017: Productivity as Peace of Mind



Often the systems we want to help us find peace of mind only get us stressed out. In this week’s episode, Justin discusses some mindsets on how productivity can lead us to peace of mind.


00:00 Hello and welcome to Process. My name is Justin DiRose, community leader at the Productivity Guild and today we’re talking about productivity as peace of mind. I’ll start off today by saying that I’m a little under the weather so my voice and everything is not up to par, but please bear with me. I’ve got my coffee here and I’m ready to dive in. Before we dive into today’s topic, let’s go through some updates. So I previously had gone through this short little series called the journey about how some of my productivity workflows were changing due to some major life transitions I was going through. One of those is that I started a new job just a couple of weeks ago. I started a position with the team that makes the Discourse software that we use here at the Productivity Guild, a 100% remote work company and so far it’s been fantastic working for this organization.

00:59 Since I’m no longer self employed, one of the things that I had to remove as part of the Productivity Guild’s offerings is our consulting package. So I no longer have bandwidth to take that on with a full time gig. So just be aware of that there. However, if you’re interested in getting help with that, I know a few people who do consulting in that area. Additionally, we’d love to have you post over at the Productivity Guild Community and share what you’re wrestling through. Share what you’re looking for help on, and myself and others in the community would be more than happy to help you out. Another change we’ve made over at the Productivity Guild is we are now serving ads from the Carbon Ads network but only for anonymous and brand new users only. So if you sign up and you make a few posts on the site and you move from trust level zero to trust level one, you’ll no longer see the advertisements.

01:54 We made this decision because we get a lot of anonymous traffic on the site and frankly it’s just one other way that we can continue doing what we do here at the Productivity Guild. But I didn’t want to impede on our Pro users or users who’ve been involved in the community a little bit more. With those advertisements, you only see one at the very top of the page and so I’ve tried to keep this as non intrusive as possible. Lastly, on the Making Sense of Bear course with my transition into a new job, this course is transitioning it’s kind of scope as well, so instead of being a full blown multi-module course, it’s going to be a primer video module under the Pro subscription. So we’re just tightening the scope in a little bit with it so it’s a little easier to get out and over time we may add some additional pieces to that, but just so you’re aware, that’s kind of where that’s at. I recorded the videos for it already and I need to go back in and edit them and get them all ready for a posting to the Pro section of the Guild.

02:55 Now onto today’s topic, productivity as peace of mind. I think one thing that all of us want to ultimately get to with our productivity systems is a state of peace. Peace of mind. If we look at the definition of the idiom, meaning at peace, it means untroubled, tranquil, content. So we’re looking oftentimes for our productivity systems to help us get to that untroubled, content state. I’d have to say that this is similar to what David Allen talks about regarding the “mind like water”. It’s this place where your mind is free to do the work that is focusing on without having to worry about all of these other open loops that are out there. Basically everything gets out of your head and into a system that you can trust so you can rest easy.

03:45 But one thing I’ve noticed with myself, and I wonder if others haven’t been experiencing this too, is how often does my system actually lead me to peace of mind. I know for myself so many times, my system actually creates more stress for me because I have this large repository of stuff to do and and so that, I mean that’s a really big problem. One of the big problems too in our productivity systems is that they often enable us to take on too much without making us realize that we’re taking on too much. We think that productivity systems and task managers and new email clients and automation gets us to the place of, well, I can just do more so in, you know, in addition to having a family and a house to maintain and a job and a side business with the right productivity system, I should be able to take on this other hobby or launching this other job or business or this application or whatever it is without having to worry about it.

04:50 But in reality, productivity is a lifestyle. It’s not just a system because when you’re looking at productivity, you’re actually looking at your own ability to control yourself. Productivity is really just the ability to take the effort and force that you have inside of yourself and put it in a targeted place for a period of time so that you can get from point a to point B on that thing. Whether it’s moving from one house to another or it is advancing a course that you’re making or frankly just getting your work done in your day job. But often we get in these states of this lack of peace of mind because we see that our productivity systems are as an enabler to allow us to do more. But frankly, that’s just not how it works. We only have a certain number of hours in the day. We only have a certain amount of willpower.

05:49 We only have a certain amount of mental and physical energy to be able to exert. And there are just so many things in our lives that are important. And so we have to choose our priorities. And so instead of having our systems kind of just be an all encompassing collection point that we organize and make all pretty and automate and do all these things for us, our systems need to be a place where we organize our intentions. And our intentions birth the to-dos. You see it because it gets back to this place of where are my tasks coming from? Where are the things in my life that I need to do coming from? Are they coming from somebody else? Are they coming from me? Now that being said, there is definitely a place where if you work for somebody else, they’re going to be giving you tasks to do all day long because they’re paying you to do that kind of work.

06:44 However, that works still comes from the place of you because you have elected to put yourself in that position. Another caveat in that example is really the fact that not everything at work needs to get done. Everything needs to have a priority and so just because you’re working on project a and somebody else comes and says, Hey, can you work on project B as well, but a is technically a higher priority. You still need to work through the process of prioritizing those items. Let’s get back to that topic here of where are, is your productivity energy coming from? Is it coming from external sources or is it coming from internal sources? It would look like coming from an internal source as, okay, I’ve nailed down my priorities in life right now to be my family, my job, and my business, my side business. And then you would your tasks that you would deal with throughout the day or the week or the month and the goals that you would set would all stem from those areas.

