This week we’ll talk about 10 rules for a peacefully productive life and how we can apply them in our daily lives in a way that makes sense for us.
Living a peacefuly productive life is something we all want – and need!
Recently, I saw several YouTubers publishing videos about their 10 or 12 Rules for Life. I didn’t actually watch them yet, but they got me thinking about what would be my personal rules for a productive life–and specifically a peacefully productive life. I sat down to list them, and came up with 10 rules — maybe better thought of as guidelines — to be productive and peaceful.
5 rules about things we do
1. Strategically employ the 2-minute rule – if something can be done in 2 minutes or less, just do it.
Some examples: put the dishes in the dishwasher right after you eat; put the clothes in the hamper when you take them off; file (or shred) that document after you’re done with it; open the mail over the recycle bin and toss things right then.
The 2-minute rule was coined by David Allen in Getting Things Done. As one writer notes,
“By simply recognizing that we can get the task done quickly if only we take action, we stop planning to do the task, dreading doing the task, and ruminating about the task. I refer to this as training our brain to a “bias for action.”
This rule needs to be applied wisely, though–during “processing” time, not as interruptions to what you should be doing now.
2. Don’t leave the room empty-handed.
When you’re going from one room to another, take a second to scan for anything that belongs where you’re going. This is efficient. It saves the time and energy of making special trips to put things away and keeps space tidier.
3. No is a complete sentence.
One major enemy of both peace and productivity is taking on too much–too many commitments, too many activities. Sometimes we overload ourselves with things we want to do; sometimes it’s FOMO; sometimes it’s because we don’t know how to say no–to others or to ourselves. When we give reasons for our no, they can be overcome by the other person.
Episode 8 of The Productive Woman discussed ways to say no gracefully;
“A ‘No’ uttered from the deepest conviction is better than a ‘Yes’ merely uttered to please, or worse, to avoid trouble.” ~ Gandhi
4, Create and protect white space.
Creating white space makes life more peaceful and more productive as it reduces stress, frustration, and workload. The concept applies to both time and space
- In the calendar – avoid scheduling things back to back; leave space between appointments, etc. – gives you a break to breathe, to process what you just did, to prepare for what comes next; also leaves a cushion for when things go wrong (traffic; can’t find a parking place; tech doesn’t work; kid needs you; meeting runs long)
- In your home – don’t fill up every cupboard, drawer, closet, wall
- Keep a charity box in the garage or in your closet and always be looking for things to put into it
- Some follow a practice of when they bring in something new, purge two (books, clothing items, decor, kitchen tools, etc.)
- I have a goal to see empty space in my cupboards, drawers, closets, etc. Don’t always achieve it, because I like to get new things, but that’s what I’m working toward
5. Good enough is good enough.
This doesn’t mean I don’t believe in pursuing excellence where it matters. But perfectionism is not productive. We can wear ourselves out and stress ourselves to the breaking point trying to do everything perfectly, and end up with neither peace nor productivity. We discussed doing it all vs. doing enough in Episode 408. One article I read recently puts it this way:
“The principle of good enough suggests that you should identify the point past which putting more resources into something won’t improve it in a meaningful manner, so you should finish with it and move on.”
5 rules about things we think
6. Just start. (You can get anywhere you want to go one small step at a time.)
Sometimes we get overwhelmed by the size or scope of a project, goal, or dream. It seems out of reach, or like it’ll take forever to get there, or we’re unsure of how to get there. So we end up procrastinating–maybe we call it planning or preparing, but whatever we call it, we’re not taking action. You never reach a destination you don’t start heading toward.
7. I don’t have to like it; I just have to do it.
This is how I get myself to start on things that are hard or that I don’t enjoy, but that I’ve decided are important–such as exercise, or sometimes working on an episode of this podcast. Resistance is strong, but it can be overcome by determination and a recognition that nothing is fun all the time. Sometimes we think if it’s hard or not enjoyable, there’s something wrong and it’s a sign that we should avoid it. But–again–nothing is fun all the time, and some of the outcomes that are most worthwhile require us to do things we don’t enjoy
- Making a phone call to connect with a client or potential client
- Talking with someone to resolve a conflict
When we have decided on a course of action necessary to achieve an outcome we want, resistance will come, and this rule can help get us started taking that action
8. I can do anything for a while.
This is a corollary to the previous one. Some things are hard or uncomfortable and might be intolerable over the long run, but can be tolerated for short periods of time. I first came up with this rule when I was having our babies–a reminder that contractions hurt, but they’re relatively short, and I could do them.
9. Garbage in, garbage out.
Physically – The food we eat has a real impact on our health, our energy, and our frame of mind.
Mentally – The things we read and watch and listen to have an impact on our beliefs, our mindset, and our mood and therefore on how we act in the world.
To preserve peace and maximize productivity, take care of your body and your mind.
10. What you do matters, but you are not what you do.
Those of us who are goal- and achievement-oriented can tend to measure ourselves (whether consciously or not) by what we accomplish. When we feel like we haven’t done a good job, or haven’t accomplished what we set out to do (or what we feel we should), we can feel like we failed–or worse, like we are a failure. Doing, accomplishing, and achieving are important, but our worth is not measurable by how much we do, accomplish, or achieve.
11. What you do regularly matters more than what you do occasionally. [Small actions taken regularly matter more than occasional big efforts.]
Be intentional about creating habits that serve you, that support your values and goals Do one small thing–spend 5 minutes–each day toward accomplishing what matters to you, whether it’s a personal goal, a professional goal, or just connecting with someone you love.
Whether you think of them as rules or guidelines or simply reminders of what you believe, intentionally adopting a few statements that help direct your thinking and your action can foster a peacefully productive life.
What do you think?
What are your rules for a productive life? Post your suggestions in the comments section below or in The Productive Woman Community Facebook group, or email me.
Resources and Links
TPW podcast episodes
- Good Enough is Good Enough: Let Go of Perfectionism to Get Things Done – Effectiviology
- You’re Doing the 2 Minute Rule of Time Management Wrong
- How to Stop Procrastinating by Using the “2-Minute Rule”
- The Two-Minute Rule: Stop Procrastinating With This Simple Trick
- “No” Is A Complete Sentence – Mindful
- “No” Is a Complete Sentence | ThinkHuman
- ‘No’ Is A Complete Sentence
- Saying No Gracefully
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