Holistic Productivity: How to be a super achiever and a balanced person at the same time?
Productivity has been a very trendy topic on the Internet for the past decade. From left and right, people are offering us advice on how to be more productive, sharing their personal tips and tricks. Many of those work but often it can feel overwhelming because we can’t be building 6 different habits at the same time, while also trying to keep up with the latest ideas. In this article we’d like to change the narrative around productivity a little bit. It’s not about taking a pen and jotting all these down, so you can start applying them all from tomorrow. Our intention is more about providing you with a different perspective on the topic and a sort of guide towards approaching your own relationship with productivity. At Awera, we like to look at productivity through a holistic lens. That means that we don’t really see it as a separate entity that’s part of your everyday work and personal life. It’s not just a tool that measures your success, performance, or efficiency in numbers and to do lists. We consider productivity to be something bigger that’s spreading throughout everything we do and would like to do. By approaching it in a holistic manner, we look at it in terms of its context and the way it intertwines with many more aspects of our life. We look at our energy, wellbeing, and planning, when we look at our productivity. We also look at all the different areas of our life (our relationships, our physical health, our daily habits or practices) in order to fully understand or evaluate our productivity levels. Here are 6 different ideas that are absolutely key in this conversation.
1. Approaching productivity in a holistic way
If you are being productive (with your goals and daily tasks), but you are unhealthy, struggling in your relationships with others, or feeling unwell emotionally, you won’t be able to sustain this level of productivity in the long run. It might feel as if you’re doing great (at least in that area of your life), but this can become a slippery slope. We need to invest energy and effort into every important area of our lives (career, health, relationships, self, etc) if we wish to be productive and well in a sustainable way. Otherwise, we’ll face burning out or depression sooner or later and everything will crumble down. On the other hand, if you are healthy and are feeling good about your most important relationships, but aren’t investing enough in your work, career, and finances, there’s again a big chance you won’t be able to sustain a good lifestyle as you won’t have enough resources or security to back you up. It’s important to enjoy our relationships and other hobbies or things in life, but at the same time we also need to be able to support ourselves financially. To build a career in which we make enough money, enjoy the work we do, and ideally express ourselves somehow through this work is not an easy endeavour and it requires a lot of dedication and focus. A holistic look at productivity invites us to examine all these separate pieces of the puzzle and make sure we invest enough in each of them. The better we’re doing in one area, the more drive and energy we’ll be able to invest in all others! Some might be more important at one point or another, but we still need to take care and master all these key areas in order to live a balanced, well-rounded, content life.
2. Identifying the different life roles we all have
We all have different roles in life (parent, sibling, entrepreneur, friend, partner, etc) and they all come with their own responsibilities and goals. By considering our life roles, we can have a holistic view of ourselves. This “big picture” is very useful because it provides us with more clarity and understanding of the different things we need to do, the goals we’d like to achieve, and the areas where we need to invest in. It’s also necessary to note that some of the roles we have in life are fundamental and we should constantly be invested in them. These are our relationship with ourselves and our relationships with the people we love. They are the foundation for everything we do. They give us energy, strength, security, and balance. We cannot excel academically or create a great business, for example, if we are sick, distressed, uninspired, or continuously fighting with those around us.
3. Planning your life top-down
It feels like the concept of top-down life planning isn’t that popular yet, but it’s a sure way to not only increase your productivity, but also feel more aligned and fulfilled. The idea here is to connect our life purpose (after outlining one) to our long-term goals and then to our daily actions. This is why we say we are planning from the top down. Having a clearly defined purpose will give us the energy we need to pursue our goals and dreams and the strength to endure whatever hardships or obstacles come our way. When we use top-down life planning as a tool, every single activity in our day-to-day life will feel connected and will make more sense in the grand scheme of things! You will always be able to understand why you are doing what you are doing as it will be part of a bigger picture. The better we know ourselves (our life purpose, values, principles, beliefs, strengths) and our “why” behind everything we do, the better we will be at life.
