Today I wanted to share some of my best mindful productivity tips. I self-diagnosed myself as a master procrastinator; we’re in the middle of the pandemic, I work from home on a passion project of mine, and trying to stay both mindful and productive. The struggle is real!
It is very easy to get sidetracked, and if I don’t put in the extra effort daily, I may easily drift into a mental abyss.
Every day, I have to give myself a decent scaffolding to fill in the gaps and know what tasks go where, what my intentions are, and what are the obstacles awaiting.
MINDFUL PRODUCTIVITY IN PRACTICE
I believe life should not be limited to just crossing out another task on your to-do list, but more about deciding what and why should even be on that list.
So here’s a couple of different tactics that I use and which have changed my productivity entirely.
KEY THINGS FOR DAILY PRODUCTIVITY
Here’s a list of ingredients in my mindful productivity recipe:
- Anchor your thoughts by bullet journaling
- Manage your attention by limiting distractions
- Manage your energy by tracking and observing your natural rhythm
- Clarify your intentions
- Use WOOP technique
- Design a mindful routine and good habits
- Set some boundaries
- Become less reactive
- Make your tasks smaller
- Focus on just starting to combat procrastination and resistance
- Focus on finishing smaller tasks, to feel more accomplished and avoid open loops
Protecting your attention is essential in today’s scattered, busy and overwhelming world, but only if we let it be that way. We can change it by deciding on the quality of the input we get.
Social media can be fun and valuable, but try to limit it to, say, two sessions a day: 10 minutes in the morning, 10-15 mins of guilt-free-scrolling in the evening.
It’s only a problem if it becomes automatic and derails your attempts to achieve what you wanted to get.
One of the best ways is to disable all sorts of notifications and stop going for the little dopamine hits.
If you have a busy mind, do everything you can to limit distractions:
- physical (so you’re not hungry, thirsty, too cold, or too hot),
- by disabling tech (flight mode for your phone, blocking access to social media/internet),
- work in a quiet space where no one disturbs you (partner, kids),
- use noise-canceling headphones, clean your desk, all windows on your computer are closed.
ENERGY MANAGEMENT- BEING MINDFUL OF ENERGY EBBS AND FLOWS
If you observe yourself, you will find patterns in your daily or weekly energy ebbs and flows. Thus, you’ll have a better chance of using your time wisely. Knowing your prime time and attention options is key.
From my tracking & observation, I now know:
- for more ambitious and intense tasks, I have better odds of accomplishing them from Monday to Thursday; the rest of the week can get messy
- I know when I am most alert and can focus better, and that’s when I try to schedule more difficult tasks.
- I try not to waste my prime time doing something that doesn’t require huge focus (cleaning, shopping, etc. )
- I’m trying to be realistic about how much I can do every day or every week – but I STILL end up being overly optimistic.
- I know how much sleep I need to function well – min. 7 hours, ideally 8 hours of sleep
- I need to remind myself to stay hydrated.
- I need to move a bit and reconnect with the natural world
- I have to limit apps, web, social media. ALL KINDS OF INPUT if I want to have decent output
- I need to live with my timer set, or I drift off
For me, it’s meditation, mindfulness, and my bullet journal.
Every day of my working week, I have two facing pages of my bullet journal designated to give me some structure.
The left-hand side is for ‚action’, and my right-hand side page is for ‚reflection.’ These two pages tell my brain that this is a new day, a new opportunity to move the needle a bit, to locate where I am. It’s an anchor for my thoughts, feelings, and ideas.
On the left, I track the day, day of the week, my mindset, energy, and hours of sleep.
Then I have things I want to/need to get done and a time estimate for each task.
I also have a vertical hourly line next to my to-do’s for time blocking.
There’s also space for my habit tracking, a line for a thought/idea of the day, and other things I want to include (sometimes a gratitude practice, sometimes procrastination log, intention for the day, etc. )
The right side is for taking notes, jotting down ideas, bullet notes, sort of catch-all page as my day happens.
MINDFULNESS AND CLARITY
For me, clarifying what I want to achieve, what my intentions are, and then seeing whether I got it done or not is a valuable practice.
It gives me some structure and helps me progress.
This practice alone was a huge productivity boost for me in the past two years or so.
