progress on any of those. I know from working with you in conversations in the past that you have a lot of clients and that you used to work in Silicon Valley. A common term when it comes to working in computers and whatnot is this concept of bikeshedding where you are working on creating the new nuclear facility.

Instead, you are all focused on designing the bikeshed. You can take an inordinate amount of time to finish this small thing because it feels important in that moment. It’s distracting you from the big, scary thing that you’re supposed to be working on. That does come up in projects all the time and for our own goals as well. If you have a goal of writing a book or launching a course or coming up with a new lead magnet or having this difficult conversation, it doesn’t have to be something as big as designing a new plant. It could be something small, but if you aren’t wanting to do it, it’s easy to get distracted by these other smaller things. In goals of thought leadership, I can say that I need to be growing my social media. Which means I should probably be doing some of these types of tasks of creating good content and putting that out and sharing it. Instead, it feels a lot better. My brain wants to get distracted by observing other people’s social media for hours on end, but it’s important. That’s valuable research.

Market research.

I need to do that. I need to scroll through Instagram for three hours instead of working on my own marketing strategy, whatever that happens to be. We are constantly bikeshedding in our own lives and businesses all the time. If you don’t have a clear, defined goal of what you’re working toward and why it matters, then you’ve also said these other things don’t matter. I can’t be working on them until I finish this one thing. You’re going to constantly stay in that bikeshed space, especially when everybody’s overwhelmed with all the change of the time during the pandemic.

I think bikeshedding is an epidemic. It is something that is so pervasive because it can also give us a sense that we’re being productive. There’s a little bit of that reward in that. It’s one of those things that when people talk about being busy, they stay too busy to be able to get anything done.

I’m glad that that’s not the stamp of awesomeness anymore where when people say, “How are you?” and say, “I’m so busy.” That that used to be good. Busy doesn’t mean you’re doing anything. I wish I could claim that I came up with this term myself. I forget whom I first heard say it, but productive procrastination is the best terminology on any of that. It feels like you’re doing something. I do have these other tasks that I need to do. I do need to post on social media, but it’s not more important to go post something on my Facebook as it is to write my next episode in some ways. If it’s keeping me from the thing I need to be working on right now, then it’s distracting me.

I interviewed an author. His name is Nir Eyal and he has a book called Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life which is very much in line with all of this. It’s a fantastic book I highly recommend. That has some of those tips to help you understand what you’re working toward and what is a distraction knowing that something in this moment could be keeping you in line. In another moment, it’s a distraction. I love one of his examples of saying that the opposite of distraction is traction, which is an amazing way to look. It took him five years to get that important little nugget, but it’s such a valuable way to think about how that works. If I’m not distracted, then I’m making progress and you need traction to get there.

I can’t remember if I was listening to that episode or not, if it was him or a different one you did. It was a Swedish guy.

It would be Samuel Salzer.

Even if you understand all of these concepts, you can still justify to yourself why you’re going to do this thing. Some of us get into that place as well. I know I’m very guilty of that. The one thing I have to do now is record a show episode, but then I will spend 1.5 hours doing Facebook stuff or responding to people. It feels very valuable. I could justify why I’m doing that. There’s the whole piece where some people can even say like, “I’ve earned this break,” or whatever the justification is. We can come up with so many things, but that’s why I do think it’s important to understand how our brain works and why we’re doing these things. We have a better chance of catching ourselves. Even if we allow ourselves to do that, then say like, “Fine. I’m acknowledging that I’m allowing myself to not work on the thing I’m supposed to and not be productive.”

How The Brain Works: We are constantly bike-shedding in our own lives and businesses if we don't have a clear, defined goal of what we’re working toward and why it matters.

How The Brain Works: We are constantly bike-shedding in our own lives and businesses if we don’t have a clear, defined goal of what we’re working toward and why it matters.

You’re making a choice and how that all works. The two concepts that are key to what this problem is, one of them is my all-time favorites, which is called Time Discounting. I like to talk about this as the I’ll Start Monday Effect. If it was that easy to where we could do all the things we know we need to do. We all know what we should and shouldn’t eat. We all know that we should exercise. We all know we should go to sleep. We all know we shouldn’t binge watch Netflix for eight hours a day. We know these things on some level.

Do I know that?

Maybe not the last one, but the others, at least. We know these things, but we don’t all do them. No matter how much we know it, it doesn’t mean you’re going to take the action. That’s that conflict between the conscious and the subconscious brains. They don’t speak the same language. They don’t work together as well as we would like them to. If you think about how many times you’ve had that moment where you say, “This is the last time. It’s Saturday night.” Maybe it’s with a bottle of wine or you’re having cake or whatever, you say, “I am starting my diet and exercise program on Monday.” The magical Monday, that’s when everything’s going to happen. “I’m going to change my behavior.” Maybe you throw out everything in your refrigerator and you spend all day Sunday researching all of your options for what you’re going to be doing. You come up with a whole exercise plan and you’re feeling amazing.

