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Day 12 – I am grateful to my sister for dragging me to Yoga class

Growing up in an East Indian household, Yoga was something reserved for crummy old uncles and aunties trying to lose weight. Any Indian kid I knew, any Indian kid worth their salt steered clear of anything yoga-related. My grandmother did yoga, so did my aunt. They made me do it sometimes with them. I kind of thought it was fun – but I wouldn’t be caught dead doing it.

So imagine my surprise when my sister insisted we sign up for a month of unlimited hot yoga (unlimited?!?) at the local yoga centre when I returned home for a visit this summer. Not only was she literally dragging me to yoga. It sounded like some torturous new fad. What the hell was hot yoga???

I went reluctantly, almost ran away again when I realized hot yoga was literally HOT… We were practicing inside of a sweltering room heated to unnatural degrees by a heater and humidifier rolled into one hideous looking machine. It was supposed to be good for your joints… or something.

Anyway, I started the session skeptically, but by the end of it I was like WOW! The workouts were gruelling, but there was nothing new about that. I’d done gruelling workouts before. What blew me away was that the entire time I was contorting my body into impossible positions in that dark, infernal studio, my mind was quiet. No anxieties surfacing, no fears, no thinking just a soft, worm void like a womb. Instead, I felt a sense of relief at not having to think. I’m a worry wart. My mind is constantly whirring, even when I’m trying to relax. The evil side of my brain is constantly whispering silent poison into my internal ear about ALL the things that are going to go wrong with my life if I take risks. I take risks anyway – and boy, do I pay the price listening to my inner devil.

Our instructor closed the practice with a few lines of gratitude for the support we take for granted – the ability to have been there in that room, the circumstances in our lives that make it possible to engage in leisure activities like this. She asked us to release all hurts, self inflicted and by others, to release our fears and let the universe take care of them. As corny as it sounds, the meditation had me sobbing uncontrollably by the end. The combination of moving muscles I had long ago forgotten how to, with the gruelling physical conditions and the utter mental peace gave me an overwhelming sense of relief that I had not felt in a long, long time.

Back in the real world, I felt rejuvenated, empowered and ready to take on anything that life throws at me. That month of hot yoga has long been over, but I’ve rediscovered a new sense of freedom in the practice of yoga that grounds me everyday. I’ve possibly turned into a crummy old aunty and I can’t believe how good it feels!

[youtube height=”480″ width=”940″]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YaPWdvDiPaE&feature=youtu.be[/youtube]

[message_box title=”Affirmation” color=”beige”]I’m grateful for a sister that pushed me to join yoga class. I am grateful for my old folks that took care of my little one while I indulged in daily hot yoga sessions. I am grateful for the luxury of time and money that allows me to afford such leisure practices that rejuvenate me. I am grateful for the physical and mental benefits of discovering this yoga practice. I am grateful for the amazing instructors at Moksha Yoga whose words had a bigger impact on me then they will ever know. Their words moved me to tears, they allowed me to introspect and think the scary thoughts that I was repressing. Their gentle support allowed me to think these scary thoughts in the safe-womb of that dark studio. I am grateful for the strong and supple body that allows me to continue to practice everyday. I am grateful for the steady mind that allows me to focus my thoughts. I am grateful for the breath that allows me to centre myself. I am grateful for the lungs that draw in oxygen and give me strength. I am grateful for the change in my food habits as a result of my yoga practice that allows me to nourish myself with clean, healthy food that keeps me nimble. I am grateful for the burst of energy I feel after a practice session. I am grateful for the increased mindfulness I experience as a result of practice that allows me to be fully present with my two year old. Most of all, I am grateful for this beautiful life I’ve been blessed with where I feel free, joyous and excited to begin each day with my daily practice.[/message_box]

 

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Exercise For Productivity – How Exercising Regularly Can Give You Insight Into Being Productive

At the advice of this superhuman friend of mine, I started doing Tabata workouts.

