Exploring Relaxed Productivity

Exploring Relaxed Productivity

Lately, I’ve been thinking about the concept of “Relaxed Productivity”. The past few weeks have been a bit manic. I’ve been juggling multiple projects, chasing new business, creating new products and producing more content than I usually do. It has been a bit crazy.

So last week, I wanted to try a different tact. Or at least, I could afford to try. See, I always have the experienced of being almost at the edge of overwhelm. My fingers are always in a lot of different projects, I’m always doing a lot of work. But that comes with its cost. Eventually things devolve. The work gets a bit sloppy, projects are rushed and I slip into extreme fatigue. Something has to give. I spent most of the other week in a sleep deprived state. I got stuff done and done very well, but it left me exhausted.

In 2018 or so I came across the concept of ‘Working to Live’ and it started to change the way i approached work. The thing as a freelancer, one man band, mercenary, is that it is very easy to get overwhelmed with work. There are always requests coming your way, projects to be finished, projects that were finished coming back with more stuff or edits or changes. There is always more work.

You can also be incentivised to take on more work. Because the more you work, the more you earn. At the same time, it can be difficult to charge as high as is needed, because otherwise then you don’t close the deal, and sometimes you need the cashflow however small so you take the hit. Plus, people almost never pay when they say they will, projects get stuck in limbo or fall off completely. And when they do pay, they want things yesterday. So you get stuck in a loop, taking a lot of work to make the money you desire and then bumping up against time and energy constraints. You end up working ridiculous hours and crashing and burning repeatedly.

Is there another way?

Is what I’ve been wondering.

I have come across local creatives talking about how they are fully booked for months. So I’d imagine they are simply spending the next few months only working on what’s already on their plate. That seems nice, like they already have enough in the bank, or charged high enough to be able to maintain such a schedule. Also it means that they have enough time to really dig into the project and get things done to a high standard.

Must be nice, I want in also.

To Work to Live means to schedule ones life around life as much as possible, instead of work. It means scheduling the things that are important first – like rest, like exercise, and eating, or chores, and then scheduling work around that. Now sure, this is a very privileged place to be in. But if you already have control of your time as an entrepreneur or freelancer then this is a worthy goal to strive for.

What principles would have to be in place?

Reduce your footprint

If your bills and needs are high, then you will always need to be generating income. And if you generate income from your work/labour, then you are going to have to work a lot. Reducing your footprint and reconsidering your lifestyle can give you the space you need to position yourself better and work more sustainably.

Plan at least a week ahead

To have a more relaxed and productive workflow, you need to have clarity over your time, resources and tasks and set things up accordingly. You would need to plan your life at least a week a time and front load it with the right amount of work. Know what needs to be done each week and really be honest about how much time things will take. Any other tasks that come up would have to compete against the already assigned task or move to the next week.

That means probably no rush projects, if you can help it.

Strive to be as effective as possible

If you only have limited time to work, then you have to make sure you are working on the most important things. Prioritise the important things and the things that will give the biggest results. Then you can get around to all the other stuff. Make the time you spend working count.

Be more valuable

To enjoy more relaxed productivity, you are probably going to need to increase your income. And you can do that by increasing your value, improving your skills, and selling your value to the clients who can afford it. You are going to raise those prices to attract and service the right market.

Innovate your business model

To be able to strive to a more relaxed level of productivity, you would need to work differently. Make your business or setup less dependent on you and built upon systems that can run without you. That could mean selling products, hiring people, or leveraging digital platforms. Position yourself for scalable exponential growth and that could earn you your freedom

Enjoy the time off

It can be easy to fall back into old patterns of toxic hustle culture. And there’s a time and place for that. Sometimes you do have to go all out and work like crazy, but when we in relaxed mode, we want to allow ourselves to actually enjoy the time off. For a workaholics like me, it can be hard to turn the brain off and just do something else. But invest the time in yourself, in your experiences, in your relationships and funny enough, it might just make you even better at your work.

Keep the Goal in Front of You

Keep the Goal in Front of You

At the time of writing this, it is February, we already just over a month into the new year. And if you are reading this, you are probably the type of person to have made goals and set targets for this year.

