What is mindful productivity… (and what is this post about).

Mindful productivity – is about creating balance in one’s life to utilise one’s energy rhythms to maximise performance. This post is about what I learned from the mindful productivity coach “Practical Balance”, and some of the key points I would like to take on board for my own life. I hope you enjoy and find this of use!

Practical Balance

Wow, the session on mindful productivity by Practical Balance was amazing and fascinating. I’m really interested in this topic and have always been searching for productivity enhancements. The session was really rich in ideas and practical implementable things one can do to improve your productivity.

Click here to view the Practical Balance website.

Some of what I learned about mindful productivity…

It’s all about cycles

It’s all about cycles – daily cycles, hourly (90 minutes), 4 hours cycles, weekly cycles, monthly cycles, day vs night cycles, yearly cycles, seasonal cycles. So respect these cycles.

And take advantage of these cycles – your energy levels vary depending on where you are in the cycle. So take advantage of that!

It’s an evolution of the “little and often” concept. It’s more a case of “a bit – per cycle”, or “lots of little bits, every cycle, and repeat”.

That’s why discipline gives the freedom to work productively / sets you free.

And keeping to regular times keeps the body “in-sync” and keeps the cycles going.

Three practical ideas for change as part of mindful productivity

1) The first 90 minutes should be spent on your top priorities activities. Not email.

2) Pomodoro strategy can be used to manage your productivity cycle. It involves working for 25 minutes, then taking a 5-minute break. After 3 Pomodoro stints, then take a 20-minute break.

3) Build a rhythm to the day – so my daily procedures are a good idea.

Different forms of energy & managing energy well

Many people are at their most productive, first thing in the day. So use the first 90 minutes for your most important tasks/activities; don’t do email.

Different forms of energy include physical energy (quantity of energy), emotional energy (quality of the energy / how you feel), mental energy (the focus of your energy), and spiritual energy (energy derived from a purpose). You use different forms of energy to do different things.

We should manage energy, not time. Managing energy should be prioritised.

Why do I get an energy slump in the early afternoon

We have an early afternoon energy slump, partly because of digesting lunch, but also due to not taking enough breaks during the morning.

See later for playing around with my working routine – I’m planning on not working during the early afternoon!

Listen to music and the right kind of music

Listening to music can energise you, and songs without lyrics and classical music have been shown to increase productivity.

A new working pattern to try!

Who said 9 to 5 pm working hours was the way we work most productively? Why not 8-12 pm and 4-8 pm or 7-11 am and 3-7 pm.

Working schedule and slots

Refining this further you can split the day into 4 sections of 4 hours. This gives 28 slots per week. And I’m thinking of aiming for 6-10am, and 2 – 6 pm for working hours. Then that gives me 10 – 2 pm and 6 – 10 pm for my personal life and personal projects.

I love this idea, I’d like to give it a try.

Perhaps get up at 5.00 or 5.30 am for a 6 am start?

It’s worth giving it a try.

How to do prioritisation well

Priority matrix for mindful productivity

Prioritisation is not simply linear; you should use a “priority matrix” to determine what you should prioritise.

1) Urgent & Important tasks. These are a necessity, time spent here is reactive and fire fighting – you should manage this actively, and try and minimise the time spent on this. You can minimize this by spending time on important & non-urgent tasks.

2) Important & non-urgent tasks. Focus your time on this type of work. For example marketing & sales, strategy, business planning, and networking.

3) Urgent, non-important tasks.

4) Non-urgent, non-important tasks.

And within each week, it’s recommended to have no more than three goals. A famous author once wrote having more than 3 goals is to have a ‘to do’ list! That to me seems very sensible.

One has different roles and should prioritise for each role with a goal

Thinking about the different roles I need to perform this week I listed the following three; Developer, Founder, and Partner; I forgot to put “myself” as a role. And for each, I have developed a goal for this week.

“Sharpen your saw”

For example, if you saw all day, you can rest and recuperate your physical self, but the saw might become blunt. When blunt you will no longer be able to saw productively.