I’d been struggling to lose weight for the past two years, both in terms of motivation as well as trying to find the time to work out after I had my baby. I ran sporadically 30-60 minutes a day and lost a significant amount of weight last year, but I’d hit a plateau. So over a dinner reunion with an old friend who happens to be a certified fitness coach, a world-class dragon boating champion, a medical student and an incredible powerhouse of energy (that’s the superhuman part), I posed the question:  What is the most efficient way to lose weight? 

Definitely not running, she said. Try Tabata instead.

So I went home and hunted down some Tabata circuits from Pinterest.

They were hard, monstrously, heart pumpingly hard but the thrill I got after doing them, the sense of accomplishment was phenomenal. Kind of like when I tried Insanity to lose weight before my wedding. It works, but only if you give it all you’ve got.

Anyway, while working out, I got this huge brain-wave that had me itching to finish the workout so I could run to the notepad, the sweat still dripping off my nose, to pen down the epiphany that just rocked my grey matter:

 

There are so many parallels between working out and increasing your productivity.

Both require:

    •    Planning
    •    Discipline
    •    Singular focus
    •    Solitude
    •    Decluttering of the mind

 

Planning

In order for your workout to be effective and to prevent injury, you need to have the skills and knowledge to  plan out an effective workout. Now, I’m no purist, planning can be as simple as picking a pre-designed workup dvd or video program. In that case, Shaun T or Jillian Michaels will have already done most of the planning for you. What’s important is for you to give it some thought and plan the kind of work (or workout) that you intend to do and the results that you expect to get.

Similarly, you need a road map to your end goals in work as well.If you want to work productively and see results, you will need to plan, gather resources and learn the skills necessary to succeed in your task.

Discipline

Intense workouts require discipline. You need to be able to roll your sleeves up and focus. When I started my workout, I had a lot of reserve energy and motivation to bludgeon through the difficult moves, but as the workout progressed, the only way I was able to go on was by powering through with sheer force of will.

I am not saying that your work should always be dependent on whether or not your will power is strong that day. After all, if you don’t love the work you do, you will end up burning out at some point by forcing yourself to do it day in and day out.

More often than not, however, there will be days where you have to force yourself to sit down and work when you don’t feel like it – that is where discipline comes in. Contrary to what most people think, discipline is not the same as torturing yourself to finish a project when you really don’t want to. Its more about building a habit or practice over time, where regardless of the external and internal factors affecting you, you are able to sit down and give your work the attention it deserves on a regular basis.

Singular focus

Effective workouts, like productive work, requires you to focus solely on what you are trying to accomplish. You can’t succeed if your attention is flying in all directions and you’re trying to accomplish several things at once. Self help gurus like Leo Babauta talk about focusing on one thing at a time. We nod our heads to concepts like these but then go right back to checking our iPhones, answering emails and watching youtube videos simultaneously.

Step back and focus on one task at a time. Say you’re doing a squat challenge. In order to do it properly, you have to be in the present – to tighten and engage your core, to breathe evenly, to keep your back straight, shoulders down and to slowly lower yourself into a squat without losing your balance or damaging your knees by extending them beyond your toes. If you’re wholly present within you’re body while you’re doing this squat, you don’t have much mental space left over to think about other things, do you? If a simple squat is more effective because if such singular focus, imagine the difference focusing can make to your work projects.

Solitude

Some tasks require social participation and interaction. This is not necessarily true for working out or working productively. It sounds counter intuitive (group work, and group workouts are so much more fun right?), but really, it isn’t.

Collaboration may be fun, but in order for the system to work, at some point, you will have to go inside yourself and on your own to complete the core requirements to accomplish your goal. Even in group workouts, we are seldom interacting with others during the more intense bits. Instead, we are focused internally on ourselves. This also means that we are no where near our gadgets, tablets or social media accounts.

Being alone forces you to mentally check off your priorities and focus on what’s important to you at this moment, free form external pressures and influences. Being alone can make you incredibly productive. Being alone, you also don’t have any distractions. Many of us relish working in groups, especially if we are working form home and do not get a lot of human interaction through out the day. It is important to remember that there is a balance between working with others and working alone, and working alone in solitude is not just  important, it is essential to stepping away from mediocrity and doing extraordinary work.

