|Meet the productivity paradox, where the very thing that often slows us down at this time of year – anxiety – can actually be harnessed to speed us up. You read that correctly. Here are some nifty techniques that can transform anxiety from a productivity killer into a productivity booster.
What: This is your go-to technique when anxiety starts buzzing like an overeager alarm clock.
How: Simply breathe in for four seconds, hold for seven, and exhale for eight. This isn’t just any breathing – it’s like giving your brain a mini spa day.
Why: It slows down your heartbeat, tells your brain to chill, and shifts your focus away from worry.
The ‘What If’ Game:
What: Flip the script on anxiety’s favourite question: “What if everything goes wrong?”
How: Ask yourself, “What if everything goes right?” Imagine the best possible outcomes.
Why: It’s like mental judo – using anxiety’s momentum to throw it off balance and foster a positive mindset.
The Power Pose:
What: Stand like a superhero – hands on hips, chest out, head held high.
How: Hold this pose for two minutes. Yes, you might feel silly, but no one’s watching!
Why: Research shows this can increase confidence and decrease stress. Plus, who doesn’t want to feel like a superhero for a minute?
The 5-4-3-2-1 Technique:
What: A grounding exercise that brings you back to the here and now.
How: Acknowledge five things you can see, four you can touch, three you can hear, two you can smell, and one you can taste.
Why: It’s like a reset button for your brain, pulling you away from anxious thoughts and into the present moment.
The Pomodoro Technique:
What: A time management method that breaks work into short intervals.
How: Work for 25 minutes, then take a 5-minute break. Repeat.
Why: It keeps anxiety in check by preventing work overload and keeps you cruising along with regular breaks.
Remember, harnessing anxiety is a skill, much like learning to ride a bike. It might feel wobbly at first but with practice, you’ll turn those anxious jitters into productive spins. The next time anxiety comes knocking, welcome it in and put it to work.
Written by Eileen Pease at Dynamic Learning.
When someone says something insensitive, use this simple three-word phrase to stay productive and move on.
Picture this – “Still working?”
It was an innocent question, but it triggered me. I just smiled uncomfortably and walked away, silently seething.
Why, you ask?
In the moment, with no control over the rush of thoughts going through my head, here’s how I interpreted the question:
- “Why do you work so much?”
- “You work for yourself. Why don’t you call it a day already?”
- “Why don’t you spend more time with your kids?”
- “What’s wrong with you?”
Of course, I doubt Dad was thinking those last two questions (although I’m sure he was thinking the first two).
You want to be the bigger person and just let it go, but you’re not sure how.
Well, I’ve discovered a simple, three-word phrase that helps me deal with comments like these.
That phrase is: They don’t know.
Why is this phrase so effective? The reason has to do with the meaning behind the phrase, and its foundation in emotional intelligence, the ability to understand and manage emotions. (If you find value in this lesson, you might be interested in my free course, which teaches you how to build emotional intelligence in yourself and your team.)
How to move on
“They don’t know” is shorthand for one or more of the following:
The goal of “They don’t know” isn’t for you to look down on the other person, or to demean them. It’s simply recognizing that there’s no possible way they could know what it’s like to walk in your shoes.
Acknowledging this fact frees you from attaching too much emotional significance to what they’ve said.
It changes your feelings from: “I can’t believe they said that” to “Oh, yeah. They don’t know. All good.”
Like, my father-in-law has never owned a business, so he doesn’t know what it’s like. He also only sees a small snapshot of my life.
- They don’t know what it’s like to work for yourself.
- They don’t know what it’s like to have four kids.
- They don’t know that I didn’t start work until 11 a.m. today … because I was cleaning up and running errands.
- They don’t know that every day, I eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner with my family.
- They don’t know that I drop work when my wife or kids need me.
- They don’t know that, even though life’s not perfect, I actually prefer it this way.
“They don’t know” can also help you.
Think about the client or vendor that misunderstands you: They don’t know.
The friend that makes clueless comments: They don’t know.
The member of your volunteer group, or your kid’s teacher … who just doesn’t get it: They don’t know.
Use three little words and remind yourself: They’re not mean or horrible or bad.
They just don’t know.
In the era of constant hustle and the pursuit of productivity, I was drawn to a different path. One of less haste and a slower pace, one that I set myself. This is the path known as slow living. An alternative to the fast-paced, stress-filled life that our modern society so often promotes and produces in our lives. It’s an intentional shift in perspective, a choice to prioritize the quality of our moments over the quantity of our tasks.
I work hard each day but do it at my pace, on my terms, and for myself. My top priority is not earning more money and doing more work; it’s doing what I enjoy when I want to and fitting into the context of my complete life. I optimize my life for happiness, ease, and enjoyment, not hustling every minute and hour of the day. Working smart will take you farther than working hard; if you work smart and hard, you will be unstoppable. The key is to turn work into play by focusing on your passions and then doing the work on a schedule that optimizes your work energy. Everyone is different.