You feel so good about you and these choices you’re making. You say, “I’m going to kill it. I’m awesome.” You set your alarm for 5:00 AM and you go to sleep feeling good. When it goes off, you feel groggy and start to think, “Maybe I didn’t get that good sleep. If I’m going to be starting this plan today, whenever that is, I need to have gotten enough rest. Tomorrow is going to be the first day because I’m investing in me right now. That’s what this whole plan is about. Tomorrow is going to be the day.” You hit snooze and go back to sleep. The reason you feel like a completely different person when the alarm goes off and when you wake up on Monday is because our brains are very good at distinguishing between ourselves and others in many ways.

If I’m saying, “I’m running,” my brain will light up differently than if I was to say, “Amber is running right now.” It will know that I’m thinking about somebody else. What studies have found is when I’m talking about myself in the future, when I’m committing to the running plan, my brain is lighting up as if I’m talking about a completely different person. Future Melina is someone else that I’m committing to running the marathon and getting up at 5:00 AM and eating nothing but dry chicken and lettuce. It’s easy to commit her to all those things because it’s not me. When the alarm goes off, when the time comes, it is now me in the moment. When I hit snooze, it’s pushing that to tomorrow. We have this optimism bias to think we’re going to be better tomorrow. “I couldn’t even get one thing off of my to-do list today, but tomorrow I can do ten things because I’m going to be focused then.”

“If I quit early and rest, tomorrow I’ll have the energy.”

“I’ll be revitalized. I’m ready to go.” It sounds so beyond stupid and ridiculous when we talk through it in this way. You know it’s wrong, but you still feel compelled to do it. I work with my group and with my clients all the time about this mindset anchor and things that you set for yourself. We constantly want to say that you’re going to get ten things done, maybe even five that you put on your to-do list to say, “I have to get these done tomorrow.” Let’s say it’s five and you only get three of them done. At the end of the day, you feel like a failure. You didn’t make it through and do what you intended. It’s so bad and tomorrow’s off. You get down on yourself about what a bad job that you’ve done. If you only had one thing on your list and say, “This is the only thing I have to do tomorrow. Literally nothing else will matter. If I don’t get this done, then the whole day is bad.” You get that one thing, you do it first, if you’re in that ‘eat the frog’ mentality or whatnot.

The first thing you do is you have to get that one thing done. It’s the only thing that matters, and then you were able to get two more things done. You’ve got three things done where you only had one you had to do. Now you feel amazing like a superhero because you’ve got three things done instead of one. It may be the exact same three things, but the mindset you had going into it will determine whether it becomes a vicious cycle or a virtuous one. Setting up one thing on your list may feel like it’s not going to be helpful. “It’s not enough. I want five things. I want ten things. I want to get all these things done,” but that’s your brain working against you to keep you stuck and not have you accomplishing anything and constantly spinning. Whereas having one thing, you’re going to be getting more done and you’ll be in a better spot down the line than if you were to try to do ten things every single day.

I will say I started practicing that and it does work. I am the queen of the never-ending to-do list. Most business owners are because the reality is there are always things that pop up. Often, so much is coming at us that I don’t even think we evaluate what some of those things on our to-do list are. That takes space and time. To me, taking that time to say like, “This is the day where I’m going to set the goals and figure out what matters and go through evaluation.” Sometimes people will be like, “That’s wasting a day.” I’m like, “You deleted things or delegated things.” If you go through and do that, you’ll find you can get rid of a lot of stuff that would be great for your ideal best self. If I was Oprah, I could get these things done.

If I had a team of 1,000 people working for me, I could do a whole bunch. Even if I had 2 or 3 people.

Indistractible: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life
Indistractible: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life

I say this as a mom of three. I feel like no one listens to me, except for my clients maybe. Two, if you could have those people. That’s the problem as well. We get into that and I love doing things and I feel like, “I want everything to be professional. I want to show up being polished.” That’s important to me, but that’s what gets us stuck.

Perfectionism is bikeshedding, but not always. There’s that 80/20 rule. In my time of marketing, running a department, I had designers that were artists. Helping them to understand that art could never be complete if you allow yourself to get sucked into the one little tweak here, the one thing there. It would be great if every billboard was your masterpiece. There’s a good enough point where we have to keep moving. You have to go onto the next thing. That’s a hard lesson for a lot of people. Knowing that in many ways, we all tend to compare ourselves to someone else’s finish line when we’re at the beginning. Looking and saying, “Until I’m as good as Oprah,” or whoever is the star in your space who you’re comparing yourself to. “Until I have one million hours of content, I can’t possibly do X. Until I have this, I can’t do that. Until my ads are good, I can’t launch my website.” You could do that forever.

