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Why It’s Necessary to Learn the Rules Before You Break Them

Why It’s Necessary to Learn the Rules Before You Break Them
Breaking the Rules
    Breaking the Rules by Before the Coffee

    Productivity is often seen as a rigid fun-free word that many people shy away from. Some say it’s the antithesis of creativity; maybe it’s because of this that so many creative types have chaotic tendencies.

    For others, productivity is necessary in order for creativity to thrive.

    I’m part of the latter group, productivity has been my savior. It has been the gap between stress and calm, the link between dreams and action and the catalyst that helped convert mediocre to successful.

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    Do we have to follow the rules?

    Learning to be more productive can be a chore — it can be daunting to try and adopt a new way of working. Stepping outside your comfort zone is never fun. But why do productivity systems have to be so restrictive and have so many rules attached to them?

    Many people ask me, “Can I not just pick and choose parts of different systems to suit my own life and way of thinking?” The answer is, “Yes, you can.” But to be able to choose the bits to use and the parts to leave behind, it is necessary to first learn the rules before you go breaking them.

    Getting Things Done

    Most people interested in productivity or reading this blog will be familiar with GTD (David Allen’s Getting Things Done system). GTD is a productivity system with a lot of detail and many rules. It is a system that works; it has been tried and tested by millions of worldwide users. When I started teaching GTD, I had no intention of using it myself. The detail was not for me; I thought I knew how to get things done! I believed the system would be great for people who liked detail and organization — I didn’t.

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    As I learned more and more, it started to rein me in. I saw the advantages first hand and for every block or barrier I came up against, GTD appeared to have the answer. For about two years I used the system religiously. I did my weekly reviews and my life got better by the day. After a while I started to try out different productivity apps and systems, and finally I adjusted my life and my work around a couple of systems and apps which work for me. I created habits and routines that work.

    I now have my own system, but GTD helped me to get to a different level of success in my life. I believe that without it, I would never have achieved all the things I have achieved over the last couple of years.

    Toss Productivity Out

    Some time ago, Leo Baubauta of Zen Habits wrote an article entitled “Toss Productivity Out”, advocating that there was no longer a need for rules, for setting goals, or for productivity systems. His approach can work — but I believe it depends on where you are in your life, what you have achieved and what you want to achieve.

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    If your life is chaotic, it is going to need some control, new habits and routines.

    I agree with Leo that we should all try and live more in the flow and not be totally dependent on structures, routines and systems. But there are stages one must go through for life to work effortlessly.

    Productivity is the stepping stone, a facilitator of achievement, a creator of space and time. Just like diets and eating programs such as Weight Watchers and Unislim (or training programs in the gym), you don’t necessarily have to follow them for life but they enable you to create positive habits which will the driving force for your success.

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    So go on and create the positive habit of productivity. And then toss it out, break the rules, have some fun, and live in the flow.

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    Ciara Conlon

    Productivity coach, speaker, blogger and author of Chaos to Control, a Practical Guide to Getting Things Done

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    Last Updated on November 12, 2020

    9 Powerful Questions That Can Improve Your Quality of Life

    9 Powerful Questions That Can Improve Your Quality of Life

    Living a quality life is about moments when things are tough and we still somehow find a way to turn things around, from fear to calm, from blame to empathy, from distraction to clarity—moments when we can be grateful for all that is right, even when so much seems wrong.

    It’s natural to complain or feel fearful when times are tough. We might not act exactly as we want to. We might make mistakes or take actions we later regret.

    However, when we get off track, I think the secret to a quality life lies in discovering how to find our way back, turn things around, make amends, find the silver lining, and sit with ourselves and others, even when we feel afraid.

    To help us do this more often—create turnarounds in our lives—I have found that asking ourselves these nine questions can help. Here are questions you can ask yourself to improve your quality of life.

    1. What Do You Value?

    If life were to end or change dramatically for you today, what would you hold most dear? What would be most important to you?

    Our lives become richer when we ask ourselves this question often and challenge ourselves to reflect on those values daily in the choices we make, thoughts we think, and words we say, day in and day out. We might get distracted or off track, but the more we connect with what matters most to us personally, the better our lives become.

    If you’re not sure how to identify your values, check out this article to get started.

    2. What Unique Gift Do People Receive By Just Being Around You?

    Sometimes, we get so caught up in life that we forget one core truth—we are unique, and as a result of that uniqueness, we each have something to offer others and the world that no one else can. That is hugely important.

    You have value that has absolutely nothing to do with what you have achieved. Your value is simply a result of being who you are.

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    Who are you when no one else is around and you are doing something you love just for the sheer joy of it? Who are you when you are alone with your thoughts?

    When you are just being you, connected to your highest self, without worrying what other people think, what do you feel like? What is your energy like? What is it like to be you? What is it like for others who are around you when you are in that state?

    This is your gift. One thing I know for sure: the more you are able to connect with that energy—that essence of who you are—and accept and let it shine, the better your life becomes.

