Interview with Productivity Guru Diane Dresback
Diane DresbackThis morning, I'm chatting with author, filmmaker, and productivity expert Diane M. Dresback about her latest book, "Your Action, Your Success: Motivating Yourself to Get Things Done", as well as some of the most common time management mistakes and how to overcome procrastination.

Diane has a passion for seeing other people succeed at things they never thought they could do; and for storytelling, both in book and film mediums. As an author, she has written both fiction and non-fiction, and designed an online course as well.

Since 2007, she has also been active in the independent film industry where she's written, directed and produced several short films, winning numerous awards - including the 2012 Arizona Filmmaker of the Year Award - for her efforts.

In addition to writing and film making, Diane has spent over 26 years in corporate human resources and training, with most of that time in management and executive level positions in the financial and travel industries. She holds a master's degree in Adult Education and a bachelor's degree in Human Services.

Hi Diane, thanks so much for stopping by the Activia Training blog. Could you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Thank you for the invite, Ashley! Right now I live in Austin, Texas, although I was born in California and lived in Phoenix, Arizona for many years. But I love England! I actually lived there for six years when I was in elementary school. Someday, I'll return for a visit to my old homes and boarding schools. Living outside the United States and traveling through Europe at a young age gave me a great appreciation for different cultures and people.

After 26 years of human resources and training management in corporate America, I decided to take a completely different path for the past nine years. I tapped into my “creative-side,” so to speak, and began storytelling and writing full time. Over the past two years, I’ve written two novels, a non-fiction book, and published an online course geared for the leaders of volunteers. I’m married and have two grown children, two step-children and a daughter-in-law.

In addition to working on your writing projects, you have also been in the independent film industry since 2007. Which one do you find more challenging, writing or directing films?

I love independent film making! There's nothing better than seeing your storytelling projected up on the big screen. I have written and directed several short films as well as wrote and co-produced a feature film.

I enjoy the process of filmmaking and writing equally. It’s hard to say which is more challenging as they both have their own unique struggles and rewards. But for me, they are related. My first two novels and the one I’m working on now all started as film ideas. Every story begins by seeing images in my head, then I decide in which medium to present it.

One big difference is that writing and directing a film is a much more collaborative process, with multiple people involved. In my last narrative short film entitled Blue Copper, I dove into the area of paranoid schizophrenia. Even though I wrote the script alone, it took numerous people to bring that story to life on film. My book writing is a more solitary endeavour, with the utilization of only a few other people.

Your latest book, Your Action, Your Success: Motivating Yourself to Get Things Done was published earlier this month. Could you tell us a little bit about it?

Your Action, Your Success by Diane DresbackBased upon my many years of working corporate jobs, my filmmaking and just my own personal desires, I decided to tackle the topic of getting things done. So many of us have long “to do” lists that just seem to grow longer rather than shorter. We put off more important things in exchange for smaller tasks that just eat up our time. I know I am not alone in procrastinating, excuse-giving, and telling myself that I can’t do something.

I have been known as a “doer” of projects. My desire is to share some strategies with people in the hope that they can motivate themselves to be more successful in what they hope to accomplish. The thing is, it doesn’t matter if you are dealing with growing in your career, taking up a new hobby, cleaning out the junk room, or anything else. The important thing is getting yourself moving and that’s what Your Action, Your Success is about.

Writing has always been an important part of your life, and you enjoy writing fast paced suspense and mysteries. Why did you decide to switch from fiction to non-fiction and write about this particular topic?

One of my book reviewers commented to me that even though Your Action, Your Success is a non-fiction book, he could still see storytelling throughout. That’s because stories are such a fabulous way to illustrate points and the way we often learn through experiences. The first several short films that I wrote and directed were what I called Discussion Dramas - narrative stories with learning points built in.

With a master’s degree in Adult Education and many years of corporate training and development, it just felt like it was time to write this non-fiction book.

Are you working on any new novels at the moment or what’s next for you?

