On and Off: The Secret to Powerful Productivity

by | Sep 4, 2014 | Strictly Business Blog

On and Off: Developing and maintaining a healthy balance between focused attention and relaxation is a key to long-term career success.

As self-employed business owners, often working alone on projects, we have to to stay focused and be as productive as possible as no one else will pick up the slack. We also usually don’t have someone telling us when to take a break.

We need to efficiently use our most valuable resources (our time and attention) to be productive, but paradoxically, we also need to unplug to be productive. As reported in The New York Times, a lot of evidence indicates that we should deliberately schedule breaks in our work. Our brains need down time to “refill the well.” Without it, our health, productivity and creativity are diminished.

As a self-described tech geek, I employ all sorts of digital tools and techniques to run my business. But I have two daily practices that are completely analog. They’re decades’ old tools, yet I find them very effective to help me maintain balance.

Each night before going to bed, I make my to-do list. It gets the list out of my head and onto paper. I can then fall asleep easily and get the rest I need to be focused the next day.

Knowing I also need time to unplug, I use a tool I learned in kindergarten: I put gold stars on my kitchen calendar to track each day that I exercise and meditate. It’s on the wall, right in my face; I can see how often I’m engaging in the activities I know make me happier, healthier and more productive.

I can appreciate science and research that says: “take a break to get more done.” I’ve seen too many examples of people who’ve burned out from not having any balance in this sometimes very stressful business. So I’m grateful that my list helps me focus and the stars keep me aligned.