What Is Slow Living?
Slow living isn’t just about slowing down. It’s about embracing a more intentional and meaningful approach to life. It focuses on quality over quantity, simplicity over complexity, and presence over distraction. By adopting these principles of slow living, we can alleviate our stress and anxiety, inviting peace, joy, and satisfaction into our daily life.
You can cultivate the following eight habits to create more enjoyment in your day-to-day experience. Let’s slow down and focus on what is most important.
1. Practice Mindfulness In The Present Moment
Mindfulness encourages us to immerse ourselves entirely in our current activity. It could be as simple as savoring the taste of your morning coffee, paying attention to the sensation of warm sunlight on your skin, or noticing the rhythm of your breath as you sit quietly. The beauty of mindfulness lies in its simplicity – it requires nothing more than your presence and attention. Mindfulness slows down the pace of our lives and can bring peace as we focus on the present moment escaping the memories of the past and the perceived urgent tasks waiting for us in the future. Be cautious of getting trapped in a lifestyle that is so fast-paced it creates mindlessness.
2. Disconnect From Technology For Set Periods
Unplugging can feel liberating in a world of constant notifications and digital noise. Try setting aside specific times when you step away from screens during the day. It could be during meals, before bedtime, or even a few hours in the afternoon. This daily period of digital detox allows you to connect more authentically with your family and your thoughts. Intermittent digital fasting can give you periods of peace without external noise from social media, emails, texts, and notifications. If you want to slow down, escape your phone.
3. Engage In Relaxing Activities
Pursue activities that bring you joy and relaxation. It might be losing yourself in the pages of a captivating book, tending to your garden, sitting by the pool, lake, or beach, immersing in the soothing melodies of classical music, or engaging in a fun, slow-paced game. These leisure moments are not just pastimes; they are essential to living a balanced and fulfilling life. Diversify your time and life to include enjoyable, peaceful, fun, and relaxing activities. Everyone is different, so choose your personal favorite.
4. Spend Time In Nature Daily
A daily dose of nature can work wonders for your well-being. This could mean a brisk walk in your local park, time at the beach or lake, a mountain hike, or simply enjoying a beautiful sunrise or sunset from your backyard or balcony. Nature can ground us, reminding us of our connection to the world and life cycles. Watching wildlife like birds and noticing the clouds or rain can all be relaxing and slow down the pace of life at any time.
5. Practice Gratitude
Embrace the power of gratitude. Take a few moments each day to reflect on what you appreciate. It could be as important as a loving family or as simple as a delicious meal. Cultivating gratitude can help you to see the abundance in your life, shifting your focus from what’s missing to what’s already there. Gratitude can slow down the mental grind for more when you stop to notice what you already have. Happiness can grow the day you realize you already have more than enough.
6. Maintain Meaningful Relationships
Prioritize relationships that bring joy, support, and understanding into your life. These might be with family members, friends, or a life partner. Relationships are at the heart of our human experience, and nourishing them is fundamental to our happiness and sense of belonging. The inverse of this is getting toxic people out of your life helps reduce suffering exponentially. Bad marriages, bad bosses, and toxic family members are not the path to an enjoyable life at your own pace.
7. Simplify Your Life
Consider decluttering your physical and mental space. Remove nonessential items, commitments, and thoughts that don’t serve your well-being. Creating a more minimalist lifestyle makes room for what truly matters – ease, clarity, and contentment. Focus on what is essential for your happiness and eliminate what is unnecessary or wanted. An enjoyable slow life is not busy with the upkeep and maintenance of many material things.
8. Practice Self-Care
Self-care isn’t an indulgence; it’s a necessity. Pay attention to your mental and emotional health, exercise regularly, nourish your body with wholesome foods, and prioritize restful sleep. Your well-being is the foundation for building a fulfilling and meaningful life. You must slow down enough to be able to take care of yourself. Fast pace lifestyles are dangerous for the bad habits they create, like eating fast food and junk food, a lack of exercise, and destructive paths for stress management like drinking and smoking. With a slow lifestyle, you are the top priority.
- Cultivate mindfulness to experience each moment fully.
- Schedule tech-free periods for authentic connection with yourself and others.
- Delve into relaxing activities to restore balance and contentment.
- Embrace the healing power of nature for grounding and connection.
- Develop a gratitude practice to shift your perspective towards abundance.
- Nurture relationships that bring joy and understanding.
- Simplify your surroundings and commitments to create space for what truly matters.
- Prioritize self-care as the cornerstone of well-being and fulfillment.
