Advertising

What Yoga Can Teach Us About Productivity

Advertising
What Yoga Can Teach Us About Productivity

    Earlier, I talked about how you can use meditation practices “in real time,” while you’re working on a task, to stay focused and motivated.  In this post, I’ll discuss how some forms of movement and breathing from yoga can help you find efficiency and ease in your work.

    Usually, when we think about productivity, images of well-organized e-mail inboxes and color-coded folders come to mind.  But these things alone aren’t enough to make us efficient.  If our minds aren’t disciplined — our attention is scattered, or we feel sluggish or anxious — work will be a struggle, no matter how organized our workspace is.

    Advertising

    How do we discipline our minds?  I’ve found the ancient practice of hatha yoga — the stretches and breathing we simply call “yoga” in the West — very helpful.  This may sound odd at first, but it makes sense if we look at why hatha yoga was created.  It’s designed to clear the mind to prepare for meditation. In the same way, when we use it at work, it helps us become serene and focused.

    Although people tend to see yoga as a complex bunch of poses that require a mat and a lot of flexibility, there are simple forms of yogic breathing and movement we can do while seated. You can do the practices I’ll describe whenever you feel yourself losing attention or momentum at work.

    1.    Breathe Into The Tight Spot

    When a student is in a yoga pose that’s bringing up a lot of discomfort, a yoga teacher will often tell the student to “breathe into” the uncomfortable spot in their body — meaning to breathe so that the tense part rises and falls with the breath. This helps the student relax into the pose.

    Advertising

    If you pay close enough attention when you’re feeling stressed or anxious at work, I suspect you’ll notice that some part of your body is tensed up — whether it’s your jaw, neck, lower back, or somewhere else.  If you notice this, I invite you to try taking a few deep breaths into that tight place.

    When you do this, I think you’ll find the tension dissipating, and the stress starting to fade.

    2.    Open Up Your Shoulders

    Many of us spend our workdays hunched over a keyboard, and this can cause tension to build in the neck and shoulders.  When that tightness gets uncomfortable enough, it can disrupt our focus.  Here’s a great way to release some of this tension — again, without leaving your chair.

    Advertising

    The pose I’ll describe is called “eagle arms.”  To do this, hold your forearms out in front of you, parallel to your body.  Cross your right arm in front of your left, and clasp your hands in front of your face so that your arms intertwine.  Holding this pose, breathe deeply a few times into your shoulders.  Repeat this with your left arm crossed over your right.

    I think you’ll find this helps you let go of the tightness in your shoulders, and return your attention to your work.

    3.    Breathe Into Your Heart

    When we’re feeling unmotivated at work, it’s helpful to connect with our desire to contribute to and serve others. The yoga technique of breathing into your heart is a wonderful way to do this.

    Advertising

    According to yoga, there’s an energetic center in the heart area called the “heart chakra.”  When we “open” the heart chakra by breathing into it, we feel our sense of compassion for others, and our desire to give to the world.

    To breathe into your heart, clasp your hands behind your back at the level of your heart, and stretch out your arms.  Then, breathe deeply so your upper chest rises and falls with the breath. Feel the warmth and openness in your heart, and notice any tension melting away.

    4.    Breathe Into Your Spine

    According to yoga, there’s another energetic center at the base of the spine called the “root chakra.”  Breathing into the root chakra gives us a sense of groundedness and stability.  Doing this can be very useful when you’re feeling anxious at work.

    Advertising

    To breathe into the root chakra, put your attention on the base of your spine, where the spine meets the pelvis.  If focusing on that area is difficult, place your hand on your lower back, and concentrate on the sensation of pressure there.  With your attention on the base of your spine, take a few deep breaths.

    When you do this, you’ll likely feel a deep-seated sense of solidity, and that paralyzing worry will start to fade.

    More by this author

    What Yoga Can Teach Us About Productivity What Meditation Can Teach Us About Productivity

    Trending in Productivity

    1 How to Create Your Own Ritual to Conquer Time Wasters and Laziness 2 Are You Addicted to Productivity? 3 Is Avoiding Difficult Tasks And Doing Easy Tasks First Less Productive? 4 How Remote Work Affects Your Productivity And Wellbeing (Backed By Data) 5 10 Best Productivity Planners To Get More Done in 2021

    Read Next

    Advertising
    Advertising

    Last Updated on October 21, 2021

    How to Create Your Own Ritual to Conquer Time Wasters and Laziness

    Advertising
    How to Create Your Own Ritual to Conquer Time Wasters and Laziness

    Life is wasted in the in-between times. The time between when your alarm first rings and when you finally decide to get out of bed. The time between when you sit at your desk and when productive work begins. The time between making a decision and doing something about it.

