I’m thrilled to announce that I’ll be holding a full-day workshop, which I’m calling the Inner Productivity Intensive, in the San Francisco Bay Area on Saturday, June 12, 2010.
This will be an intimate, small-group affair, limited to ten people, where we’ll be deeply exploring the challenges each participant is facing in their work, and how mindfulness practices can help them stay focused and inspired in what they do.
You can register for the event here. More information about the workshop is below.
Supercharge Your Focus And Motivation In Your Work!
Why do you know what you want to do in your work, but you still don’t do it?
Why do you know you want to work more efficiently, but you end up wasting time on e-mail and social media? Why do you want to write that book or start that business, but it’s never gotten off the ground? Why do you want to change jobs, but you can’t seem to begin your search?
I think we’ve all asked ourselves this kind of question at some point, and the answer often seems maddeningly unclear. What is clear, however, is that the usual organization and time management literature doesn’t shed much light on it.
Yes, there are neat tricks and “hacks” out there for organizing your e-mail, color-coding your folders, and finding the right iPhone apps. But as I think you know from painful experience, these tricks are useless if you aren’t focused and motivated enough to put them into practice.
What Are You Running From?
So how do you find the focus and motivation you’re looking for? In my experience working with people around their productivity issues, to really get what we want out of what we do, the first step is to take a close look at what we’re avoiding.
What do I mean? You’ll see for yourself, I think, if you carefully watch what’s happening when you’re at work, and you’re about to start procrastinating. You’ll notice that, in that “clutch” moment right before you put off a task to do something else, you start having some thought or sensation — some inner experience – that feels uncomfortable or even dangerous to you.
The thought or sensation I’m talking about is different for each of us. For some, it’s tension in their body — maybe a tightness in their neck or shoulders. For others, it’s a painful memory or a worry about the future. Perhaps, for you, it’s something else.
While the inner experience I’m talking about is unique for each person, the way people tend to deal with that experience is pretty much the same. Because it’s scary and uncomfortable, we try to distract ourselves from it — perhaps by checking e-mail, playing Minesweeper, surfing the Web, or something else.
The trouble with this approach is that, when we distract ourselves, we take our attention away from our work. We can’t code that computer program, paint that painting, or do anything else that’s productive when we’re messing around on Facebook.
The Art Of Allowing
As it turns out, there’s a better way to relate to this inner experience: to fully allow it. When you feel that tension, painful memory, or whatever it is coming up, simply hold your attention on your work, keep breathing, relax your body, and allow that experience to pass away on its own. If you’ve done meditation, you probably have some idea what I mean.
The more you practice this, the more comfortable and familiar that experience will become. You’ll start to realize it isn’t as scary as you’d thought. More importantly, you’ll become able to move forward in your work, even in the face of that pesky experience.
Of course, this is easier said than done. Usually, we’ve become so accustomed to running from that troublesome inner experience that we’re no longer aware we’re avoiding it. We just “find ourselves” checking e-mail, playing FreeCell, or whatever our favorite distraction is, totally oblivious to why it’s happening.
The Inner Productivity Intensive is about getting conscious of that difficult inner experience, and developing a new relationship with it that gives you a new sense of purpose and freedom in your work.
What This Workshop Offers You
As you may know, I wrote a book called Inner Productivity: A Mindful Path to Efficiency and Enjoyment in Your Work. Inner Productivity, which Getting Things Done author David Allen calls “a great read and a useful guidebook for turning the daily grind into something much more interesting and engaging,” is all about learning to allow – rather than resist — the thoughts and sensations that tend to disrupt our focus.
In this full-day workshop, we put the book’s ideas and techniques into practice. Basing our approach on meditation, yoga and other mindfulness practices that have improved people’s lives for thousands of years, I and my skilled facilitators will help you notice, and transform, the patterns of thinking and behavior holding you back in your work.
You’ll come out of the workshop with an increased ability to focus on your work, a stronger sense of mission, and a deep-seated knowledge that you’ve got what it takes to face the challenges that arise in what you do.
