As someone who suffers from time anxiety, or the constant fear that it is too late to learn something new or start a new project, I try to push myself to be as productive as possible. As a society, we thrive on productivity and self-help advice. However, a pure focus on productivity can be counter-productive.
Albert Camus, a philosopher, author, and journalist, once said, "A society based on production is only productive, not creative."
There is an alternative approach: mindful productivity.
Interestingly, most of the research on productivity is from traditional economic analyses of market activity. Thus, there is very little research at the intersection of mental health and productivity.
Mindful productivity focuses on helping you be more productive and more creative.
Definition of Mindful Productivity
Mindfulness has many benefits, including better sleep, better attention levels, and even better control of the effects of stress on the mind and body.
Mindfulness and productivity may seem like opposites. Many people think mindfulness as something practiced outside of work, such as yoga and meditation. Being mindful is about interrupting the "autopilot mode" we use daily to take time to appreciate the little things. Mindfulness is about seeing the present moment instead of pressing the pause button.
Therefore, mindful productivity is about being consciously present in what you are doing while managing your mental and emotional states. This is a way to give us new perspectives on work, life, and the creative process. Besides being focused, mindful productivity helps us notice when we are becoming anxious or stressed.
Principles of Mindful Productivity
Work and life can get hectic, so how can you incorporate mindfulness during a busy day? Don't worry, you do not need to meditate at work to experience the benefits of mindful productivity. Here are eight principles to get you started.
- Free yourself from past and future worries. Try not to get trapped reliving past problems or pre-living future worries. Let go of yesterday and focus on the present moment.
- Achieve a flow state. Find the right balance between the challenge of the activity and your skills. Clearly define the goal, eliminate distractions, take a deep breath, and be completely attentive so you can stay relaxed and focused.
- Avoid multi-tasking. Humans are notoriously bad at multi-tasking, and it is rare for people to stay focused on one task until it's done. Instead, strike a balance between productivity and responsiveness.
- Take a hard look at procrastination. Why are you struggling to stay focused? Try to understand your emotions behind procrastination to overcome it. Analyze the reasons why you struggle to feel motivated.
- Stay curious. Mindful productivity is about both productivity and creativity, so make sure to balance both your input and output. Observe the world, take the time to learn, and don't be afraid to ask questions.
- Develop a growth mindset. Believe you can improve your intelligence and skills with hard work. Having a growth mindset is linked to better resilience and long-term performance. Instead of saying, "I don't know how to do algebra," say to yourself, "I don't know how to do algebra yet."
- Pay attention to your environment. Be mindful of where you work and how it affects your productivity. Is it a noisy area? Is it cluttered? For some people, a noisy environment works, but be aware of what works for you.
- Take mindful breaks. Getting up to grab a cup of coffee is a nice break, but also remind yourself to check in with your current thoughts, emotions, and environment. Combine the two and think about this while you are making the coffee!
This may seem like a lot to think about, but the basic principles are simple: be present, bring your full attention to your work, and be aware of your thoughts. You will be more productive, more creative, and you will enjoy work even more.
What are your thoughts on mindful productivity? Let me know in the comments!
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