Sometime around the end of the 20th century, busyness became not just a way of life, but a badge of honor for most Americans. In fact, the busier you are, the faster you work, the more you can multitask – the better. That is how our society now measures competence and success. If you’re busy, you’re important.

Yet leadership expert Jeremie Kubicek would argue that we’re measuring the wrong thing. It’s not about how busy you are, but rather feeling present and productive in every aspect of your life.

I completely agree and so I was delighted to have the chance to speak with him about his new book, 5 GEARS: HOW TO BE PRESENT AND PRODUCTIVE WHEN THERE IS NEVER ENOUGH TIME. In it, he presents a revolutionary method to not only grow your relational intelligence, but increase your daily impact as well.

Now I know what you’re thinking. And no, you’re not too busy to make a change – it’s time to be intentional about the way you live and work in the world!

Here’s my conversation with Jeremie:

The 5 Gears are:

Paul: Thank you for your time.  Let’s start with how you came to write this book—what was the moment when it became clear that this was wanted and needed?


Jeremie:  When we were living in the UK, I was noticing differences in the way my British business partner and I lived our lives. I needed a metaphor to explain and decided to use the manual stick shift to make a point of how at times we were both in the wrong gear at the wrong time and our relational or emotional intelligence at times was not automatic.


Paul:  I think that for many of my clients, the socializing piece would be outside of their comfort zone. How do you coach people who just aren’t into one of the gears?


Jeremie:  Many people despise the social mode (3rd Gear) because they are either introverts and fear what others might ask them as they are rather quite shy, or are a bit arrogant thinking that they are wasting time hearing about other people’s vacations or kids or work, etc. 3rd Gear, social space, is actually the place where people get to try you on. If you negate it then you are actually hurting your influence and reputation because you are hindering the impression others have of you.


Paul:  Regarding the 5th gear, how can people break the compelling appeal of technology and find more time for their focused zone?


Jeremie:  5th Gear is simply the focus gear. For some of us technology actually helps us and for others it traps us into overwork. I have found that creating 5th Gear times on my calendar actually help me move in and out more effectively.


Paul:  Regarding the 4th gear, I’m not a big proponent of multi-tasking. Why do you feel it is important?


Jeremie:  Whether you feel 4th gear is important or not, it simply is. Most of us have customers to call, bills to pay, meetings to have, etc. Multi-tasking simply is what occurs in our task driven world. The secret is to being able to manage it without getting sucked in to its vortex.


Paul:  Regarding the 3rd gear, I’ve always admired people who had the ability to be present to one person at a time in social settings—people who seemed to put the rest of the world on hold while they spoke with me. How can we all achieve this? For people who tend to listen first and speak second, what advice do you have for those who worry about not having anything interesting to say?


Jeremie:  The simplest way I know how to do this is to be interested before being interesting. Most people are thinking about what they will say and miss what others have said. By being focused on being interested first it gives you a chance to ask simple questions like, “where are you from? what do you like to do for fun? etc.” Asking a great question can change the entire view of you from others.


Paul: Regarding 2nd gear, I like your approach much better than trying to achieve the elusive goal of work life balance. How much time should people target for this gear? I know we are all different and our situations are different, but what would be your target for people trying to be fully present with family and friends?


Jeremie:  To connect with others is something that should just naturally happen. If, for instance, I am meeting with someone and we have a lot in common then considering that we both have time, it should naturally move into connect mode (2nd Gear).


Paul: Regarding 1st gear, please share your thinking about both rest and about recharging.


Jeremie:  We all need rest and yet 50% of people don’t seem to get it, because they either don’t know how or are not disciplined enough to make it happen. It is important to know if you recharge by time alone (introvert) or recharge with others (extrovert).


Paul: Effective people seem to have this capacity to observe themselves—where they can see themselves present or interact with others.  You seem to be pointing at that ability in your book. How might people begin to slow down and develop this capacity?


Jeremie:  The key to self-awareness and learning how to be both present and productive, is to know your weaknesses (worst gears) and to shift into the right gear at the right time. I have had to create trigger points or markers that help remind me of what gear to be in. Also, my wife and I have created a joint calendar to decide as a family what gear we should be in at different times of the day.


Paul:  Lastly, for the people who are not relationship oriented, what is your best argument that relationships might be all we have to really make life work?


Jeremie:  Intellect is important and yet in today’s economy, many people can now gain knowledge through the internet and courses. Relational intelligence is a competitive advantage. Most people know that. Unless you have to, most people want to only work with people they like. Relationships give you opportunity and fulfillment. For those that are maybe socially inept there are things you can do that we share in the 5 Gears book. For those that don’t have time, they are actually undermining themselves and may not be aware of it.


Bestselling author Jeremie Kubicek is co-author of 5 Gears: How to Be Present and Productive When There Is Never Enough Time and co-founder of GiANT Worldwide, a global company dedicated to transforming and multiplying leaders and teams. Follow him on Twitter at @jeremiekubicek.