This workshop is unlike any other seminar on organization or time management. I’ve designed the course to be small — ten people or so — to make sure each person gets the individual attention they need, and the breakthrough they want. This won’t be a lecture — you’ll be diving right into exercises that make you aware of the places where you’re limiting yourself.
I’d recommend this workshop to people who are ready to take a deep look at what’s really holding them back in their work. If that’s what you’re interested in, this course will radically change the way you think about and relate to what you do.
The workshop will be on Saturday, June 12, 2010, in San Jose, California, from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Registration for the workshop is $135.00 per person. You’ll receive more information, including directions and the schedule, when you register, which you can do by clicking here.
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.
The book is a compilation of the techniques and perspectives I’ve successfully used to help people find—you guessed it—efficiency and enjoyment in their work. The book approaches productivity from a unique angle, using insights from psychology and mindfulness practice to help you stay focused and motivated.
I’ll say more about the book, and give you a taste of what others have said, in this post. More information about the book, including videos and interviews, is also available on a separate site I’ve created.
About The Book
As I’m sure you know, it’s one thing to bone up on all the productivity “tips and tricks” out there—learning creative ways to make to-do lists, declutter your desk, hold shorter meetings, and so on. It’s quite another to actually stick with those techniques and make them work for you.
A major reason for this is that productivity techniques usually don’t address the biggest obstacle to getting our work done: our own minds. If you find yourself mentally replaying an argument with your spouse, daydreaming about your next vacation, worrying about how big the bonus will be this year, and so on, simply knowing the latest “Top 100 PDA Hacks” won’t do much to keep you on task.
A Deeper Look At Procrastination
What’s really going on in moments when we find ourselves getting “off task”—becoming distracted or putting off your work? In coaching individuals and groups on overcoming inner obstacles to productivity, what I’ve learned is that we often get off task because some inner experience—some thought or feeling—that we don’t want to be with is coming up.
Here’s a common example. Suppose your boss assigns you a project, and you accept it but feel resentful that it wasn’t given to somebody else. Naturally, as you do the project, you feel the resentment, which shows up as a tightness in your shoulders. Because you don’t like that feeling, you distract yourself from it by checking e-mail, playing Minesweeper, or whatever your favorite procrastination technique happens to be. Unfortunately, although you take your attention off the unwanted experience, you also get nothing done.
This is the “normal” reaction to uncomfortable inner experiences in our culture—procrastinate, take a drug to numb the feeling, go do something else, and so on. In other words, we might say, we run away from ourselves. The trouble is, of course, that we can’t get any work done while we’re fleeing from our inner experience. And so we find ourselves spending large chunks of time accomplishing little, and feeling frustrated about it.
Accepting Your Inner Experience
Inner Productivity offers a different approach to dealing with these difficult inner experiences—allowing them to be, just as they are, without distracting yourself or pushing the experience away. To understand what I mean, try this simple exercise.
The next time you’re working, and you start experiencing some uncomfortable thought or feeling, try breathing deeply, relaxing your body, and just letting the sensation move through you. Where you would have run away from the sensation before, see if you can stay with it and welcome it for a little while.
What I think you’ll find is that the feeling actually passes away pretty quickly when you let it. For instance, if you’re feeling resentful about working, and you breathe deeply and allow that tense sensation to simply move through you, it’s not like you’ll stay angry forever—the tension in your body will relax, leaving you in a calm and focused state.
The more you do this exercise, the more you’ll come to realize that the thought or sensation isn’t actually dangerous to you, and you don’t have to run away from it. And when you understand, at a deep level, that you don’t have to flee from your inner experience, you become able to stay on task even in the face of intense sensations. You become able to calmly respond “yes, I’m feeling angry or sad or afraid, and I’m going to continue with this project.”
The Yoga of Productivity
Yoga, one of the practices that inspired Inner Productivity, offers a good analogy. People who are starting out doing yoga tend to assume that a pose is difficult because their bodies aren’t flexible enough to get into it. But interestingly, surgeons have found that, under anesthesia, the human body can bend in all kinds of ways we’d usually see as impossible.