    3. What Do You Stand for?

    If someone you love needed your help during a very difficult time, what would you want them to know? What advice would you offer that would make a difference? What is your personal message—the thing that answers most dilemmas in your life and in your opinion—that can help others the most?

    I believe moving toward a good quality of life is all about spreading our unique message, wisdom, and encouragement in whatever form it comes to us as often as possible through our actions, energy, and words.

    4. Who Do You Love Most?

    When we are in crisis, who matters most to us becomes clear. Right now, at this moment, who are the people you most love and care about? Who would you miss most if they were gone?

    The more we put our full energies into our relationships with these people—striving to be the best parent, partner, and friend we can be—the better our lives become.

    This means nurturing and cultivating these relationships, learning to listen, reaching out, telling others we care, and asking others how they’re doing. Cultivating depth in our relationships comes from being willing to learn from others, noticing the unique value they offer, and expressing gratitude.

    Truly loving means letting go of the small stuff, setting loving boundaries, doing our own work, having empathy and understanding, giving of our full selves, and reminding these special friends and family members as often as possible how much they mean to us.

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    5. What Brings You Joy?

    What truly brings you pleasure, the kind that goes deep? Is it the balance in your checkbook or when a baby reaches out her hand and offers you a toy? Is it your ribbons and trophies, or is it the rush you get when you are creating or doing something you love completely in your creative zone?

    Do you find joy when looking at photos of all the places you want to travel to some day, or looking around at the absolute miraculous beauty of where you are in this moment—like the wildflower sprouting up through a crack in the concrete or the way the sunlight is hitting your kitchen window?

    The more we focus on what is good about our lives in each moment with gratitude and honor those things that truly bring us joy, the more our joy expands.

    If you need some simple ways to practice gratitude, start here.

    6. What Makes You Laugh About Yourself?

    True humility comes with a sense of humor. When we realize how funny our foibles are, we stop taking them so seriously.

    What’s a mistake you recently made? What’s something totally embarrassing and human you have done? What’s goofy about you that makes you chuckle?

    When we gain the ability to soften around our humanity—to stop trying so hard to be perfect or the most beautiful, productive, successful, or best and instead embrace ourselves just as we are—there is a softness about us that naturally leads us to be more likable, understanding, and loving toward others.

    This is not the bully kind of laughing at yourself that is mean and critical. This is the sheepish kind of laughter that is kind and magnetic, the sort of humility when we don’t take ourselves too seriously and are authentically okay with not always being okay.

    7. What Do You Really Want to Create?

    Having a sense of purpose makes life better[1]. Research has shown that even at the end of life, having a project that gives a sense of purpose improves the quality of life. We remember our value, and we have something worthwhile to dive into when we need a positive distraction.

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    Improve your quality of life through a sense of purpose

      One study found that having a strong sense of purpose even decreased mortality in people over age 50 as it improves both physical and mental health[2].

      What is something you want to create? What is a pursuit that makes your heart sing?

      It doesn’t have to be your job or business. It might be a garden or an artistic project. It might be creating a beautiful, nurturing home.

      Whatever it is, make time for whatever it is that your soul is calling you to create in this moment, this week, and this lifetime. Pouring your whole self into it will improve your quality of life.

      8. What Isn’t Working (What Are You Doing About It)?

      What are those small things that are nagging you? What are you doing about them? Rather than complaining (which we all do), what’s your plan? What can you do today to start fixing them?

      There is so much in our lives that are out of our control, but there is a lot that is in our control that we often don’t take time to do.

      The small stuff matters, whether it’s clutter, wanting to be more fit, or cleaning up your neighborhood. If there’s something you find yourself complaining about a lot (even if it’s just in the privacy of your mind), what is one simple step you can take today to improve it?

      Little steps go a long way when done consistently and strung all together. Just for today, choose to do one small thing to make your life better. Maybe your biggest complaint will one day become your greatest turn-around story.

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      9. What Helps You Turn Things Around?

      What is your unique strategy for turning things around when life isn’t going as well as you’d like it to? What helps you to reach out, forgive, repair relationships, or find things to be grateful for in difficult moments?

      What helps you turn around when you’re heading down a path towards being in a bad mood? What helps you change your mindset, take your power back when feeling overwhelmed, and choose to do good in the world and your own heart?

      There is not a simple formula for creating a better quality of life. Only you know what works best for you. Only you can turn your mood, relationships, self-care, and life around. Only you can change a ho-hum moment into one of the best of your life.

      Final Thoughts

      Asking the above questions can help you uncover your personal formula for improving the quality of your life. You might want to bookmark this article and over the next nine days, ask yourself one of these questions, one per day.

      Journal about it, discuss it with a friend, and be on the lookout for your personal ah-has in order to start improving your long-term life satisfaction.

      You already have the formula you need to improve the quality of your life. You just have to uncover it and apply what your soul already knows about how to create the best life for you.

      More on Improving Your Quality of Life

      Featured photo credit: Thought Catalog via unsplash.com

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