It’s because you’re setting your anchor on the wrong spot instead of looking at what am I delivering and what would be better than that. If you don’t have a website yet or if you don’t have any presence on social media, you’re giving zero. What is it that you could do that would be a little bit better than that? Then the day after, what’s a little bit better than that? The advice that I like to give and the way I frame this is set your goal based on the dream scenario. You can put your goal against Oprah if that’s what you’re looking to be. Your tasks and implementation and those sub goals underneath, you have to be focused on what the actual reality is of what people are getting from you now. That will help you to not be as stuck.

I was reading a marketing book and I misread the quote, so it always stuck in my mind. I thought she said, “It’s better to have a complexion than perfection.” It was not the quote in my mind. What I saw that as, “Just show up and put something. It’s better to have something out there than to have it be perfect.” I can’t honestly tell you what the real quote was.

I’m sure it’s, “Complete is better than perfect.”

That would make sense. I do have ADHD, so sometimes I like to fast read. I was like, “Just show up.”

I don’t need to airbrush my face before I go to that networking event. I can just be there.

That’s not showing up. The beauty of most things on the internet is you can always change. You always iterate. You always change anyway. It’s going to be fixed and made better. I agree with you. I don’t think they ever become perfect.

To give the example of on video, one of the big problems that we all have is what is this called the focusing illusion. We focus on one small thing about ourselves that we don’t like or distracting or concerning to us. It’s like, “My nose is a little bit crooked. Everyone must be looking at the way that I’m smiling. I woke up and my complexion wasn’t what I was hoping it would be today.” Whatever that is, you’re focused on those things. Everyone else is focused on their own junk as well. They’re seeing you as this entire entity and the background around you and all these other things they’re taking in general. People will not remember as anywhere near as much about whatever you’ve put out there as you think they will.

Even if you put out a price of something and then you have to change it, or if you have the group included something and then tomorrow it doesn’t, you don’t want to be making changes constantly. People have shorter memories and don’t focus in on what we’re doing as much as we think that they are. Which can be humbling and also very liberating to say, “Keep on putting things out and trying something new and know that you are not required to keep the rate you choose or the product you put out there. You’re not obligated to keep it down the line.” If people do remember, most of them are understanding that things change.

This is something that comes up a lot for people. The more we put ourselves out there and do that, the easier it becomes. We become less focused on how we look if we’re going to talk about that piece of being self-conscious. It made me think of something I heard somebody say a long time ago, and this is in regard to being a therapist and putting yourself out there. “I don’t want to be on video.” They’re like, “Nobody’s going to a therapist video and saying, ‘Is she hot or not?’” They’re going to think they’re going because they want to know, “Can she help me?” I think about it all the time, which is good. There have been times I show up haggard-looking. If I can say what I’m saying, that’s what matters. I do think like you’re saying some of that stuckness is the anxiety and the way around that is you have to take action. Even by doing it, we build that muscle and we’re building those new connections, building new awareness of like, “No. I can put myself out there. I can do this.”

That’s a familiarity bias if we’re used to the way that we look in one way versus another. I’ve been virtual for my business for years before all of this. I had gotten used to seeing myself on video. I was still putting on makeup every time when I was going to do a live. I would make this extra effort even though I would have been going to work without that. I don’t know why, but I felt like I needed to. It’s lives forever or something. One of the main reasons we don’t like to see ourselves on camera, for anyone that’s getting stuck on that, is we have this familiarity bias and the way that other people see us head-on and the way that we truly look. The only way we ever see ourselves as in the mirror, which is slightly different than the way that you look because none of us are perfectly symmetrical people.

When you see yourself in a head-on vision, it looks off. Your brain hates it because it’s gotten familiar and used to something else. Like for me, I have a freckle on my right cheek. When it’s looking head-on, it’s on the left side to me and it looks very weird. My brain rejects and hates it and then focuses on those things and it makes me distracted. The entire conversation is worse. If I get used to seeing myself in the non-mirror image on video, eventually my brain will be okay and accept it. It’s not that anything is wrong or different. It’s what it’s used to and what it thinks I should look like. There are some things like Zoom that naturally do a mirror image of yourself. It’s more comfortable for the person who’s speaking, whereas Facebook Live and GoToMeeting do not. That’s a tip.

How The Brain Works: People have short memories and don't really focus on what we're doing as much as we think that they are.

How The Brain Works: People have short memories and don’t really focus on what we’re doing as much as we think that they are.


