In a world where no-one ever has enough time to do everything they want, we’ve become obsessed with productivity. We’ve decided that being productive means doing as much as we possibly can, and somewhere along the line we’ve created a connection between this and success (or at least proving our worth).
But with over 60% of Australian businesses failing in the first three years, and the statistics of lifestyle related disease, stress and mental health issues rapidly increasing, one has to question how this version of productivity is really working for us.
As far as I’m concerned, redefining productivity is one of the most important steps any professional or business owner can take. Once you learn to detach your personal identity and self-worth from your work, and understand that productivity starts with looking after yourself, you’ll be much more efficient with your time, produce far greater results, and have a lot more fun in the process.
How to achieve ultimate productivity
The problem with being defined by your work and level of productivity is it puts you in a constant state of fight or flight mode, which wreaks havoc with the efficiency of your body and mind.
Your fight or flight mode is mostly triggered by your incessant thoughts and worries, your inability to switch off, and your fears of failing, not being good enough, and being rejected.
So if you want to be truly productive, it’s essential that you learn how to manage and overcome this response, and indeed make some fundamental changes in the way you think, so you can operate from your logical/proactive brain, get clear about where to spend your time and energy, and have the confidence to say no to whatever you can.
Let’s take a look at the three key areas that must be addressed to achieve all this:
Know who you really are and what really drives you
More often than not we get stuck in a cycle of doing what we think we “should” do and being who we “should” be. As a result we often feel unfulfilled because we’re not working on the things that really matter to us, and consequently don’t feel like we’re achieving everything we want as quickly as we want. So we work harder for longer trying to fill the void, and trying to ensure we don’t get found out as the fraud we think we are.
Here’s the thing – if you’re operating as yourself, free from conditions regarding what you need to do and who you need to be in order to prove your worth, you can stop wasting time constantly looking over your shoulder and trying to “cover your tracks” to prevent people from finding out “the truth”. Because then, the truth is actually that you’re doing the very best you can with the resources you have, and that’s perfectly good enough.
And to anyone who doesn’t deem it good enough – they can do everyone a favour and jog on.
So when you know who you really are and what really drives you, and you have the confidence to stay true to that, it gives you complete clarity on where to focus your time and energy at any given moment, and releases all the unnecessary thoughts and worries around potential failure and rejection.
To get you started towards understanding who you really are and what you really want, grab a big piece of paper and do a brain dump. Ask yourself:
- What am I passionate about?
- What brings me joy?
- What do I need to have in my life in order to feel good?
Write down whatever comes into your brain – don’t filter it or try to make sense of it – there’s no right or wrong here. Simply allow the words to flow out and keep going until you start to see repetition.
As I said, anything goes – so it might be grand notions like honesty, respect and family, or it might be small pleasures like going for a walk, eating good food and watching puppy videos on YouTube.
Once you have a full piece of paper, you’ve got yourself your Uppy Inventory – a list of all the things that make you who you are (remember, Uppy is you, the real you and nothing but the real you).
Next, you can organise your inventory into themes. For example, you may have, “eating well, exercising and looking after my mental wellbeing” on there – these might form the theme of “Health”. Or perhaps you put, “listening to podcasts, reading and learning new things” – these could form the theme “Growth and development”.
Aim to identify five or six themes, and you’ve got the beginnings of a guide for your life. Whenever you need to make decisions, choose a path or make yourself feel good, these themes will show you what to do in order to stay true to who you really are and what’s really important to you.
This will inevitably make you more productive because you’re working on and achieving what you really want, and you’ve got more headspace, energy and confidence to stay focused on the things that will have the biggest impact on your goals and aspirations – which also, by the way, includes “things” regarding your personal wellbeing and enjoyment.
Understand and respect the connection between the mind and body
When you’re constantly on the go and never switching off your brain thinks you’re in danger so it puts your body into fight or flight mode to ensure you survive. This increases the risk of sickness and disease, effects energy levels, mood and motivation, and impacts your ability to make decisions and be proactive.
Of course in this state it’s difficult to work efficiently because your brain is consumed by fog and you’re struggling to get through the day without an IV of coffee giving you regular kicks up the arse. At this point your goals tend to be more focused on just keeping your head above water, but because you’re operating from your emotional brain that water keeps on getting deeper and deeper as you continually fill it up with worries and self-doubt.
Understanding how the mind drives the body however, allows you to leverage its power to work with you rather than against you. By managing and overcoming this stress response (fight or flight mode) you can remain in your logical brain, meaning you can remain calm, clear, energised and motivated to proactively work on what really matters and move forward with much more momentum.
The next step will show you how to master this response at your core, by changing the thoughts that drive it. However if you pair this with physical strategies to calm your body, the results will be much faster and more effective.
