A key to productivity without anxiety: get one thing done

I am generally very productive. I get things done, I forge forward, and I pursue goals until they are achieved. I recently found a link between my “productivity” and a constant, low-level hum of worry, disquiet or even some anxiety.

Taking a mindful approach to life has made me discover that my approach to productivity has these negative side effects. It is often productivity driven by worry and anxiety. So I have been thinking about how to reverse this, and trying some experiments.

Try to make peace with the goals and tasks in front of me, plan reasonably and then enjoy the process appears to work. I am finding that this allows productivity driven by desire and enjoyment, rather than by panic or guilt!

So, what are some observations from my mindful productivity experience thus far:

  • Be more aware of the impact of my pattern of goal setting and tasks on my life and the life of those around me.
  • Set timelines that don’t include “working on a total project”, but rather a realistic timeline for achieving small parts of a big task.
  • Try to get a few small things done every day, working toward your larger goals.

This way you are aware of the small tasks can micro-plan your day better. You are also aware of the impact on others (deadlines’ impact on other’s work or lives, your availability or lack thereof impact on others, etc.), so you feel better about what you’re doing – less guilt, more getting things done.

It sounds simple, but I am finding a mindful approach to life is really a series of simple changes that lead to more overall well-being.

Being inspired and inspiring

I woke up today feeling inspired.

I had a good night’s sleep after having accomplished a few simple things during the previous day that I had been thinking about. The feeling of sunlight on my arms and face was beautiful as well.

I got to thinking about how I could transmit that feeling of being inspired to others. How to be inspiring? I think it has to do with a few things:

  • Openness. Be open to the day and the experiences it brings. Be open to the ideas of others – don’t feel threatened.
  • Positivity. Look to see the upside of everything you encounter. This means putting openness in action. Generally people come to you with an idea because they have been inspired or maybe they are worried about something. Both inspiration and worry are legitimate! A positive outlook recognizes this.
  • Calm. Maintaining calm inspires others because it gives them a feeling of security and peace. Without those two items, it is very difficult to be productive.

I wish you an open, positive and calm day!

Pleasures of public transit

I am taking public transit as a part of my wellness journey.

I am on a trip to Ottawa today, which meant an early morning wake-up at 4am to catch the early train. I took the GO Train at Aldershot Station with the other bleary-eyed riders to Union Station in Toronto. Then VIA Rail from Union to Ottawa.

I meditated for 10 minutes on the train and felt the fatigue from only sleeping 5 hours dimish. I understand that meditating reduces blood cortisol levels, but somehow I feel more awake after meditating, especially when tired. Odd.

In Hamiton, I have been taking public transit as much as possible. I have taken the bus to McMaster since I returned from my research leave. This is for three reasons:

  • Stress reduction. It reduces my stress levels significantly. Even if my bus ride is only 15 minutes, I can still do some light reading or just look out the window. Very peaceful when compared with driving.
  • Earth-friendly. It is environmentally much more sustainable. I have only filled up the gas tank in my SUV once in the last two weeks, instead of twice.
  • Cost savings. My parking spot at McMaster costs about $1200 (not including gas and wear), whereas transit will cost only about $800. I spend about $150 in gas to drive to Ottawa (not including wear), whereas I can get a return ticket for about $120-$150 if I take advantage of the Tuesday deals.

Personal discovery: Nutrition is a practice and requires planning

Proper nutrition is a practice, I am finding. And not necessarily one where the path is obvious. I am discovering that for me, proper nutrition requires a little research and planning coupled with mindful cooking and eating.

After paying the $50 or so annual membership to unlock the hidden features of myfitnesspal, I have been surprised to find out that what I thought – through rough estimation and intuition, mostly – to be a healthy diet, is lacking in certain areas.

So I started tinkering with myfitnesspal to see what a balanced, healthy day within my calorie limit might look like.

Along the way, I learned some interesting truths and realised some replacements might be in order. Go ahead and laugh at me if these were common knowledge to you:

  • Peanut butter is rich in micro-nutrients, but almond butter seems to have more.
  • Cereals are very deceptive in terms of nutritional content. Amazingly, spoon-size shredded wheat seems to be a winner, with high nutrients and low sugar. Kashi Go Lean Crunch is good too, but has a lot of sugar (and is a lot more expensive).
  • Chips, regardless of how expensive, organic, non-GMO or other attractive, virtuous labelling are truly empty calories.
  • Strawberries are very high in potassium
  • Kale, spinach, swiss chard and collard greens are very high in calcium
  • Beans and lentils are must-eats for iron, potassium, calcium and protein
  • Potatoes are kind of a wonder food: very high in potassium!
  • Bananas are very helpful, as are most fruits
  • Dates are nutrient-rich
  • Avocados are rich in potassium and other nutrients, but very high in fat.

My takeaways:

  • I will add almond butter to my pantry, and when I have two toasts, I may make one with peanut butter and the other with almond butter.
  • Time to cut chips and other “empty calories” out. Eat only what contributes to day.
  • Spoon-size shredded wheat appears to be a great breakfast cereal, when loaded with fruit and berries and eaten with oat milk.
  • Green leafy vegetables like kale and swiss chard need to be a bigger part of my life, as do potatoes
  • Bananas and dates are in. As are avocados, in limited quantities.

Since I have gotten serious about fitness and wellness, I am going to be more systematic about nutrition. Let’s see how this goes.

Remember, I am talking about research and observations for myself here. I am not making any recommendations to anyone except myself. Go do your own research, experiment and find out what works for you.

Harley Davidson motorcycles are awful

I rarely complain about the behaviour of others. My attitude is usually live and let live, knowing that everyone is carrying their own burden and that I probably do a lot of things that annoy people of which I am not aware.

There is one thing that I thought I would mention: the horrible, flatulent noise of Harley Davidson motorcycles and sports cars that have loud “sport-tuned” exhaust systems.

Don’t get me wrong. I love cars. I am a huge Formula 1 fan and I enjoy going to the Honda Indy almost every year. I also think motorcycles are cool and a fun, economical, environmentally-sustainable way to get around.

My problem is that Harleys and sports cars are tuned to annoy. They are tuned to make a spectacle of the driver and disturb the peace. I live on a beautiful driving and cycling road in Ancaster, Ontario, which means that lots of cyclists and motorists use the road. Hearing the horrible sound of a Harley or a sports coupé with sport-tuned exhaust is a great way of ruining a moment or breaking a train of thought.

Finally, to those who think these noisy vehicles are cool, I have to tell you that you’re part of the past not the future. To me, loud vehicles read “the past” or “dated” or “old guy” or maybe even “insecure.” They are also incredibly disrespectful of homeowners, shopkeepers and pedestrians.

My advice to these people: impress folks by spending a lot of money on a really beautiful Cervélo bicycle and learn to ride it well or an electric sports car or motorcycle.

Then you’ll be part of the future, not a noisy, irritating relic from the past.

A lovely day

I woke up early today (5:30) and made myself an americano and some spoon-size shredded wheat with blueberries and strawberries. Then meditated for 10 minutes and spent the morning working peacefully, writing and editing on the deck as nature woke up around me.

Then an easygoing 50 minute swim at the Ancaster Lions Pool, lunch at The V-Spot in Dundas (noodle salad with spiraled rainbow veggies and thai peanut lime dressing). A treat after – an ice cream from Purple Pony in Old Ancaster then some writing, dinner (tomato and onion on toast with vegenaise), then herbal tea, meditation, reading in bed and sleep by 10:30 (I hope).

I look forward to seeing what tomorrow will bring.

Sunlight in the morning

I am normally an early riser, but focusing on trying to calm to myself and sleep more has led to a couple of later days. Today I woke up at 6:30, much later than normal for me.

I did have a chance to make myself a sprouted grain toast (Ezekiel 4:9 Raisin), one with organic coconut oil (nutiva) and the other with organic peanut butter (President’s Choice). I also made myself an americano, which I drink black.

Then I did my favourite thing in the warm (and warmish) early mornings. I took the steaming coffee and toasts onto the deck and read a little (from a book today, but sometimes my kindle). It is such a lovely feeling to see the light change from the rich oranges, pinks and golds of early sunrise to the pastels of early morning.

Feeling the morning light on my skin just makes me feel alive.

Ok. Now time to get to work. Have a great day. 🙂