There are days where I’m like, “I finally found that one filter in Zoom to make it look nicer.” I started using StreamYard. I was like, “Great. I want to go back to Zoom because she’s way better.” Going back, I do feel like so many people are in this place of even if they understand like, “I know what I need to do, but I find myself coming up with so many reasons on not to do them. I feel that that overwhelming stuck.” Is there anything you can give, a tidbit to speak to that for people?

I would say to take the time to invest in determining what your actual goals are and what is important to you in the longer term. I do have a free mini-course that helps walk through all of that, Master Your Mindset. It’s going through this process of know what all your goals could possibly be and helping you narrow down to those top three things that are a priority to you. It is as much about knowing what you will say yes to as it is about knowing what you can then allow yourself to say no to. You understand why and what is important. For my goals, there’s about thought leadership and being a thought leader, as well as overall health and more time with my family. Those are my top three things in my entire life that I’m working on knowing that I also have to prioritize within them of what comes first. There’s more detail to all of that. If you know what your three things are and you’re able to say, “Is this helping me to establish my thought leadership? Should this be the most important goal right now?”

For working on the show, that’s important in establishing me as a thought leader. I need to be doing that. Working on my book, that is important in establishing thought leadership and I need to be doing that. There are other things that may be interesting and that I would love to be able to do if I had all the time in the world. If it’s not helping me to be healthier, if it’s not helping me to have more time with my family and it’s not helping to establish me as a thought leader in the field of Behavioral Economics, I can’t do it. It’s okay to say no to those things. You can feel the weight removed as I can, then be choosing tasks and goals that all align up to those top three things.

More importantly, you have to. If you don’t say no to things, there’s no way that you can ever get to that endpoint and accomplish those things.

There are things that you have to say no to that you like to do. I have always been a very avid crafter. I love knitting, quilting, painting and all of these things. Some of that I can put into this classification of time with family if we can be working on something together. It also could be a little bit in my own mental health. If I was finding myself spending eight hours a day knitting blankets, potentially that’s something that is a bikeshedding technique to keep me distracted from the thing that I need to be working on. That might be a little bit scary, like writing my thoughts.

I would put Netflix in there.

I’ve been rewatching plenty of shows these days and finding old gems in the mix. You can still have time for Netflix and some of that. Knowing why you’re allowing yourself that right now and what it’s about, and being thoughtful about all of it and asking, “Why am I doing this right now? Did I finish what I said I was going to do today?” Once you’ve finished your one thing, if you do want to watch some Netflix, yay for you. You did the one thing you said you were going to do. You can celebrate a little bit and maybe you get motivated to do another thing after you watch a few episodes of whatever your favorite show happens to be.

I did start that roll back up for myself because I found myself getting into that. I do love shows and movies and stuff. Until I do my one thing, I cannot watch Netflix or Amazon Prime because I found BritBox, which is dangerous because it was amazing. All these British crime dramas, I was like, “I can’t do that until I do my one thing.” That night, I did watch an entire series.

I did book editing for a long time or for a little while. I did edit books for several years. In that process where sometimes you’re like, “I have to read another one of these chapters.” I would help myself through that process to say, “Once I finish this one chapter, this one section of the book or whatever it happens to be, once this one is done, I get to watch an episode of The Crown. Once that’s done, I have to do another chapter.” It will take me longer overall to do the work in that moment knowing I need to get to the end of this chapter, then I get that little reward at the end. Once I’m now excited and I want to go onto the next thing that I want to do, I have to do another chapter first. That’s a good way to help motivate yourself along the way as well.

I want to thank you so much for coming on. If people wanted to find out more information about you, where should they go?

TheBrainyBusiness.com. That has the show and links to my column with Inc. Magazine and all other content. Anyone can also find me on the socials as @TheBrainyBiz.

Thank you again, Melina. I’m hoping this helps you out there get unstuck or create a structure for yourself to get yourself getting some traction and moving forward.



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Melina Palmer, the host of The Brainy Business Podcast, has dedicated her career to seeking answers to these questions for herself and her clients. At The Brainy Business, Melina works with companies and entrepreneurs to understand the small changes that can make a big difference in product programs, pricing, change initiatives, branding, internal communication, and marketing messages “brain friendly” to increase engagement and ROI.

Why do people say one thing and do another? What really drives behavior? How does the brain actually work – and how can we best communicate with it? What does that mean for companies? Melina Palmer, host of The Brainy Business podcast, has dedicated her career to seeking answers to these questions for herself and her clients. Melina uses behavioral economics to help everyone from global corporations to entrepreneurs understand the psychology of why people buy, unlocking the secrets of small changes that make a big difference via her podcast, public speaking, and column on Inc.com. The result is messaging, branding, advertisements, pricing and products that are more “brain friendly” (meaning more leads, conversions, and revenue).

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