Your Inner Productivity Questions Answered | Steve's Quest: The Animated Musical Web Series

Your Inner Productivity Questions Answered

As some of you know, I recently released a book called Inner Productivity: A Mindful Path to Efficiency and Enjoyment in Your Work.  While most productivity books are about techniques for rearranging your outer circumstances, like making to-do lists and organizing your inbox, Inner Productivity is about dealing with obstacles to getting work done that come from inside — the stray thoughts, difficult emotions, discomfort in the body, and so on that make it difficult to stay on task.

Inspired by mindfulness practices like meditation and yoga, Inner Productivity offers forms of visualization, movement, conscious breathing and more to help you find peace and focus in your work.  As Getting Things Done author David Allen puts it, Inner Productivity is “a useful guidebook for turning the daily grind into something much more interesting and engaging.”

Everyone’s mind and body is unique, and no two people seem to face exactly the same productivity challenges.  So, I think the best way to illustrate what the book has to offer is to show you how it applies to real-world problems people are dealing with.

In this post, I’ll open the floor to you to bring me the productivity issues you’ve been facing.  Whether it’s your pattern of procrastination, lack of inspiration in your work, anxiety about whether you’ve “got what it takes” to complete a project, or something else, I’d welcome an opportunity to work with you and illustrate how the techniques and perspectives in Inner Productivity can help you find efficiency and enjoyment in what you do.

So, I’m inviting you, in the comments to this post, to ask questions about the challenges you’ve been having.  Feel free to comment anonymously if you’d feel more comfortable that way.  I’m looking forward to talking with you.

Best,
Chris

24 thoughts on
Your Inner Productivity Questions Answered

  1. Evan

    I think I have the wrong kind of question.

    I’m fairly productive and can stick to a budget and have a sense of what I can do in what sort of time.

    My challenge is really learning about how to market stuff (so that it sells and I make a lot of money).

    I think this is probably a different question – so feel free to delete this. But if you have thoughts to offer I welcome them.

  2. Chris Edgar - Post author

    Thanks for your comment Evan. Just to get clearer on what the issue is, when you say your challenge is around learning how to market stuff, do you mean that you have reservations that come up around learning marketing techniques? Maybe you sit down to read something about sales and you start feeling nauseous and stop, for instance?

    Or is it a sense that you don’t know enough techniques, or the “right” ones, and you’re looking for more? You wish you knew more information about SEO, for instance, but you can’t seem to find a good enough source of information?

    And now I’m thinking of a third possibility: maybe you feel like you know enough ways to market your wares, but reservations come up for you when you sit down to actually do it — a sense that you shouldn’t be “putting yourself out there,” for example?

  3. Evan

    Hi Chris, I feel like it’s the second lot of alternatives – techniques and so on. Though I do have bad feelings about some parts of particular techniques – I hate the idea of pop-up boxes. And I don’t like much the idea of a long sales letter. There’s lots of stuff out there about this but results are hard to know and then it may be that people doing the same get different results.

    Thanks for your questions: they are helping me get clear. Thanks.

  4. Chris Edgar - Post author

    Hi Evan — it sounds to me like you’ve done some exploration of the marketing ideas out there and you’re feeling uncertain about what to do, since it’s not clear which ideas would get results for you even if they’ve “worked” for someone else. I’m curious whether this feeling of uncertainty creates a block in the sense that, when you sit down to think about marketing your stuff, the feeling comes up and keeps you from moving forward. If that’s true, I think getting really familiar with how that uncertainty feels — the sensations that go along with it — would be a useful step.

  5. Evita

    Hi Chris

    This is such a wonderful idea to open the floor like this and allow people to ask questions.

    Having said that, I don’t really have a question, as I know my number 1 obstacle that blocks my productivity = motivation. I used to think it may have been organization, but I realized that was impossible, as I am super organized. Until one day it dawned on me…working from home has little rules, unless you have some deadlines to meet. Well when you don’t, it is all about one’s “motivation” to get things done.

    Well for me, sometimes it was there, sometimes it wasn’t, as it was just so fun to “be” and not have to “do”. Moving to this lifestyle was after all supposed to be “fun”.

    Well, I think I am getting to a point where I am learning to balance fun – doing & being. And it feels much better, than getting to the end of the day and did not get “done” what I should have…

    Anyway, maybe you can comment on this, any advice you have for people who work from home and need to motivate themselves?

  6. Chris Edgar - Post author

    Thanks Evita. It sounds to me like you sometimes find yourself turning away from your work in situations where you’re responsible for setting your schedule. A couple of ideas come to mind for me:

    First, I invite you to take a look at what’s going on inside you in moments when you see yourself as lacking motivation and wanting to turn to something else. For instance, are you tensing up in some part of your body? Are you worrying that others won’t approve of your work? I know that, to me, feeling unmotivated usually means feeling tight in my shoulders, like I’m pushing against something unmovable, and for you it may mean something totally different. Just checking in and getting an idea of what’s going on when you’re feeling unmotivated, I think, can create powerful awareness.

