Cori Sue Morris on Not Letting Happiness Depend on Check Boxes

Cori Sue Morris is founder of Retreat Foods, a snack company dedicated to fighting stress. She is also a Brand Marketer and self-described Productivity Junkie.

On quiz results

It was a pretty big revelation for me to discover the meaning of “precrastination”—and that I was a precrastinator myself. It helped explain why I get a lot done and am super productive, but have several seemingly counter-intuitive (and frankly unappealing) qualities like always running late or leaving the most important thing to the very last moment. 

Work is definitely the focal point of my life—I am very entrepreneurial, and I’ve spent the last decade alternating between building brands as a marketing director at start-ups and running my own company. I’m currently doing both—leading marketing at a healthcare start-up and building my third business, Retreat Foods, the first snack company dedicated to fighting stress, launching this April. 

Precrastination helps explain why I often get a lot done— but tend to maschocistically leave the most important thing on my to-do-list for the very last minute. People tend to perceive me as highly effective—I get a lot done, and done well, but I tend to privately put myself through the ringer in doing so. And, I’ve definitely dropped the ball on something more than I care to admit—because it was 90% finished 3 weeks ago, but I was just spun up and unable to finish that last 10%. It feels good to know I’m not alone in some of this strange behavior.

While certain productivity tactics — time blocking, project management systems, healthy eating, taking breaks — are common, I’ve had to dig a bit deeper to get at the root of how I am inclined to a bit of self-sabotage. 

Being thoughtful about how and what to prioritize

My precrastination causes me a lot of anxiety—I do a lot of little things, but then the resistance really builds up when it’s time to tackle the big, scary, important one. I’ve found that committing to drafts—”just do the first version today!” really helps. 

I’ve also learned to schedule important creative work—like building a website or writing a client deck—after taking a break. I used to believe I could work all the time—and as I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned to prioritize self care—play and time away from the computer screen spur creativity and more productivity come the following work week. My best work is always after some time away from the computer, spent reading, socializing, or spending time playing—exercise, board games, podcasts are great ways for me to still feel “productive” while not actually working. 

I do tend to project my precrastination on to my poor fiancee—who is a saint of a man and wired entirely differently to me. I’ll burst into the room and say “have you packed yet?” then later “When are you going to finish cleaning your office?” and yet later “I’m not going to be able to help you with that tonight— I have to finish this very important thing!” Poor man. He’s great about it—he’ll just look at me and say “You do you, darling, I’ll do me.” The Australian accent also helps. 

Wired to get things done

It’s hard to separate my precrastination from other facets of “me”—I’m an ENTJ, which is the classic CEO archetype, and my Gallup Strengths Finder results found that my primary drivers were “focus,” “achievement,” and “futurist.” That’s a long way of saying I’m wired and motivated to get things done. 

I’m able to prioritize, focus, and execute on a high volume and variety of tasks, which is crucial when you’re managing marketing, building a business, or in my case at the moment, both. It’s definitely been an asset in my life, but doesn’t come without its downsides.

I expend an enormous amount of energy—and can make things more difficult on myself, by doing too much, rather than just letting things take their course.

Internal and external factors play a role

Growing up, I always did things ahead of time—I was the goody-two-shoes that did her homework first thing and turned in her projects early. Back then, it came without the emotional baggage and fear of failure that comes with adulthood. Growing up as an over-acheiver, and then going through the ups and downs of millennial life: recessions, student loans, zero work-life-balance, and now a pandemic—the society upheavals plus the pressure I put on myself has made things less rosy than “get your homework done first and then you can play outside.” 

Strategies that work for Cori Sue

First and foremost, I look after my health—I try to keep my sleep, hormone, and sugar levels in balance so I’m not on a roller coaster of highs and lows. I sleep eight hours, I take adaptogens—specifically Reishi, Cordyceps and Lion’s Mane— for focus and cognitive benefits. I also intermittent fast and drink a lot of water during the day so I’m not dragged down by that post-lunch crash.

I ruthlessly time block and guard my calendar. I have meeting and non-meeting days. On meeting days, I pack 8-10 meetings back-to-back, so I can knock them all out in one day. I schedule deep work days after days off (e.g. Mondays, or Fridays, after a Thursday evening with friends and I let myself sleep an hour later). 

I’ve also added in breaks—I get up and stretch periodically. When I’m really struggling, I’ll stop, drop and meditate—just 10 minutes via Headspace or a 20-minute yoga class on Peloton

To ensure I’m focusing on big-picture tasks, and not getting too focused on my to-do-list app, Things, I write my annual and monthly big picture goals in a journal. I find that writing things down, vs. typing, gives them more weight. Because to-do-lists aren’t weighted, it’s easy to feel like you’re accomplishing things without focusing on the big picture. It’s easy to get caught in the busy trap. I use Asana for project management and a journal for personal goals and it keeps me on track to move my life vision, my business and my future forward.

Books and products that stand out

I’ll share some books that have really helped me. First and foremost, Essentialism by Gregory McKeown was a game-changer on prioritization and how doing too much can rapidly lead to failure. The War of Art (different from The Art of War) is incredibly helpful for anxiety-induced precrastination or procrastination about the fear of creative failure and how to overcome resistance. 

As far as product recommendations, I switched from coffee to Matcha, which provides a more calming, less anxious high. I love Golde’s powdered matcha lattes at home. In the evenings, I’ve switched from wine to Kin, a company that makes non-alcoholic aperitifs. The “High Rhode” cocktail tastes great and really helps me focus—I spend a few nights a week sipping happily on High Rode and effectively working late into the night.

I want to be accomplished and happy, right now, and it shouldn’t be dependent upon another check box.

Cori Sue Morris

On being preinclined

I used to always focus on getting things done so I could enjoy the future. Now, I want to be grateful, balanced, and present right now. I’ve been working on switching my perspective to acceptance, gratitude and presence: enjoying the moment right now, whether it’s working or living—or some combination therein. It’s an exercise to change from “If I just get this one more thing done then I’ll feel accomplished and happy.” I want to be accomplished and happy, right now, and it shouldn’t be dependent upon another check box.

Photo credit: Josh Wool

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