Taylor Jacobson is a startup founder, trained executive coach, and productivity scientist. He is the CEO and founder of Focusmate a virtual coworking supportive community where people get things done together.
What is something you wish you would’ve realized earlier in your life?
It’s OK to not have everything figured out. Once you surrender to all your shortcomings and uncertainty and just accept it, you’re in a much better, gentler place to start figuring things out. The sense that you should have the answers and be awesome now can be really frustrating and debilitating for a young person.
Tell me about one of the darker periods you’ve experienced in life. How you came out of it and what you learned from it?
In 2010, I started working remotely for the first time, and my productivity fell apart. I spiraled because I felt ashamed of myself and was also really isolated, so I fell into depression. Ironically the thing that helped start turning things around was deciding I was going to let go completely of needing to feel productive and learn how to just be where I was. I am still learning that lesson but I think it’s profound: there is nowhere we can ever get to in life—no achievement, no bank balance, no job title, no perfect partner—that will enable us to escape the human condition. The real trick is to learn how to let go of needing to get anywhere and practice being with all that primordial uncertainty and insecurity and just enjoy the ride.
What is one thing that you do that you feel has been the biggest contributor to your success so far?
It may sound trite to say this but it’s true: I decided I needed to let go of all the great reasons I had to explain why I wasn’t quite measuring up to my potential and realize they were just stories I was telling myself that kept me stuck. I decided instead to act with excellence in all things in my work. I decided my raw talents or abilities or situation weren’t important; what was important going forward was just choosing to do my best in each moment and trusting that everything else would work itself out.
What is your morning routine?
I don’t have a morning routine right now! But my best mornings have this in common: I take care of my body, and I set clear intentions. Often I’ll do 1-2 hours of Focusmate sessions dedicated to stretching, yoga, physical therapy, meditation, journaling, and planning the rest of my day.
What habit or behavior that you have pursued for a few years has most improved your life?
This might land as a sales pitch for my own product, but, the honest true answer is that using Focusmate has changed my life over and over again. The simple accountability structure helps me carve out big blocks of time and then use them really intentionally. Repeating that over and over has led me to life-changing results.
What are your strategies for being productive and using your time most efficiently?
Per my answer above, Focusmate! But, if I have to share a few deeper thoughts, I’d say that taking care of my body—sleep, stretching, exercise, nutrition—is the most impactful productivity hack there is. Second to that is ensuring that I carve out big chunks of time and then choose very carefully: what is the one thing I can do right now that I will feel most relieved to have worked on? Because, productivity is really about choosing the right work and then doing your best—NOT about doing more or working harder.
What book(s) have influenced your life the most? Why?
The Road Less Traveled by M. Scott Peck opens with the line “Life is difficult”. He goes on to share a view that love is “extending yourself in service of your own or another person’s spiritual growth”. This framing, that life is hard and that love is work, has been invaluable for me. Just giving up the notion that things will ever be easy, or a romantic notion that love saves us rather than demanding something of us is a relief in a way. A final key piece of the book is basically pointing out how magical life and the world is. The book kind of turns things around and invites us to decide whether we’re willing to do the work to tap into the magic that’s there in front of us.
Do you have any quotes you live by or think of often?
Nita Baum, the Founder at b*free, says, “How you build a thing is what the thing becomes”. That is probably the most useful quote I’ve ever heard: It reminds us that there really is no past or future or milestone or result, there is only now and how we’re being in this moment. And that if we do think there’s someplace we’ll get to, it will just be a reflection of how we’re being in this moment. So, there are no shortcuts and no escape. Be the way you want to be, right now, and always, and then instead of getting where you want to go, you’re already there now, and you’re also cultivating the future you truly want.