There are so many tips, tricks, and hacks on the internet that surround the idea productivity, its overwhelming. Some productivity tips are incredibly valid and have an objectively positive influence on your life. But at the same time, there is some advice that often leads us away from our nature. We are told to do several things that inadvertently induce unnecessary stress, and regrettably push us further away from who we are.
“You have to wake up at 4:30 AM”
This is one of the first “tips” I’ve heard, and for a while, I was foolish enough to believe it. I forced myself to wake up unnaturally early so I could start accomplishing things sooner, but the only thing that I accomplished was drinking a record-breaking number of espresso shots. I kept lying to myself that if I woke up earlier I could be more productive, but it just didn’t work. Instead of accomplishing what was important, I found myself sleepwalking to my next caffeine fix.
Productivity means nothing if you cannot sustainably replicate the work ethic. A long burst of focused energy once a week will not be as beneficial as regular bursts of focused energy. The reason for this is that to improve a skill we have to create multiple associations with it over a long period. The more touchpoints you have with the activity, the easier it is to build your proficiency.
To offer some advice to those reading: do what works for you. Do not get roped into the stories of high output individuals waking up extremely early to execute their litany of morning rituals. If you are a night owl and based on data are more productive working at late, go for it. If you find that you need 9+ hours of sleep to operate at your peak, do it. The point is that if we can make informed decisions about our routines, habits, and workflow, we can create a more productive lifestyle without the stress of adhering to someone else’s model of success.
“You have to stay busy all the time”
I hear this a lot and it all revolves around the notion that if you aren’t constantly doing something that you are moving backward. This is not always true, but we could certainly be “spinning our wheels”. Being busy all the time doesn’t mean we are getting closer to our goals. We could be working on the 80% that yield only 20% of the results.
Pushing ourselves to always do something allows stress to creep into our lives. The reality of stress is that it clouds our minds from better judgment. We begin to make hasty decisions that at that moment seemed to be the greatest relief just to get it over with, but once we revisit the decision in a more relaxed state of mind, we start to second guess ourselves.
To continually make the optimal decision, we have to reserve a certain amount of our mental capacity. I use meditation to keep myself level and alert. It has helped me calm my internal dialogue and distill every situation’s stimuli into important versus unimportant. Reducing your overall stress level will make life more enjoyable. When I feel overwhelmed, I try to simply distance myself from the task so I can return to a state of mental clarity.
“Work always the number one priority, everything else is secondary.”
No. You are your number one priority. You are the one entity on this planet that will determine whether or not you live your dream. To do that, you have to eat well, sleep for an optimal number of hours and live with purpose.
If you eat well, you will feel more energized.
If you feel energized, you can think with clarity.
If you can think clearly, you can complete what is important.
I used to be an insane workaholic. I would eat what was convenient, sleep too little, and live for my work. Day in and day out I would be left mentally drained because I spent all my energy doing things that kept me busy. I told myself that I was being productive because I was constantly doing something. In this hasty, perhaps frantic approach, I was never slowing down to ask myself, how I was doing. I was crumbling inside because I put off all the incredibly important questions I needed to answer for myself. Being mindful of our fundamental needs will make our workflow smoother and more focused.
I hope this sheds light on some of the misconceptions we all have about productivity. My goal as a productivity coach is to use the Polymath System to debunk these myths and help my clients build sustainable habits conducive to success. If you build the right habits, your workflow will become a stress-free, pleasurable experience that will only pay dividends in the future.