In honor of Father’s Day, I thought I’d share the best productivity advice I ever received, which came from my grandpa.
I was recovering from a traumatic brain injury five years ago when my grandpa called me to his apartment for a meeting. It was January, in the dead of winter.
My grandpa pointed to the pace of my life — non-stop, always doing, working, going — and told me that it wasn’t sustainable.
My grandpa advised me to “take my cues from nature.”
He implored me to look at how the bears “cuddle and snuggle” as they hibernate in the winter.
Let me pause here and explain that this was unusual language; my grandpa was a formal man, and quite reserved. This was a man who wore a jacket and tie to a 1-year-old’s birthday party. He was not a “bounce you on your knee” grandpa. Air kisses were the norm; hugs were rare.
“Cuddle and snuggle” was not typical language for him.
When someone speaks in a way that is out of their norm, you pay closer attention. It sticks with you.
At the time, I thought he was just talking about resting more. After all, it was winter, the season of rest. And I had been ordered to rest.
Over the next few years, it became clear to me that “take your cues from nature” was about more than rest.
To take your cues from nature means to live in alignment with the rhythm of the seasons.
The Rhythm of the Seasons
Nature follows a pattern of seasons, and each season has a specific energy.
These cyclical patterns apply to everything in nature. It is the creation cycle, the generative cycle, the cycle of the moon, the cycle of life, of a business, of a project, of an idea.
At any point in time, we are in a particular season of life. Each of our ideas, projects, relationships, and businesses are in a particular season. Social and political movements follow these cycles.
Everything, from the life of a child to the life of a business to the life of a tree, follows the sacred rhythms of the seasons.
Why This is Productivity Advice
Once we understand that everything follows the rhythms of nature, we can look more holistically at our work, both in the macro sense of a project’s life span and the micro sense of the energy we bring to it.
Living according to the laws of nature is about the art of timing, versus time management.
What makes a difficult task easier is often not a function of skill or practice but of leveraging timing.
Knowing where a project is in its lifespan helps us determine how much energy we need to invest in it, and when it’s time to release it.
Understanding our own rhythms helps us determine when to work on certain tasks.
Trusting in this timing can help us avoid beating ourselves when we don’t work on certain projects for a while.
When we align our efforts with the seasons of the year or the movement of the planets, we can harness the natural energy of the universe to supercharge our efforts.
Energy is Like Gravity
If this sounds too esoteric for you, I invite you to think of these rhythms and their energies like gravity: a force that pulls on you even though you can’t see it.
If we’re going to invest our energy into a project, a business, a relationship, an idea, or anything else, doesn’t it make sense to have gravity pulling with us instead of pushing against us?
Take your cues from nature.
It’s advice as old as time itself.
Once you apply it, it’s a game-changer.