START WITH INTENTION
- I try to be more mindful of what ends up on my daily to-do list.
- What is it that I want to do and why? What do I want to get out of this task or situation?
- How is it connected to my goals and aligned with my values?
- Is the task on my list getting me closer to where I want to get or sidetracking me?
- Is what I have on my to-do list a reaction to something or an intention?
WOOP IT, BABE!
For bigger, more demanding tasks, I try to WOOP them.
What is WOOP? It’s an acronym for a desire clarifying technique (scientifically proven), created by Gabriele Oettingen.
WOOP stands for:
- Wish – looking for a desire or wish that you want
- Outcome – vividly imagining the best outcome
- Obstacles – for contrast, vividly imagining all the possible obstacles that could get in the way of achieving your wish
- Plan – planning how to overcome those obstacles, usually taking the form of an Implementation Intention:
ROUTINES, RITUALS, AND HABITS
A routine for me is a set of smaller habits that follow one after another.
It’s a sequence of actions; you can think of it as a script you run.
For me, it’s ok if it becomes ‚automatic’ as that way, I am saving energy.
That said, it should also be intentional, so designed carefully and aligned with your intention.
Because each habit in your routine becomes a trigger for the next habitual action, you save yourself some decision-making and lower the friction on starting an action.
*Habits vs. Routines vs. Rituals: Wondering the difference between habits, routines, and rituals? Habits are things that we do automatically—things like checking your email first thing in the morning or putting your keys in a specific spot when you get home. Routines are usually a collection of habits or actions you do on a regular basis to bring order to your day—checking your email, then writing your day’s to-do list, then checking your team’s project management tool as a way of getting the day started. Rituals are like routines. The main difference is the attitude behind the actions: Taking a walk every day at lunch could be considered a routine if you think of it as something you need to do for your productivity.*
12 Morning and Evening Routines That Will Set Up Each Day for Success
Most of us have some natural chains of action, not necessarily aligned with what we would like to accomplish.
However, imagine having a routine that is purposefully crafted for you and by you:
You wake up, take a few deep breaths, ground yourself, savor your morning coffee, get in touch with yourself, meditate, exercise, tidy your place, light a candle, limit all distractions, and start working.
In The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do In Life and Business, Charles Duhigg details how habits put our brains into an automatic state where little or no willpower is required.
MORE PRODUCTIVE, LESS REACTIVE
Often we get derailed when something happens, and we are not sure what to do about it. It’s best to figure out a system of sorts and know what to do next:
– email – wait until you’re ready to act on it
– not important message / chat- ignore
– important stuff inbox – schedule a time to process
– when you find an inspiring article – save it to your notes app
If you find a book you want to get, save it to your faves, add it to your basket to cure for a bit, etc.
Of course, setting boundaries isn’t always easy in our hyper-connected world, but essential for mindful productivity.
Think about ways to set physical, temporal, and mental boundaries:
– know what to say yes to and no to
– block the time to do the things you want to do
– decide to stay focused
– let others know that you’re busy and do not want to be interrupted.
If you have your own office, simply closing the door might be enough, but if you work in a busy place, think of a way to let others know you’re trying to stay focused. You could light a candle, put your headphones on, or even wear a ‚focus crown’.
GO SMALL AND FOCUS ON STARTING
- especially when you’re battling resistance and procrastination, it’s essential that you learn how to JUST START what you want to do. It takes practice but works great and, gradually, becomes a habit.
- if you’re resisting a task, aim for 2 minutes – set your timer, start doing the thing, and then you can decide whether to continue or stop
- it’s about lowering the stakes, not adding pressure, removing all mental friction
GO SMALL AND FOCUS ON FINISHING
– I wrote about focusing on just starting for some tasks, but I also discovered the power of completion and how it makes us feel accomplished
– again, we’re talking small, bordering on tiny
– we feel better when we have something to show for the time we’ve spent working. So whenever possible, try to do something small that can be finished.
-when reading a book, try to read an entire chapter
-if you’re cleaning your kitchen, finished cleaning your sink
And, as always, my best recommendation for taking action and sticking with it is to
START SMALL, STAY FOCUSED, GROW STRONGER AND GO FROM THERE