Personal Growth

Pouring From a Full Cup: Mindful Ways to Increase Our Productivity


According to motivational speaker Tony Robbins, productivity is, “...getting the results you want with less time and effort. When you’re trying to understand how to be productive, what you’re really seeking is a way to achieve your goals while having time to spend on what matters.”

Robbins further explains, “In an economic context, productivity is how to measure the output that comes from units of input. Farming makes for a good example: One acre of land that produces 10 pumpkins? That’s not very productive. But one acre of land that produces 2,000 pumpkins? That’s a much better return on your pumpkin planting.” 

How Can You Manage Your Life so that You Produce the What, How, and When You Desire? 

Our society is driven by productivity--even in these uncertain times. In so many areas of our lives we are asked to make something: make something people can buy, make something people can use, make something of yourself! This cycle of perpetual production pushes us onto the next thing, next place, next episode, next job, or idea.

The capitalist system we participate in is driven by productivity, which too often feels like a hamster wheel of endless work. We are motivated by that-which-comes-next. In school, we produce completed assignments to earn grades. In corporate positions, we entice eager clients to produce sales goals. In every facet, we produce things. And we want to produce these things well. 

But what is the by-product of all this striving? We produce stress. We produce waste. And we produce producers. What about our lives as human beings? Within the world of endless production, can we also find value in simply being

In this striving for production, we may find ourselves with blisters on our feet and busted knees from running on the “hedonic treadmill.” According to Psychology Today, “The hedonic treadmill is a metaphor for the idea that an individual's level of happiness tends to return to where it started—a “set point”—regardless of good fortune or negative life events the person experiences.” We think falling in love, getting a promotion, taking a big trip, or winning the lottery will lead to sustained happiness. We also tend to think that losing a job or a loved one will keep us depressed forever.

The truth is, we are usually happy for a little while and we are sad for a little while and then we adjust back to our baseline. We adapt. Is it possible, then, to hop off the treadmill and onto some grounded footing? Could we practice productivity tactics that allow us to sustain our well-being? What if we produce people who are satisfied and stable? 

Although well-being should be our goal, the truth is we are rewarded for our productivity in this society. Since we are creatures motivated by positive rewards, we can easily get stuck spinning our wheels on the aforementioned hedonic treadmill, always searching for what comes next, never satisfied with where we are or what we’ve got. 

That being said, there are some “products” more worthy of our pursuit. Ending racism, ending sexism, ending homophobia, ending climate destruction, working for justice, safety, and nourishment for all; these are worthy goals!

Our collective, productive effort towards these goals would produce an equitable society. We could work together to ensure safe working conditions, living wages, safe access to health care, reproductive justice, access to education for women and girls, and sustainable food production practices that protect the earth and people. Our productivity could shift towards becoming parents who produce empathetic children. Let’s be teachers who produce collaborative leaders. Let’s be leaders who produce a just society. Let’s put people over profits, even in the most production-driven industries. 

Whatever you choose to produce, be it a creative project, a technological innovation, a cohesive team, food on a farm, or your own well-rounded life, these tips for improving productivity will help you on your way. 

Choose a Worthy Goal (and Work Steadily Toward It)

Take a closer look at your life. Consider in which areas you can be more efficient and productive. Are you interested in improving productivity at work? How can you make better use of your time at home? Or are you most focused on making meaningful progress towards your life goals? Allow your passions and core desired feelings to drive your goal-setting. Make sure to ask yourself these important questions: Do you care about this product? Is it helping people? Are your efforts contributing to a better world? 

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Or choose a few goals that are interrelated. Consider the following examples of specific goals as inspiration:

  • Big Goal: I would like to earn more money at work so I can afford to remodel the kitchen at home.
  • Big Goal: I would like to up my running game so that I can participate in my local Girls on the Run 5K race.
  • Big Goal: I would like to remove the grass in my backyard to prepare the soil for an organic garden to grow tomatoes and basil at home.
  • Big Goal: I would like to get involved with my local chapter of Black Lives Matter so that I can be a productive contributor to ending racism. 

