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Pruning Your Suckers

productivity Jul 23, 2022

When I was an employee, I was aware of things that could show up during the day that were non-productive.  Distractions showed up as emails from vendors inviting me to check out their latest software advances or as team members stopping by the office for a chat.

Seemed pretty harmless until I began to run my own photography and video production business, here in Naples, FL.  Suddenly, distractions and non-productive temptations became a big deal.

There's a horticultural term that refers to non-productive shoots growing on a plant or tree that “suck” precious nutrients away from the fruit-bearing branches. Unremarkably, these are called "Suckers," and they're just like that new product demo or chit-chat at the water cooler.

Suckers grow on fruit trees, grape vines, raspberry plants, and other fruit-bearing plants.

In the garden, you can spot suckers because they grow quickly and are long and slender and produce no fruit. However, since suckers grow as part of the plant, they may not always be readily obvious. Suckers hinder growth and productivity, so the gardener learns to recognize them, prune them, and throw them on the compost pile.

“Suckers” grow in our business and personal lives as well. Over time, we inadvertently develop practices or behaviors that suck the fruitfulness from our lives and work. Distractions also qualify as suckers. Personal and business suckers deplete time, resources, and focus from our lives.

These productivity “suckers” are far more common and harmful than we might think. A recent survey conducted by the business coaching firm Inc. found that “time-wasting, low-value and no-value activities among business owners accounted for more than 30% of their workweeks.”*

Sometimes “suckers” in our lives and business are easy to detect and other times they are so well camouflaged as part of our business that we don’t recognize them.


 Potential Suckers

Let’s consider some of the potential “suckers” in our lives and business and ways to prune them:

  1. Negative thinking and negative self-talk.  Nothing robs us of joy, hope, enthusiasm, and productivity like negative thoughts and negative self-talk. And don’t fall into the trap of excusing such behavior by saying you’re a realist!

    Negative thinking can creep into our thought patterns so subtly that we may not even realize it. Fits of anger, depression, complaining and grumbling all give evidence that we’ve allowed this “sucker” to flourish in our lives. Prune it away by replacing negative thinking and self-talk with positive thinking and positive self-talk. This takes discipline and


  2. Naysayers. Naysayers and negative people also suck the life out of our lives and business. To the extent possible, simply avoid such people. You don’t want people in your life who take joy in running you or your business down. However, if this person is someone you want to maintain a relationship with, then have a candid talk with them and explain the impact of their negativity on you and others.

    If someone does say something negative or discouraging, smile and counter it with a positive, encouraging word.  

  3. Media. TV, video games, search engines, movies and social media can all suck time and productivity from our lives. I’m not saying these are bad. We all need some “play time” in our lives. But these media are often very alluring and can become addictive.

    If you recognize some form of media as a “sucker” in your life, set limits for yourself in using it. You may need to prune some media out of your life altogether. Or, consider using media as a reward for completing a project or working a certain number of hours.

    What may make this “sucker” difficult to detect, however, is the fact that we all use media in our businesses. For instance, it’s easy to go to Facebook to post something for the business, and the next thing we know, we’ve spent half-an-hour reading other people’s posts!

  4. Email. We are constantly barraged with email. Every few minutes (seconds) a little chime announces the arrival of a new email and potential distraction. Turn off the chime. Prune this “sucker” by deciding to check emails at only certain times of the day.

  5. Anything else that’s non-productive. There may be any number of other distractions throughout a day that suck productivity away from you. Think about your work area; your peak productivity times; people, pets, or other duties that make demands on your time. Don’t let what seems urgent distract you from your plan and goal. Prune away the “suckers” so you can stay on task.

    However, there are times when something unplanned but too important to ignore forces its way into our schedule. Sometimes that issue is so mind-consuming that we know we’ve got to take care of it, or it’ll continue to dominate our thoughts until we do. In such cases, take care of it so you can quickly get back on track.

Take a few minutes to assess your personal life and business. Identify the most common “suckers” for you. Write them down and decide how you’ll “prune” them out of your life.

If you'd like support or help working through that, I'm only an email away.

Other ways to connect with Scott are on Facebook and Instagram.

Scott Markowitz


Scott Markowitz is a successful TV/Film editor and owner of Ryan & Scott Media in Naples, FL.  He has edited and managed media for CNN, was lead editor for a list of TV shows, including Bar Hunters, Food Feuds, Restaurant: Impossible, and Dinner: Impossible, where he was the show’s co-creator.  Scott is a sought after editor, photographer and film producer for small businesses and PR firms and is passionate in helping others to launch and grow their own creative services business.




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