 

Decluttering

Working out both promotes and stems from a decluttered mind. Like an endless loop. We already talked about how important it is to have a clean mental slate in order to function at the optimal level. The beauty of it is, once you declutter your mind and start to work in solitude – once you get into the “flow” of your work (or workout), your monkey mind automatically settles down and switches to a thought process that helps you calm down and focus deeply.

The following three things follow when you declutter your mind:

You are not a slave to random thoughts.
The car needs a wash, garbage needs to be put out, you forgot to pay the telephone bills. These thoughts slowly slip off your radar as you do deeper into an intense workout or focus on your work. The deeper you get into the ‘zone’, the less frequent these random thoughts become. If it worries you so much write it down and go back to working – you can always deal with non-urgent things an hour later when you’re done your work.

You don’t get bogged down by worries and negativity.
When I’m upset of angry, I sit down to work. No you didn’t read that wrong. Working as an anger management strategy works incredibly well because when I get into the flow,  I automatically check-out of every day life and into a cleaner, more positive, worry-free mental space.

Try it, concentrate hard when you sit down to work today. Overtime, it will become a habit. Negativity feeds off our brooding and focusing on our problems. Getting into a working rhythm can help you manage your emotions and liberate you from the stress and worry that hounds you. That’s how people get addicted to working out. It gives you such a huge mental break from your daily worries and hassles. You worry less when you’re taking active steps towards solving a problem. It empowers you and puts you in the position of a leader, rather than a victim.

It gives you clarity of mind.
The focus and freedom that comes from working or exercising are a corollary to maintaining a clear mind. When you sit down to work with a clear mind you tackle it, finish faster and often eliminate the entire cycle of worry and negativity that comes from procrastinating about a job.

Exercising it before during or after work can be very conducive to a productive work session. These two activities are mutually compatible in the context of getting things done. More than its physical benefits, those of you that need to get a lot of work done in a short period of time will appreciate this technique for its ability to (ironically) tackle several problems at the same time – procrastination, sedentary lifestyle, lack of physical activity, lack of focus, worry, stress negativity as well as not getting things done on time.

 

[message_box title=”Try this exercise:” color=”beige”]I’m a big fan of the focus booster app. No, I don’t get paid by them. It has a timer that counts 25 minutes ON and 5 minutes OFF. When its ON –  work hard and blaze through the project you’re working on. When the timer turns to the blue OFF section, put everything down and do a few pushups, burpees or anything other physical activity (Try Tabata!). The Focus-booster app is based on the proven and popular pomodoro technique which is really effective because your mind stays fresh and active while you work in short, sharp bursts and maintain regular breaks.

Try it the next time you are looking to ramp up your productivity. See what a huge difference it makes in the quality and quantaty of your work. And – Tell us about it in the comments below!
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Why You Need to Become a Morning Person and How to Do It

Mornings are sacred.

There was a time when humans rose and retired with the sun. For us, that meant better health, more energy, and more importantly for those of us concerned with productivity, more time early in the mornings to plan and work. We are no longer forced to follow the daily cycle of the sun, but the simple act of waking up early in the morning can literally revolutionize your work-life.

Mornings are the singular uninterrupted time during the day when you can do whatever you like, uninterrupted. Its like a mini-vacation during which you have the power, the energy, the drive and the resources to accomplish the most difficult tasks of your day.

Why, then are so many of us struggling with waking up late, squandering our mornings and not living up to our potential? A lot of it comes down to planning.

If you don’t plan for work in advance (check out this post on using planning) then you end up just going with the flow and most times the flow means you are just lounging around being ridiculously unproductive. Using your mornings wisely can make all the difference between staying on task throughout the day and fumbling about without any apparent purpose.

 

Benefits of being an early bird

Clarity of thought. Your mind isn’t bogged down, distracted or confused with worldly things first thing in the morning. You can use that focus and momentum to knock out a huge chunk of your work first thing in the morning.

