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Compassionate, Sustainable Productivity. Say what, now?

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Last weekend I received a message from a friend who was feeling overwhelmed. She had loads of ideas, but was struggling to focus and prioritise.

We jumped onto Skype and spent a little time talking things through. During the course of our conversation, my lovely friend used a phrase that stuck with me. She used the term ‘compassionate, sustainable productivity’ to describe what I do. 

You might be thinking "eh?", but those words really resonated with me; I felt she’d really hit the nail on the head. I hadn’t thought about it in those terms before, but compassion and sustainability are definitely at the centre of my approach to productivity. And here’s why…

Compassion creates success!

The unhelpful habits that impact our productivity have been around for a very long time. We don’t become easily distracted overnight. We don’t go to bed one night with a happy-go-lucky “that’ll do” attitude and wake up in the morning a perfectionist. Those tendencies have been gradually building for years.

So although the changes needed to address those habits can be small, we’d be kidding ourselves if we thought we could undo years of programming overnight.

In reality, it can be a messy business. We decide we’re fed up of feeling tired and overwhelmed. We do a little soul-searching and hit the internet looking for the answer. We make a change and things are great for a day or two, but then we relapse. We try again, but the same thing happens a second and third time.

Without compassion, we might write ourselves off as a failure and give up.

But here’s the thing: we’re human. It’s natural to fall back into old patterns when we take our eye of the ball or when life starts to get complicated.

So go gently, be kind to yourself and don’t give up. Dust yourself off, remind yourself why you’re making the change and try again tomorrow.

Look for sustainable productivity that works for you!

I’ve read many books about productivity that make very bold claims. They leave you feeling that all you have to do is follow the steps outlined, and everything will fall into place. Many years ago I fell into the trap of believing those claims. I’d throw myself in and spend ages setting up systems that I was convinced would make things better for me. Only they didn’t. I understood why these systems should work, but they took so much effort for me to maintain that they gradually fell by the wayside.

I can see now that this wasn’t because those systems were ‘wrong’. It was simply that they weren’t suited to me and how I like to work.

This taught me a valuable lesson: any change that doesn’t have YOU at the centre of it is never going to be sustainable in the long-run.

Let me give you an example. Without a structure in place I can’t get anything done, so when it comes to my own productivity I need a plan. Conversely, the friend I was talking to last weekend doesn’t respond well to too much structure. The thought of a regular routine fills her with horror. If my advice to her had been based on what I know works for me, I’d have been setting her up to fail. Instead, we looked at ways in which she could focus and prioritise that are more likely to be sustainable in the long-term, as they don’t feel restrictive for her.

So, what does this all mean for you?

Find self-compassion.

If you’re trying something new, don’t give yourself a hard time if it doesn’t work the first time. Get clear on why you’re making the change, and use that as your motivation to keep trying.

Find an approach that feels sustainable.

Productivity tips that fill you with horror, take forever to maintain or are so darn complicated that you just can’t get your head around them are not going to be sustainable for you. They might be perfect for someone else, but that doesn’t mean they’re right for you.

Of course, it’s important to give things a fair crack of the whip. The first thing I’d suggest is to consider whether you could tweak the approach you’re experimenting with so that it suits you better.

But then get curious and see if you can notice the difference between the natural discomfort that comes from trying something new and the gut-wrenching despair that tells you that something just isn’t right for you.  

If that all sounds like too much to figure out on your own, let me know. There are various ways that I can help you come up with an approach that works for you, so just drop me a line and let’s chat!

Louise Miller2 Comments