Just the other day I was having a conversation with a dear friend and the topic of productivity and process came up. We began talking about all things Human Design (much more on that to come) and how both of us fell right into the qualities of our designated types.
She as a Generator, me as a Manifesting Generator (to learn more about Human Design and get your free body graph visit here). The conversation continued and I found myself listing off all of the courses, certifications and ‘loose’ ends that I had in my life, all in the name of deepening my spiritual practice, gaining knowledge and learning about things that REALLY lit me up.
As a Generator, she immediately replied, “That would drive me crazy. I need to have everything finished up, completed and done before moving onto the next thing.”
“Hmmm” I thought, that could feel really nice.
I’ve always known myself to have abundant levels of energy and desire to be doing more than one thing at a time. It lights me up to be living out all of my passions in the world simultaneously, that is, until it becomes too stimulating or overwhelm begins to creep in. As a Manifesting Generator, I am actually designed to to be doing more than one thing at once and can actually develop health problems if that part isn’t expressed.
But to what end?
This question began to rise in my psyche as I considered it all. To what end do I try and do ‘all the things’ and learn about all the many things I am interested in. To what end? At the detriment of my mental and physical well-being and health? That was no longer an option for me.
How could I proactively make better choices for myself moving forward?
Enter a beautiful navy + gold book that practically fell off the shelves during my last visit to Staples, “Progress over Perfection: A Guide To Mindful Productivity” by Emma Norris.
The book immediately caught my attention as I passed it the first time, with it’s beautiful creative and lovely aesthetic cover, and it was if it was calling my name as I walked by it again. I picked it up and started thumbing through the pages and immediately realized that it was stocked full of some amazing, insightful information.
I brought the book home and essentially inhaled it from cover to cover in under 2 days! The concept of Mindful Productivity was so well described and explained throughout the chapters, and I knew it was exactly what I needed to hear in that moment.
During the introduction, Emma began describing how she, along with so many others, had found herself caught up in the ‘hustle and grind’ mentality that is so easily found in today’s society. She described how she felt like she had to be constantly ‘doing’ vs BEING in order to stay ahead, not drop the ball and keep her head about water. She wrote about a lovely vacation that she had taken overseas and how she hardly had time to enjoy herself while away because she was working almost the entire time.
She described her wake up moment as: “When you aren’t enjoying the things happening in the present moment” something needs to change.
Enter: Mindful Productivity. Ok, so what does this ACTUALLY mean?
Let’s first describe Mindfulness. Mindfulness is essentially bringing your attention to the present moment vs what I call past or future tripping (or ruminating about what has happened or is potentially going to happen).
“It’s about observing and experiencing all that is happening in it’s entirety… any thoughts, feelings and body sensations” Norris states. This is a stark contrast to the ‘busyness’ syndrome that has plagued our current society. The immense pressure to stay and look busy because we have equated that state of being and mindset to SUCCESS.
However this ‘busyness’ can lead us feeling overwhelmed, distracted, depleted and down right exhausted (some might say burnt out).
So what can we begin to do differently to adopt this idea of Mindful Productivity into our personal and professional lives. So many things! The book as an exhaustive list throughout (I recommend grabbing a copy for yourself), but I am going to share the top 10 techniques that really stood out to me here with you.
1. Realizing that Perfectionism is a Myth: Perfectionism is essentially the mountain that we are climbing that has NO peak! If we keep scaling the mountain we will continue to find ourselves exhausted, frustrated and discouraged.
2. Adopt a Growth vs Fixed Mindset: We are always growing and evolving as humans in this world. We are growing as parents, partners, employees, employers, friends… the list could go on and on. However, the key is look at all of these growth opportunities as FEEDBACK vs Failure. Asking, what can I learn from this situation to grow and evolve?
3. Take Imperfect Action Today: Want to reach a professional goal or become a more attentive and loving parent? Start today. You have to start somewhere and the first step is the most important. Done is always better than perfect and it is moving you one step closer to your goals.
4. Focus on ONE THING at a time: This is a crucial step! The reality is that no one is good at multi-tasking (sorry for any offense that might have placed). But it’s true, no one is good at doing 5-10 things at a time… that is doing them Well. In order to start to move closer to our goals it is imperative to focus on one thing at a time and not move onto the next task until that one thing has been completed. Making sure that you have at least 80% of a task completed before even considering to entertain the idea of moving on. After reading The One Thing by Gary Keller my mindset on this truth changed forever. “When you’re trying to do everything you’re actually doing nothing” Emma.
5. Adopt the Practice of Mono-tasking vs Multi-tasking: Did you know that it takes an average of 23 mins and 15 secs to regain focus once distracted? That’s a lot of time trying to get back in the flow, not to mention wasted energy! The practice of mono-tasking is simply focusing on a single task at a time vs all the things. When I sit down at my desk to work I now have a practice in place. I turn my phone on airplane mode, I turn off all notifications on my computer, I light a candle and some incense and if the kiddos are at home I put on some headphones with light, relaxing music in the background. This makes a HUGE difference!
6. Implement Productivity Sprints: These are short, sharp bursts of work. The ‘Pomodoro Method’ involves implementing timed productivity bursts, 25 minutes each, separated by 5 minute breaks. It’s much easier to stay focused for 25 minutes straight when you subconsciously know that you have a 5 minute break coming up to follow.
7. Batch Working + Time Blocking: Batching working is essentially creating designated chunks of time in your day to work on similar tasks so that you can stay in the flow state longer. Rather than working at your desk for an hour, then running downstairs to do laundry, then running back up to catch a work call… chunk similar things together. This is also where Time Blocking comes in and works like a charm. Pull out your calendar weekly and block off chunks of time for similar tasks (and always give yourself more time than you expect… I’ve learned that the hard way). Group your work/client calls, your house work and chores, and anything that takes the same part of your brain to complete together.
8. Embrace Imperfection + Cut Out Comparison: In the Japanese culture there is a term called ‘Wabi-Sabi,’ the art of embracing imperfection and impermanence is a central part of life. Taking pleasure in the little blessings and imperfections that life provides. We are all only doing the best we can with the resources that we have each and every day. When we can begin to take pleasure in the little nuances that arise, we begin to enjoy the life that we are experiencing now. This also means staying in your own lane! In the book, Emma reminds the readers of a common verbiage in the tradition of yoga, “Stay on your own mat.” She invites the readers to consider each time they begin to compare themselves and their lives to others, to then imagine physically walking over and standing on someone else’s yoga mat. Awkward right! ‘We’re all walking our own path – be being the only one on yours, you’ll reach your destination faster.”
9. The Power of Boundaries and Saying No: Creating boundaries is about teaching the people around you what you are and aren’t willing to accept. It’s being open, honest and vulnerable up front vs becoming resentful and frustrated later. If something comes up and it isn’t a Hell Yes, then it is 100% ok for the answer to be a No. Ask yourself, “How will I feel if I take on this task, Am I doing this out of guilt, Is this my duty/responsibility, Am I comfortable doing this, and What would I sacrifice?” You can do anything, but you don’t have to do everything. “Protect your time and energy like you would your money.” They’re are just as, if not more, important!
10. Focus on BEING vs. Doing: We are called Human BEINGs for a reason! Remind yourself of this often. Focus on being in the present moment, becoming aware of your senses and resist trying to fix, improve or achieve something. Just be. Some beautiful affirmations from the book follow.
“I am exactly where I need to be be right now.”
“I give myself permission to enjoy this moment.”
“I am here. I am happy. I am enough.”
I hope these learnings have inspired you as much as they did me. Implement ONE of these practices into your life and your day at a time and see how much more Mindfully Productive you become!