Hence physical rest is not the only thing you need to re-generate to keep productive i.e. you need to “sharpen your saw”.

Body – I run and walk for physical exercise.

Emotions – I journal and meditate to modulate my emotions.

Mind – I play guitar, sing and mediate for mindfulness.

Spirit – Playing guitar, singing and mediating help with my spiritual wellbeing too.

Procrastination, forms of procrastination and how to counteract them!

A good acronym to remember forms of procrastination and how to counteract them is DUST, you can see these reasons/forms broken down below, with strategies for counteracting each one.

I love this. My procrastination builds so much that sometimes the panic monster kicks in. My panic monster is scarier than the task itself, so it often motivates me to get started.

But waiting for the panic monster is not always the best often. And these suggestions below sound really practical and good strategies to try!

The procrastination acronym

D is for Difficult – When things are difficult, you often postpone them or delay starting them. A good way of dealing with difficult tasks is to break them down into bite-size (easier) pieces. And where things are too difficult, why not consider outsourcing them, or purchasing an external service to complete the piece of work.

U is for Unclear – When things are unclear, it is often hard to get started. So why not gain clarity over a task, by defining exactly what it is, and coming up with a plan on how to tackle the task. So first clarify, then break it down, and finally, plan it.

There is also the argument that one should spend just a few microseconds more documenting a task, in order for it to be clear when you revisit it later in the cold light of day.

S is for Scary – Often when something seems scary – we put it off, we’re too scared to even look at it. But what to do with a monster; turn the lights on and look at it, and it’s then not so scary!

Strategies for scary tasks can involve writing a letter to your fear – expressing why you are scared and what you are scared of. Defining what the benefits are of completing the task that seems so scary. And finally coming up with a plan to deal with a worst-case scenario.

T is for Tedious – “Boring”… when something is really mind-numbing it can be something that is very easy to postpone or put off!

Some examples…

For example, I find certain admin work, such as bookkeeping, so boring. So much so, that it often left to the last minute, and it builds up and makes it even harder / worse to get started.

A fabulous tip for this is to create a really lovely environment and experience, put on a candle and joss sticks and your favourite vinyl record and a bottle of wine or your favourite cocktail, or even listen to an audiobook – and carry out the admin task; to make it a lovely experience.

Other strategies include reward pairing – e.g. only watch your favorite TV series when you’re doing this mind-numbing task.

Gamifying a task can help too – e.g. see how quickly you can complete the task, and keep track of your previous record, and see if you can beat it!

TL;DR – The conclusion for mindful productivity!

So to sum up, the session from Practical Balance on mindful productivity was pretty friggin’ awesome. I loved it.

1) Mindful productivity is about respecting one’s energy rhythms and utilising them to be as productive as possible.

2) It’s also about refreshing and re-energising all sources that one gets energy from.

3) My energy sucks right now, so I’m going to try some of the tips above to improve my energy throughout a given day.

4) Three practical ideas for change include utilising your first 90 minutes for your most important tasks (not email or social media); Using the Pomodoro strategy to take breaks to refresh your productivity levels; and building daily rituals/routines.

5) There are many forms of energy – we need to be mindful of managing each, and refreshing each source of energy.

6) Energy slumps in the early afternoon are due to not taking enough breaks in the morning!

And some more TL;DR ☺

7) Listen to music to energise you, and music without lyrics to make you more productive.

8) Try splitting your week into sections, and try doing an early morning and late afternoon working pattern – we aren’t designed to work 9 am – 5 pm!

9) Prioritisation is multi-dimensioned; manage urgent/importance tasks, focus on the non-urgent but important stuff. Delegate the urgent / non-important stuff, and avoid! The unimportant non-urgent stuff 

10) Set goals for each of the roles you perform and remember being “you” is a critical role!

11) Sharpen your saw, so make sure you keep all your sources of energy and tools fresh and ready for action!

12) Procrastination has multiple forms, and there are great strategies for counteracting each of these.

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