There’s something scary about the flying fish of productivity, whether it’s coming from within that slightly darker place of lack (post-productivity high), or if it’s the slowish upward climb (and subsequent peak or plateau) of productivity fervency.
I’ve been quietly observing my personal levels over the last year or two, and when i’m up there, delicately in my mind – probably less so for those around me – dancing amongst the many spinning plates, I can feel like I’m performing in a perfectly wonderful high functioning capability circus. I’ve several pairs of eyes and the right volume of energy to ensure one eye is on the ball, the other is on my laptop and my 3rd eye, perhaps the most important, is looking for the things I or my team could potentially miss: a micro-management comfort blanket. At least, i’m sleeping at night.
Some people play out this game, this coping, doing so much, working 10-12 hour days, 6 days a week thing for a long time without any light seeping out through cracks. I suspect politicians, surgeons and spies live for the multi-tasking, fan shitting existence like an extrovert thrives off people.
Yet the introvert craves the stillness. The introvert, somewhat likeable to a battery, can only power up to the extent that it has a finite amount of power available. Throw on top of that the lowering energy that comes with age, the lunar-like pull to nest and quiet down and i’ve realised there is a new kind of balance to be sought. One must ‘recharge the batteries’. I can no longer power up on a dance floor or RedBull my nuances away, I need to meditate. Preferably in the bath with candles.
Extended periods of crazy only lead to a messy crash, and it can take a while to recover. The journey back up is just as complex as the reasons that lead to the blindness before the fall.
It sounds dramatic I know, but it’s be helpful to treat such catalytic moments as incredibly valuable lessons – not as dire crisis, nor a shameful end (or period) that’s never to be discussed again. The sooner we listen to our bodies (HELLO? is that chocolate I crave or a damn good old cry?) the sooner we can start to let the air out of what is essentially an increasingly expanding balloon.
Energy is finite, yet somewhat hard to quantify. We feel and sense where we are at, and no one person can tell us where we sit on the scale. We assault our bodies with more technological inputs than any generation before us. And our tendency to ‘always be on’ means our work infiltrates our lives. Some people seem to stay a really long time at the top of the productivity frequency before these assaults take their toll, whereas others burn out more quickly. But what’s essential to know is what works for you? The answers will start to come as soon as you’re observant. Life will show you your own way.
When I run out of steam i’ve found that I can bounce back pretty quickly. But the damage is done and there’s often a residue. I think we can lessen the length it takes to get back on track by not pushing ourselves so hard to do so in the first instance. It’s prevention not the cure, it has to be.
So! Have you got a lot on your plate, and don’t mind working till 10pm all week? In fact (you’re thinking) you’d rather get it all done, then you can sleep more peacefully….
[Adopt robotic machine voice] WARNING! THIS IS A WARNING!
It’s tempting I know, but being strict with yourself earlier on may save you time off sick further down the line.
Some people are lucky, and stressful periods only require a matter of days to recalibrate. A quiet weekend and it’s all good. For others it can take weeks, for some it takes months, even years. It depends on the brevity of the damage and the volume of worms in the can (plus a number of varying other debilitating factors.) Resilience is personal. Not sure how to identify it earlier on? It usually shows up in the form of feeling like Super Mario moving through jello… or being physically sick just after a project finishes… unable to get out of bed perhaps. Depression, anxiety… lack of motivation, not caring about anything… being in a constant bad mood… feeling like you have lost your passion for what you do. Getting home and not wanting to talk to anyone. These are all very scary things when they first come along, it can seem like you’ve lost yourself for good.
You do come back. You rise out the ashes.
So learn to trust yourself. Learn through trial and error. Find out how long it takes to recover your fabulous self. Discover when to stop and take stock. And when to capitalise on the momentum. Harmony is lurking in there somewhere waiting to shine its light. And when things get a little dark, or crazy, recall back to a time when you picked yourself back up. When you got back on that bike. It’s not always easy to magic up that faith in the darker moments so if you struggle with that, perhaps write yourself a note… tell yourself how it is when you’re in a good place, say what you wish someone would say to you when you’re in a bad place…be your own best friend. And pop it somewhere you can easily find it during the moment when you need it the most. The fridge door is a good start.
This really is good versus evil. Love trumping hate. Our inner voices are often in battle with each other, and the dominant voice will leech off the energy that’s thriving deep within you. Which energy is it that are you giving most of the exposure to?
If it’s the one that says you can go on, that you’ve got this; then you’re on the right track.
If it’s the other voice, you know, that incredibly intoxicating one that sends you into a tailspin and doesn’t feel quite “you” but nevertheless dictates much of your brain space, then please please please tell it to fuck off! And go write yourself a little rescue love note 🙂
My Top 10 Tips for increasing productivity levels:
Turn your phone off an hour before bed
Don’t watch TV when you climb into bed, especially do not watch Scandinavian drama
Try not to use whatsapp for work related discussion – or ignore it during out of office hours
With the new trend for WAH (working at home) be boundaried with your time. Try not to work too many non-traditional hours if you can avoid it. Get into a routine
Exercise regularly. 2-3 times a week is fine. If you’re not, why aren’t you!
Do things you consider nourishing for the soul, at least 3 times a week
Cook yourself an amazing meal at least once a week, even if you live alone or are eating alone
Learn to be comfortable without a phone, a TV, a laptop. Try to incorporate digital detoxing into your month at least once, even when you don’t want to, especially when you don’t want to!
Get outdoors. Appreciate the trees, the sky, the sunshine, the rain, the birds, the fresh air. Breathe
When working, focus on one task at a time for periods of at least one hour at a time. And stop checking your phone.