No interruptions. No colleagues emailing you or calling you  with “urgent” queries, no employees coming to you for more budget allocations, no friends inviting you to random events on Facebook

More will power.  Will power is highest at the beginning of the day and goes down as the day goes by, so focusing on your health and productivity first thing in the morning makes inherent sense.

Increased motivation. If you wake up in the morning and accomplish important tasks even before others are starting to wake up, that motivation carries you through the workday and gives you an energy boost better than coffee or redbull would.

More time in the day to do what you need to do. This is self explanatory.

Peace and quiet. Experiencing the solitude of the early morning hours helps ground you and put problems in to perspective. Your whole day starts on a calm note.

Setting an example for others. Getting to work early in the morning with a positive attitude shows how seriously u take your work. As a boss and employer, that speaks louder than any training. You don’t need to pay someone a ton  of money to motivate your employees, you just have to be a role model for the behaviours you want to promote.

 

[message_box title=”Quotes from Successsful People” color=”beige”]
[quote align=”center” color=”#999999″]You can always strive to get out of bed a little earlier.  you could get right to work, or for something personal like working out. Use commutes wisely – no one is competing for your attention. Tim Cook, Apple[/quote]

[quote align=”center” color=”#999999″]Working out early on monday (even if it seems too busy). It’s a way of making yourself a priority when you otherwise wouldn’t. Plus, you’ll have a clear head and the accompanying endorphin rush, which always helps make otherwise dreadful Monday mornings cheerier. Barack Obama[/quote]

[quote align=”center” color=”#999999″]If you eat a frog first thing in the morning, you’ll have it behind you for the rest of the day.  Mark Twain[/quote]

[quote align=”center” color=”#999999″]I normally walk her for about an hour in the morning. It’s the only time of day I get to myself. Joanna Coles, the Editor in Chief of Cosmopolitan Magazine[/quote]

[quote align=”center” color=”#999999″]I’m really not a morning person at all. It’s just sheer determination. I’m very strict with myself. When I practice six days a week and eat clean food, I feel much better. Gwyneth Paltrow[/quote]

For more quotes like these, check out the original articles they were excerpted from.

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So how exactly do successful people use mornings to stay on top of their game and power through the rest of the day?

Emails.

Some experts say you should tackle your email the first thing in the morning. Some say don’t. I say do what works for you. If you’re the type of person that gets derailed when someone jumps in with an item on their agenda, where you quickly give up your own to help the other person, then definitely, don’t check your emails. But if you’re the kind of person that can shut out other people and look at your priorities effectively, then starting the day with an email is a perfectly natural way to plan for the hurdles you will be up against later in the day. By checking your email you are alerting and preparing brain for the things to come. For years I used to avoid checking emails because I always ended up getting side tracked by someone else’s demands. Until I realized that every time I missed an important memo and a colleague asked me about it, I risked looking like an incompetent baboon. So check your emails. Just don’t get so engrossed that you forget to do your work.

Calendar.

You can use email to plan your day out, or you can skip it altogether by penciling in your most important priorities first. This way, when you are bombarded by external demands and gripes, you always have that perspective on what your priorities are. Planning is also important in helping you pace yourself so you’re not burned out, or taking it too easy.

Doing difficult things first.

If its good enough for Mark Twain (see the quote below), its good enough for you. Start the day with the most difficult tasks. Laura Vanderkam, author of What The Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast, talks about experts and millionaires with morning habits and how they impact their lives. She cites a study by a Florida State University professor named Roy Baumeister. They found in this study that will power is like a muscle that becomes fatigued from overuse.  So make the most of your reserve of will-power in the morning to blast through some of those giant tasks that you’re afraid to touch, but you know you have to at some point. In fact, the sense of achievement from having dealt with that monster first thing in the morning will keep you powered through the rest of the day, breezing through it because the headrest part is, literally, already behind you.