Then, Create Smaller, Incremental Goals

What actually needs to be done to bring your bigger goal to fruition? Break each large goal into manageable day-to-day tasks that can be completed in a timely manner. Keep meaningful lists. You will certainly feel more productive if you are able to get one thing done on your way to your goal rather than feel unproductive because you haven’t yet achieved the big dream. Crossing things off your list can be rewarding and motivating! Continuing with the previous examples, here are some smaller goals needed to achieve the grander ones:

  • Big Goal: I would like to earn more money at work so I can afford to remodel the kitchen at home.
    • Smaller Goal: Create a budget to see how much a remodel would truly cost.
    • Smaller Goal: Discuss a raise at work.
    • Smaller Goal: Take that assertiveness training I’ve been meaning to take to feel confident to discuss that raise with my supervisor.
  • Big Goal: I would like to up my running game so that I can participate in my local Girls on the Run 5K race. 
    • Smaller Goal: Start running twice a week if I’m going to participate in a 5K.
    • Smaller Goal: Schedule time in my calendar for my twice-weekly runs. 
    • Smaller Goal: Purchase new running shoes for my new running goals.
    • Smaller Goal: Sign up for the Girls on the Run race. 
  • Big Goal: I would like to remove the grass in my backyard to prepare the soil for an organic garden at home.
    • Smaller Goal: Decide what plants, flowers, herbs, or vegetables I would like to grow in my garden.
    • Smaller Goal: Research what grows well in my local area and during this particular season.
    • Smaller Goal: Research grass removal.
    • Smaller Goal: Schedule grass removal.
    • Smaller Goal: Pick a day to start digging and planting. 
  • Big Goal: I would like to get involved with my local chapter of Black Lives Matter so that I can be a productive contributor to ending racism.
    • Smaller Goal: Research the goals of #BLM and what skills you may have to contribute to the efforts.
    • Smaller Goal: Find out if there is, in fact, a local chapter of #BLM and if there are any upcoming events.
    • Smaller Goal: Schedule time in your calendar to attend a meeting or event. 

Accept and Appreciate “Failure”&nbsp;

What can you learn from your missteps? Creativity and innovation are driven by experimentation and with experimentation comes certain stumbles. You are bound to mess up, feel ready to quit, or need a course correction. This is all part of the process. Citing Brene Brown, writer Howard Tullman says, “fI you take the time and have the patience to learn from your failures, then they aren’t failures any longer—they’re lessons … and once you’ve gone through the wringer, and learned your lessons—good and bad—it’s highly likely that you’re a better bet for the next time around. Not a sure thing— but a decent bet.” Also, flubs are good opportunities to check in


with your interest along the way. Are you still inspired to produce this thing? Does your goal need to be adjusted? 

Reward Yourself Along the Way

You may find your productivity lagging during the process, but celebrating milestones and small wins can help maintain momentum when working toward a big goal. Give yourself breaks, give yourself chocolate, rest, and restore ... and then get back to it. Attending to yourself first is an essential aspect of production. As they say, you cannot pour from an empty cup. Ensure that you get enough sleep, eat nourishing food to fuel your brain and your body, and enjoy recreational activities that help you feel grounded and relaxed. Studies show that taking breaks, in fact, makes you more productive than if you work endlessly. 

We have the tools to improve our productivity! Choose a worthy goal, choose a specific goal, create smaller, incremental goals, accept and appreciate failure, and reward yourself along the way. Stay the course. Make the world a better place by taking care of yourself. Create innovative and inclusive products as well as means of production. And make sure to take some well-earned breaks along the way. 

Learn how to use meditation to nourish your entire being—body, mind, and spirit— with Deepak Chopra and Roger Gabriel in our Primordial Sound Meditation Online Course. Learn More.