The principles of slow living offer a roadmap to a life of less stress and more fulfillment. By embracing mindfulness, we immerse ourselves in the depth of each moment. By disconnecting from the digital world at times, we forge authentic connections. Inviting relaxation through activities we love, spending time in nature, practicing gratitude, nurturing meaningful relationships, simplifying our life, and practicing self-care all contribute to this enriching philosophy. Each of these elements, when woven together, creates a system of slow living. This suggested strategy is a gentle reminder that life isn’t a race, but a journey to be savored, one beautiful, intentional moment at a time. I escaped the fast-paced life of corporate careers and big-city living long ago and have never had any regrets.
Excerpted from: https://hbr.org/2020/08/thinking-of-skipping-vacation-dont
Several studies indicate that performance nose-dives when we work for extended periods without a break. In addition, the benefits of taking a vacation are clear: It results in improved productivity, lower stress and better overall mental health. It also spurs greater creativity — for example, Lin-Manuel Miranda conceived of Hamilton while on vacation.
Research on elite athletes shows that rest is what enables them to perform at peak levels, and the same is true for us. Taking a vacation allows us to come back feeling refreshed and recharged, with renewed focus. Vacations may even help your personal bottom line: Research shows that those who take more than 10 days of vacation are 30% more likely to receive a raise, and those who take regular vacations have greater job satisfaction.
Below are some guidelines to help you reap the benefits of vacation, wherever you go.
Get a change in scenery. Vacation doesn’t need to entail extensive travel. The fun of it is going somewhere that is different from your daily life. This may be a short drive from home, an extended road trip, or an excursion to the other side of town. One friend rented a beach house for her family 10 miles from her home. A team member rented an RV with her family and drove to the mountains with another family. Another colleague took a solo weekend a few hours outside his city at an Airbnb to read and reflect. Another team member planned gourmet food excursions in her own city, seeking out the best versions of her favorite foods in different neighborhoods across town.
Plan ahead. While a spontaneous getaway can be exciting, research shows that the stress of poorly planned vacations can eliminate the positive benefits of time off. In particular, planning a month ahead and focusing on the details in advance versus figuring things out while on vacation has been shown to result in a better vacation experience with more positive outcomes. Planning ahead also gives us something to look forward to — something that Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project, says not only makes us feel good, but also adds an “atmosphere of growth” to our lives and makes us optimistic. Even if you’re only going across town, you can still identify which days you’re going to take off and plan what you’re going to do in advance.
Identify the type of experience you want to have. The ideal vacation is different for each of us. What is your idea of recreation? What allows you to recharge? What nourishes you? For some, it’s soaking up the sun by the water. For others, it’s a creative pursuit, exploring a new location, trying new cuisine or engaging in an adventure sport. Knowing this will help inform potential destinations and activities. You might not be able to take that cooking class in Provence, but you can still go to the countryside, have a gourmet experience, and cook Provençal cuisine.
Spend time outdoors. Research shows that spending time in nature benefits us both mentally and physically. Moreover, these benefits are reaped whether you are in a national park or an urban park, and with as little as two hours in nature per week. Whether you’re traveling or staying home, build in time outdoors as part of your vacation, whether it’s taking a morning walk, skipping stones on a lake, watching the waves crash at the beach or picnicking in a small park.
Unplug. A 2017 Glassdoor study showed that two-thirds of Americans work on vacation. Doing so has been found to negatively affect intrinsic motivation and causes us to enjoy our work less. Unplugging from work is a big part of what makes vacation feel like vacation. It’s down time for our brains from the barrage of cognitive demands that come with our jobs. It creates the space for creativity to emerge and allows us to be fully present with our families or travel partners. My colleague who went on the RV trip sans laptop and cell reception felt liberated and like she was able to truly slow down and reset. She let clients know in advance she’d be unavailable during that time. My friend who rented the beach house brought games, puzzles, a good book, and some wine and relished being able to disconnect from work. To be sure, disconnecting can feel difficult — many people fear missed opportunities or the back-to-work email dread. Identify a colleague who can answer questions while you’re away and indicate this as well as how you’ll be following up (if at all) in your out-of-office message.
Create memories. Vacations are also great opportunities to create lasting, positive memories. Several studies show that recalling happy memories can head off stress, anxiety, and depression — something that is much needed in our busy lives. Since it’s easy to capture the most enjoyable moments of our vacations with a smartphone, go ahead and record singing around the campfire while eating s’mores. Take pictures of the scenic views, your picnic spread, the fish your teenager caught, or the thousand-piece puzzle your family put together. You’ll enjoy revisiting these memories in the months and years to come.
As easy as it might be to keep on working and skip a vacation, don’t. Following the suggestions above can provide you with an experience that leaves you refreshed and re-energized, and you don’t have to go very far to do it. So, get packing and go. You’ll be glad you did.
About the Author: Rebecca Zucker is an executive coach and a founding partner at Next Step Partners, a leadership development firm. Her clients have included Amazon, Clorox, Morrison Foerster, Norwest Venture Partners, The James Irvine Foundation, and high-growth technology companies like DocuSign and Dropbox. You can follow her on Twitter: @rszucker