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We are not productivity machines

Anne Boccato, The Freedom Framework

"As a time management “expert,” I’m often expected to share ways to “optimize” and save time. But to be honest, the more I spend time in this field and learn different strategies, the more I move from formulas and lists to intuitive questions and flexible approaches. I don’t have a specific set of steps to share here, so much as a few pointers:

When I have a busy day ahead of me, I like to check in with myself at the start, almost like comforting a child who’s overwhelmed. I soothe myself and speak to that inner kid with kindness: “This is a lot, and it’s ok to feel scared. But I’m here with you, and together we can tackle this!”

Then, I ask myself what is the most important thing I need to do that day. And it varies depending on where I am physically/emotionally too - if I have one big to-do that’ll move all my other goals, I gear up for tackling that task, often by breaking it down into more manageable components. But if I’m low with seasonal depression, tired from a long week or feeling stuck, I often choose to put some music on and start by making my bed. Doing some dishes also helps, putting clothes away… any way I can bring order to my environment is a small win that builds me up for what’s next.

And I don’t call that procrastination (or at least I try not to - our inner critic is so loud sometimes)! It’s me taking care of myself, in concrete, slow ways. It’s kindness and it’s me psyching myself up for what others would call the “productive” part of my day. It might actually be all I get to, or it might be the springboard to a ninja-day of checking off boxes on my long list. Either one is a win in my book!

Finally, when I do this check-in and decide what the most important thing for the moment/day is, that gives me clarity on what’s NOT the most important thing: all the other tasks, buzzing around me like bees… I like to take a moment to list those somewhere, so they feel seen and can wait their turn. That usually calms my mind enough that I can be in the moment with whatever I did choose to focus on.

Mainly, the above process is one of listening to myself with compassion and curiosity. That’s been my biggest takeaway from years of time management research: be kind to yourself. Don’t try to do too much. We are not machines, we don’t need “productivity;” rather, we get to create things out of our own fullness and desire to share with others. I find that reframe really helpful."

Advice Contributor

Anne Boccato

Anne Boccato is a Brazilian musician, storyteller, educator, and time management consultant.

See Anne's Site