[quote align=”center” color=”#4bac58″]”Diets come undone in the evening, just as poor self-control and lapses in decision-making often come later in the day. On the other hand, early mornings offer a fresh supply of willpower, and people tend to be more optimistic and ready to tackle challenging tasks.” -Prof. Roy Baumeister as cited in What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast[/quote]

Rejuvenation.

If you don’t take care of your physical and mental needs, you will burn out at some point. Its so obvious on paper (or screen), isn’t it?

If powering through the crummiest tasks of the week is too much of a herculean feat for you in the morning, try relaxing instead. Go for a walk, indulge in some yoga or meditation which, incidentally, is also good for regulating your hormones and really getting into the optimum physical and mental space for working.

Last summer, I visited my family in Toronto where my sister dragged me to a hot yoga class. I loved it so much, that every morning, I’d hover over her bed and wake her up unceremoniously to go attend the 7 am class. We were working on this start-up at the time and I found that after yoga, a shower a light meal, I was totally primed for some marathon writing and creative action. I got so much more done when I took an hour out for myself in the morning. More than I had in the last two years of trying (and failing) to get content up on this website. Go on. Try it yourself.

Labor of love.

Do something you love. A side project. That dream book you plan to write. The guitar lessons you’ve been putting off. Whatever your passion is that you’ve saved up for the proverbial ‘someday’. Starting the morning with something you love can have the same motivating effect as tackling an unsavoury task first thing in the morning. What you’re aiming for is that sense of achievement when you do something you don’t normally do.

Food.

Mornings are a perfect time to plan out healthy meals. Of all the things we know are good for us, this is the one that falls to the way-side when we are busy getting through the buzz of life. I once knew a girl who had a tattoo on her arm that said “food is fuel”. Indeed, food is fuel. You don’t expect your car or lawn mower to run on the wrong kind of fuel. Why would you expect that of yourself? Greens, beans, fruits, grains, vegetables and lean protein. If you’re upto it, use your mornings for a quick mental check for what healthy meals you will be eating for the rest of the day.

 

Here is an excellent excerpt from Personal Development Guru Robin Sharma’s website on how to wake up earlier in the day:

1) Don’t eat too late in the day, it will help you sleep more soundly.
2) Jump out of the bed and start your day as soon as the alarm clock goes off.
3) Get into the best shape of your life. When you’re working out, you sleep better, wake up fresher, and getting our of bed earlier gets easier.
4) I love this one – Set Big Hairy Audacious Goals. Raising the bar and striving for a personal dream will fire u up and give you something to look forward to in the morning.
5) Set your alarm 30 minutes earlier than your usual wake up time.

Robin Sharma ends his post with the following words:

“Get up early. I dare you to do it for a few weeks. Your life is too precious a thing to waste. You know you were meant for your own unique form of greatness. You know you can do more, have more and be more. You know that you can be bigger than you currently are. So join The 5 O’Clock Club. Win The Battle of The Bed. Put mind over mattress. Get up early.  And as Benjamin Franklin once noted: “there will be plenty of time to sleep when you are dead.” Smart guy.”
How’s that for some early morning inspiration?

 

 

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Mindful productivity- working in the present

[quote align=”center” color=”#4bac58″]And what is it to work with love?
It is to weave the cloth with threads drawn from your heart,
even as if your beloved were to wear that cloth.
It is to build a house with affection,
even as if your beloved were to dwell in that house.
It is to sow seeds with tenderness and reap the harvest with joy,
even as if your beloved were to eat the fruit.
It is to charge all things you fashion with a breath of your own spirit,
And to know that all the blessed dead
are standing about you and watching.
– Khalil Gibran[/quote]

In a discussion about productivity, people seldom expect to talk about mindfulness. Sometimes though, mindfulness is exactly what we need in order to stay productive, just like in other aspects of our lives.

In particular, being mindful of our internal dialogue, limiting beliefs and personal strengths can be helpful in identifying the style of work that is most productive for us.

