5 ways that being kind to yourself is more productive than pushing yourself

OK, so you’re not as productive as you would like to be. But you know what you need to do. It’s just that you don’t do it. The answer is to get more willpower, to push yourself harder. Right?

Except that it’s not.

Because research shows that willpower fails us about 50% of the time.

And pushing yourself harder doesn’t actually mean you get more done.

Did you get that?


Pushing yourself harder doesn't mean you get more done.

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The good news is that there’s a better way. I call it “self-compassionate productivity”.

Here are five ways that exercising some self-compassion and going easy on yourself is actually more productive than pushing yourself harder:

1. Taking breaks is more productive than working right through

From the inside, it feels like you will get more done if you don’t take small breaks, work through your lunch break, and keep on sticking it out. But what feels productive and what is productive are two different things. In one workplace study, the most productive people in the workplace were those who spent 17 minutes away from their desks taking breaks for every 52 minutes they spent working. (Do the numbers: that adds up to about 25% of their time!)

Dr. Travis Bradberry says of this study:

"For roughly an hour at a time, they were 100% dedicated to the task they needed to accomplish. ... When they felt fatigue (again, after about an hour), they took short breaks, during which they completely separated themselves from their work. This helped them to dive back in refreshed for another productive hour of work."

2. Getting a full night’s sleep is more productive than working late (or early)

While burning the candle at both ends is tempting to help you get through things, sacrificing sleep is also sacrificing your productivity tomorrow (and potentially for the next few days).

As Arianna Huffington says: “We think, mistakenly, that success is the result of the amount of time we put in at work, instead of the quality of time we put in.” But in fact, the quality of time is what counts the most.

When you get a full night’s sleep, you get a significant boost to your creativity, problem-solving skills, memory retention, information-processing abilities, self-control, and ability to focus. What does all this add up to? Getting more done in less time. (And having more time and attention left over to enjoy the good things in life!)

3. Focusing on just one thing at a time is more productive than multitasking

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It is actually literally impossible for your brain to focus on more than one thing at a time. That means that when we think we’re multitasking, we are actually just switching our attention between different things very, very quickly.

What’s the problem with that? Well, switching your attention all the time is exhausting!

4. Establishing small habits can lead to bigger changes than trying to make big changes all at once

Your brain actually doesn’t like change very much. It has a tendency to freak out when you try to introduce big changes. But research shows that making a small, so-easy-you-can’t-fail change to your habits can have a domino effect, and makes it easier and easier to gradually introduce bigger changes.

Think really small, like making your bed each morning, or walking around the block every day.

5. Allowing your mind to wander leads to more creative insights than staying on-task all the time

Your brain has its most creative insights when you’re not focusing. This means that if you’re not taking breaks regularly (see point 1), you are missing out on potential creative solutions to any problems you’re slugging away at. (Yes, this is why you have many of your best ideas in the shower!)

So there you have it! Five ways that being kind to yourself is more productive than pushing yourself harder.

What change will you make to be kinder to yourself on a day-to-day basis?

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