4. Learning to prioritize
Productivity has 2 components: effectiveness (doing the right things) and efficiency (doing things right). We first need to take care of our effectiveness, and then of our efficiency. It doesn’t serve us any good if we are perfectly doing the wrong things. In order to take care of our effectiveness, we need to understand which tasks or activities are the “right” ones. Which are the most important ones for us and what determines that? We believe the most important tasks are the ones which have the biggest positive impact on us. They are enablers in a sense and have the power to make everything else better and easier to do. That’s why it makes sense to prioritize those tasks (or activities, projects, habits, people, etc) and disregard the rest (within reason). The Pareto principle is a great tool for illustrating what prioritizing means. The 80/20 rule states that for many outcomes, roughly 80% of the consequences come from 20% of the action. This means that when we focus on executing our 20% (our priority tasks), we can get the 80% value. It’s like we’ve accomplished 80% of our to-do list in terms of importance. Another similar principle is Parkinson’s law which states that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”. By allocating to a task less time than you usually would, you will guide yourself to naturally focus on the 20% that will bring you the biggest impact. When using it together with Pareto’s principle, you will ensure yourself a huge effectiveness boost.
5. Focusing for execution
In order to be productive, we need to focus our efforts towards execution. How do we do that? What does that entail? We start by asking ourselves a question that probably hasn’t been our go-to: what should we not do? Instead of thinking of all the things we should do, it can be quite interesting to approach this backwards. The fewer things we focus our energy, attention, and time on, the more energy, attention, and time we can give them. And so the better our execution will be! This point is very connected to the previous one about learning to prioritize. Cultivating very good focus is becoming harder and harder in today’s world, but it is absolutely essential if we’d like to achieve great things. Focus is really a two-fold concept. Firstly, it is our capacity to judge what’s important and what isn’t, like we previously mentioned. Secondly, it’s also our ability to concentrate on a single task at a time while giving it our full attention. Both are becoming increasingly difficult in a world as information-loaded and fast-paced as today’s. A fun and useful experiment here would be to explore different productivity methods until you find the one that fits you best. There isn’t a one size fits all, so don’t get discouraged if a friend recommends you a tool which doesn’t really work for you. Play around with methods like GTD, time blocking, Kanban, and Pomodoro, and see what you discover!
6. Designing your ideal day
Day design is all about planning your daily actions according to your priorities and energy rhythm. To be productive we shouldn’t focus on managing our time as it is fixed for all of us – instead, we should manage our energy as it can be expanded and renewed. Having enough energy and using it wisely (through its peaks and lows) gives us the capacity to perform optimally, avoid burnouts, and achieve what we have set for ourselves. Whatever our dreams and goals might be, and however far in the future we are planning for (50 years, 5 years, next month), it all comes down to what we do every single day in order to move closer to those things. Therefore, the way we design our days – what we prioritize, what we focus on, and how we use our energy – will ultimately determine everything in our day-to-day life and future. Many might feel like “too much” planning makes things way too rigid or restricts us. We don’t think so! Taking just 5 to 10 minutes in the evening (ideally before dinner) to reflect on the day just passed, and then to thoroughly plan the next one will do just the opposite… You’ll go to bed with confidence and clarity on what your focus for the next day is. That means less anxiety, less stress, and less wasted time! Who wouldn’t like that? This practice will actually give you the freedom (and headspace) to immerse yourself fully in every activity or task at hand. Whether that’s preparing a delicious breakfast for your family, leading an important work meeting, or enjoying your evening solo walk in the park. We’re all wondering if it’s possible. To be ambitious and successful, to be doing many things, but to also stay balanced, healthy, happy… and sane. It feels like this has become one of the biggest questions in modern times. And it’s safe to say that’s a “yes” from us. Productivity and success look and feel different to everybody, and that makes sense. But at the end of the day, we believe, although it’s not easy, it’s still absolutely achievable. All it takes is some serious dedication and the 6 ideas we shared with you! Thank us later.
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