[quote align=”center” color=”#4bac58″]There are two basic motivating forces: fear and love. When we are afraid, we pull back from life. When we are in love, we open to all that life has to offer with passion, excitement, and acceptance. We need to learn to love ourselves first, in all our glory and our imperfections. If we cannot love ourselves, we cannot fully open to our ability to love others or our potential to create. Evolution and all hopes for a better world rest in the fearlessness and open-hearted vision of people who embrace life. ― John Lennon[/quote]

In her best-selling book Rainy Brain, Sunny Brain, author identifies that human beings have two primal responses to stimuli- fear and pleasure. Those of us that are governed by fear are preoccupied with protecting ourselves and seeking safety. Those of us who are governed by pleasure seek excitement and novelty and new situations. Obviously both temperaments in excess can be harmful. The fear brain can lead you down a path of worry, nervousness, suspicion and negativity. The pleasure brain can cause u to seek out excesses, hush-risk activities, and even substance abuse in order to feel that thrill of doing something unique.

The body, like the mind, also has two responses to any situation – yes and no. The next time someone asks you a question or proposes an idea, observe your body closely for its internal answer. When your internal answer is yes while thinking of an idea, a question or a situation, you are relaxed, and positive. Your breath is even, the tone of your voice is level.  When it is no, you scrunch up and tense. Your shoulders pull up to your neck, your breath quickens, your body tightens.

 

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Jot down two or three questions that have been on your mind lately.

Keep these questions in mind as you proceed through the exercise.

Sit down on the flow or in a yoga mat. Cross your legs put your palms on our thighs. Imagine a thick gnarled root coming out of your spine, grounding you into the earth below. Think of your head sending out a million shoots and leaves reaching high towards the sky.

Inhale.

Exhale.

Inhale.

Exhale.

Notice the tension in your shoulders, let it go. Notice the tension in your abdomen, let it go.

Notice what is going on in your body. Breathe like a baby – with abandon and trust.

Inhale.

Exhale.

Ask your first question.

Suspend your conscious thinking. Do not try to think logically or drive the answer into a certain direction. Restrain your rational and logical responses.

Listen instead to your body. Is your body tightening up, grabbing on to your roots? Are you holding tightness in a particulate part of your body as you ask this question? Just observe the reaction of your body as you hold his question in your mind.

When you’re satisfied with the answer, breathe, and let this question go.

Inhale.

Exhale.

Ask your second question

Repeat the thought process above for the first question.

Maybe you’re feeling free and peaceful as you think of this question. Is there a sighing, a release, a sense of relief as you hold this question in your mind. What is your body telling you?

When you’re ready, breathe and let go of this question.

Repeat the whole thing if you have a third question.

Breathe.

When you’re ready, slowly open your eyes and reflect upon the wisdom your body has just shared with you.

With practice, you will learn to respect and recognize the powerful decision making of your body. The silence that this bodily awareness creates in your mind will be more valuable, restorative and productivity-inducing than any expensive vacation you will ever take.

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Often people think of meditation, inner peace and achieving a state of “flow” as some esoteric mumbo jumbo. But these things can be applied in your everyday working life too.

Here are some ways you can infuse awareness into your everyday work activities:

  • Being present in the moment. Wherever you are, truly engaging in conversations and making meaningful connections with those physically around you will create a special bond and magical memories more than conversations online ever will. Remember there will always be time to write on someone’s facebook wall, or send your crush a text message.
  • Focusing only on the current task. Eliminate any negative feelings that keep you from being productive. Attempting to achieve multiple goals all at the same time is not only an inefficient venture but also a counterproductive one. Remember that grasping new concepts and getting a project done properly is a big responsibility and requires all the attention you can give it.
  • Not worrying about the past or the future. This is similar to being in the present moment, but cultivating mindfulness can help reduce anxiety, nervousness and agitation which stems from negative experiences or feelings of the past, and anticipation of what is to come.

 
The ability to identify both fear and pleasure stressors in our lives, create a quiet space to rejuvenate and work free of your everyday tensions can create an avalanche of productivity in your everyday productivity as you learn to let go and ease into the activity at hand.