    Slowly, your day is whittled away from all the unused in-between moments. Eventually, time wasters, laziness, and procrastination get the better of you.

    The solution to reclaim these lost middle moments is by creating rituals. Every culture on earth uses rituals to transfer information and encode behaviors that are deemed important. Personal rituals can help you build a better pattern for handling everything from how you wake up to how you work.

    Unfortunately, when most people see rituals, they see pointless superstitions. Indeed, many rituals are based on a primitive understanding of the world. But by building personal rituals, you get to encode the behaviors you feel are important and cut out the wasted middle moments.

    Advertising

    Program Your Own Algorithms

    Another way of viewing rituals is by seeing them as computer algorithms. An algorithm is a set of instructions that is repeated to get a result.

    Some algorithms are highly efficient, sorting or searching millions of pieces of data in a few seconds. Other algorithms are bulky and awkward, taking hours to do the same task.

    By forming rituals, you are building algorithms for your behavior. Take the delayed and painful pattern of waking up, debating whether to sleep in for another two minutes, hitting the snooze button, repeat until almost late for work. This could be reprogrammed to get out of bed immediately, without debating your decision.

    How to Form a Ritual

    I’ve set up personal rituals for myself for handling e-mail, waking up each morning, writing articles, and reading books. Far from making me inflexible, these rituals give me a useful default pattern that works best 99% of the time. Whenever my current ritual won’t work, I’m always free to stop using it.

    Advertising

    Forming a ritual isn’t too difficult, and the same principles for changing habits apply:

    1. Write out your sequence of behavior. I suggest starting with a simple ritual of only 3-4 steps maximum. Wait until you’ve established a ritual before you try to add new steps.
    2. Commit to following your ritual for thirty days. This step will take the idea and condition it into your nervous system as a habit.
    3. Define a clear trigger. When does your ritual start? A ritual to wake up is easy—the sound of your alarm clock will work. As for what triggers you to go to the gym, read a book or answer e-mail—you’ll have to decide.
    4. Tweak the Pattern. Your algorithm probably won’t be perfectly efficient the first time. Making a few tweaks after the first 30-day trial can make your ritual more useful.

    Ways to Use a Ritual

    Based on the above ideas, here are some ways you could implement your own rituals:

    1. Waking Up

    Set up a morning ritual for when you wake up and the next few things you do immediately afterward. To combat the grogginess after immediately waking up, my solution is to do a few pushups right after getting out of bed. After that, I sneak in ninety minutes of reading before getting ready for morning classes.

    2. Web Usage

    How often do you answer e-mail, look at Google Reader, or check Facebook each day? I found by taking all my daily internet needs and compressing them into one, highly-efficient ritual, I was able to cut off 75% of my web time without losing any communication.

    Advertising

    3. Reading

    How much time do you get to read books? If your library isn’t as large as you’d like, you might want to consider the rituals you use for reading. Programming a few steps to trigger yourself to read instead of watching television or during a break in your day can chew through dozens of books each year.

    4. Friendliness

    Rituals can also help with communication. Set up a ritual of starting a conversation when you have opportunities to meet people.

    5. Working

    One of the hardest barriers when overcoming procrastination is building up a concentrated flow. Building those steps into a ritual can allow you to quickly start working or continue working after an interruption.

    6. Going to the gym

    If exercising is a struggle, encoding a ritual can remove a lot of the difficulty. Set up a quick ritual for going to exercise right after work or when you wake up.

    Advertising

    7. Exercise

    Even within your workouts, you can have rituals. Spacing the time between runs or reps with a certain number of breaths can remove the guesswork. Forming a ritual of doing certain exercises in a particular order can save time.

    8. Sleeping

    Form a calming ritual in the last 30-60 minutes of your day before you go to bed. This will help slow yourself down and make falling asleep much easier. Especially if you plan to get up full of energy in the morning, it will help if you remove insomnia.

    8. Weekly Reviews

    The weekly review is a big part of the GTD system. By making a simple ritual checklist for my weekly review, I can get the most out of this exercise in less time. Originally, I did holistic reviews where I wrote my thoughts on the week and progress as a whole. Now, I narrow my focus toward specific plans, ideas, and measurements.

    Final Thoughts

    We all want to be productive. But time wasters, procrastination, and laziness sometimes get the better of us. If you’re facing such difficulties, don’t be afraid to make use of these rituals to help you conquer them.

    Advertising

    More Tips to Conquer Time Wasters and Procrastination

     

    Featured photo credit: RODOLFO BARRETO via unsplash.com

    Read Next