    Second, when you say that sometimes you find yourself “doing” rather than “being,” it sounds like some of your tasks occur to you as things you have to do rather than things you want to do. I wonder if, in moments when you feel like you’re “doing,” you’re conscious of the larger reason why you’re doing the task — maybe, for example, you’re creating an e-mail list because you want to send people messages of joy and peace on a regular basis. My sense is that our tasks often start to feel like uninspiring “shoulds” when we lose sight of that broader purpose. Anyway, I hope this is helpful.

  7. Evita

    Thank you so much Chris, that definitely gives me a few things to think about.

    I think what comes to me also, as you also touched upon all of this is that these days, I feel more like a free spirit. And if given a project, don’t get me wrong, I do it, I love it and I am it. But when left to my own devices… I go with my spirit, and as rewarding as some of the things that I “do” are, and as much as I love them, there are moments where I just want to be say in nature and nowhere near a computer, and then things that I told myself “should” have been done, didn’t get done.

    But what you said ties it in beautifully, and deep down I know it too – look at the bigger picture and broader purpose. Generally speaking though, I don’t do anything these days that does not bring me some level of satisfaction – whether it is doing or being, because on a grander scale I know that we give most of ourselves to the world when we are the most.

    Thank you so much Chris, for your input and advice :)

  8. Marie

    Hi, Chris -

    I also really like this idea of you opening up an personalized discussion about productivity issues!

    One of the biggest challenges for me has been my habit of flipping between two states:

    1) Feeling overwhelmed and disorganized — being fearful that I’m not doing something I should be doing (keeping a promise, buffering against a risk, etc.) This is often accompanied by piles of paper and clothes and trash piling up in my very small living/work area. I work on my “to do list” as fast and furiously as I can, hoping I’m doing the most important stuff first, but never sure I’m being effective.

    Then, after about a week of the tension building, I get to a place where I become paralyzed by the anxiety and the chaos and mess. Then, everything comes to a screeching halt and I go into the “get organized” mode (usually on Saturday mornings) . . .

    2) I put everything back in its place, catch up on laundry and email and bill-paying and scheduling my time. I feel calm, organized, on top of everything. I know what needs to be done first, I know how to effectively spend my time and money . . . I have a solid plan . . . I feel good. Then, I sit down to do the top item on my “to do list” and find myself paralyzed from the weight of being compliant and perfect and organized and effective.

    Subsequently, I find relief from that weight by allowing the mess and chaos to start building up again. There is a comfortable place in the middle that lasts until the clutter builds up too much again. I don’t yet know how to maintain that middle ground.

    Any ideas?

    I know I’m dealing with PTSD, and I’m working through that, but I’m looking to better understand what is happening specifically in this scenario so I can know what part of my past I’m reliving in this scenario. With that info, I could find a path through it to healing.

    Thank you!
    - Marie (Coming Out of the Trees)

  9. Chris Edgar - Post author

    Hi Marie — what I’m getting is that, when you’re working, you start to feel afraid that you’re failing to do something or not getting it right, and that sensation of fear becomes so strong that you want to stop working completely. And then the fear subsides for a while, but eventually comes back, and you repeat the same cycle again.

    I’m curious about a few things. First, I wonder what that sensation of fear feels like for you — where does it come up in your body? For me, for example, fear means a sinking feeling in my solar plexus or stomach. Focusing on the sensation I’m feeling actually has the fear occur as less threatening, because I’m seeing it for what it really is rather than the whole complicated mental story I may be creating around it.

    Second, when you say there’s something you should be doing, what I get is that you’re worried that some specific bad thing will happen if you don’t do what you “should” do. Do you have a sense of what that is? Also, do you have a sense of who is making the rules for what you “should” be doing and what’s most important? Who do you have to be “compliant and perfect” for? It sounds to me like you’ve already done some exploration and had some intuitions about these things.

    I hope these questions are helpful to you.

  10. Marie

    Hi, Chris –

    Yes, you summarized my experience well . . .

    So, were you asking the questions so I could consider them on my own? Or, were you wanting me to provide the answers to you so you could look over and respond to them in this forum?

    - Marie (Coming Out of the Trees)

  11. Chris Edgar - Post author

    Hi Marie — I imagine looking into these questions will take a little self-examination — if you think about them and come up with more to ask, just let me know. Thanks, Chris

  12. Marie

    Thank you, Chris . . .

    I appreciate your thought-provoking questions and I’ll let you know if and when I come up with more to ask . . .

    It sounds like you have some good information captured in your book!

    - Marie (Coming Out of the Trees)

  13. Chris Edgar - Post author

    Hi Jannie — thanks for your question — for starters, I think it would be helpful to take a close look at what’s going on inside you when you feel the urge to put off your work. So, is there some sensation you start feeling — maybe you notice you’re breathing shallowly, or your neck is tensing up, or something else? Is there some pattern of thinking that starts, like “people are going to make fun of me?” In my experience, everyone has different reasons for turning away from their work, and each of us has to check in with ourselves to figure out our own particular patterns.

  14. Jannie Funster

    Well, that is a real little nugget, Chris. Thanks! I wonder if some people are just born not procrastinating, someone with the drive of say, Madonna? Or do they usually have to develop it like a lot of us?