How are you doing on those by the way? Are you still excited and eagerly chasing after them or have you fallen off yet?

Most probably the cracks have started to show. Most people approach goals with the intention of making these vast sweeping changes at once, like they suddenly developed a new personality once the calendar flipped over a new year. Unless you have a ridiculous amount of will power, this is typically an exercise in failure.

To stay consistent and actually stand a chance of reaching your goals, you need to focus on tactics that make the changes a bit more subtle, consistent and lasting. Things like focusing on building the right habits, starting small, building new routines and feeding your motivation.

But there is one simple reason we tend to fall off our pursuit.

As stupid as it sounds, many times we lose track of a goal because we literally forget about it.

Every day is a struggle, with multitude of stimuli, questions, requests, demands, and distractions. It is very easy to start off the year with good intentions and then have things just trail off. I know, it happened to me many times.

We get busy, we get distracted, sometimes we even distract ourselves with ‘good’ things. It is often easier for me to just bury myself in work than face something I don’t want to yet. But we must fight to be aware of this tendency, and to take steps to mitigate it.

We do this by keeping the goal in front of us. Having a totem, a reminder, something physical, tangible or otherwise always in front of us that reminds us of what is important, of what we are moving towards.

In this way, when the demands come at us, when the distractions come, we are able to glance over quickly, and have our goals firmly at the front of our minds and thus we can respond appropriately.

My personal experience

2018 was the year I started blogging consistently, and by the end I was able to point to a full year of almost weekly updates. It was the year I really pushed my personal brand forward and made many strides in my life and work. I even released two books in that time. It was a year of incredible focus and consistency.

Up on to this point, I had struggled with pursuing some of my goals. I would start the year eager to get certain things done, and look up months later to see that although I was very busy doing many things, I had completely lost track of what was most important to me.

So what changed in the pivotal year of 2018? Many things, but one of the most powerful things I stumbled upon was changing my diary for the year into a totem. In the front and back inside covers, I had printed out and stuck sheets that highlighted my new personal brand, life philosophy and the multiple projects I wanted to get done.

Every time I opened that book, to take notes in a meeting, to plan, to keep track of tasks, I was reminded of the person I wanted to be, and the goals I was pursuing. It was inescapable. Having that constant reminder changed my life.

Here are 3 ways keeping your goals visible can change yours.

They serve as a constant reminder

Like I mentioned earlier, we often lose track of our goals because we just forget about them. Keeping your goals visible and close by serves as a near constant reminder of where we are going and what we are trying to get done. If we then choose not to pursue them, it is a more conscious decision as opposed to it just getting buried under the pile of other things vying for our attention.

They stimulate our minds

When our goals are perpetually in front of us, reminding us, our brains are constantly thinking about them, churning up ideas in the background, working on ways to achieve them, or build our lives around their pursuit. And if we enhance this by designing your environment in such a way that orients us towards our goals, it all combines us to move us steadily and automatically towards those ends.

Having your goals always in front of you also keeps you primed and sensitive. So that when opportunities come up, or chances for synchrony happen, you are ready to recognise and take advantage of them.

They build motivation

Seeing the vision constantly helps to cultivate burning desire. Something that is essential to helping you stick it out over the long run. Sometimes we set the goal we want, but we don’t want it enough to do whatever it takes. Keeping your goals in front of you stimulate the visions of it in your mind. They help you visualise having it and becoming the sort of person that achieves it. They also help fan the flames of desire until you are going after it with all you got.

Keeping your goals front and centre in your daily life is a small thing, but can have outsized effects. You can do this in many ways. You could keep a vision board close by, in your office, in your room. You could do as I did and dedicate pages of your daily planner to it. You could make it your phone or computer wallpaper, or place post-its all over your apartment. Whatever works for you.

Keep your goals in front of you, and they becomes that much easier to follow through.

Thank you for your attention and reading this to the end. If you enjoyed this post, please share with someone who you think might benefit greatly from it.

