Welcome to the busy paradigm! Entering March, most people have forgotten their new year's resolutions, those promises they made themselves back in late December. We are back on autopilot, back to the routine of being really busy, protecting ourselves, back to the same paradigm, same emotions, feelings, actions and results. Our brains are designed to get us back into that loop because that's where supposed safety is. It's actually not safe at all, from a health perspective it's one of the worst places to be.
From a young age, we have been taught that you need to work really hard to get results. Unfortunately, common culture moulds us to believe that the more occupied we are, the more productive we become, and the more value we hold. Because of this, we have learned to value ourselves according to how “productive” we are.
The quest for productivity has become one of the longest lasting and most influential culture trends, where it seems that everything is about life hacks on how to do more things in less time, so we can fit more into our daily life.
Isn’t it exhausting to feel this enormous pressure on being highly productive? And what about the consequences for our health? Are we truly aware of what it means?
‘Work overload decreases productivity by 68%’
Let’s take a look at some statistics to understand better what actually happens when we think we’re being productive vs what productivity really looks like. Did you know that, according to TeamStages, work overload actually decreases productivity by 68%? This means that when your employers feel stressed or unsatisfied, their performance is around 30%. On the other hand, when people feel happy in their work environment, this boosts productivity by 12%.
Productive or just busy?
Working really, really hard all the time comes with its consequences. If you are constantly busy, you will activate the stress response in your body. Once the stress hormones are activated, it is more likely that your Reptilian or Limbic brain will take over, shutting down your prefrontal cortex, which is your beautiful creative thinking part of the brain. So you think you are being creative, but what’s really happened is that you are operating from a fight or flight response mode (survival mode), which could mean you are not making any real progress.
That's why we always say that you have to slow it down to speed it up! It might sound cliché, but that popular saying about how to achieve more by doing less holds a lot of hidden truth. By slowing things down, you calm the mind to help activate the prefrontal cortex, and this in turn helps you become more creative and with more ideas. Imagine being able to achieve calmness of mind with speed of action, rather than the other way around!!
‘Don't confuse activity with productivity. Many people are simply busy being busy.’
Robin S. Sharma
We all want to feel like what we’re doing is more than enough to achieve our goals, and that’s why we stay constantly busy. But what if I tell you that you can do more, achieve more, and get better results by just being aware of what you are doing?
We have all heard a variety of stories that have affected our perception of productivity. We have these paradigms stuck in our heads, constantly repeating themselves and blocking our way to achieving what we really want.
Come with me. Let's face together all those stories that we need to stop believing about productivity.
“The more you work, the more you earn”
This belief and thought pattern is connected to the paradigm of always being busy. Being a busy bee doesn't necessarily get you promotions, approval, friendships, or more money. Working harder does not equal success, nor does it equal money. It just equals time and/or effort spent. To expose this myth, you only have to look at the way so many people are living globally today. You will find so many people working multiple jobs and still struggling to make ends meet. Now I know there are many factors at play in this equation, but if that phrase was true, those individuals working 80 plus hours a week should be extremely successful and rich.
This is a story we have been fed and ultimately we have repeated it to ourselves. In reality, it is not about working harder; working harder can hinder your progress. It is about working smarter. You do this when you take those 15 minutes to rest and then come back with fresh ideas that you develop into something amazing in 30 minutes, instead of those two hours or more it would have taken if you continued before.
“Set realistic goals and expectations”
We are connected to the paradigm of leading from a place of fear instead of a place of love or faith, which takes us to play a safe game of not losing. We think we are playing the game to win, but in fact most of us are playing not to lose. There is a huge difference. From a young age, we have been taught to think ‘realistically,’ limiting us from what we are capable of achieving. But it is because of those who dared to dream, that we have a cure for the common cold; that we can fly on aeroplanes, or why man landed on the moon. Now it is time to believe in your inner power and play to win!
“If you stop, you'll lose”
We have been taught to correlate hard work with productivity. That is why sometimes you may get that guilty feeling when you finish work early or take a few hours off because you're tired and your creativity is not flowing. That moment when you take a well-deserved break, yet you start to feel like you "should" be doing something productive.
