Recently I made yoga practice part of my rituals again. It never fails to amaze me how much clearer I feel at the end of each class. I leave feeling focused and present, and I find this increases my productivity.
After my class this morning, I sat and talked to my lovely teacher Emma Miller. We chatted about how easy it is to fall into old behaviour patterns that we know don’t serve us well.
Perhaps you know those patterns because many business owners and professionals have them. You think if you push and work harder then your productivity increases and you get a better result.
This really isn’t true at all and let me explain why.
When we push harder we are generally motivated by one of two things. We are either influenced by a time we didn’t do well, and are motivated by our fear of failure. Or we are seeing ourselves completing and we are reaching for that.
Both of these motivators have the potential to increase resistance.
Because for both we are not present.
If we are thinking about what happened yesterday or even a few minutes ago, we are living in the past. There is disconnect between where our physical body is in the present and where our mind is.
The same goes for worrying about not meeting a deadline or what else you have to do in an hour’s time. You are living in the future, even if you are just thinking about what you have to do in the next couple of minutes.
Your productivity drops, because you’re not concentrating on the task at hand in the present.
You may have also experienced this; if you think too much about all the things you have on your to do list, you start to feel overwhelmed or anxious. The feelings are the gap between where you are and where you are thinking. This again lessens your ability to work productively, because you are not present.
No one can work effectively or be most productive when they are in two different places. And this is exactly what happens when your mind and body are not aligned.
When your mind and body are both in the present, you work with present moment energy and it’s powerful. This is the space that many people call flow; where you seem to effortlessly achieve all you set out to do.
I have been focusing on working with present moment energy ever since I burned out four years ago. This has definitely increased my productivity.
However, that doesn’t mean I have it all figured out. In fact I do have times when I revert back to old patterns. In spite of this, I tend to manage it and have learned some simple strategies that work. Listed here are a few really effective ones.
Personal care rituals to improve presence and productivity
Self-care is fast becoming known for its importance in looking after ourselves. It has been found to be essential to care for us first, because it increases our own energy. This means we have more to give to our lives, business and careers.
This is true, but there is even more to this.
Personal care rituals that bring you into the present are practices that care for your mind, body and spirit. When you do these practices daily it brings your mind and body into alignment. This means you are more likely to retain that state throughout the day.
These practices also increase mindfulness, which has been found by psychologists and neuroscientists to benefit efficiency. Many organisations have now embraced mindfulness training for their teams to improve work place productivity.
Practices like Yoga, Meditation, TaiChi, Qui Gong all require concentration and focus. It’s impossible to do these practices well or enjoy them with your mind elsewhere. Joining classes will help, because your teacher will assist you with technique and focus.
Please keep in mind that this isn’t about always doing these practices perfectly. Don’t let this hold you back from joining a class where everyone is learning. This is about learning and adjusting, and you will find the class energy helps too.
By adding these rituals into your daily schedule you will notice your focus increase and you will achieve more in less time.
Adopt the practice of breaking things down and prioritising
This is one of my consistent chants, but I keep repeating it because it works so well.
Many people work from a never ending to do list and wonder why they feel overwhelmed. If you work from your to do list, you can always see what you must do next. The list never ends and each time you look at it, you future pace your mind. This means your mind is too often in the future and it lowers your productivity.
When you learn to break things down and prioritise well, you are able to focus on the exact step you are on. This means you are in the powerful present moment where you are more productive.
At the end of each week it’s essential to decide on your goals and targets for the following week to work with this most constructively. Break those targets down into tasks for each day and together with your other tasks prioritise them. Then block them into your schedule.
When you use a planner that has been created with this system in mind it assists you to do this well. Doing this effectively you will focus in the moment, because you know the plan leads to the target.
A simple tip to come back to the present and increase productivity
All the best laid plans sometimes come unhinged. This is when we really need to come back to the present, because if we don’t it can affect the way we work.
Many unforeseen things can happen during each day and we have no control over that. However, we always have complete control over ourselves and how we respond.
If we get caught up in the panic of the situation we can feel overwhelmed or anxious. This means we become less productive, though we may feel like we are busy. Even mild panic or anxiety can cause this.
When you bring yourself back to the present, you calm down and feel more in control. This means you work much more productively with the time you have.
If you feel a strong sense of urgency, mild panic or overwhelm, pause, sit down and just close your eyes. (If you are driving or operating machinery stop doing that first).
Take your shoes off if you can and put your feet firmly on the floor. Really focus on the feeling of the floor underneath your feet. Notice the temperature of the floor and the texture.
Bring your attention to the seat underneath you and the backrest touching your back. Notice how the seat feels, the texture and firmness.
Take deep slow breaths in and deep slow breaths out. Focusing on your chest rising and falling as you breath in and breath out. Bring your focus to the air moving in and out through your nostrils. Notice your body and mind calming as you bring them both into alignment.
Sit in this stillness for a few minutes until you feel calm and then open your eyes and continue to work.
You can do this as many times as you need to throughout the day. The few minutes this takes, will gain you more hours of productivity in the long run. Plus it will make work more enjoyable.
The bottom line
No one has this all figured out perfectly all the time, because we are all human. This is about becoming aware and adjusting as we go, finding what works and what doesn’t. And for me this is always a process in motion.
What I do know is this; when we bring our attention to the present and have routines to nurture this, the benefits are vast. People who practice this regularly are much happier and of course this always increases productivity.