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12 Permaculture Principles to Help You Be More Productive

12 Permaculture Principles to Help You Be More Productive

    While technically we are still in the throes of winter here, the weather gods seem to be signalling the start of spring here, regardless!

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    And with springtime, comes a desire to get out more into the outdoors – soak up the sunshine and get my hands dirty planning the year’s food garden. The more years I spend growing food, the more I am struck by the similarities between effective and efficient practices for growing food, and effective practices for work-flow. Make no mistake, the word “productivity” has its roots firmly in agricultural practice! (pun intended).

    In an effort to make the most of my limited time in the garden, I have been experimenting with a number of growing methods. Spending time in the garden does have its upsides – a mental break from time on the computer, closeness to nature, the satisfaction of knowing where your food comaes from — but, at the end of the day, nobody has a burning desire to spend hours hunched over a hoe!

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    Something old…with something new to teach us

    One of the systems I have been slowly adopting in my garden is Permaculture. At its core, it is a more sustainable means of food production (think permanent + agriculture), with greater reliance on perennial food crops. In a much broader sense, though, permaculture is a systems design – building food production systems that more closely mimic the successful networks and systems that evolve in nature. Permaculture really arrived on the scene as a concept in the mid 1970’s, by two Australians Bill Mollison and David Holmgren as a solution to environmental challenges of the day.

    While at first blush, this might make you think of back-to-the-landers and composting toilets, BUT back in the early 1970s, David Holmgren penned 12 permaculture design principles that ring as true today as they did 40 years ago, and actually have much wider applicability than merely growing tomatoes in your back yard!

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    12 Permaculture Principles Worth Noting

    1. Take time to observe, interact, and take stock: While its tempting to jump in with both feet, some time taken to observe and think through is time well spent. If you don’t fully understand the problem, you might be spending time creating the wrong solution!
    2. Catch and store energy: Design your systems to harvest resources at peak times for use later on.
    3. Obtain a yield: This sounds simple, but make sure you are getting something useful for your work!
    4. Apply self-regulation and accept feedback: We need to know what works and what doesn’t, so we can build on what works well. This is a key tenet of business planning models, and performance management techniques.
    5. Use and value renewable resources and services:  Make the best use of the resources at your disposal – financial, human, information.  Placing an explicit value on them makes it much less likely you will waste them!
    6. Produce no waste: By valuing and making use of all the resources that are available to us, we begin to minimize our waste . .. of resources and effort!
    7. Design from patterns to details: by looking at successful patterns found in nature, we can create systems with a strong foundation, and fill in the details as we go.
    8. Integrate rather than segregate: By putting the right things in the right place, relationships develop between those things and they work together to support each other. This is especially true in this age of connectedness we live in, where personal relationships often form the basis of future business relationships.
    9. Start small, and build on your successes: Complex systems are built  from simple systems that work well! … and simple systems are much easier to maintain, and make better use of local resources.  This is also a matter of keeping some perspective on the appropriate scale for the situation.
    10. Maximize diversity and resiliency: This does not necessarily mean diluting your business goals, but rather look within the structures you are creating to ensure there are many : many relationships. Single elements should serve multiple functions, and single functions should be served by multiple elements – the ultimate backup!
    11. Value what is happening on the “edges”: The interface between things is where the most interesting ideas and events happen. These are often the most valuable, diverse and productive elements in the system (think of the creativity and energy present in a startup!)
    12. Creatively use and respond to changeChange is a fact of life, and successful businesses create a culture that observes change as it unfolds, and determines when and how best to intervene.

    Conclusion

    These are valuable guideposts to keep in your sightlines for efficient, sustainable food production, BUT they also have great value as principles for increasing your productivity!

    Businesses today are so much more connected to all aspects of community (social and economic), and the information technology at our disposal means a small enterprise can potentially have significant impacts around the world.  Looking at old systems and tools with new eyes might just lead us to some surprising new and productive practices!

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    (Photo credit: Janice Mansfield)

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    Last Updated on September 28, 2020

    The Pros and Cons of Working from Home

    The Pros and Cons of Working from Home

    At the start of the year, if you had asked anyone if they could do their work from home, many would have said no. They would have cited the need for team meetings, a place to be able to sit down and get on with their work, the camaraderie of the office, and being able to meet customers and clients face to face.

    Almost ten months later, most of us have learned that we can do our work from home and in many ways, we have discovered working from home is a lot better than doing our work in a busy, bustling office environment where we are inundated with distractions and noise.

    One of the things the 2020 pandemic has reminded us is we humans are incredibly adaptable. It is one of the strengths of our kind. Yet we have been unknowingly practicing this for years. When we move house we go through enormous upheaval.

    When we change jobs, we not only change our work environment but we also change the surrounding people. Humans are adaptable and this adaptability gives us strength.

    So, what are the pros and cons of working from home? Below I will share some things I have discovered since I made the change to being predominantly a person who works from home.

    Pro #1: A More Relaxed Start to the Day

    This one I love. When I had to be at a place of work in the past, I would always set my alarm to give me just enough time to make coffee, take a shower, and change. Mornings always felt like a rush.

