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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 December 2, 2018

    How to Flow Your Way to a More Productive Life

    How to Flow Your Way to a More Productive Life

    Ebb and flow. Contraction and expansion. Highs and lows. It’s all about the cycles of life.

    The entire course of our life follows this up and down pattern of more and then less. Our days flow this way, each following a pattern of more energy, then less energy, more creativity and periods of greater focus bookended by moments of low energy when we cringe at the thought of one more meeting, one more call, one more sentence.

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    The key is in understanding how to use the cycles of ebb and flow to our advantage. The ability to harness these fluctuations, understand how they affect our productivity and mood and then apply that knowledge as a tool to improve our lives is a valuable strategy that few individuals or corporations have mastered.

    Here are a few simple steps to start using this strategy today:

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    Review Your Past Flow

    Take just a few minutes to look back at how your days and weeks have been unfolding. What time of the day are you the most focused? Do you prefer to be more social at certain times of the day? Do you have difficulty concentrating after lunch or are you energized? Are there days when you can’t seem to sit still at your desk and others when you could work on the same project for hours?

    Do you see a pattern starting to emerge? Eventually you will discover a sort of map or schedule that charts your individual productivity levels during a given day or week.  That’s the first step. You’ll use this information to plan your days going forward.

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    Schedule According to Your Flow Pattern

    Look at the types of things you do each day…each week. What can you move around so that it’s a better fit for you? Can you suggest to your team that you schedule meetings for late morning if you can’t stand to be social first thing? Can you schedule detailed project work or highly creative tasks, like writing or designing when you are best able to focus? How about making sales calls or client meetings on days when you are the most social and leaving billing or reports until another time when you are able to close your door and do repetitive tasks.

    Keep in mind that everyone is different and some things are out of our control. Do what you can. You might be surprised at just how flexible clients and managers can be when they understand that improving your productivity will result in better outcomes for them.

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    Account for Big Picture Fluctuations

    Look at the bigger picture. Consider what happens during different months or times during the year. Think about what is going on in the other parts of your life. When is the best time for you to take on a new project, role or responsibility? Take into account other commitments that zap your energy. Do you have a sick parent, a spouse who travels all the time or young children who demand all of your available time and energy?

    We all know people who ignore all of this advice and yet seem to prosper and achieve wonderful success anyway, but they are usually the exception, not the rule. For most of us, this habitual tendency to force our bodies and our brains into patterns of working that undermine our productivity result in achieving less than desired results and adding more stress to our already overburdened lives.

    Why not follow the ebb and flow of your life instead of fighting against it?

      Featured photo credit: Nathan Dumlao via unsplash.com

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