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Productivity hacks that help you embrace doing less

And a softness came from the starlight

You know those days when you're just not feeling it? When you're really not in the flow and everything feels like an up hill battle?

Back in my in my corporate past life those are the days where I would have upped my coffee intake and pushed against the drag, hoping that regular caffeine spikes would pump up my motivation and output.

These days I have more respect for the innate ebbs and flows that come with our natural energetic cycle, and the ongoing transition of yin to yang and back again. When I'm really feeling the call to do less, I try to pay attention and give myself honour that guidance. The operative word here being ‘try’, because honestly, let’s face it, that is SOOO MUCH easier said than done. When you're running your own business or working in a busy job with clients and deadlines most of the time it's not going to be feasible to completely surrender your to do list.

Bills need to be paid. Commitments need to be honoured. Deadlines need to be met. Team members need to be supported. Kids need to be kept alive.

But giving yourself permission to flow with your cycle of yin energy doesn’t have to look like packing it all in and lying on the couch all day.

This year, with all the physical, emotional and circumstantial changes that have been rolling through my life the yearning for more softness, to explore a more feminine way of doing things, has been intense, powerful and irrepressible.

In yoga we talk about sthira and sukah - sthira being the strength, effort and power you bring to your practice, and sukah being the opposite, but equally important softness, ease and surrender. It’s often associated with masculine and feminine energies, or yang and yin.

In any given pose there should be elements of both sthira and sukah, meaning there is a balance of strength and softness. Some poses are very predominantly focused on embodying sthira - your warrior poses are strong, grounded and powerful. And we, as practitioners and as teachers, sometimes forget that there should also be softness and ease within any warrior; softening of the jaw, the small muscles around the eyes, shoulder blades melting down the back. It's these points of softness that really allow the full strength of the pose to be embodied where it should be - strong legs, energy extending up the arms to the finger tips etc.

The word ‘yoga’ literally means ‘unity’ - unity of body and mind, breath and movement, effort and ease, strength and softness. Too much sthira can lead you into struggle - over effort, an imbalance of that powerful energy without the tempering of softness. Finding small ways to introduce more sukah to a pose can make a huge difference to the overall experience and sense of ease within your practice.

Similarly, when you embrace small, loving actions that introduce more ease into your day and reduce the extraneous effort we so often throw into things you can embrace the calling to be softer, to do less, while still ticking off the 'must dos' on your agenda.

How? Here are a few tips and techniques you might like to try.

Make a list

Often, the hardest part can simply be getting started. Overwhelm throws a nice little party in your head when you feel like you've got heaps to do, but you're not feeling the right energy to jump straight in. Get rid of overwhelm’s ammo and write it all down, everything buzzing away in your head that you feel like you 'should' do, make a list and put it all there on paper.

Next, put some timelines and deadlines against each item to give you a really clear sense of what you actually have to do and by when.

Going back through your list put an estimated time next to each item to indicate how long you expect it to take you. Give yourself a good amount of buffer time - remember you're looking for more ease and softness, not hard-ass hustle to charge through everything on there.

Once you know what you REALLY need to do that day, then I like to take a different coloured pen and put a number next to each item. Prioritise the exact order you're going to do things in. I usually start with a 'quick win' something nice and easy that you can get done and cross off pretty quickly. (It gives you a nice little boost and a sense of achievement when you start crossing things off the list!)

Take regular breaks

Get outside. Take some deep breaths. Stop for a cup of tea more regularly than you usually would. Give yourself some regular down time without laying on the guilts.

I like to work for 25 minutes then walk away for 5.

I make tea, give Lulu a cuddle, sit out on the balcony or do a little lounge room stretching. That regular off screen time makes it so much easier to feel ok about sitting back down again for the next 25 minute block.

Remove your procrastination tools

Get rid of anything non-essential that's going to tempt you into distraction.

Shut down your email.

Put your phone on silent and hide it in a different room.

Turn off your social media - or better yet, remove the apps from your phone and block yourself from accessing them on your computer. There are nifty little websites that will enforce the ‘time out’ if you’re worried you might not have the self control to keep it up. Try Self Control for Mac users and Cold Turkey for PC.

Removing the temptation to 'just quickly' jump on social media also helps to reduce overwhelm induced by comparison and contrast. You know when you're scrolling through Instagram looking at all the pictures of people's glamorous lives (so they seem) and the comparisons start to flow like honey, sticking you down in a quagmire of 'shoulds' - I should be doing this or that, I should be further ahead than where I am, I should be doing more, going further, working harder - which really doesn't align with a softer, yin energy. So take it right out of the picture!

Finding a balance between the reality of necessary ‘to-dos’ and allowing yourself to embrace whatever your energetic state is calling for can be a juggling act. I’m pretty good at recognising the waves of my yin and yang, and I’m working on continually honouring that flow through small steps in the right direction, and by continually signing my own permission slip to embrace more sukha in my day-to-day.

Do you have any tips for bringing softness into your day? How do you honour the need to slow down while balancing a busy life?


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