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Is it Time to Let Go of Productivity?

Is it Time to Let Go of Productivity?


    I’m sure a lot of Lifehack readers are also readers of Leo Baubata’s blog Zen Habits. While I’m a big fan of Leo’s and can honestly say he was my biggest inspiration to start blogging, I also disagree with some of what he has to say of late.

    A couple of months ago Leo wrote an article entitled “Toss Productivity Out” and to most productivity geeks and ninjas the initial reaction to that post would include a shriek and maybe a gasp. What would my life be like if I toss productivity out? I’m certainly not going back to the pre-productivity chaos that was my life.

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    But Leo’s concept is about letting go, not living life constantly striving to achieve more, faster, and better. And in this concept I agree. I too have been trying to simplify my life, I have been trying to value my time and not waste it working on things that don’t matter.

    But there is a time and a place for productivity, and I think in all of Leo’s wisdom that letting go too soon can have a negative effect. I think there is a time in our lives for goal setting, for productivity systems, and for letting go.

    Goal Setting

    Goal setting is probably one of the biggest personal development ideas of the past decade. Stephen Covey, Richard Branson, Robin Sharma and other successful people will tell you to set goals. If you want to achieve something, you must visualize it and then go out there and get it.

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    How to go about achieving your goals is where the next set of experts fit in. The ones who will advise you how to manage your time and make time for all the things you want to achieve in life.

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    People like Brian Tracy, David Allen, Mike Vardy and CM Smith tell us how to get from the vision to the completion. How you can get things done — and stay calm and as stress-free as possible while doing it. At a certain point in everyone’s life we want to accomplish things and often find that we don’t have the time to do it. Productivity systems help us to manage our time and resources to enable us to get all the important stuff done. Productivity systems help us to achieve our lofty goals and dreams.

    Letting Go

    Then there is another school of thought — the one that advises us to let go, to stop striving. To live in the present and accept life for what it offers. These are the letting go advocates like Babauta, Mary Jaksch of Goodlife ZEN and many others who tell us to focus on the present and appreciate each day for what it is. I wholeheartedly agree with the concept of letting go and living in the now. But can we do this without first going through the process of goal setting and productivity?

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      I think there is a time in most people’s life when goal setting is needed, where change is required, when things are not the way you want them to be. In these times we need to focus on a better future, to project ourselves into a better state of mind, a healthier body or a calmer disposition. Leo managed to lose weight, eliminate debt and become a runner. Could he have done this by simply letting go? I don’t believe so.

      But then again there were some gaps in the evolution of man. Are these down to missing pieces of information or were they quantum leaps in development? Is this what Leo is telling us now…that we no longer need to go step by step in our personal development? Is it perhaps time for a quantum leap? Is it time for human consciousness to let go and allow the universe to let things happen and evolve how they should?

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      It’s certainly an interesting concept. I would love to hear your thoughts and opinions in the comments below.

      (Photo credit: Woman Letting go of Balloons via Shutterstock)

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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 March 23, 2021

        Manage Your Energy so You Can Manage Your Time

        Manage Your Energy so You Can Manage Your Time

        One of the greatest ironies of this age is that while various gadgets like smartphones and netbooks allow you to multitask, it seems that you never manage to get things done. You are caught in the busyness trap. There’s just too much work to do in one day that sometimes you end up exhausted with half-finished tasks.

        The problem lies in how to keep our energy level high to ensure that you finish at least one of your most important tasks for the day. There’s just not enough hours in a day and it’s not possible to be productive the whole time.

        You need more than time management. You need energy management

        1. Dispel the idea that you need to be a “morning person” to be productive

        How many times have you heard (or read) this advice – wake up early so that you can do all the tasks at hand. There’s nothing wrong with that advice. It’s actually reeks of good common sense – start early, finish early. The thing is that technique alone won’t work with everyone. Especially not with people who are not morning larks.

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        I should know because I was once deluded with the idea that I will be more productive if I get out of bed by 6 a.m. Like most of you Lifehackers, I’m always on the lookout for productivity hacks because I have a lot of things in my plate. I’m working full time as an editor for a news agency, while at the same time tending to my side business as a content marketing strategist. I’m also a travel blogger and oh yeah, I forgot, I also have a life.

        I read a lot of productivity books and blogs looking for ways to make the most of my 24 hours. Most stories on productivity stress waking up early. So I did – and I was a major failure in that department – both in waking up early and finishing early.

        2. Determine your “peak hours”

        Energy management begins with looking for your most productive hours in a day. Getting attuned to your body clock won’t happen instantly but there’s a way around it.

        Monitor your working habits for one week and list down the time when you managed to do the most work. Take note also of what you feel during those hours – do you feel energized or lethargic? Monitor this and you will find a pattern later on.

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        My experiment with being a morning lark proved that ignoring my body clock and just doing it by disciplining myself to wake up before 8 a.m. will push me to be more productive. I thought that by writing blog posts and other reports in the morning that I would be finished by noon and use my lunch break for a quick gym session. That never happened. I was sleepy, distracted and couldn’t write jack before 10 a.m.

        In fact that was one experiment that I shouldn’t have tried because I should know better. After all, I’ve been writing for a living for the last 15 years, and I have observed time and again that I write more –and better – in the afternoon and in evenings after supper. I’m a night owl. I might as well, accept it and work around it.

        Just recently, I was so fired up by a certain idea that – even if I’m back home tired from work – I took out my netbook, wrote and published a 600-word blog post by 11 p.m. This is a bit extreme and one of my rare outbursts of energy, but it works for me.

        3. Block those high-energy hours

        Once you have a sense of that high-energy time, you can then mold your schedule so that your other less important tasks will be scheduled either before or after this designated productive time.

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        Block them out in your calendar and use the high-energy hours for your high priority tasks – especially those that require more of your mental energy and focus. You also need to use these hours to any task that will bring you closer to you life’s goal.

        If you are a morning person, you might want to schedule most business meetings before lunch time as it’s important to keep your mind sharp and focused. But nothing is set in stone. Sometimes you have to sacrifice those productive hours to attend to other personal stuff – like if you or your family members are sick or if you have to attend your son’s graduation.

        That said, just remember to keep those productive times on your calendar. You may allow for some exemptions but stick to that schedule as much as possible.

        There’s no right or wrong way of using this energy management technique because everything depends on your own personal circumstances. What you need to remember is that you have to accept what works for you – and not what other productivity gurus say you should do.

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        Understanding your own body clock is the key to time management. Without it, you end up exhausted chasing a never-ending cycle of tasks and frustrations.

        Featured photo credit: Collin Hardy via unsplash.com

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