Learning to Suffer II

Learning to Suffer II

A lot of the times when I sit down to write, I have no idea what I am going to say. But I trust that as I sit and begin, that the idea will reveal itself. That’s what has happened as I have sat down this Sunday evening to write the first blog post for the year.

It’s been a while away from the page and I wonder…do I still have what it takes? What if I have finally run out of ideas. Yet I must face the uncertainty and create. The blank page is before me, the blank canvas of an entire year lies ahead. We must begin.

And to be honest, there is something that has been on my mind lately and in turn something to write about. (And weirdly enough dovetails very nicely into the podcast topic for this week)

The past week was chaotic, and it seems like I wasn’t the only one. Apparently 3 planets are in retrograde…if that actually does apply to anything. But it was a rough one. I personally dealt with turmoil in my relationships and friendships. I am just glad that I had the presence of mind to be proactive in dealing with and resolving the issues. But that didn’t change the fact that it felt like shit, like the week at some points felt like such a slog. That it was painful to go through.

It’s also the beginning of the year. Things are still slow. Things are gradually picking up. In a month or two, the year will be in full swing and things should be moving all around. But for now, we remain in the dip, especially if you are in the freelance or contract space. That comes with its own anxieties.

And as we move through this inevitable slog, I find myself thinking about a concept I’ve written about a few times on this blog here, here and here – learning how to suffer.

I like to look at life as the weather. So even with weeks like the last one, I am reluctant to call it a bad week. I’d just say that the weather was bad. Life is fine, there was just a bit of turbulence.

And that is okay. Because there must be variety. Things aren’t always easy. Things won’t always be chilled. Sometimes it will be rough. Sometimes there will be trouble. But in all these things, you can remain even keeled. You can practice virtue. You can do your best. You can be patient and consistent.

I think it is a good thing to remind the self from time to time. About the need to be able endure suffering, to embrace the pain. How to get back to the grind, how to hustle, how to push the body past its limits. How to focus and get things done when all you want to do is relax and Netflix. How to let the past die. How to stick to your guns and do what’s right even when your heart is pining to do different.

It is a crucial skill to remember. Because the year is long, and we have only just begun. We have another 12…well 11 now, months to go before this cycle is done. That is 11 months to move forward, to improve, to put to practice and to practice. To act on everything we have learned in the year(s) before.

It will take a lot from us. It will demand our energy, our concentration, our focus, our discipline. And there will be rough spots. Times we feel defeated before we begin, times we feel like we have wasted years, decades with nothing to show for it. Times we can’t see the results.

We must remain calm, and focused on following the plan, on doing the things we know to do. To weather the storm with an eye still firmly fixed on the goal. To not suffer needlessly with things that can be easily avoided but to suffer well in service of the path we take.

Because it will get easier. We will get into the groove of things and the wheel will begin to turn. And as we embrace the pain, we will get stronger. Our muscles will grow, and we become more capable. Our minds sharpen and our hearts get more resilient and we are able to carry more, to be the strong pillar in life’s inevitable storms.

Soon we will be back in still waters, in crystal clear oasis and sunny skies. And we will enjoy the harvest and live the good life. And when the next storm rolls in, we will be ready to do it all again.

5 ways to supercharge your productivity

5 ways to supercharge your productivity

In a previous post, I shared my experience with upgrading my living space, and as I mentioned then, the experience has inspired me to take a closer look at productivity as a whole. Although I am already fairly organized, I know there is still plenty room for improvement.

And as I dive down the rabbit hole and nerd out on productivity tools and frameworks over the next couple of weeks, I will share ideas on how to improve how we get stuff done and stay on track with all our concerns.

I find myself asking questions like. What does my workflow look like now? How do I stay on top of everything? How do I become more effective and efficient? How do I ensure I do the things that usually tend to fall through the cracks? What systems do I have in place to capture all the ideas, tasks, requests I have and be able process them well?

How do I read more and retain information? How do I gather my notes in such a way that it is easy to access and apply those insights? How do I keep up to date with all my projects and make sure they are moving forward?

A lot of questions I’m sure I will have a lot of fun trying to answer. But even now, there are some quick ideas I can think of to help take your productivity to the next level, and make yourself even more effective.

