This BNET article was written with such a cheeky tone that I couldn’t tell whether the author, Steve Tobak, was serious or not: The Real Secret to Personal Productivity.
But I endorse his conclusion — true productivity is a function of discipline and focus, yet that shows up as something different in each person.
Actually, I’d go a step further and say that there’s no way to tell if someone has these two traits by simply observing them. For example, you may come to believe that someone has incredible commitment, only to find out that they are suffering from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, or something akin to it.
We are on much safer ground if we focus on habits, practices and rituals, simply because these are observable, and the frequency can be verified easily. I might not care if you are disciplined and focused, as long as you have the right habits to get stuff done.
Therefore, I doubt that there’s any “real secret” that lies in anything that cannot be put on film, and used as evidence in a court of law.
Importantly, this also indicates what a manager should focus his/her coaching advice on… observable behaviors, rather than opinions and judgments that are unreliable, and always biased.