How to improve your Productivity by focusing on its Opposite?

The importance of Rest and Recovery in Productivity

Certain things are counter-intuitive but true. Here’s an example. Your ability to become unproductive plays a critical role in improving your Productivity.

Building Productivity is like building any muscle. Think how you grow muscles. You stress the muscle through an exercise of some form (weights, Yoga, Pilates or any other physical training). Then follow it up with a period of recovery.

If there is no recovery after a period of stress, you can hurt your muscles and cause physical damage. It is similar to stretching a rubber band without contracting it. It breaks after a certain limit.

Similarly, when you want to be productive, you stress your brain to an adequate level. But you must always follow it up with recovery and adequate rest. Otherwise, you are setting yourself up for a burnout.

This is true of any field of human endeavor. You can be a writer, designer, architect, student, pilot or anyone. No matter how hard you work, you must intersperse your work with adequate periods of rest.

But, what if I can’t unwind?

The importance of unwinding is easy to understand.  In fact, it sounds easy and fun. But it is difficult to practice as you get caught up in the daily grind. In fact, it is so difficult, that you don’t even recognize the problem.

Sometimes, When I return home from work after intense work, I have trouble getting back to a relaxed state. The mind continues to stay at work, even though physically I am home.

This is a painful issue at many levels. At home, I feel guilty towards family and myself by being not “available”. At a psychological level, I retain the stress for a prolonged duration that can cause burn out. My Productivity is hampered because I can’t sustain Productivity (the next day) without adequate rest.

If this is a daily issue in your life, you might potentially set yourself up for a state of perpetual stress and break down.

A possible solution: Mindfulness.

What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is a technique to unwind, relax and recover. It is a form of mental exercise.

Mindfulness is about being completely present in the moment, fully aware of yourself and your surroundings.

Whether you drink a cup of tea, or observe anything or walk or work out or do serious work or listen to someone, you decide to pay 100% attention to the task at hand. You might have to summon all your senses to achieve this deep level of engagement.

If you underestimate the importance of Mindfulness, I would challenge you to be honest. How frequently do you zone out, when someone says something important, that you ask them to repeat? How often do you gulp food without stopping to savor it? Or how often do you drive to your destination totally oblivious to the route you took or the green lights or the traffic that you crossed?

Mindfulness Meditation

It is a simple practice that improves your mindfulness. You can practice it at any time of the day, pretty much anywhere.

Think of the meditation as a highly specific training for being more present always in your life. When you meditate, you are strengthening your mindful muscle. One of the key benefits of this practice is that it lets you relax more easily.

On a side note, Pomodoro technique is something that can help you with your mindfulness practices also.

Search Inside Yourself

Google the innovation engine that has continuously been at the forefront of everything from Search Engine to Self-driving cars is also a company that is keen to avoid burn-out for its employees.

The company observed that most employees had no difficulty “turning on” the level of productivity and rigor required for such mission-critical projects, that can change the lives of people.

However, the company realized that many of its employees had difficulty “turning off” from work. The employees struggled to even take short breaks or disconnecting from work during weekends.

To sustain Peak Productivity, Google realized that its employees had to rest, with as much ease as they ramped up.

Google turned to the eastern Buddhist practice of Mindfulness Meditation to achieve this. Google roped in Tan, an employee and a software engineer, who was also an avid practitioner of Mindfulness Meditation outside work.

In 2007, Tan launched “Search Inside yourself” a 7-week mindfulness meditation course for Google employees. The course was a massive success, with employees raving about the value they got out of it.

Word spread quickly through the halls of Google about Search Inside Yourself, and it wasn’t long before demand for the course surpassed Tan’s ability to teach.

Result? Search Inside Yourself continued to grow, eventually beyond the walls of Google. Today, the independent Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute (SIYLI) operates with an expanded mission and teaches mindfulness to individuals in a variety of organizations.

If you are interested in learning Mindfulness meditation practices, you should certainly visit the site and check out their programs. They even have a certified teacher program.

How to perform Mindfulness Meditation?

It’s a simple practice:

  • Sit in a comfortable position, ideally in a quiet space.
  • Breathe deeply for a few breaths, in and out through your nose.
  • Allow your breath to settle back into its natural rhythm and focus on only the sensations of breathing, noticing the rise and fall of your abdomen with each breath.
  • If thoughts arise (which is normal), notice them, but then gently direct your focus back to the rhythm and sensation of your breath

To make the process easy, you can set up a timer for 1 minute while you go through the above exercise. Gradually you can increase the duration by 30 to 45 seconds every few days.

To escape distractions, you can also try it early in the morning, when no one is up, or before bed, when everyone has already retired.

Benefits of Mindfulness Meditation

The list is endless, but I will keep it short. You don’t have to take my word. You can visit Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute (SIYLI) to see the testimony of the participants.

  • Brain studies have proved the immense benefits of Mindfulness Meditation. when you want to “turn it off” and then choose to leave stress behind.
  • Pausing to take a few deep breaths helps to activate the prefrontal cortex, your brain’s command and control canter. This helps you to respond instead of reacting. Which in turn improves your ability to maintain calm and poise during challenges
  • It imparts you with greater ability to focus and be more effective
  • Helps improve your Emotional Intelligence, because of better teamwork and leadership.
  • Your ability to unwind is critical in your turning more creative, as some of your best “aha” moments, happen when you are relaxed

Additional Resources

Here are some additional books and information that may help you.

(1) Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute

(2) Search Inside Yourself: The Unexpected Path to Achieving Success, Happiness (and World Peace) – by Chade-Meng, Tan

(3) Peak Performance: Elevate Your Game, Avoid Burnout, and Thrive with the New Science of Success by Brad Stulberg

What are some of your best practices to unwind relax, and sustain your peak performance? Share your comments below

Image credit
Apiary Studio

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *