A few years ago, I struggled to get 5 minutes to myself. Now, I have consistent daily fitness, meditation, and writing practices, thanks to these practices. Any one of them will boost your productivity.
I previously wrote about why we often miss the opportunities that are right in front of us. When we block ourselves from seeing what’s in front of us, we miss the crucial moments that give life meaning.
How can you dramatically improve your ability to see opportunities that lay in the distance, to connect the dots, and have those incredible aha moments that lead to meaning and purpose?
The secret is in creating space.
When we create space to notice what’s around us, opportunities pop out of the woodwork. That’s not all: one of the unexpected consequences of my practice of creating space has been a huge boost to my productivity.
I’m not talking about just raw numbers. Productivity, in my book, is about producing something with meaning and purpose. That is far more important than word count. But if your definition of productivity is all about the bottom line, then, yes, creating space can help you ramp up your productivity. Several years ago, I struggled to write consistently. Over the past 2 years, I’ve written over 1 million words a year. (Publishing is a different story, which is why I’m probably the most prolific writer you’ve never heard of.)
Here are five ways you can create space for opportunity and wisdom, and boost your productivity.
(1) Pare down the volume of information you consume
Discriminate in what you consume. You know that junk food is bad for you; eating too many greens is also not healthy. Cut down the number of books, articles, podcasts, and courses by at least half. Yes, at least half. This will force you to be selective.
This is brutally difficult for many people — especially high achieving intellectuals. Cutting out books and sources of learning triggers fear of missing out and fear of lacking stimulus to keep your well of ideas flowing. In another article, I’ll share how cutting out most external stimuli gave me more ideas. For now, try it as an experiment.
(2) Spend more time on each stimulus
Spend more time with the books, podcasts, and articles that remain in your queue. Fully engage with them. Take notes as you read or listen, then synthesize the information. Information becomes knowledge only when it’s embodied. You must do something with it beyond taking notes. Convert it to knowledge by teaching it to someone else. This will help you integrate the lessons you’ve learned and truly absorb it.
Information is meaningless without more.
It’s the integration, not the information, that opens you up to the opportunities and lessons right in front of you.
(3) Take a pause before you jump online
In the wake of a big news event, emotional incident, or anything else that has you rushing to post online, take a pause first. Sit with your feelings. Explore your thoughts and emotions. Investigate and get curious about what’s going on inside you before you jump online to post your reactions. Maybe you’ll find you don’t really need to post that comment.
(4) Spend time in silence each day
I am using silence in a broad sense here: not only to mean audio silence, but also visual silence. Formal meditation practice is certainly great, but that’s practice for what comes up in your day. I’ve written previously about how I designated Whole Foods as my no-phone zone. While I wait in line, I silence my music and do not look at my phone. Instead, I listen to and observe what’s happening around me.
I offer you the same challenge I give my clients: pick one place where you would typically pull out your phone and declare it a no-screen zone. (Ideally someplace you go often, or it’s not much of a challenge.) It could be the subway, your kids’ soccer practice, or the market. Spend the waiting time…waiting.
Allow yourself to be bored. Sit and listen to the sounds around you. Observe what’s happening around you and within you.
Notice what you notice.
(5) Take walks, ideally in nature
Studies show that walks in nature boost your mood, clear your mind and open your perspective more than just a walk down the block. I live in New York City, but I try to at least walk through a park once a day. At the very least, find a place to walk — even if it’s on a treadmill. It will help you clear your mind and open you to what’s in front of you.
Wisdom Surrounds Us. It’s For Us to Notice
Life’s wisdom is presented to us every day, ready for the taking. But too often we miss it because we are looking somewhere else.
Slowing down and acting with intention helps us become present to our experience. When you are present to what is in front of you, open to learning, willing to pause, and willing to stay with what’s there, you will hear and see the wisdom that is trying to reach you.
That will pave the way for a boost in your productivity: creating a life of meaning and purpose.
Give it a try, and let me know: how are you making space to hear the still, small voice of wisdom?