07:42 So for me right now, in my mind, I have really settled on that my priority focuses in life, need to be at my job, my family, and my health, health probably being the number one because it’s the one area that I have not been as intentional with over a longer period of time. Not that I’m unhealthy, but it needs more investment into it. So how does this result in peace of mind? The person who is reacting to the tasks that they have coming in to them such as using their email inbox as a to do list is always going to be stressed because there’s always going to be something new coming in or they’re going to be looking for something new coming into that inbox, that place, trying to figure out what to do next. I believe David Allen calls this the emergency scan modality, but the person who is intentional and comes at their life from a place of their values and their priorities is going to easily be able to navigate in a given day what’s important and what’s not because they’ve already made the decisions up front what’s important to them.

08:51 It’s very true that when you say yes to one thing, you’re no to a million others, but when you’re saying no to one thing, you’re just saying no to one thing and that’s part of what productivity is there to enable us to do. It’s not just there to enable us to have this sense of control over our lives where we work through and get all of our open loops on into our system and we get it all organized. And then we have these systems and processes and routines in place that just make our lives stable throughout the day. And then if a fire comes up that everything blows up because we don’t really know how to handle it. But that’s not really what the purpose of productivity is. There are benefits to having structures and rhythms and routines in our life that make handling the day to day easier.

09:38 But ultimately productivity is comes from the place of having self control. Just as we talked about. It’s that place of recognizing that you are the one making the decisions in your life. And if a fire comes up and you have to abandon your day to day processes for that, it’s ultimately your choice. It’s that place of taking ownership and responsibility over the decisions that you’re making every single second of every single day on how you’re going to conduct yourself. So how do we end up in this place of peace of mind when we have all of this stuff going on? Well, in my mind I really feel like the best way to get to a place of peace of mind is to recognize that you’re the one in charge. You’re the one in charge of you and just as we talked about in one of the recent episodes where we talked about managing open loops, I discussed this concept of the worry loop and the worry loop is basically this.

10:36 These things that come up that cause us to worry whether it’s I’m trying to find a house and I can’t find the right house and it’s just something that constantly spins on the back of our mind, or we’ve got a sick kid and we don’t really know what’s going on with them. Or it can be even something small such as I need to clean the kitchen, but I don’t have time to do that today. These worry loops are things that are indicators that we need to let go that we’re either not walking in our priorities or we’re prioritizing something that’s not really a priority. Let me explain that. So if you’re worried about cleaning the kitchen but you haven’t exercised for the day, but you’re stressed about the kitchen and if you’ve already set things up to where you’ve decided ahead of time that you want to value your health, then the decision’s already made. You need to let go of having to worry about the kitchen and you’ll deal with it when you get to it and go exercise.

11:33 It’s all about deciding to be intentional and managing yourself. Ultimately, we can either have productivity systems be this external control system to tell us what to do, or it can be an extension of our own self control to say, okay, this is something that’s helping keeping me on track to where I want to go in life. And it’s, it’s kind of nebulous and difficult to explain how to get there. But through, I know that I’ve struggled along in this process and I’m still not quite at that point of being able to utilize my productivity system to help me get to where I want to go as easily as I often tend to have it be this system external system of control that tries to press and push me in different directions, but when we have this internal place of self control that we’re working on and it’s a process for every single one of us, if we have that and we’re developing that, we’re trying to have our productivity systems in place to help propel us forward and to augment what we already have decided that we want to do.

12:37 That’s when things get effective. That’s when we’re living the life where it’s like, gosh, life is great right now because I’m making progress in the areas that I want to make progress in my life. But then the other thing too is that we have to remember that not everything is about progress. Sometimes our productivity systems don’t need to push us towards something better, towards something bigger, towards something stronger, whatever is. Sometimes our productivity systems are there to just help us stay on track when things get crazy. Just like I mentioned in the journey series on this podcast, sometimes things come up in life that totally blow everything up and it’s really difficult to keep track of everything when that happens and that’s where productivity systems can help. When you’ve already made the decision, what’s important, your productivity systems can be that place where you can lean back on it and say, okay, I’ve decided that x is important in this season of my life because it’s absolutely crazy.

13:32 This system can help remind me that that’s where I want to go because I’ve made that decision and I’ve committed to myself and I’ve committed it to my system. So that’s ultimately, I feel like how you get to peace of mind in productivity. It’s get away from using productivity systems as this external nag like a mom that is just nagging her kid to get a chore done over and over and over and over again, and instead embrace it as something that you can utilize, a tool that you can utilize to help you stay on track with where you want to go in life.

14:09 Well, that’s all for this time. If you want to join in on the discussion for this episode, or if you want to connect with others who are in the process of becoming better on their productivity journey, head on over to the Productivity Guild at productivityguild.com. Or if you want to support this podcast and get access to video modules, productivity courses, and more, consider signing up for a Pro membership at the Productivity Guild for just $10 a month. Get a free month trial using the code PROCESS19. Lastly, if you like this show, rate us on iTunes or recommend us on Overcast. My name is Justin DiRose and join me next time on Process.

Great thinking, Justin! (with due respect)

A third concept has emerged here… self control, as a starting point related to productivity and peace of mind.

Productivity looks to me less and less important among the other two.

Maybe just use productivity systems to attain the other two: Do not worry much whether it allows us to do ‘more’ things and more efficiently, but rather if they facilitate us to do what we want to do with ease. Just a tool that our head needs to deal with all these things and structures we have set up in our complicated lives.

… (well, that would be a different topic, should or lives be so complicated?)


I fully agree with you here. In fact, I realized in the edit of this show that the point I made was more about self-control than peace of mind. Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to go back and re-record it!

My peace of mind comes from the daily review. I know I will forget many of my current work log (and tasks) and the many projects I have in my life. Being able to park a project and put it on someday/maybe frees me up from worrying about not following up. The daily review also reminds me of the current status of each current Big Rock or checklists I need to follow up on. Staying aware if the tasks I’m responsible for by reviewing these checklists keeps me on track and focused on what I should be doing and staying intentional.Then knowing what I don’t need to do right now has been helpful as well.

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