You need to understand and accept that your value is not based on how busy you are, and that being busy doesn't necessarily mean being productive.
Measure productivity on the outcome rather than time or energy spent. Get out of the stress mode! Take some time to think and plan. The most creative and productive space is when you are not stressed out.
Does it sound familiar to you when you hear “do more in less time”? We have been taught to maximise our time by being busier and getting more done each day, to achieve that sense of self-achievement. But multitasking actually takes a serious toll on productivity and brain health. It can reduce productivity by as much as 40%. Our brains cannot perform multiple tasks well, and also, we're just switching quickly from task to task, instead of being present, being aware of what we are doing at the moment. Focusing on a single task for a longer period is a much more effective approach.
“Prioritising the non-productive activities and being busy for the sake of being busy”
Beginning with the easiest, most convenient, least fear-inducing tasks, is a common practice and is connected with the fear of losing. We convince ourselves that if we try something new, we might fail and, therefore, we will lose. We convince ourselves to keep busy avoiding what we really should be doing to be successful because we are often afraid. We waste most of our time on unimportant tasks that don't bring us closer to our goals. Not only that, but we say we’re busy, but in reality, we just fill up our lives with excuses not to do what it is that will make an actual difference.
Slow down, block out some time and ask yourself what behaviours will bring you closer to your goals and where you want to be.
“You can manage “your” time”
We can not manage time. We can only manage activities. The truth is, time manages us. When we try to manipulate the time we have, we get stressed, we feel like “losers” if we don't do everything on that ‘to-do’ list, and it often has the opposite effect. We cannot manage, save, or otherwise control time. As Stephen Covey put it: “Time management' is really a misnomer, the challenge is not to manage time, but to manage ourselves.’’ The key is not to prioritise what's on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.
“One size fits all tips & tricks”
Good advice would be to let you know that productivity tips are not a one size fits all deal. The morning routine has been highlighted as the key to unlocking the door to productivity, waking up with the sun, and getting it done! Success isn't something you can cut and paste. I know people who are more energetic, creative, and productive in the evenings, getting the same done, just at a different time of day. You can take the great advice and then tailor it to your own body rhythm.
What does productivity actually look like?
It might be surprising or even a bit hard to believe, as mentioned previously, all you have to do is to slow it down in order to speed it up. There is a beautiful quote by Albert Einstein, among many, that is one of my favourites,
“Everything that is really great and inspiring is created by the individual who can labour in freedom.”
We must step back and remind ourselves that our value is not based on how productive we are. Doing things with ease, grace and love is the ideal momentum to keep us going. I love the way Einstein reflected on his own work, a tireless worker, some say he was one of the most productive people of the 20th century. He loved what he did, his productivity was a result of his passion and desire to solve problems, and he avidly promoted gratitude, to live as if everything was a miracle and in viewing everything in life as a miracle provides a sort of energy that pushes you forward. If we really set ourselves to applying such childlike wonder, curiosity returns, creativity is born, and we become more motivated to act, bringing us closer to our goal.
Think about what you can stop doing today that won't make a difference towards your final goal if you stop. The truth is that these common lies about productivity that have been drilled into your subconscious and are now part of your everyday paradigms, are actually holding you back from really getting what you want and achieving success. The lies are limiting you and your potential for greatness. Humans have 500 billion thoughts per second coming at us, we only see 2000 bits of this information in any 1 second, there is so much we are not seeing. Those 2000 bits are based on our belief system, what we know, our history, and our paradigms. To make a change, you need to ask yourself what it is you are not seeing, and allow the flow.
So, how do you actually overcome all of this and change my thinking patterns? It's not easy, and it's not fast, but you must confront fears and take action where it is most needed. Look at your daily habits and what you are doing, what are you manifesting? Are your daily habits accumulated actually contributing to your final goals and dreams? Ask yourself what it is that you really want? Are you waking up first thing and checking social media? Same thing before bed? Separate the productive from the unproductive activities and block out time for each. If you really want to, you can reward yourself with some of those unproductive activities you love once you have completed the productive ones. Then all of a sudden, they are no longer unproductive but rather a “reward”. How good would that feel?