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Stress less with mindful productivity
Get work done while prioritising your mental well-being too. That's mindful productivity in a nutshell.
This November, I’m challenging myself to write every day. You can read them all under the “Shorts” category, where each post should be around 500–1k words. Think of them as “less polished” than my usual longer blog posts. This is Day 18.
We've talked about toxic productivity. Let us now talk about mindful productivity.
Being mindful means being aware of your surroundings, including what you sense and feel. Productivity is getting work done efficiently. By combining the two, mindful productivity is a state in which you are both mindful and aware of the work that you're doing. You get work done, while also prioritising your mental well-being. You're more in tune with yourself and know your limitations at work. It's the polar opposite of toxic productivity, where you're always trying to do more but it feels never enough. Mindful productivity doesn't involve meditation, but you can always add it to your routine. Here are a few ways for incorporating mindful productivity into your daily life to feel less stressed.
Time-blocking isn't fun and it might sound like extra work, but it provides an overview of what your day would look like because you've already planned your tasks ahead of time. I've become more focused on my tasks with time-blocking, because 1) I don't have to worry about deciding what I need to do for the day 2) I know exactly what and when my to-do tasks will be worked on. Time-blocking doesn't imply that your time is completely fixed and that you have no breathing room in your schedule. So, make sure you have some flexibility to rearrange or adjust your blocks when you have ad-hoc tasks or if you miscalculated your time blocks. Be mindful of what you're adding, moving, or removing from your schedule. Finally, remember to schedule enough breaks in between tasks.
When you are completely immersed in a task, you may start to lose yourself in the moment which isn't always a bad thing. This is when you're able to get most of your work done. This is what people refer to as getting into the flow or "in the zone". With the right routine, anyone can achieve this state. Prepare a ritual before you start work. Regardless of the activity (e.g. taking a walk, removing all distractions, and/or making a cup of coffee), this can act as a trigger for your brain that you're about to get some work done so it will prepare you for it. If you can figure out when's the best time for you to work, start with the most important task. Ensure you've identified a clear goal in mind. That way you'll be clear on what you are aiming for and won't get sidetracked by less important or urgent tasks. Most importantly, your work should be interesting and slightly above your current skill level. That way you'll be more motivated to engage with your work.
Setting boundaries may be the most difficult aspect of being mindful of your productivity. Setting boundaries can be difficult. We grow up trying to please others and put their needs ahead of our own. As a consequence, we suffer by doing more than we need to because we are afraid to reject people. We become overworked, and unmotivated to work on the things that truly matter to us because we lack the energy. It's time to unlearn this by slowly starting to say "no". Start small. Can this meeting be on email or on a message? If yes, decline the invitation and notify them. If it's the end of a workday, can this task wait until tomorrow? Most of the time, it's a yes. Sure, if you continue to finish the task today, you could get more done tomorrow, but that may imply you don't know what your goals and priorities are. Are you taking on more work than you can handle? Are they part of your goals? Setting boundaries takes time to get used to, but with enough preparation and practise, you'll get there. Saying "no" is not rude. You don't have to over-justify yourself too. Decline politely and provide a short explanation. Setting boundaries is also learning to have more compassion to yourself by allowing more time for rest. Mindful productivity is a great practice to ensure you're not overworking yourself. Not only will you become more productive as a result of getting the right work done and getting enough rest, but there will also be more room for you to grow and learn about yourself. Work smart and healthily.