Do Nothing to Become More Productive

By K Stone

February 15, 2008   •   Fact checked by Dumb Little Man

Productivity Steps

Productivity systems, if properly implemented, give us the opportunity not only to do more but to do it with more intelligence. Projects become manageable, goals are attainable, and our larger life purpose and vision are places we live from, not places we fantasize about. However, if used incorrectly, productivity systems also present a danger in terms of becoming unbalanced, or skewed, towards constant doing and busyness.

How can we make sure that our productivity remains in the service of our larger purpose, rather then becoming yet another distraction that clouds the mind and drains our vital energy?

Just Being

With all this focus on doing, on being productive, I often find it useful to remind myself that it’s great to also spend time just being. Being is a state of non-doing, of non-striving, one where we can be attentive to the body and mind and focus only on present-tense experience. Another word for this process is meditation. There are many ways one can learn to meditate, but here are some good recommendations to get started:

    • Check out Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now. It’s an extremely popular book, the reason being because he has some great down-to-earth suggestions on the power of being.
    • If you’ve ever found yourself thinking that you are probably half-Buddhist (maybe in a past life?) you may find Mindfullness in Plain English a good primer for learning the Buddhist form of mindfulness meditation.
    • If you find yourself leaning toward the Christian tradition, then check out Father Thomas Keating (a gnarly old Benedictine monk) and his teachings on Centering Prayer a Christian form of meditation.
  • Finally, if you really don’t like to leave the comfort of your computer (hey, who does?) you might enjoy listening to some binaural beats. Binaural beats use slightly different tones in each ear to actually induce a slight change in the listener’s brainwaves. In other words, they help you get into some of the same states that meditation provides! Holosync and Hemi-sync both provide high quality binaural beat technology.

The value of meditation, or of being, is that it provides a true rest from the constant busyness of life, and the sometimes overwhelming demands of the modern world. Personally, I have used the practice of Buddhist insight meditation to be extremely helpful in this regard, and find that developing a calm, clear mind allows me to balance out all of the action I end up taking.

Listen to the Gurus

In the pursuit of learning, every day something is acquired.

In the pursuit of Tao, every day something is dropped.

Less and less is done

Until non-action is achieved.

When nothing is done, nothing is left done.

The world is ruled by letting things take their course.

It cannot be ruled by interfering.

– The Tao Te Ching, forty eight

Mark Hurst, author of Bit Literacy, talks about productivity in terms of attaining an “emptiness of bits”, and the GTD master David Allen speaks of a “mind like water”. Both of them are referring to the fact that the more organized and clear one is about what one is doing and how, the easier it is to let things go when they arise in the mind. In that way productivity can actually be a great support for relaxing into a more meditative state of mind. Likewise a clear and focused mind will be helpful in staying on point with one’s personal efficiency.

What the gurus of both productivity and meditation know, is that when one has truly mastered doing, but can also relax into just being, there can be an ebb-and-flow between these states that makes both more enjoyable and enriching. Listen to the productivity gurus and work on mastering the core aspects of productivity, but also spend some time listening to the inner guru and learn to enjoy the simple feeling of being.

Written by Vincent Horn of Numinous Nonsense and one of the most popular Buddhist podcasts on the web, Buddhist Geeks.

K Stone

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