Have a prep/planning day

If you don’t already do this, then you need to set a day and a time to plan your week. Every week.

If you are able to build the habit of checking in with your goals, intentions, tasks and priorities weekly, you stand a much better chance of staying aligned to it over the long term.

This is the time that you take to review the week that has passed and look over the one coming. You can do this on a Sunday before the week officially starts, or on Monday morning, or whenever really. As long as it happens every week.

In this time you get to empty your mind of all the reminders, and tasks and requests that have been swirling up there and objectively sift through them to prioritise the most important things to get done in the coming week.

This is absolutely crucial if you want to keep your plates properly juggled.

Make your calendar your best friend

I’m not yet great at this, but in my research, I have seen quite a few people swear by having a calendar. It is a vital component to your productivity and time management.

The idea is to make sure that every appointment, call to make, birthday, event to attend, you want to make sure all of that is captured in your calendar so you don’t forget. Instead of having to keep all of that in your head, all you need to do is pull up the calendar and be reminded of what you need to do by when.

Another powerful use of the calendar is to use it to time block. You can actively plan your day hour by hour the day before according to your prioritised todo list, and actually block off time for each task. So when you start the day, you have a clear game plan, and at any point in the day, you know what you should be working on.

Obviously you can move things around as you need them, but having a plan in the first place is invaluable in putting you in control of your day. It eliminates distractions and keeps you focused and accountable.

Organized productivity boils down to a few main principles

When trying to be organised and productive, people often worry about the details – what tools to use, what apps to download, what is the best notebook, etc. But truth is, the tools are less important than the underlying system and principles.

There are a few main principles to getting things done, those boil down to – capturingfilteringschedulingevaluating. You want to be able to reliably and consistently data dump all requests, tasks and ideas into appropriate apps and notes. You want to be able to filter and prioritise all that stuff. Then you need to be able to schedule the most important tasks or steps of your ongoing projects. And you also want a system where you can monitor what you are doing and review and adjust as needed.

Once you have these main things in place, it doesn’t matter exactly what tools you use, just that they work for you.

Invest in your tools

Whatever you do for work or creativity, there are the tools of your trade that you use regularly. You probably use a computer, you might need a camera, or a ring light, or some notepads and pencils. Evaluate what you do, and what you need to get it done. Invest in improving your tools from time to time. Get things that are durable, as top of the line as you can afford, as nice as you can afford. If you enjoy using your tools, you will enjoy your work.

The day I switched from a PC based set up to Mac was a game-changer for me personally and I haven’t looked back since. Getting an extra screen boosted my workflow and productivity. The Logitech MX3 mouse I started using this weekend is already having quite the impact on the way I work and design.

Invest in your tools and leverage them to become better at what you do.

It is all about reducing friction

I mentioned this already in my post about upgrading your environment, but it bears repeating here. What being organized and improving productivity is all about is making it easier and more fun to do what we need to get done.

Having a neat and clearly define place for everything allows you to easily find what you need when you need it. Using your calendar allows you to free up mental space to actually be creative or problem solve with the peace of mind that nothing is falling through the cracks. Having a proper note taking system allows you to access the information you need when you need it. Designing and fine-tuning your workstation to your needs make its easier to plug in and get things done.

Keep evolving your productivity practice and finding ways to reduce friction and you will find it easier to breeze through your work and reclaim the time and space you deserve to enjoy life.

How To Raise Your Vibration

How To Raise Your Vibration

In my last post, I mentioned that ‘raising your vibration’ was one of the key things you have to do to break through to your next level. But what does that really mean? if you are not a woohoo, hippie, sandal wearing, new age spiritual kinda person who is familiar with the term, it might throw you for a loop.

Heck, even as someone who is somewhat familiar with the lingo, it helps to clarify exactly what I mean here.

So what do I mean by vibration?

I simply mean your vibe, your energy, your emotions, your drive, the quality of thoughts and emotions you hold. If you are anxious, scared, depressed, you are vibrating at a low level. Your thoughts and emotions are keeping you stuck in a state that will affect your body, your actions and can lock you into a vicious cycle.