I am on the second draft of my third novel and am hoping to have it finished later this year. I’m also in development for a book series. The non-fiction world definitely resonates with me as well, so I will likely explore doing a second book. Floating in my head is another film idea so that needs to get down on paper, too. Lots of ideas swirling around… I guess I’d better go back and re-read my book. Ha ha!

Out of all the tools you provide in your book, which one do you find the most useful in your own life?

I have a chapter in the book called The Magic of Small Steps. Some of my projects have felt overwhelming with all the pieces and moving parts. But I know from experience that with some planning and dissection, I can tackle a huge project by breaking it down into smaller, more digestible portions that can take place within the time chunks I have allotted. And this works for becoming a better writer, learning how to play an instrument, or tackling the mess in the attic.

What do you think is the biggest obstacle for overcoming procrastination?

People have lots of reasons why they procrastinate. One of the biggest ones is the belief that the perfect time always seems to be tomorrow. Today they fill their time with doing lots of other things — anything but the thing they should be doing because they think it will make them feel better to accomplish ten smaller things rather than one big thing.

We should accept the premise that the time to do something will never be perfect. The reality is that there will always be something else to fill our time. Starting with the most important project first helps fight against getting side-tracked. We must be disciplined and set priorities.

What is the biggest mistake you see people make when trying to organise their time?

Often we don’t plan our time with intention, instead we just let it fill up with all kinds of significant and insignificant things. In the book, I suggest that people keep track of where they are spending their time for a few days. The results of this time assessment is usually very revealing. Where we perceive our time is being spent is often far from the reality of where those precious minutes truly go.

If we want to accomplish something, we need to sacrifice time for it. Once we recognize that fact, then we can search for small or large chunks of time to dedicate to the task. It’s so easy to believe we don’t have enough time for everything, and it is true that people are busy these days. However, I think that if people really took a hard look at how they are spending their time, they might be pleasantly surprised at where they can make some adjustments.

Diane Dresback family
Do you think people's ability to manage their time is down to their personality or their developed habits?

I think personality may play somewhat of a role in a person’s ability to manage time, but mostly it stems from our developed habits. Habits are funny things. They can provide us structure and comfort on the one hand, while on the other hand they can severely hold us back.

In the book, I share the story of a woman who yearned to travel. There was no huge reason for why she had chosen not to do so, she just had not ventured out of the small town she grew up in and the larger town she then lived in. I challenged her to take a short weekend trip outside those two cities. I asked her to determine where she would go and encouraged her to write the dates on her calendar. That simple push was enough for her to follow through and discover her love of travel. To this day, she continues traveling. Often getting that taste of success helps motivate us to keep going.

Why is time management an important skill to master?

Life is short. Time is finite. Work-life balance is important. There will always be more than enough things to do. The key is to make sure we have enough time and energy left to do the things we feel passionate about, make us feel satisfied, and give us a sense of achievement. We all get the exact same 24 hours in a day. We must make each of those hours count.

What do you believe your readers have the hardest time with when it comes to being more productive?

I actually conducted an informal survey of my Readers Connect Group (people on my mailing list) and my social media followers. I asked them to share with me the things they struggle with the most when trying to get things done. It was quite interesting that many of us share so many similar reasons for not doing things. The top reason was TIME with FEAR coming in as a close second.

Finally, is there anything else that you would like to share with our readers?

I would just like to encourage your readers to take a hard look at the things they really wish to accomplish. Not just the things they must do, but the things they want to do. Then let go of their fears, recover the time, try new tools and strategies, and work towards achieving the things they find most valuable and satisfying.

Thank you for having me as a guest on the Activia Training blog!

And thank you for stopping by, Diane - I really enjoyed reading your answers and your thoughts on productivity!

Diane's latest book, Your Action, Your Success: Motivating Yourself To Get Things Done was published on 16 March, 2016, and is available to download from Amazon and other online retailers. And, if you'd like to connect with Diane, you can say hello to her on Twitter at @DianeMDresback.