We humans are relational creatures, and relationships have an impact on our productivity (and vice versa). The Productive Woman community has some ideas on how we can make time to nurture the relationships–professional & personal–that mean the most to us.
What do relationships have to do with productivity?
With this episode being published on Valentine’s Day in the United States, I thought it might be a good time to talk about relationships and how they affect our productivity and vice versa. For most of us, relationships are a key component to our lives, in some ways the defining element of our lives. If relationships, both personal and professional, are strong, life is good, and we are motivated and energized to pursue our interests. If they’re bad, though, our ability to do things we want or need to do is impaired.
When I raised the question of this topic in the TPW Facebook Community, I got lots of interest and ideas. One community member, Sarah, mentioned that though she feels pretty productive at work and home, she often worries that it comes at the cost of relationships. Many of us feel that way. Ironic, isn't it? Our purpose for seeking to be productive often is to improve the lives of the people we care about, yet we often feel like our efforts to be productive result in us being too occupied to spend meaningful time with the people who matter most to us.
Chris Bailey, in his book The Productivity Project, sums it up: “[R]elationships give us purpose and meaning. . . . [W]ithout people, productivity is meaningless.”
He goes on to say: “People are why we do what we do, and why we push ourselves to accomplish more. Surrounding ourselves with people has been shown to make us happier and more engaged and makes us want to be more productive, too. People are the reason for productivity.”
Another writer says emphatically that “relationships underpin healthier, happier, more productive people and societies.”
Kinds of Relationships
The ideas we discuss in this episode apply to a variety of relationship types:
Personal relationships (romantic, family, friendships)
The last section of Courtney Carver’s new book, Soulful Simplicity, is about how “simplicity is the way back to love.” She has a lot to say about how simplifying our lives can make room for more of what really matters: people. She encourages us to be clear about what doesn’t matter to make space to be present and “fully engaged in your present moments, in your relationships, and in your life. . . .”
She also talks about how having too much stuff, too much on our calendar, too much on our to-do list interferes with relationships. Lack of sleep, distraction, exhaustion, overwhelm keep us from being present for those we care about. We do so much, often trying to do better and more for our families. Courtney reminds us:
“The very best way to serve your family is to show up and be present. Be there. Eliminate the distractions that prevent you from seeing, hearing, and appreciating the people you love.”
Business relationships (with coworkers, bosses, clients)
Research shows good relationships at work boost productivity.
For example, research cited in Bailey’s book reveals that people are seven times more likely to be highly engaged at work when they have a best friend there. Also, the “The Relationship of Relationships to Productivity” article states that “engaged people represent more productive (as well as happier) people.”
In his book The Best Place to Work, psychologist Ron Friedman explains why workplace friendships boost productivity: “When colleagues are close, a poor effort means more than a dissatisfied customer or an unhappy manager. It means letting down your friends.” (quoted in Why relationships are the key to productivity)
Advantages of workplace relationships
- You can give and receive support from peers across departments and across an industry.
- You can come together faster as a team to strategize and problem solve.
- You don’t lose time, money or reputation in the market trying to gain rapport with other departments and employees before you can start fixing problems.
- Showing an interest in what others are doing helps build a culture of reciprocity. If you show an interest in and help others, they are more likely to be interested in and help you.” (Source: Relationships and Productivity)
Potential disadvantages of workplace relationships
- “workplace friendship came with costs, the biggest perhaps being distraction. Impromptu discussions and extended breaks for socializing may slowly steal time, making it more stressful to complete work when we are focused. Having friends at work also triggered a higher rate of emotional exhaustion; keeping up with more and deeper relationships is tough. Those relationships can also be the source of stress when new opportunities, like promotions, present themselves. It’s much more likely that we’ll feel envious of people we’re close to. While the emotional toll itself decreased performance, the positive gains from having a coworker who is also a friend more than outweighed the negatives.” (Source: Work friends make us more productive except when they stress us out)
Practical ideas for how to maintain and nurture relationships
I went to The Productive Woman community for ideas on how to build and nurture the relationships that mean the most to us. As always, the community came through with some excellent tips, summarized here and discussed in more depth in the episode.
1. Intentional scheduling – regular get-togethers on the calendar
- Deliberately schedule check-ins with family and friends so your busy schedule doesn’t prevent you from spending time with them.
- Write down specific things that matter to friends and family to check in with them.
- Schedule regular dates with your significant other and periodical get-togethers with friends.
2. Practicing mindfulness
- When we are distracted and not “present,” our relationships suffer.
- Learning to be aware and present improves relationships.
Andy Puddicombe, the voice behind the Headspace app and author of The Headspace Guide to Meditation and Mindfulness, points out that “By being mindful, it actually puts you ‘back in the room’ with the other person, or people. . . . The implications of [mindfulness] for all our relationships are enormous. Imagine what it would be like to have someone give you their full and undivided attention. Imagine what it would be like to return the favor.”
