In this productivity-savvy age, it seems like everyone knows several ways to make to-do lists, organize their e-mail, hold shorter meetings, and so on.
But despite all the organization and time management techniques out there, it appears many people still aren’t meeting their productivity goals. Notably, 95% of the people surveyed in a 2007 University of Calgary study reported that they regularly struggle with procrastination.
In coaching people in getting more done and staying motivated in their work, I’ve come to believe this is because most advice doesn’t address the biggest obstacle we face in our working lives: our own minds.
For example, perhaps our attention gets scattered while we’re working; we feel uninspired by our work; or we get distracted by the nagging anxiety that others will criticize our project.
What Is Inner Productivity?
I created this book to fill the gap in existing productivity advice. The book is packed with exercises you can use to cultivate what I call “inner productivity”—the ideal mental and emotional state for both getting the most done and finding the most enjoyment in what you do.
As I see it, this way of being has three basic elements: Attention, Intention, and Foundation.
When these elements are fully present while we’re working, we’re at our most efficient, and we produce our highest-quality work. In these moments, we don’t even feel like we’re “working,” as that word is usually used—we aren’t bored, stressed, or using a lot of energy.
Instead, our work starts to feel like the things we do for fun—we aren’t plagued by worry, we don’t feel like we’re making much effort, and we experience genuine passion for what we do.
It seems clear that we’re most efficient, and produce our best work, when our work has our full Attention. If our awareness keeps drifting away from what we’re doing, we’re unlikely to be at our most productive, no matter how well-organized our workspace is.
Most advice focuses on ways to remove distractions from our surroundings. For instance, some writers tell us to turn off our phones and close our e-mail when we’re working on an important task.
But no matter how many potential distractions we eliminate, we’re always stuck with the mind. If we don’t discipline our minds, they tend to wander off into the past or future—recycling painful memories, dreaming about our next vacation, and so on.
The Attention exercises in Inner Productivity focus on bringing your awareness into the present, and away from the past and future, quieting thoughts that pull your attention away from your tasks, and maintaining your focus even when confronted with intense emotions and sensations.
Among other things, staying conscious of your breathing, and training your attention on the sensations in your body, are great ways to keep your awareness rooted in the present and fixed on the task in front of you.
We’re at our most creative and productive when we have a clear, inspiring Intention around what we want to achieve in our work.
When we’re working just to survive, or simply because we feel we’ve “got to do something,” we won’t have the same efficiency, even if we’re really skilled at what we do. If you mop floors for a living, the fact that you can do a really immaculate job won’t sustain your motivation in the long run if you don’t feel inspired by mopping.
To many people, establishing a clear intention is about writing out an organized list of goals, and strategies for reaching them. This is helpful, but it’s not the full picture.
What many of us don’t see is that it’s equally essential to really feel the intention behind your work on a physical level—for example, to actually feel your desire to contribute to others with your writing as a warmth and openness in your heart.
In Inner Productivity, I discuss techniques from yoga and conscious breathing that can help you reconnect with that deeply felt desire to be of service.
We have what I call a solid inner Foundation when we recognize we are complete and worthwhile, no matter what mistakes or setbacks may come up in our work.
This attitude is foreign to many of us. For many of us, our sense of self-worth depends on our career success. If we don’t make a certain amount of money, get the right amount of praise, or achieve whatever else we define as success, we don’t feel good about ourselves.
In fact, many of us believe we wouldn’t be motivated to do anything at all if we saw ourselves as okay no matter what happened in our work—we’d probably just watch TV and wolf down chips for the rest of our lives. In fact, the opposite is true.
When our self-worth is riding on the results we get at work, the stakes feel so high that we constantly second-guess our work, make compromises to get others’ approval, and dread working so much that we find it easier to procrastinate. Letting go of that anxiety can bring us so much peace and focus.
Inner Productivity offers many exercises for cultivating a sense that you’re whole and adequate, no matter what challenges you face in your work situation. These exercises help you take a deep look into yourself and root out the limiting beliefs about yourself and your abilities that harm your efficiency and enjoyment in what you do.
What Others Have Said
“Chris Edgar has taken an exploratory dive into the procrastination pit and come up with a cogent explanation of this phenomenon as well as an elegant set of techniques to transcend it. It’s a great read and a useful guidebook for turning the daily grind into something much more interesting and engaging.”
– DAVID ALLEN, bestselling author of Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity
“Inner Productivity will show you how to clear your inner clutter and create a pathway to success!”
– MARSHALL GOLDSMITH, bestselling author of What Got You Here Won’t Get You There
“Real productivity doesn’t come from forced behaviors. Inner Productivity can help you connect with the inner state of being that can empower you to act in new ways, choose new perspectives and have a different experience. There is no greater productivity than connecting with your true self.”
– TAMA J. KIEVES, bestselling author of THIS TIME I DANCE!: Creating the Work You Love (How One Harvard Lawyer Left It All to Have It All)
“Inner Productivity is packed with practical examples of how to achieve greater results and peace of mind at work.”
– LAURA STACK, bestselling author of Leave the Office Earlier: The Productivity Pro Shows You How to Do More in Less Time . . . and Feel Great About It
“A wonderful guide for organizing both your physical and your head space.”
– PETER WALSH, bestselling author of Enough Already!: Clearing Mental Clutter to Become the Best You
“If you have tried many time management and productivity books, and they haven’t worked for you; or if, like me, you find their ‘beat yourself up’ approach repellent, then I think this is the book for you.”
– EVAN HADKINS, author of Living Authentically