[quote align=”center” color=”#4bac58″]Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor. ― Thích Nhất Hạnh[/quote]

 

Working in fear

Fear is a manifestation of misplaced hope. When you are constantly hoping for an external miracle to solve all your problems,  you’re also in constant conflict with reality. Leaving behind your fantasies about life to fully embrace the reality that is present here and now is the key to unlocking your happiness and creativity.

[quote align=”center” color=”#4bac58″]Every time we choose safety, we reinforce fear. ― Cheri Huber[/quote]

Contrary though it may seem, giving up your rigid notions of the world, can set you free. There is no limiting beliefs or castles in the air interfering with your fluid perception of reality. And when these limiting beliefs are gone, you can really work with yourself and get into the elusive “flow”. Speaking about the state of “flow”, working in the “zone” isn’t really different from mindfulness when you think about it. When you work in the “zone” you are present, fully focused on what is in front of you. No past and no future limiting, obscuring or altering your present reality.

 

Working with pleasure

[quote align=”center” color=”#4bac58″]Be happy in the moment, that’s enough. Each moment is all we need, not more. ― Mother Teresa[/quote]

Joy is the pervasive happiness that stays constant regardless of the internal and external circumstances pressing upon us. Unlike the superficial notions of happiness, living in a state of joy simply means focusing solely on the present. It means living in the present moment with intensity, experiencing the world around us with a heightened sense of attention.

Working with joy doesn’t mean that you’re not aware of the negativity around you. Instead, working with joy means that you’re constantly living the present moment with a pervasive awareness of the grand perspective of things. Working with joy means stepping back from our fear and pleasure stressors and working in a “zone” that is neither altered by the situation nor the actions of totters around us.

 

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How taking a vacation can boost productivity

In our busy, everything to-go filled lives, it is important to take a moment to reflect on the impacts of such a lifestyle. First, let’s acknowledge that working too much is bad for you, your employer, your family and friends. Yet it is a lifestyle that so many of us fall victim to. We live under the illusion that everything we are doing is equally important and more often than not, get so drowned in all the important tasks that we completely give up. The busy routines we find ourselves in are not providing ideal lifestyles for our productivity and creativity to thrive.

[quote align=”center” color=”#4bac58″]A vacation is what you take when you can no longer take what you’ve been taking. -Earl Wilson[/quote]

Every once in a while, get out of your routine. Even though routine is thought to be the core of productivity, often what is missed is the need for a break. It is extremely important for us to take time to take a break. Both on a small scale and a larger scale. In this article, I will convince you on why you need to take more vacations. In the next article, I will discuss the benefits of taking small breaks throughout your day.

The best phase in my life which was coincidentally the most productive one as well was after my most memorable vacation in the summer of 2009. I travelled to India with my family after seven years and was completely rejeuvinated upon return. I’ve noticed after coming back from every vacation since then, there is a magic that follows after every period of rest and relaxation. Leave a comment to share your experience.

[message_box title=”Exercise:” color=”beige”]Think back to your last vacation. When was it? What is your best memory from it? On a scale from 0-10 think about how badly you needed that vacation. Now stop reminiscing and come back to the present. How much do you need a vacation now? Do you constantly feel irritated, anxious, tired, frustrated of it all? How close to burnout are you? [/message_box]

 

The Facts

An estimated average of 9.2 vacation days were left unused by Americans in 2012. More than 6 out of 10 Americans reported working through their vacation. While advocating for more vacations, Tony Schwartz, Energy Project CEO compared energy to time. “Like time, energy is finite; but unlike time, it is renewable,”  he wrote in the New York Times. “Taking more time off is counterintuitive for most of us. The idea is also at odds with the prevailing work ethic in most companies, where downtime is typically viewed as time wasted.”