If you are happy, inspired, confident, optimistic, you are vibrating at a higher level. You feel lighter, you feel energetic, you are positive and hopeful about the future. Clearly in this state, you would feel better, act better, work harder and be overall nicer to be around, which would probably allow good things to happen to you.

Now we are never always one thing, and many of us will oscillate from one end of the spectrum to the other. Sometimes we feel great, sometimes we don’t. And that is okay, that is perfectly healthy. We are human after all, we will feel the wide gamut of emotion, each is useful to us ultimately. Negative emotions can be powerful sources of motivation and change. Positive emotions can blind us to our own doom.

So it is okay to be wherever you are. It is okay to feel. Even when those emotions hurt. I believe when we allow ourselves to feel completely, we allow ourselves to process and transcend.

Sometimes the emotions clear up on their own. You have a dark spell for a bit, and then one day the sun breaks through and you feel the light and warmth again. Sometimes they take a bit of coaxing, a bit of active work on your path to pull yourself back up. Sometimes your emotions might be so heavy and even linked to your biology that you need specialised help to pull through.

But allow me to ruminate a little and try to outline some ideas on how to raise one’s vibration.

This past week was quite difficult. Between things being slow on the business front, clients going quiet, issues with the water where I stay, issues with software, and starting off the week quite sick and exhausted. It was a lot to deal with. And that’s okay. I let it be, and I did what Ruiz recommends in his book, The Four Agreements, I did my best. Whatever that was.

Today I’m much better, trying to dive into a new week, still feeling a lil miffy here and there and wondering how I can supercharge myself and lift my spirits. What can we do to feel better and stimulate the energy we need to face our challenges and thrive?

Self Care

There are a lot of small things we can to lighten our mood, to position ourselves and help our vibe. It could be as small as cleaning your room, organizing your workspace, doing the dishes. You could light a candle, burn some incense. You could pray or hang out in nature. You could listen to uplifting music. Anything, as long as it contributes to your self care.

Sometimes you just need to sit with yourself and attend to your mind and soul. Do some meditation, quieten the monkey brain, get to that still place within and reconnect with yourself.

Exercise

There is nothing like endorphins to immediately improve your mood. Exercise is one of those things, like meditation that sometimes feel like such a bother to get started, but once you actually do it you feel like damn, I really should do this everyday. A good workout is amazing most times. I literally feel my mood shifting from bleh, to being eager to tackle the day and get things done.

Mindset

It is easy to let our minds take us for a ride most of the time. But we have to actively set and calibrate our attitudes towards life and everything. The way you view things will affect what you do and what you get.

You could look at all the problems and issues around you and feel hopeless. Worse still, you could put your head in the sand and just ignore the issues, letting them fester. Or you could take the stoic practice of turning shit to sugar, realizing that the obstacle is also the way.

No matter the situation. There is always opportunity lurking. There is always a play to be made, there is always a way around, or under, or on top. There is always a way to adapt, or accept.

Taking such a progressive mental stance brings you out of victim mode to being an active participant in your life.

Get inspired

Sometimes you just need to get hype af. As much as it is fashionable now to look down at self help gurus and feel good motivational speakers as being more cotton candy than anything substantial, there is power in getting your emotions riled up. There is power in changing your mental state, in letting your inner tinder be sparked into a rising flame.

It could be music, it could a speaker, it could be a movie, or an article, it could be a friend, a colleague, an enemy. Wherever you can, seek inspiration, and let it fuel you.

Visualise positively

You need something to pull you forward. Think about your goals, think about the things you desire. See yourself having them, see yourself receiving them. Your mind already easily does this, just in reverse, thinking about all the things that could go wrong, expecting the worst to happen. Train your mind to also do it in the positive direction. Keep the energy of having what you want in mind, and then act critically to get yourself there.

With these quick 5 ideas, we have some tools to help raise our energy when we need to. To jump start ourselves and get us ready to do what we must, to get what we want. To get back on top of things when we inadvertently fail or falter.