We need to look at productivity more holistically
I coach many academics and researchers because I am familiar with high-performance research environments and what it takes to succeed in them and still keep a soul. In this sphere, like many others, productivity is often linked with results. The same is true in business, corporate life and self-employment.
Did you know?
- What causes burnout was the key topic at the 2019 World Economic Forum Mental Health and Workforce Agenda.
- According to SHRM stats, 60% of staff see work pressure climbing and close to 50% believe burnout is the key culprit of high staff turnover, not to mention the estimated health cost of $190 million.
- Deloitte Workplace Burnout Survey Analysis reveals what I have been seeing in my work which is that burnout from work can negatively impact one’s personal life and motivation.
We need to look at what it means to be productive more holistically. We also need to ensure that having it all does not come with the burnout price-tag.
Balance: the key to healthy productivity and happiness
“Getting in balance is not so much about adopting new strategies to change your behaviors, as it is about realigning yourself in all of your thoughts so as to create a balance between what you desire and how you conduct your life on a daily basis.”Wayne Dyer
My approach is informed by theory and research as well as my personal and professional experience. Lack of balance and effective self-nurturing impacts:
The more I support high achievers, the more I see balance and self-care being crucial. I also can’t help notice how easily they can be overlooked and/or squeezed out. Getting balance right and looking after oneself is a challenge.
Balance centers on being able to attend to the ‘me’ as much as the ‘we’
If you look around most people take great pride in caring for others. Think of a time when you went the extra mile for someone else or gave it your all because you didn’t want to let this person or group down. This sort of behaviour is part of our brain’s evolution to survive and thrive. Long ago our brains learned that being part of a tribe and helping others benefits us in many ways: from that feel-good factor to a sense of greater safety that we too will be taken care of by someone else.
As children we expect others to care for us. Part of growing up necessitates that we internalize this caring capacity and learn to look after our needs. This is not selfish. Is it healthy and wise. Healthy self-care practice makes us more empathic to the needs of others. Being compassionate and kind to ourselves, we can bring those ways of being to those we love, manage, and work with. Our bodies and our minds also thrive in balance. They need it to function well; from every nerve cells to how we breathe, the way we hold our body and use our muscles, not to mention the sheer number and role of every cell. The entire human physiology operates on the principle of balance, collaboration, and interconnection. We would be wise to adopt this principle when it comes to how we create and lead our lives for healthy productivity.
No one sets out to be out-of-balance
Most people desire balance. The challenge is how to establish and maintain it.
Clients who suffer burnout or those battling high levels of anxiety, frustration or stress find themselves out of balance. They also find it hard to change this state. This is partly due to the way the baseline of what’s normal can easily drift. One day we’re getting ample sleep and then out of nowhere, we begin to stay up late to keep up with work. What starts as the occasional imbalance soon becomes the way things just are. Before we know it, living out of balance becomes the norm. What is true for how we work can also be true for how we eat, spend money, or exercise.
Today more than ever, too many people find it hard to believe balance is even possible, or something they deserve. Look around you, how many people do you know whose lives appear to have a healthy balance?
But this can change and must! I see it balance between work and life, how we self-care and care for others, and balance between our aspirations and what life intends for us as crucial to healthy living. I also see the internal balance between our mind, heart, body and spirit as key for healthy functioning. Balance is the foundation of health and true prosperity. Below I share a couple of lessons on how you can start to cultivate it.
Starting small is BIG
“If you take care of the small things, the big things take care of themselves. You can gain more control over your life by paying closer attention to the little things.”Emily Elizabeth Dickinson, American poet.
Starting small is massively underplayed in our over-achiever, status chasing, success-oriented society. And yet, paradoxically every true triumph of the human spirit started small and in the end turned collective. So how can we adopt this thinking into our overcrowded, busy doing lives?
I recommend starting with just 1 self-care activity daily and concentrating on the pleasure it brings. Too often a happy experience can pass us by like a stranger on the street. We hardly notice it. Paying attention and planning for such experiences helps us internalize them. This, in turn, helps rebalance our autonomic nervous system away from the adrenaline and cortisol-powered fight/flight mode and more towards the rest-digest satisfaction that all is well. The positive emotions we experience become the key foundations for those stressful situations we need to handle with strength and poise.
Let’s be responsible carers
Think about the many people who cared for you as a child. From family to teachers and mentors who educated you and nurtured your potential, the people who offered you random kindness. I urge you to examine how you’re caring for your whole being now. Perhaps you carry within you a faulty hero mindset that you’re here to help others and everyone around you needs more than you. Research on burnout began with carers: health care workers, nurses and doctors, and teachers so motivated to give and give, they eventually drained out like a battery.
I see this mindset at play in these instances:
- managers who say they have no one to go to with their burdens,
- leaders who feel isolated and under pressure to always appear okay,
- parents who feel ashamed of showing their kids they are worried or sad,
- dogged pursuers of results at all costs,
- countless doctors, teachers, and healthcare workers who give every ounce of their blood to save someone else.
Being a hero occasionally is noble and humanity needs this. The problem occurs when doing more for others and neglecting oneself becomes a habit. In healthy relationships giving is balanced out by receiving. It can be as simple as a heartfelt thank you. Accepting and internalizing it is key.
Balancing doing with refueling is also vital. We have to take conscious measures to refuel our batteries. With some many people feeling and needing to work harder, the occasional holidays are simply not enough. We need daily practices that help us attend to the needs. We need to mindfully attend to all that life and our minds, hearts, bodies and spirit need.
Grid supports and coaches balance.
3 questions for greater balance
I find these three questions a good indicator for whether my life is operating in balance or is out of balance.
- What do I need most to feel and perform at my best?
- Who or what is being squeezed out of my life and is this good?
- Does my life as is make me happy?
If you find that your answers to these questions suggest things need to change, I’d recommend exploring our Grid approach. Grid helps people organize their activities, achieve results and live in greater balance from the start. Over time, it leads them to figure out what truly matters at focus on that. There is a way to live life with soul and we all deserve that.
To begin, each of us deserves a life founded on balance. The time to start is now.