Productivity

No 8. A Hobby Can Improve Your Productivity

I recently read an article in the New York Times that claimed procrastination is not a time management issue.  It is an emotional regulation issue. (https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/25/smarter-living/why-you-procrastinate-it-has-nothing-to-do-with-self-control.html)

When we put something off, we are likely experiencing a negative emotion or mood; boredom, fear, anxiety, insecurity, self-doubt, etc..  We also delay because the task we are avoiding requires acute concentration and focus, a long, uninterrupted block of time, or creates an unwanted situational or emotional consequence. 

When I get stuck in this frustrating state, my first thought is often to distract myself with a simple task that might be important but is not time sensitive, which usually leads to dissatisfaction. 

All that we fear does not exist.

Doing things now often takes less time and less emotional energy than putting them off until later. Interestingly, I often find that the task I was stressing over was considerably easier than the mental image I created (this is certainly not always the case).  Sometimes we are overwhelmed, and instead of adding another item to our task list, we need to take a break and recover. 

The mind that created the problem…

It is in taking the opposite approach that has proven most helpful.  I have found that creating space to do things I enjoy, reduces my likelihood of procrastinating to begin with.  In essence, if my physical and emotional states are balanced, I am ready to tackle any tasks. 

What is balance?

In my experience, mental and emotional balance comes from activities that stimulate both hemispheres of the brain.  I have no shortage of left brain stimulation, between business, abundant personal obligations, and being a single parent of twins.  Creating time for right brain activities is critical for my well-being. 

Activities that activate my right brain and bring me into the present moment:

-    Meditation

-    Playing guitar or drums

-    Stretching, yoga or going for a walk

-    Any form of cardiovascular exercise

-    Being in nature

-    Doing something fun with my twins

-    Driving in a circle – i.e. racing my Mazda Miata or on an open road with no traffic or cell phone

-    Listening to music or going to live shows

I recently committed to spending three hours every week in nature.  I do this during the work week as a reminder that this time is an investment in my overall productivity.  This quiet time is for self-reflection, getting clear about what I want and allowing new ideas to surface.  Since starting this practice, I have noticed a turbo boost in motivation, especially to do the things I’ve been putting off and the essential items that move me toward my long term goals.   

We live in a world bombarded by distractions and external stimuli; our minds and nervous systems are often overwhelmed.  Hobbies and self-care are essential for our health and wellness.  Creating space for these activities grounds us, re-centers our minds, and bring us back into the present moment.  After all, what is life for?  What is most important?  Instead of projecting our happiness into the future, we can commit to taking time to care for ourselves and allow our productivity to flourish and the abundance of possibilities to flow. 

No 5. - 5am Start and Monk Morning

In high school, I vividly remember dad coming into my room four-five times, at increasing volume, to wake me and essentially drag me out of bed for school.  Needless to say, I historically have not been much of a morning person.  I’ve always enjoyed staying up late engaging with hobbies, working or studying. 

For years in my professional life, I started my day at 8 am and worked late into the evening.

I would often start with email and other tasks that led to instant gratification and frequently found myself at 5 pm, without having made sufficient progress toward my long-term goals.  As a result, I would stay up and work until 11:30 or 12 am.  While I found productivity with this workflow, my mind was not as flexible and sharp late in the evening and, I experienced regular bouts of burn out.  Inversely, I always felt great on the days I would rise early, meditate, and get a head start, focusing on critical, creative work first. 

Enter twins.

Either my routine is changing, or I am going to need a clone (and a psychiatrist).  My twins wake up between 6:30-6:45 am and I love to spend 30-45 minutes with them at this sweet hour.  Chalk up an hour to get everyone dressed, fed, and ready for school.  By the time I drop them off, it’s 8:30 or 9 am.  A 4:30 pm pickup leaves a very compressed workday.  After an exhausting few months of working late nights and desperately trying to catch up on sleep, I decided to make a major change.

Income the 5 am Start and Monk Morning.

I’ve reclaimed my productivity and morning self-care routine by waking up at 5 am.  I co-parent the twins on a 50/50 schedule, alternating between three and five days a week.  On the days they are with me, I meditate, do 15-45 minutes of physical movement (yoga, stretching, Qi gong, or resistance training) and work for one 45-60 minute interval, before they wake.  As soon as I drop them off, I head to the office to continue my day with no emails, meetings, or distractions until lunch.  On days I don’t have the twins, I wake at 5:30 am.  This routine allows ample, uninterrupted time for critical, creative work and leaves the afternoons for meetings, responding to messages and other essential tasks. 

“Waking up is not hard to do”...although, it does require commitment and, regular recommitment.

Tips on how to establish an early routine:

 -    Set the alarm for 5am

-    Go to bed at your usual time

-    No snooze, when the alarm goes off, wake up and start your day 

-    Anticipate being a little tired for a few days as your body adjusts

-    Eat something light (berries, nuts or fruit) to wake up your body

-    Allow a flexible day to sleep in for occasional late nights or when recovering from a hard workout

-    It’s not about perfection, if you miss a day, simply recommit to your routine

Few things compare to the quiet, solitude of an early morning.  A peaceful meditation and a cycle of creative work that moves us closer to our long-term goals is a great way to begin each day.   In my experience, this practice has led to increased productivity and a more nourishing and rewarding workflow, resulting in greater joy and satisfaction.