“In the relentless busyness of modern life, we have lost the rhythm between work and rest.”
~ Wayne Muller
I don’t know about you but I’ve never felt comfortable with the term productivity. It all too often felt like a standard I could never quite reach and to do so would require me to be almost robotic like in my work habits. Inherent in the term, for me, was this idea of doing more which for someone who already does a lot felt punishing.
Over the last year, my views on productivity have shifted. After a tricky year beset with illness and, dare I say it, a certain level of burnout in 2018, I realised that my habit of putting my head down and soldiering on wasn’t really working for me. Working harder wasn’t bringing me greater results, if anything it felt like they were declining.
In my search for a more easeful way to balance being a full-time business owner and Mama to an energetic toddler, I came across a number of books that turned my ideas about productivity on their head.These books include:
- Joyful Productivity by George Kao
- Deep Work by Cal Newport
- Sabbath by Wayne Muller
As I read these books, I realised that they all kept pointing to the same thing. They all argue the case for rest. Rest you might think is the enemy of productivity but here’s where I had a real epiphany. It absolutely isn’t.
Because guess what? (you might already know this) we cannot do our best work if we don’t get sufficient rest. Not just that, but being productive – because as creative business owners, we absolutely do want to produce things of value for our audience – is not about working harder and working more. It’s about having the time that we do work be truly focused and deep. Which we are only capable of when we’ve taken sufficient time to rest and renew.
“Position yourself to succeed by doing the other things in your life that rejuvenate you. Exhaustion affects your quality and productivity.”
~ Jeff VanderMeer
When we’re busy, which as entrepreneurs is much of the time, it can feel so counter-intuitive to take a break, to put down what we’re working on and walk away but in doing so, when we return to the task at hand we have renewed energy and focus. This in turn makes us more productive than we would have been without the break.
Before my epiphany about productivity, I never really took breaks. I sat hunched over my keyboard for hours at a time and basically wore myself out. These days I work very differently but it’s not always easy to do.
If you are anything like me, even knowing that taking time to rest is good for you, doesn’t mean it’s easy for you to. These days to help with that, I have a solid schedule for my week. I’m a big believer in scheduling all of my business activities. I have no doubt, however, that some people would take one look at my colour co-ordinated calendar and feel intimated by the fact that every space between 7.30am and 6.30pm is filled with an activity.
However, a big chunk of my time is scheduled for rest.
Between 7.30-9.00am I have my morning routine (shower, breakfast etc), at 10.30am and 4.30pm each day I have a 30 minute break, between 12.30-3.00pm I have a very long lunch (which is the Spanish way) and between 3.00-3.30pm I go on a walk in nature. I’ve also recently (thanks to this article) started using an app that beeps every 30 minutes to remind me to get up and walk away from my desk for one minute – I usually use the time to stretch or look out the window at the mountains.
What this means is that of the 11 hours I schedule in my calendar each day, that’s a whopping 5.5 hours (50%) that I’m not working and am in fact mostly resting. On top of that I keep Wednesday (as much as possible) totally free from client calls or client work. I dedicate the morning to free time, meaning I can work on anything I feel like and I take the afternoon off, which means even more time off work (although in full disclosure, I don’t always manage to take this).
Having a schedule for your day is just as important for protecting your work time as it is for protecting your down time. The more years I spend running my own business, the more crucial I believe this to be. Do I stick to my schedule like glue? Hell no! But having it there helps me to easily re-organize and re-prioritize as necessary.
So if you’ve been wondering how to be more productive without burning yourself out in the process, could it be that you need to take more breaks? I’d love to know what you think so please do share your thoughts on what I’ve shared here in the comments below and if you know someone who needs to take more breaks, do feel free to share this with them.
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