Fill your mind with the meaningless stimuli of a world preoccupied with meaningless things, and it will not be easy to feel peace in your heart.
5 Ways to be More Productive by Being Less Productive
This is for everyone who listens to music, chats and surfs the web while they work, checks Facebook during breaks and watches Hulu while eating a meal. This is for anyone who ends the day feeling so full of information that they find it hard to focus on a one-on-one conversation with a friend.
Don’t get me wrong – I’ll be the first to praise the vast availability of information on the web and the revolutionary impact of social media. Unfortunately, my own love for these things is wearing me thin - so much so that when I’m finally on vacation, sitting on my dad’s porch in Hawai’i, it takes me a full week to re-learn how to enjoy just relaxing.
Progress in entertainment over the past century has entailed first and foremost an increase in stimulation. Advances in computing have allowed us to engage in many complex tasks at once. The popularity of social media on the web has made it possible to keep in touch with everything everyone is doing at all times.
Our adaptation to these changes has created a world of people for whom sitting still for 5 minutes and not thinking about anything is practically impossible. To make things worse, the Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism would have us feel guilty even considering it.
However, doing nothing can actually help us produce more and better at work and rejuvenate more fully when we’re at rest. Here are 5 Things You Can Do Now to start being more productive by being less productive:
1. Make Space in Your Schedule to Relax
Create space in your daily, weekly, monthly and yearly schedule to take time to actually relax. Give yourself permission to stop thinking about work for that time. Time off is of course a privilege, but it’s also a matter of your priorities and your perspective. Perhaps you watch television or have a drink to relax, but constant stimulation and desensitizing aren’t necessarily deeply relaxing or rejuvenating. I’ll get into that more in #2.
2. Take A 5-Minute Break Every Hour During Work
I can really lose myself in a screen and I often end the day feeling like I disappeared for 8 hours, so I try to take a 5 minute break every hour and a longer break every few hours to do something mindful and/or something that lets my analytical mind take a break. That may sound contradictory so lemme ‘splain.
If this is your first time hearing about mindfulness, it may sound like hippy dippy stuff, but practicing mindfulness - in other words being aware of being - is literally a physical retraining of the brain to be more aware of its environment, of the body, of thoughts and of emotions.
Daniel J. Siegfield, MD, a Harvard graduate says that the mind:
"…can change both the activity and then the structure of the brain. When we put all of this together, we find that how we focus our attention — how we learn to be mindful — in our relationships with others (interpersonal well-being) and within ourselves (mindful awareness practice) can actually promote the growth of areas of the brain connected to the core of well-being."
Mindfulness can be good for your productivity and sense of well-being – and getting up from the computer every hour is important for your eyes and body as well.
3. Take Time To Re-Focus
I’m kind of obsessed with making lists – it’s my way of dealing with the mountains of tasks and ideas that go through my head each day - but my favorite list is sort of a high-level life focus list. By breaking down and prioritizing my interests, concerns and long-term goals, I feel more organized and I feel a greater sense of purpose, which for an existentialist is greatly comforting.
If I’m feeling overwhelmed and lost, I sit down and start writing about what’s bothering me and usually end up with a list like the one you see above. Yes, at the time of writing that list, I felt that tattoos should be on my list of priorities.
4. Wash the Dishes to Wash the Dishes
Consider bringing mindfulness into your home and social life as well. Some great physical and less brain-heavy activities might be: riding a bike, playing a sport, doing yoga, crafting, making art, building something, even cooking and cleaning. As Thich Nhat Hanh, the guru of mindfulness, says, “Wash the dishes to wash the dishes…”
"If while washing dishes, we think only of the cup of tea that awaits us, thus hurrying to get the dishes out of the way as if they were a nuisance, then we are not "washing the dishes to wash the dishes." …If we can’t wash the dishes, the chances are we won’t be able to drink our tea either. While drinking the cup of tea, we will only be thinking of other things, barely aware of the cup in our hands. Thus we are sucked away into the future —and we are incapable of actually living one minute of life."
5. Wind Down Before Bed
If you can, find a way to get some alone time in before bed, even if its not to meditate. I recently burned some meditation CDs (I like nature sounds without that goofy music) and I hang out alone in the bedroom for about an hour reading fiction and playing with the cats. Ok, I guess that’s still a lot of multitasking, but it’s a lot more rejuvenating than ingesting shock-laden TV shows or downing a few pints.
- Technology is wonderful, but everything in moderation!
- Be conscious about how your mind and body are affected by your lifestyle.
- Give yourself permission to make space for relaxation in your schedule.
Now enjoy my clever comment on this situation by briefly reviewing the links in this post and then integrating what you’ve learned into your life - away from the screen.