Today I want to talk to you about Productivity and what I have learned about it in my own life. I will also share the #1 productivity tool you’ll need to be most productive and access its deeper purpose. We’ll get to that later in the podcast. First, let’s start with a word I know you’ve heard many times.
The titles are everywhere. Top Productivity Steps — How to be more productive — Even if you don’t know what it is, you know you want more of it. I know I always have. Even my business name — Positively Productive — pays homage to what I believe our endgame is. Of course positivity is part of that but we’ll get to that in another episode.
Productivity is a popular buzzword that gets a lot of “how-to” discussion, but I’d like you to join me in looking at it from another side. There are so many ways to be productive and you probably know a number of them. But what’s the point of it? Why are we trying to be productive? Many of the productivity resources I have seen use it as a tool to “do more” but the Positively Productive motto starts with “Do Less” so right away you know I’m not behind the traditional way. So what else is there to it?
What is Productivity?
Productivity — or being productive — is defined as the power of producing; being creative; abundance; causing or bringing about of something.
There was more to that definition than I expected and what I love most is how that collection of words speaks to more than just achievement or doing. Those words suggest fulfillment, plenty, and purpose…and that is what I want to highlight for you today.
I experienced the deeper purpose of productivity long before seeing these definitions. I began with necessary efficiency in mind and discovered something much greater along the way.
My mother passed away on Christmas 2011. A heartbreaking loss under any circumstances, this was compounded by the aggressive and unforgiving disease of Alzheimer’s. For nearly five years prior I was her primary caregiver. During that time I gave birth to two beautiful, healthy children and I was also running a business with my husband.
I was a wife, mom, and business owner — an unusual “sandwich caregiver” – caught between parent and children – with no discernable room left for me.
Life moved at a blistering pace, shooting challenges at me like one of those automatic ball machines. I took over as the family matriarch. All decisions were mine. I handled my Mom’s health, financial, and social needs along with my own and my family’s. I made appointments, shopped, cooked, cleaned, and basically kept our family going. Sleep was relegated to the optional category, as was my own health. If you have ever read an article on the mental load of women, this was me living it at the highest level.
It was emotional and often confusing. It was painful yet beautiful. We had the blessing of new life and milestone celebrations and we had the unanticipated grief from losing my mom in pieces. Some days I felt like I had it under control, most days the only thing I knew for sure was where I put the chocolate. The truth is I never truly relaxed and self-care was a rare guilty pleasure. Sounds crazy to me now, but I felt like I was taking away from those I was caring for by giving to me. Have you ever felt like that?
I was in survival mode and I’m betting I don’t have to describe what that means to you. Maybe you’ve been there too. Maybe you’re there now? If you are, I get it.
For years, survival mode was the rule, not the exception. I got up every day and faced it the best I could. I made so many mistakes, but I made it through, and the experience affected me profoundly. I am more compassionate and patient than I ever thought I could be and I see the world so differently now. I knowingly smile at the phrase “Don’t sweat the small stuff…and it’s all small stuff.”
For me, productivity was necessary for survival. I minimized my schedule. I dropped all non-essentials (and unfortunately some essentials too) and learned to let go of obligations and expectations (most especially mine). I wrote down everything and planned ahead each week. Lists were my life and they still are! I embraced shortcuts and used the words “easy” “simple” and “fast” in my searches for every task you can imagine. I did it unapologetically then because I needed it to be that way, but I still do to this day for different reasons.
I can see clearly how productivity practices helped me survive but I’ve also figured out how they’ve helped me thrive and I’m excited to share that with you. Part of my life lesson from this time was figuring out what really needed to be in my life. When you’re forced to let go of things, you have an opportunity to see what wasn’t that necessary in the first place. And as you rebuild your life, you can decide what you allow back in.
Simplicity was the Answer for me
My first choice was simplicity. I aggressively decluttered my personal space and schedule and explored different ways I could get things done with less effort. Simplifying was my #1 goal. It made space for the healing I desperately needed and my entire family benefited. We spent more quality time together. Organized spaces made chores easier, which reduced the pressure on me. Simpler systems helped life flow easier.
Creating space helped me make room for ME again. I learned to forgive myself and as I grieved and recovered, I poured through inspirational resources on positivity, mindset, and gratitude. I elevated self-care to mandatory (and that most certainly included sleep) and focused on ways to fill my cup again. As soon as I increased my self-care, I saw a shift. I wasn’t just happier, I showed up differently. I was a better mom and wife…a better person.
Does any of this sound familiar? Have you been through something like this? I would love to know if you have. Did you simplify your life or are you hoping to now? If you are hoping to, let’s get into the how to part that I promised you at the beginning of the podcast.
The #1 tool productivity toll for you is not a technique or an app. It’s self-awareness.
That might sound tongue-in-cheek but I mean it. Our best, first tool for achievement is knowing ourselves.
What I mean by this is knowing WHAT WE WANT and knowing HOW WE WORK BEST. It can be easy to take someone else’s advice because they are convinced it will work for you. You might get lucky and it will work, but when it doesn’t, all too often you think something is wrong with you. Not so.
Finding and developing the right productive habits that will work for you requires a willingness to look inside yourself and a desire to shift your perspective – not always easy, but the results are worth it.
Four Ways I Work with my Clients
Instead of sending you off and simply saying “know thyself”, here are the main four areas I work on with my clients:
- Identify – Values, Dreams, Purpose Do you know what you truly value? What you really want? What drives you? When you’re clear on this and honest in your approach before setting your goals, you create a critical alignment. This not only increases your likelihood of achieving your goals, it helps you design the life you want to live (e.g., more family time, travel, learning)
- Shift – Gratitude, Obligations, Possessions. Why do you do the things you do? Why do you buy and keep certain possessions? What kind of person do want to be? Shifting your mindset requires frequent inspiration and practice, like building muscle. Simplicity and consistency will help. Believing in your ability to shift your perspective is crucial.
- Reduce – Remove all the things that do not serve you. Clutter is not just objects. It’s the digital noise that surrounds you. It’s the demands you make of yourself. It’s your “busy” calendar. Every object you own, owns you. Everything you say “yes” to represents at least one “no” to something else (if not more). It’s time to clear your path, both physical and mental.
- Plan – Take what remains and create a plan that honors your values and fosters the changes you’ve made. It’s about being proactive versus reactive. Start with a weekly review. Focus on the tasks that will move you most efficiently toward your goals. Continue to apply the right productivity approaches (for you, for the task) to achieve those goals.
If you take the time to work through these phases, honestly and genuinely, you cannot help but come out the other side with a completely different perspective. While results vary depending on the person, the most common feeling is one of freedom. Imagine creating space in your life for those things you think you don’t have time for: dreaming, helping, healing, learning, relaxing, exploring…simply being. To me, that is the deeper purpose of productivity.
Would you like some help with those four areas mentioned? Head to the Resources library. With one sign up you’ll receive access to the full library collection.
Until then, remember WHY you want to be productive and how paying more attention to yourself is key.
“Productivity is being able to do things that you were never able to do before.” – Franz Kafka