Life is full of cycles. Our focus and priorities can change from week to week and month to month. This is very natural. But when does it become unnatural? When does it feel like we have gone too far in one direction? Certainly disease is a sign that we have taken either overwork or overindulgence or depression or whatever it is too far to one side.
I like to have seasons of the year where I am working really hard. It is incredibly fulfilling to wake up, work hard and see the fruits of my labors returning back to me through satisfied existing students and new students coming in the doors. Some of the most rewarding experiences I’ve ever had are to see the things I have created grow- whether it is my business or community.
Conversely, it can be difficult to pause from external progress and park my consciousness on internal exploration. Something I am working on is to be totally comfortable in myself when I am in a season of down time. It’s hard not to subscribe to the idea that I have to be working hard all the time or I am not valuable.
But consider that good work produces good value and busy work doesn’t produce good value. Sometimes we enter busy work into our lives as a form of procrastination for years or even decades. We keep ourselves busy because if we stop long enough, we may have to turn the mirror back on ourselves and realize that our evolution is at hand if we could just take the next step.
Busy work may just be there to perpetuate motion because stillness is uncomfortable.
So what do we do?
It seems that stillness needs to be better utilized. Stillness doesn’t have to equate to decadence. In fact it could equate to sensory deprivation- less time spent watching television, maybe some intentional fasting, and/or extra time spent in meditation and journaling. But we are often unaccustomed to the quiet mind. So when it actually comes down to it we would rather make our bodies still (a.k.a. Watch television) and our minds active instead. The problem with this is that the mind actually craves stillness. Another way to say this is that the mind craves relaxation and letting go.
It usually looks for the path of least resistance like immobility and grounding the nervous system through eating. But if we don’t couple TV and food with legitimate nervous system winddown, then we are walking down the path of disease.
Enter yoga, meditation, etc.
Now let me jump ship from relaxation back into productivity? What could a great season of productivity look like?
It’s important to make sure that a season of productivity isn’t just external motion in the same way that a season of stillness isn’t just external stillness. A season of motion begins with the quality of thoughts in the mind and the possibility of what those thoughts can expand into. It depends on the intentionality with which we take the next steps toward the person that we seek to become. In other words, if I am going to be productive, it is because I have a seed thought for what I am creating. And I spend my time in doing things that will nurture my creation, not my restless desire to be in motion all the time.
Two principles I have been exploring lately which have greatly served me are the 80/20 rule and Eat the Frog. These principles are important both in busy times and in down times. It’s just that the actual tasks we are carrying out look very different.
The 80/20 rule states that 80% of results in life comes from 20% of the activity we engage in. The opposite is also true: 20% of the results we get in life come from 80% of our actions.
This means that there is a golden 20% of things we do that mean much more than the other 80% of things we do. And… it is up to us to discern what is the most important 20% of things that we need to be doing in a day?
This principle couples perfectly with Eat the Frog, which is simply another way of saying DO THE HARDEST THING FIRST, every morning. If we consistently wake up and do the hardest thing first, then we have freed ourselves from the procrastinating mind, we have generated a sense of accomplishment and we have strengthened our innate confidence. We feel ourselves to be capable and competent people.
How does the 80/20 rule and eat the frog look in seasons of stillness? Probably it looks like doing things first that are going to help slow down a busy mind- waking up and meditating, followed by journaling and a luxurious bath… something like that.
In seasons of productivity, Eat the frog might look like waking up and doing the marketing and outreach that is going to help generate new clients. At least that is what it looks like for an introvert like me.
Now here’s the real kicker!
In May 2023 I will be having my first child, a girl!
We are so excited. AND I plan to spend the first 40 days after the child is born focusing on rest and recovery. So what does the 80/20 look like then, when all I have to do is rest and recover?
What I imagine is that each day starts with a commitment to be present with myself and present with my child. It could very well be a meditation in motion while feeding the baby if she wakes up before me. Maybe that commitment to be present at the beginning of the day is a mantra that I revisit a 100 times in a day.
I feel ready for a child. And I know routine will be completely redefined. But I also know no effort is wasted and everything I do now to stay on track, to grow my creations and ideas, to take care of my body and mind, is preparation for the arrival of the child.
What do you think?
How did you stay productive when you had an infant? Or am I moving into a few year phase where productivity is completely redefined/ temporarily eliminated from my active vocabulary?
Regardless, I am holding a workshop this Saturday December 3rd at Elemental Yoga. The workshop is called New Year Now. We will be focusing on planning out 2023 starting in December.
This is the greatest time hack I have ever experienced. It’s like getting a 13 month year instead of waking up in a haze in the middle of January and deciding you need to get on the ball. Planning now brings a sense of freshness, clarity and connection into the holidays which makes them that much more fulfilling.
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