 

[quote align=”center” color=”#4bac58″]“The time to relax is when you don’t have time for it”  Jim Goodwin[/quote]

 

The Logic

Our bodies are very flexible and accommodating of what we put them through, for the most part. However, living with chronic stress which comes along with our busy lifestyles hinders the body’s ability to resist infection, maintain vital functions, and its ability to avoid injury. When we’re stressed out and tired, surviving on only a few hours of sleep and a poor diet, our immune systems become weaker and we are more likely to become ill. Chronic stress also has impacts on our mental health. We become more irritable, depressed, and anxious. It is also linked to memory problems and poorer decisions.

Vacations have the potential to break into the stress cycle. We need to take breaks in order to allow our bodies to recuperate from all the insults and catch up on rest. During the vacation, we gain perspective on our problems, get to relax with our families and friends, and get a break from our usual routines. As the vacation ends, there is a sense of empowerment; we emerge from a successful vacation feeling ready to take on the world again.

[quote align=”center” color=”#4bac58″]The purpose of a vacation is to have the time to rest. But many of us, even when we go on vacation, don’t know how to rest. We may even come back more tired than before we left. – Thich Nhat Hanh[/quote]

 

Benefits of taking a vacation

  1. Recharge and enjoy life
    • Avoid burnout
    • See the bigger picture
    • Gain more energy
    • Experience new things
    • Strengthen family ties
    • Allow for personal growth
  2. Increase productivity
    • Enhance job performances
    • Increase focus
    • Promote creativity
    • Improve mental skills
    • Gain new perspectives
  3. Stay healthy
    • Relieve stress
    • Improve mood
    • Catch up on sleep
    • Reduce risk of depression
    • Boost heart health
    • Promote well-being

[message_box title=”Try this…” color=”beige”]What is the one place you have wanted to visit since you were a child? Why haven’t you been there yet? What is the one activity you have been thinking of doing? Take a few minutes to plan your next vacation. If you don’t have the money or time right now, plan a stay-cation budget trip. Take just 2 days from your busy life where you will just let everything go and exist in the present- worry free.[/message_box]

Pack your bags, cut out the routine and take a vacation, and watch your productivity fluorish in the weeks that follow! Stay tuned for an article on planning a vacation.

bodylanguage

Leveraging body language to create a commanding presence

Your expressions, body language and gestures can inadvertently convey a lot about what goes on inside of you – including feelings of nervousness, insecurity or uncertainty. Learning to tweak your body language to match the purpose of your message in a social interaction can boost your credibility and heighten the impact of your words.

Smile

But not too much. When people talk about confidence, often they will tell you that you should smile in order to appear upbeat and comfortable. However, smiling too much can work against you too. Especially if you are meeting someone for the first time, smiling too much can make you seem like you are trying too hard because you are emotionally vested in the outcome of your interaction. Same goes for nodding too much and showing too much emotion. The less emotion you show, the more likely people are to listen.

Make eye contact

Solid eye contact lets people know that you’re interested, friendly and that you mean business. Look directly into the eyes of people you are speaking to, hold their gaze for 2-3 seconds before looking away. Don’t overdo it because looking too long can make you look creepy. On the other hand, casting quick furtive glances can make you look sketchy and nervous. Try this: the next time you are in a social situation asks a close friend to observe how you interact visually with everyone around you.

Use gestures conservatively

Imagine how sketchy it would look if you are trying to tell someone that you are very happy for their promotion but your face betrays the fact that you don’t think the person is good enough for the job. By noticing and controlling your facial expressions to match your intentions, you are doing two things: First, your tone and body language will be consistent with the content of your speech – making your message more powerful. Second, you will appear more trustworthy because your words, expressions and gestures are all communicating the same message. Try this: Practice facial expressions in front of your bathroom mirror until they look natural and pleasant.

Strike a pose

There’s research out of Harvard which claims that holding your body in expansive “high power” poses can make you appear dominant and full of energy. No surprise there. So if you want to convey a commanding presence – stand tall, square your shoulders and widen your stance. Your weight should be balanced evenly with your limbs relaxed and open. Try this: Look at powerful personalities on TV. Set the volume to mute and observe their gestures. Emulate. Practice. Repeat.