3. Use the tools you have
- Go through your address book contacts, scanning the names under one letter each week, and consider which of them you might want to call or text to touch base. Taking this approach you'll look at the names under each letter of the alphabet twice a year.
- Schedule some of the people you want to connect with in your task list.
- Use your commute time to call family members and friends who live far away. (Safety first – use hands-free equipment or Bluetooth if possible!!)
- Have an ongoing group text or messenger group with your family and friends to share comments, feedback, opinions, prayer requests, to vent, and to share jokes, videos, pictures for pure fun.
Nurturing family relationships
- Demonstrate your love for the people you care in the ways that they best perceive love (see Gary Chapman's excellent book, The 5 Love Languages, for an explanation).
- Use time-blocking and other time management tools to get your work done efficiently, leaving sufficient time to spend with family.
- If you have unfinished work, go on a coffee date and work side by side.
- Coordinate schedules with your family to identify times when everybody's available and schedule family fun times.
- Create a daily ritual of time with your significant other — just a cup of coffee and a chat about goals and plans.
- Let each of your children take a “mental health day” once per term, a day for just the two of you to spend together doing something fun.
- Designate a theme for a certain day of the week to establish a routine for time with the people who are important to you. For example, Sundays with Mom, Mondays with someone else in your family, Wednesday at church, Thursdays for date night, etc. If there is an unavoidable event, shift the event to another night.
- If you work in different shifts from your significant other, plan morning dates. Have breakfast together or catch an early morning movie at the cinema.
- If you’re an introvert, acknowledge to yourself that you prefer close relationships with a few people. Don’t feel guilty about limiting your time for family, intimate friends, and yourself.
- If you and your friends have kids, invite them over for pizza for an affordable time of fun. The kids can play and be as loud as they want, and you don’t have to worry about childcare while having a good time.
- Schedule a monthly brunch date with friends.
Nurturing relationships with colleagues and clients
- Build time into your work schedule to visit with co-workers, discuss ideas, or just say “hi” if they have a moment.
- Utilize your company chap app if it is available to communicate short messages or jokes outside of email.
- Have lunch with a colleague or two regularly
Wise insights from a community member
A member of the TPW community wrote to me to share a life experience that's given her some wise insights into the importance of relationships in making a life that matters. She gave me permission to share her thoughts in the episode.
Carol has been married for 12 years and has a 7-year-old son. During her entire marriage, she’s had a demanding career. She recently decided to leave that job to take some time to consider her next move. The biggest part of that decision, she says, was the realization that all her relationships were in bad states.
In working on rebuilding these relationships and the trust that is needed for good relationships, she’s learned that building and maintaining healthy, strong relationships requires three critical components:
- Spend dedicated time to do everyday as well as special activities together, like teaching your son how to cook each weekend, play tennis and go on walks to connect or taking the time to engage your husband in conversations not born out of an argument.
- Spend neutral time to simply check in with family members and see how things are going.
- Schedule time with friends to go for walks or coffee and catch up.
- Really be where you are when you’re there. Give full attention to the people you are spending time with, instead of being worried about work.
- Create ways to build consistency or habits to build connections with the people you care about most. For example, cook every Saturday with your kids; have coffee with your husband in the mornings; take Sunday morning walks with your friends.
- Schedule and prioritize these times and habits.
Also, she’s realized that:
“My first relationship is with myself and I need to engage with time, attention, and practice with myself, too. As I've begun unwinding myself from my job and preparing to take a sabbatical before looking for work, I've realized that what helped make the lack of care and attention with my relationships easier was the lack of care and attention I gave myself.”
A life that matters almost always matters in relation to people
“People are the reason for productivity.”
Chris Bailey, in The Productivity Project
“The very best way to serve your family [or anyone else, I’d add] is to show up and be present. Be there. Eliminate the distractions that prevent you from seeing, hearing, and appreciating the people you love.”
Courtney Carver, in Soulful Simplicity
A sincere thanks to the women who contributed ideas and tips for this episode: Coryne, Jodi, Katie, Kelly, Rachel, Dinah, Cheryl, Deidra, Nancy, Elizabeth, Angelica, Sharon, Christine, Samantha, Sephra, and Carol
What do you think?
How do your relationships impact your productivity (or how do you think your productivity affects your relationships)? What things do you do to nurture the relationships that are important to you? Please share them in the comments section at the bottom of this post or in The Productive Woman Community Facebook group, or email me!
Resources and Links
- The Productivity Project, Chris Bailey
- Soulful Simplicity, Courtney Carver
- The Best Place to Work, Ron Friedman
- The Headspace Guide to Meditation and Mindfulness, Andy Puddicombe
- The 5 Love Languages, Gary Chapman
- The Relationship of Relationships to Productivity
- Why relationships are the key to productivity
- Relationships and Productivity
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