  15. Chris Edgar - Post author

    Thanks Jannie. Nuggets are my business — and business is good. My sense is that we all have some experiences we’d rather not be with and our own little strategies for avoiding those experiences, and that this leads us all to get off track from following our purpose from time to time. But I can’t speak for Madonna.

  16. Sara

    Chris,

    I’m a bit late for this one. Normally, I have difficulty with getting negative about myself and my writing. Most of this results in me saying, “I should…” or “my writing isn’t as good as…, ” etc.

    Since I’ve been reading your book, I’ve discovered some excellent tips for dealing with this negativity. I read Chapter Five and now I’m reading it again, especially the part about “Calling a Truce in the Inner War!” This has been very helpful to me.

    I think allowing people to leave a comment and you answering is a great idea! I would definitely recommend that people take a look at your book, as well. It’s really helpful:~)

  17. Chris Edgar - Post author

    Thanks Sara — I’m really glad you’re finding the book helpful. I hear you saying that you find yourself negatively comparing your work to someone else’s, and that feeling breaks up the flow of your writing. I wonder — what if it really were an objective fact of the universe that your writing just isn’t as good as, say, Hemingway’s? Does that mean you shouldn’t write? Does it mean you should be ashamed of yourself or not exist? My sense is that looking straight at this question can help put things into perspective.

  18. Wilma Ham

    Hi Chris.
    Wow, what a site and what a wealth of information. Thanks you for making the video and explaining your background.
    Now to come to the point of your post. My issue has been to create a feeling at the end of the day that I had done enough.
    I never felt that I had done a good days work because the project was NOT finished.
    Once I got the sense that I had to give up that I had to slay the whole elephant before I could relax, I could accept that I have done enough for teh day.
    However there is still a little bit of residue of that niggling, have I made my list long enough, should I not do just a little bit more.

  19. Chris Edgar - Post author

    Hi Wilma — thanks for the appreciation — it’s good to see you here. I’m hearing that you want to feel, at the end of the day, that you’ve “done enough,” but that feeling never seems to fully arrive. And when it doesn’t arrive, there’s a sense of pain or emptiness inside.

    I’m curious about a few things. First, no matter how much you accomplish, do you ever get that feeling of having “done enough”? I get the sense that you’ve already started asking yourself this question. If you look into this, and you discover that the answer is no, that may actually be a liberating realization. You may see that the feeling of “not having done enough” has very little to do with your work, and actually stems from a long-held belief about yourself (perhaps “I can never do enough” or “I’m not good enough”).

    Second, I’m curious about how you experience that sense of “not having done enough.” In other words, how does that sense of not having done enough show up in your body? For instance, do you feel a tension somewhere, or perhaps a sense of a hole inside that you can’t seem to fill? Looking at “I haven’t done enough” in terms of how you physically experience it, rather than the whole mental story about how you should have done more, how you messed up, etc., can actually have the sensation start to seem less threatening and more manageable.

    I hope this is helpful to you on your journey. — Best, Chris

  20. Pingback: A non-productive cycle « Coming Out of the Trees (excerpts from my therapy journal)

  21. leslie

    Chris – thanks for the opportunity. i have some underlying issues that keep me from being productive. (i found your site by doing a search for “mindfulness + time mangement.) i’m pretty sure i have an unfriendly relationship with time. Not only do i not manage it well, i waste it, wish i didn’t have to go by it, and need to come to terms with it. my level of procrastination is so high, i put off taking a shower in the morning since it’s key to preparing for the day. no motivation builds no momentum. any ideas, references, resources you could suggest on developing a healthier relationship with time? i’m trying to see this in a spiritual light so i can flip the switch.

  22. Chris - Post author

    Hi Leslie — it sounds like, when you get the sense that you’re under time pressure, you feel resentful and want to resist. The image I get is of an authority figure like a parent demanding that you do something you don’t want to do, and you wanting to refuse.

    One thing I think is useful in moments like these is to sincerely ask yourself “what’s the larger goal I’m achieving with the task I’m doing right now?” For instance, if you’re doing something most people would see as boring or mundane, like organizing your folders for your business, take a moment and ask yourself “what’s the bigger purpose behind the organizing I’m doing right now?” What I think you’ll see, if you sincerely ask this question, is that you’re organizing the folders so you can provide better service to your clients and colleagues, and do all the wonderful things your business is meant to do.

    This is a helpful way to remind yourself that there’s a reason why *you* want to do the task you’re doing right now — it’s not merely something an authority figure has ordered you to do. Of course, when you ask this question, you may discover that you’re simply doing the activity to please or pacify someone else — you’ve said “yes” when you really meant “no” — in which case it may serve you to rethink whether you really want to be doing it.

    I also think it’s useful to tune into the sensations coming up in your body when you’re in that resistance mode, and relaxing any tense places you sense. For example, perhaps you’ll find that your solar plexus is tightening up, and you may find it useful to take gentle breaths into that area until the tension starts to let up a bit. Notice how that affects your relationship to what you’re doing.

    I hope this is useful to you.

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