In other words, the problem often isn’t a lack of flexibility at all—it’s that we don’t want to be with the discomfort we feel while we’re doing the yoga pose. But as we ease ourselves into the pose, and realize that the sensations we feel while doing it aren’t going to harm us, the pose starts to feel natural and even enjoyable.
We could think of the techniques in Inner Productivity like a form of yoga. As with a difficult yoga pose, when we learn to accept, rather than flee from, the thoughts and sensations that come up as we work, working starts to feel more easy, natural and fun. That’s what I want for you, and that’s why I wrote the book.
So, if you aren’t getting enough out of conventional productivity techniques, and you’re ready to take a deeper look at what’s really holding you back in your work, I think you’ll find Inner Productivity eye-opening and valuable.
I was amazed at the enthusiasm and generosity of the authors I asked to provide advance quotes for the book. Here’s a sample:
“Chris Edgar has taken an exploratory dive into the procrastination pit and come up with a cogent explanation of this phenomenon as well as an elegant set of techniques to transcend it. It’s a great read and a useful guidebook for turning the daily grind into something much more interesting and engaging.”
– David Allen, bestselling author of Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity
“Inner Productivity will show you how to clear your inner clutter and create a pathway to success!”
– Marshall Goldsmith, bestselling author of What Got You Here Won’t Get You There
“Real productivity doesn’t come from forced behaviors. Inner Productivity can help you connect with the inner state of being that can empower you to act in new ways, choose new perspectives and have a different experience. There is no greater productivity than connecting with your true self.”
– Tama J. Kieves, bestselling author of This Time I Dance!: Creating the Work You Love (How One Harvard Lawyer Left It All to Have It All)
“Inner Productivity is packed with practical examples of how to achieve greater results and peace of mind at work.”
– Laura Stack, bestselling author of Leave the Office Earlier: The Productivity Pro Shows You How to Do More in Less Time . . . and Feel Great About It
“A wonderful guide for organizing both your physical and your head space.”
– Peter Walsh, bestselling author of Enough Already!: Clearing Mental Clutter to Become the Best You
Order The Book
You can order the book in either paperback or Kindle format—I’ve posted the links below. (Note: If you see an “out of stock” notice on the Amazon page for the paperback, don’t worry, it’s still available — just click on the “2 new” link and order the book from “Cruzado Press.”)
I’ve also created a separate site with more information about the book, which you can view here.
I’m always interested in constructive feedback on my work. If you’d be interested in reviewing my book on your blog, please let me know, and I can provide you a copy in paperback or electronic form.
At some point in your life, I’ll bet you felt like you weren’t getting enough done. You wished you could keep your attention on your work, and stop “procrastinating” by doing frivolous or unimportant things, but it just didn’t seem possible. I used to have this problem myself, until I had a realization one day that transformed my understanding of what procrastination is and how to deal with it.
At work, I would sometimes have trouble staying on task. After working on a project for a little while, I’d find myself losing focus and finding ways to avoid being productive. I would deal with low-priority work issues, read the news, or get antsy and pace around the room. I’d try to get back to my project, but I’d feel like every cell in my body was resisting my will.
My normal reaction to this experience was one I think most of us identify with—I shamed myself. “Come on, get a work ethic,” I’d tell myself. My belief was that I procrastinated because I was fundamentally a lazy and selfish person, and that I only cared about doing what I wanted to do instead of helping others achieve their goals. The only way to change this mindset, I figured, was to punish myself until I became willing to change my evil ways. Unfortunately, beating myself up only seemed to strengthen my body’s resistance to getting work done.
One day, however, I made an interesting observation while I was having trouble focusing. I noticed that, while I was reading the news, checking e-mail, or doing some other unproductive activity to avoid work, I wasn’t actually enjoying myself. Even as I procrastinated, I was thinking to myself “this is boring. I want to do something else.”