Simple diaphragmatic breathing is the easiest, cheapest and most accessible way to calm your body. Ensure as you breath in you fill up your entire torso – from the bottom of your belly to your chest, at the front, side and back – and then let it all contract as you breath out.
Perhaps count in your mind the length of each breathe, so you can focus the mind and allow some of the thoughts and worries to bugger off!
Try doing a few breaths now – you’ll instantly feel better, I guarantee it!
Master the way you communicate with yourself
You are absolutely what you think. The brain will organise all the information you absorb to determine how you interpret and experience the world, based on what’s going on inside your mind – your thoughts, experiences, beliefs, values, memories and attitudes.
All of these elements form, what I call, your internal blueprint. So your brain aligns the information from your external world with your blueprint to form your reality. That’s right – your thoughts do indeed become your reality.
A simple example of this at work is when you buy a new car. Even after you’ve begun researching you start to see that same model and/or colour everywhere. It’s not that there are all of a sudden more of these vehicles on the road, they’ve always been there, but the image of it has become part of your internal blueprint so your brain aligns the external world with this, meaning you consciously see more of them.
Therefore, your reality has been altered because of your thoughts. Make sense?
Now imagine if your internal blueprint is made up of thoughts such as, “I don’t know enough” or “I don’t want to let people down.” This is going to drive your reality, meaning you’ll probably work harder and over commit yourself to cover up your perceived lack of knowledge and fear of rejection (letting people down).
Which probably means you’ll be operating in fight or flight mode and be stuck in the “I must do as much as I can” loop, which as we’ve determined is not conducive to real productivity. And so the cycle of mind fuckery continues.
Unless of course you break free from this loop and focus on changing your internal blueprint, so you can indeed change your reality. The good news is, the process for doing this is really quite simple. The challenge however comes with doing it consistently. The only way you can change your thoughts, and therefore physically change the way your brain is wired, is through repetition.
Think about it – you didn’t employ any grand strategies in order to create your current thoughts and blueprint. You simply started thinking them one day, and then continued, until your neurons connected to form a pathway and made these thoughts your natural way of being.
So to change your blueprint it really is as simple as consistently feeding your brain different thoughts that will support and empower you, rather than tear you down. I know it can be difficult to say positive things to yourself, especially when you’ve had years of subconsciously berating yourself, so perhaps start by imagining what you would say to a friend.
You certainly wouldn’t tell your mate she’s a useless bitch who’s in way over her head and doesn’t deserve to be happy. You’d probably get a swift hair pull and slap across the face if you did!
Perhaps instead you would tell her she’s doing a bloody great job, and you love and respect her just the way she is. How different do you think she’d respond to this? She’d probably feel calm, connected, secure and get a nice little confidence boost – don’t you think?
That’s exactly how you can feel if you say these things to yourself. Don’t just say the words though – pay attention to how good it feels in your body as you’re saying them. Maybe you feel a little easier in the chest, maybe a knot in your stomach loosens or the lump in your throat gets a bit smaller. It doesn’t matter what or where it is, but focus in on the feeling and repeat the words a few times, taking some deep slow breathes as you do it.
This kicks you out of fight or flight mode and into rest and digest mode, which means you can access your subconscious more easily and create the change more quickly.
Look for evidence throughout your day too that these words are true – this helps to build your blueprint further and attune your reality to the good stuff. Perhaps a colleague offers to pick you up some lunch or a friend messages to just say hey – these are perfect pieces of evidence that you’re loved and respected just the way you are, as these were simply random acts that didn’t require you to do anything or prove yourself in any way. Write these down to further increase their impact on your blueprint.
If you can identify and focus on those elements of your mind that align most with who you really are and what you really want, that’s when you will achieve true balance and ultimate productivity, because you’ll be free to just be you and do what matters, rather than constantly working to prove yourself and compensate for what you feel you’re not.
So are you ready to take your productivity to another level?
Here’s a summary of the tasks to make it easier for you:
- Brain dump what your passionate about, what brings you joy and what you need in your life in order to feel good
- Organise these things into themes, and prioritise your tasks according to which ones will allow you to serve those themes the most
- Schedule some of the things from your Uppy inventory into your weekly schedule
- Make a point of doing 10 deep diaphragmatic breathes three times a day – when you wake up, before you eat lunch and before going to sleep
- Identify one or two new thoughts that will make you feel good about yourself and repeat those ten times after each breathing session (Remembering to focus in on the good feeling it gives you)
- Document three pieces of evidence from throughout the day that prove these new thoughts are true
All of this will ensure your body and mind are operating at their optimum, and ensure you’re giving your energy to the right things.
May the force be with you!