    Now, I can wake up a little later, make coffee and instead of rushing to get out of the door at a specific time, I can spend ten minutes writing in my journal, reviewing my plan for the day, and start the day in a more relaxed frame of mind.

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    When you start the day in a relaxed state, you begin more positively. You find you have more clarity and more focus and you are not wasting energy worrying about whether you will be late.

    Pro #2: More Quiet, Focused Time = Increased Productivity

    One of the biggest difficulties of working in an office is the noise and distractions. If a colleague or boss can see you sat at your desk, you are more approachable. It is easier for them to ask you questions or engage you in meaningless conversations.

    Working from home allows you to shut the door and get on with an hour or two of quiet focused work. If you close down your Slack and Email, you avoid the risk of being disturbed and it is amazing how much work you can get done.

    An experiment conducted in 2012 found that working from home increased a person’s productivity by 13%, and more recent studies also find significant increases in productivity.[1]

    When our productivity increases, the amount of time we need to perform our work decreases, and this means we can spend more time on activities that can bring us closer to our family and friends as well as improve our mental health.

    Pro #3: More Control Over Your Day

    Without bosses and colleagues watching over us all day, we have a lot more control over what we do. While some work will inevitably be more urgent than others, we still get a lot more choice about what we work on.

    We also get more control over where we work. I remember when working in an office, we were given a fixed workstation. Some of these workstations were pleasant with a lot of natural sunlight, but other areas were less pleasant. It was often the luck of the draw whether we find ourselves in a good place to work or not.

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    By working from home we can choose what work to work on and whether we want to face a window or not. We can get up and move to another place, and we can move from room to room. And if you have a garden, on nice days you could spend a few hours working outside.

    Pro #4: You Get to Choose Your Office Environment

    While many companies will provide you with a laptop or other equipment to do your work, others will give you an allowance to purchase your equipment. But with furniture such as your chair and desk, you have a lot of freedom.

    I have seen a lot of amazing home working spaces with wonderful sets up—better chairs, laptop stands that make working from a laptop much more ergonomic and therefore, better for your neck.

    You can also choose your wall art and the little nick-nacks on your desk or table. With all this freedom, you can create a very personal and excellent working environment that is a pleasure to work in. When you are happy doing your work, you will inevitably do better work.

    Con #1: We Move a Lot Less

    When we commute to a place of work, there is movement involved. Many people commute using public transport, which means walking to the bus stop or train station. Then, there is the movement at lunchtime when we go out to buy our lunch. Working in a place of work requires us to move more.

    Unfortunately, working from home naturally causes us to move less and this means we are not burning as many calories as we need to.

    Moving is essential to our health and if you are working from home you need to become much more aware of your movement. To ensure you are moving enough, make sure you take your lunch breaks. Get up from your desk and move. Go outside, if you can, and take a walk. And, of course, refrain from regular trips to the refrigerator.

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    Con #2: Less Human Interaction

    One of the nicest things about bringing a group of people together to work is the camaraderie and relationships that are built over time. Working from home takes us away from that human interaction and for many, this can cause a feeling of loss.

    Humans are a social species—we need to be with other people. Without that connection, we start to feel lonely and that can lead to mental health issues.

    Zoom and Microsoft Teams meeting cannot replace that interaction. Often, the interactions we get at our workplaces are spontaneous. But with video calls, there is nothing spontaneous—most of these calls are prearranged and that’s not spontaneous.

    This lack of spontaneous interaction can also reduce a team’s ability to develop creative solutions—there’s just something about a group of incredibly creative people coming together in a room to thrash out ideas together that lends itself to creativity.

    While video calls can be useful, they don’t match the connection between a group of people working on a solution together.

    Con #3: The Cost of Buying Home Office Equipment

    Not all companies are going to provide you with a nice allowance to buy expensive home office equipment. 100% remote companies such as Doist (the creators of Todoist and Twist) provide a $2,000 allowance to all their staff every two years to buy office equipment. Others are not so generous.

    This can prove to be expensive for many people to create their ideal work-from-home workspace. Many people must make do with what they already have, and that could mean unsuitable chairs that damage backs and necks.

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    For a future that will likely involve more flexible working arrangements, companies will need to support their staff in ways that will add additional costs to an already reduced bottom line.

    Con #4: Unique Distractions

    Not all people have the benefit of being able to afford childcare for young children, and this means they need to balance working and taking care of their kids.

    For many parents, being able to go to a workplace gives them time away from the noise and demands of a young family, so they could get on with their work. Working from home removes this and can make doing video calls almost impossible.

    To overcome this, where possible, you need to set some boundaries. I know this is not always possible, but it is something you need to try. You should do whatever you can to make sure you have some boundaries between your work life and home life.

    Final Thoughts

    Working from home can be hugely beneficial for many people, but it can also bring serious challenges to others.

    We are moving towards a new way of working. Therefore, companies need to look at both the pros and cons of working from home and be prepared to support their staff in making this transition. It will not be impossible, but a lot of thought will need to go into it.

    More About Working From Home

    Featured photo credit: Standsome Worklifestyle via unsplash.com

    Reference

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