Mastering Time Management and Productivity with Mindfulness
As a corporate professional, time management was important; but as an entrepreneur, time management is critical. It wasn’t until I didn’t have an enforced schedule that I realized how much my time management and productivity is controlled by me, rather than a manager or workplace.
Although sometimes I dread it because of the volume, or don’t want to put in the work because I'm just not feeling motivated, my daily life feels so much better when I am truly productive. Making an intention to be productive every day and following through with it actually provides much more ease and satisfaction each day, and not just in work.
How To Be Consistent with Your Productivity Intentions
Unfortunately, just making my intention in the morning to be focused and productive is not enough for me to achieve everything I need to in a day: we have to support intentions with actions.
One of the biggest considerations I have to focus on when making an intention is ensuring what I want to accomplish is realistic.
It’s so easy for me to be over-optimistic in my ability to get things done, but when we’re not realistic about what we have time for and end up not finishing everything we set out to, we’re often left discouraged with lingering feelings of failure or trying to push through to accomplish it to the detriment of our health.
Self-awareness is also key in planning and ensuring your productivity.
It is best to plan things for when you are most and least productive throughout the day, both mentally and physically. If you have a post-lunch slump or a morning energy burst, plan your most difficult tasks for when you know you’ll feel capable, and smaller, easier tasks for times of the day when your energy is low.
If you work for yourself, flexibility with your schedule can lead to inefficiencies. More than just energy-based task planning, you can also be proactive by planning your productivity according to when your mind works best accomplishing specific tasks. Know what times of day you are most creative if you are doing creative work, and when you’re most focused if you are doing focused work. Leave the mindless, repetitive tasks for when you know you are going to have the least amount of energy and attention span.
For me, I’m most focused in the morning. I set boundaries on my time by avoiding scheduling meetings in the morning. This allows me to get through my everyday habits and nonnegotiable task lists first. A great way to determine this is by finding out your chronotype, an energy and sleep profile analysis that can help you optimize your sleep and work schedules.
Did you know productivity can also be influenced by hormones fluctuations that occur naturally throughout a menstrual cycle?
Planning ahead to complete intense tasks before you are expecting a dip in hormones and energy is a great way to continue to be productive throughout a month without compromising yourself or your work. You can read more about aligning your menstrual cycle with productivity here, but in short, your energy is low during your menstruation phase, increased energy during your follicular phase (which directly follows your menstruation phase), sustained energy and focus during ovulation, with dwindling energy and less mental focus during your luteal phase.
Maximizing Productivity with Mindfulness
Have you ever tried to combine work with mindfulness? I know it might seem odd to think about slowing down and doing something you enjoy that requires attention while at work, but there’s a lot of intermingling between the two! Using mindfulness in the workplace can help you be more focused while preventing feeling overwhelmed and listless.
While, scientifically, multitasking is not possible, there are ways to accomplish more than one thing at once to make the most of your time. While I don't choose to multitask nearly as much these days, sometimes, it does work. I’ve learned that I can combine my yoga or a walk with my affirmations, exercise while listening to a podcast or exercise during breaks throughout the day.
Instead of multitasking with two things that require my brain’s attention to absorb information, I do one thing for my brain to focus on while using muscle memory to walk or do simple yoga poses. This helps me make the most of my time while still getting to my personal needs everyday.
It is important to pick and choose when we are combining tasks and habits carefully however. For instance, I don’t do this type of multitasking with morning breath work or meditation, as one of my primary purposes of these exercises is to train my brain to focus. I have found a definite correlation between my time spent meditating and my ability to focus on work tasks subsequently during the day.
If you sense that you might struggle to focus on work one day or if a task is becoming increasingly difficult, consider doing a meditation for improved focus before you begin! This can easily be done at your desk in less than five minutes by closing your eyes, using deep breathing, clearing your mind and using focus-based affirmations.
Using Affirmations for Focus and Productivity
Taking just a few moments to repeat an affirmation prior to starting a task that requires focus can be really helpful. You can also use them to instill confidence before tasks that seem overwhelming or where you are less certain of your capabilities. Here are a few examples of affirmations you could try for this purpose:
“My brain has amazing capabilities, including its ability to clearly focus on what I am working on.”
“I am capable of doing things correctly and efficiently.”
“I am ready to take on anything.”
“I am a hard-worker that produces great results.”
“I am valued and good at what I do.”
“I am not interrupted by distractions.”
Working with Intentions for Productivity
Intentions are also a good avenue for merging realistic goals and productivity. I’ve found that it’s helpful to segment intentions based on time periods, due dates and what’s going on in my life to really help them stick. My preferred method is choosing three intentions of what I plan to accomplish at the start of a day, three intentions for what I intend to do in a week overall.
I've recently realized that narrowing down my intentions for the year in this way might be wise too (something I'm working on) and perhaps three top intentions for a lifetime may be something good to consider as well. Know that you can always change your intentions along the way if you choose to and it makes sense. Things come up unexpectedly, life shifts, interests change and so much fluctuates. It's just important to look inward and question, "Am I making this change because it truly makes sense for my life or is there another reason?"
Broad intentions are good for larger dreams, while daily and weekly focuses are beneficial for productivity and to ensure we’re on track for our larger intentions and dreams.
If you find that you struggle to be consistent with intentions or align them with your dreams, the dream steps and daily prompts in the JMB Living Journal are curated specifically to help you move through each day with smaller and larger intentions, while also helping you be more present through productivity.
Sometimes, it feels like we can’t balance being productive with being present in our lives and the busyness of working can override our dreams. This is such a common struggle.
I've found that sitting down (for any amount of time) each day to center yourself and journal about what's working in your life, what isn't and how you can alter your habits is truly life-changing. By doing this, I'm confident that you'll make huge strides toward creating a life that you love and works well for you.