This observation didn’t support my theory that I procrastinated because I was lazy and only cared about having fun. If that were true, you’d think I would have enjoyed my frivolous diversions. But in fact, while I was in “procrastination mode,” I didn’t like doing anything. Procrastination, I recognized, was just a symptom of an overall attitude that sometimes overtook me—an attitude of refusing to accept the situation I was in, regardless of what it was.
For whatever reason, I had moments when my mind basically decided it wasn’t okay with any aspect of reality, and became determined to reject anything the world gave it as inadequate and “boring.” I call this mindset one of non-acceptance. Some spiritual teachers call it “saying ‘no’ to the present moment.” I procrastinated when I was in this state.
Happily, simply recognizing that I was in a place of non-acceptance had the effect of liberating me from that place. If I just admitted to myself that I was saying “no” to my situation, without punishing myself for it, I’d find my refusal to accept reality dissolving, and a peace and alertness pervading my body. Once in this state, I could concentrate on my work again.
If you find yourself procrastinating at times, and you want to improve your ability to focus, I have two suggestions for you that build on the realization I described.
First, be aware of, and acknowledge, when you’re in a state of non-acceptance. To start doing this, notice that, when you find yourself procrastinating, nothing seems to satisfy you. You can try doing a few different activities to prove this—you can read the news, play solitaire, call a friend or loved one, and so forth. You’ll start to see that, when you’re in a state of non-acceptance, everything you do seems to be inadequate, boring or unfulfilling for one reason or another.
The central lesson here is that, when you are in this state, looking for something better to do won’t help, but recognizing that you have this attitude will get you back on track. Once you see that your mind is generally rejecting reality in that moment, admit it to yourself. Saying it out loud, for me, is the quickest way to dissolve my state of non-acceptance. “I don’t like anything right now,” I’ll say to myself. “Nothing is good enough.” Normally, when I say this, I find myself laughing, and the boredom and discomfort I had been feeling disappear.
Second, start noticing what events tend to put you into a state of non-acceptance. In other words, what usually happens right before you lapse into that state? Maybe it’s a communication with a certain person at work; a particular type of document you have to prepare; a certain hour of the day; or something else. For example, I would start “saying no” to the world whenever I’d get an e-mail from a colleague checking on my progress on a project. I’d feel like they didn’t appreciate the quality of my work or how much effort I put into it, and I’d start getting resentful. For at least a few minutes after I got that e-mail—and perhaps a few hours—nothing I would do would seem enjoyable or meaningful.
When I figured out that I’d start rejecting reality whenever I would receive this type of e-mail, I became mentally prepared for, and able to stay productive in, that situation. Whenever I’d get an e-mail checking on my progress, I would simply acknowledge to myself that I was about to enter a state of non-acceptance, and that, once I was in that state, nothing would be able to satisfy me. Admitting to myself I was about to say “no” to the world would dissipate my resistance to reality and help me regain my focus.
Why do certain situations cause us to reject reality? In my view, we say “no” to the world when we feel that the world doesn’t love or appreciate us. Saying “no” is our way of telling the world “you don’t care about me, so I’m not going to enjoy you or do anything for you.”
Often, the situations where we react this way resemble moments from our childhoods when we felt rejected or neglected by our parents. For instance, after some reflection, I recognized that, when a colleague would ask how my project was going, I would feel the same way I did when, as a kid, one of my parents asked whether I was done with my chores yet. In those moments, I felt like I was only appreciated for the quality of my work—as though I were a machine, or something less than human—and I’d feel the vindictive urge to shut out the world.
Overcoming procrastination is about becoming aware of those situations where you tend to reject reality. Simply gaining that awareness, and acknowledging—without beating yourself up—when you’ve said “no” to your circumstances, is an effective method for dissolving that “no” and getting your productivity back. Just accepting the fact that you’re in a rut, without blame or judgment, is often the fastest way to pull yourself out of it.
(This article appeared in the Carnival of Engaged Spirituality, located at http://virtualteahouse.com/blogs/beth/archive/2008/05/05/2nd-carnival-on-engaged-spirituality-engaging-resistance.aspx.)