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  • Writer's pictureRaluca Ene

Mindful productivity - How to organize ourselves in alignment with our lives

Productivity and organization are two very popular topics and areas of interest for most of us. I hope I'm not exaggerating when I say that we all would like to be a little more organized and productive so that we can navigate life's challenges more gracefully and structuredly.

Often, in the content I read about productivity and organization, these two concepts are grouped more often than not. However, it's important to note that there are subtle differences between them: one can be somewhat productive without being organized, just as one might be organized without being productive. From a psychological perspective, organization is about how we structure the aspects of our lives and manage to do what we do, while productivity is about the results of our actions and work, along with the expectations we or others have for ourselves.

Organizing is the engine of efficiency for most of us, referring to the planning of the main areas of our lives—in short, bringing structure to our daily lives. It largely involves elements of time (calendar organization, meetings, tasks), and its main goal is to create clarity and structure. In simpler terms, it's about knowing what needs to be done, when, and possibly how.

On the other hand, productivity is closer to the feeling of accomplishment, more tightly linked to the expectations we have for our days. If organization helps us see what our day looks like, productivity brings us closer to how we feel about what we've produced and how our day looks at the end. Reporting on productivity is a subjective experience. That being said, as many people as there are, there are as many ways of organization and productivity.

To put it more simply: someone else's version of a fulfilled, well-structured life may not necessarily be the right model for us. Although reporting on results can help us find common ground, the internal experience related to productivity and organization is subjective and unique to each of us. It is intimately tied to the early messages we received about our self-worth: the balance between doing and being enough.

Therefore, it's important to align with our values and personal stories to shape our routines of productivity and conscious organization that satisfy us at the end of the day—without resorting to repeating methods and ending up with the same chaos or dissatisfaction.

Consciously organizing ourselves, in harmony with our lives, to feel productive involves exploring overt and subtle messages: when is it enough, how connected am I to doing rather than being, and where is that balance for me? How organized can I be, and what role does flexibility play in my story? These are questions I recommend starting a reflection exercise with. I prefer paper and pen most times, but if this type of thought capture is not accessible or preferred, an audio or digital journal can work just as well.

Although we desire one-size-fits-all solutions, my personal experience and recent literature on these topics show that if we try to implement fixed and strict protocols for organization and planning for the sake of productivity, we risk ending up rather disappointed.

What worked for me:

  • Exploring those essential questions (some examples above);

  • Journaling on those topics to map out your organization and productivity;

  • An audit of habits and things that consume most of your time concerning your goals and how you want to live;

  • Inner work with a therapist, counselor, and/or coach to help navigate them. If there's no space for this in your life yet, you can turn to books that address that topic or a community where you can show up like your true self;

  • Testing various organization and planning approaches with gentleness and curiosity. Here, you can draw inspiration from books like Atomic Habit by James Clear.

Other recommendations for our internal narratives related to productivity, organization, and what needs to be done: "Niksen: The Dutch Art of Doing Nothing" and "The Perfectionist's Guide to Losing Control."

Remember, no one can be productive in your way because your way of shaping and organizing your life is suited for you and your narrative. And if you need support on this journey, I am one email away.

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