Productivity isn't only about using the right tools and techniques; it's also about having the right mindset. Our attitudes can make all the difference in our productivity. This episode addresses some attitudes that can help you in your efforts to be more productive.
Attitudes that make a productive difference
The first step to progress is awareness of where we are right now. For example, to increase your awareness about how you use your time, consider time tracking during the day for a week so you can monitor what you're doing and how much time you spend on each activity. Ask yourself if you are on auto-pilot or if you are mindful of each task you are doing.
We also want to strive to be aware of the results of our actions. Are the things we are doing getting us the results we want? Life is the result of the choices we make.
Are you willing to change your actions to get the results you want?”
In addition to being aware of our time, tasks, and results, we want to be fully aware of who we really are. As humans, we are able to persuade ourselves of things that aren’t true and we can be self-deceived about who we are and what we want. We should practice mindfulness — also known as a non-judgmental observation.
Action Item: Consider journaling as a means to become more aware. Ask yourself, “What did I do today?” and “How did I feel today?” Record your thoughts and feelings, not to judge, but just as a friendly observer, gathering information you can use to align your choices with your values.
One online dictionary defines intentional as “done in a way that is planned or intended.” Intentionality is about having (and knowing) the “why” behind what you do. I love what one writer said: “Intentional living is about knowing why you do what you do and why you don’t do what you don’t do.”
The opposite of living with intention is to just drift through life. A truly productive woman is one who orders her life in such a way as to maximize her positive impact on the world around her–by definition that requires intention and purpose. We choose to live and we decide how we want to live. Living on purpose, with purpose.
Intentionality is about having, and knowing, the why behind what you do.”
We shouldn’t feel like we need to fill each hour with being “productive.” We can choose quiet hours and downtime to connect with loved ones or to recharge. Every activity, including inactivity, should be intentional and targeted toward a goal or a guiding principle you’ve chosen for yourself.
In order to make progress, we should set goals, but we want to make sure that our goals are intentional and chosen by us, for us. Our short-term goals should move us in an intentional direction toward something we are trying to accomplish.
Action Item: This week, before you take an action, pause, close your eyes and ask yourself why you are doing it. Remind yourself of the intention behind your action, so you can remember why you are doing it.
Compassion is a necessary attitude for us to cultivate in order to live a truly productive life. It is a profoundly human emotion with important consequences. It impacts how we work with others and how others work with us. Studies point to an “epidemic” of workplace anxiety, stress, and depression that costs American businesses billions of dollars every year in lost productivity and medical bills (Check out this article on Newsweek.com). The studies cited in the Newsweek.com article also show that positive social interactions at work actually improve our physical health.
When we help others it stimulates the reward center in our brain. Emma Seppala, Ph.D., science director at Stanford University’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research, has said, “The best-kept secret to happiness is to be of service to others.” (For more from Dr. Seppala, check out her book: The Happiness Track: How to Apply the Science of Happiness to Accelerate Your Success – I’ve added it to my TBR list; see also her excellent article on “The Best Kept Secrets to Exceptional Productivity” on her website.)
Not only should you be compassionate toward others, but you should be compassionate toward yourself. When we make mistakes, we need to realize that we can try again and not beat ourself up over it. Self-compassion will help us to be more happy, more productive, and therefore, more successful. (Science backs this up.) People who feel secure and worthy are more productive. Critical self-talk is counterproductive and keeps us from reaching our goals. (Check out Self-Compassion, by Kristin Neff, Ph.D.)
We need to learn to have our own back when things go wrong.”
Failure is not what discourages us from trying. It’s what we make failure mean and what we do to ourself when we fail. Another study found “people prone to procrastination had lower levels of self-compassion and higher levels of stress.”
Check out this interesting infographic on the Scientific Benefits of Self-Compassion from Dr. Seppala's website.
Action Item: The next time something goes wrong, try writing yourself a letter showing compassion, just like you would write to a dear friend.
If we believe that life is something that happens to us, rather than something we create, we are unlikely to be truly productive. The attitude of passive resignation can result in inactivity as we look outside ourself for the cause of everything in our life that we don’t like. Choosing not to choose is still a choice.
Remember that while you can’t control other people’s actions or situations around you, you can control how you react to them. By controlling your thoughts, you control your emotions, which puts you in a position to take charge of your actions. Your actions then lead to results. Learning to believe that you create your own life is a key to true productivity.
Action Item: This week, pay attention to how often you find yourself blaming an “outside” person or circumstance for something in your life that you don’t like. Consider how your choice affects the results in your relationship or situation.
Action Item: Combine awareness and self-determination: Ask yourself, “What is something I really want to experience or accomplish? What do I need to do to make that happen?” Make a choice today to work toward that goal.
People who are more grateful are happier and happier people are more productive. Studies show that giving and receiving gratitude releases dopamine in your brain which increases energy levels.
Many behavioral experts recommend keeping a gratitude journal, as it has been proven to improve health, strengthen relationships, improve sleep, decrease illness, and reduce anxiety and depression (there've been tons of studies about this!). Keeping a journal puts you in the habit of looking for things to be grateful for. If you look for things to be grateful for each day, you will find them.
Grateful people are happier, and happier people are more productive.”
In addition to a gratitude journal, we can also implement other small gratitude practices such as pausing when you are at a stoplight and looking for something that brings you joy, whether it be a cool breeze or a beautiful sunset. Let yourself feel that gratitude.
You can also practice gratitude by looking someone in the eye, like a store clerk, and expressing a sincere “thank you.”
Recommended reading for some other ideas about how to exercise your “gratitude muscle”:
Action Item: You can start a gratitude journal today if you don’t already have one. Every day, write down at least one thing you are grateful for. You can write it on a big piece of paper where everyone can see it or in a private journal or in your phone.
What do you think?
Are any of these productive attitudes something you try to cultivate in yourself? Would you add other attitudes to the list of those necessary for a truly productive life? I'd love to hear your thoughts. Share your comments, questions, or ideas in the comments section below, or post a comment on The Productive Woman Facebook page (or in The Productive Woman Community Facebook group), or email me.
Announcements & Reminders
- If you haven’t already done so, please join me in the new The Productive Woman Community Facebook group, a private group where we can meet up and interact more—directly ask questions, share info, insights, and encouragement—basically talk about productivity. Find the group on Facebook and click the “join” button. I’d love to see you there.
- Have you heard of the Mom Conference? It's a huge online event for moms featuring 20 great speakers who will be addressing everything from managing our kids' screen time and phone use to teaching our kids to cook and eat healthy foods to talking to our kids about sex to taking better care of ourselves so we can be the moms we really want to be, and so much more. The conference is October 11, 12, and 13, 2016, and it's completely FREE. Click here to find out more and get yourself registered for these helpful FREE online classes. They'll even give you a couple free gifts just for signing up. (Full disclosure: this is an affiliate link. The conference is free to watch online, but you’ll have the option to buy the recordings so you can watch on your own schedule, and if you do, I’ll get a small commission–at no extra cost to you.)
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