Long-Term Productivity Means Looking After Yourself

Many of us place a lot of importance on being productive. We want to achieve our goals, succeed in our ambitions, and accomplish something worthwhile. That’s all great … but sometimes it  can go too far.

Have you ever pushed yourself too much, only to end up producing poorer quality work … or worse, getting sick or ending up just plain miserable?

To be truly productive over the long-term, you need to take care of yourself. In his bestselling self-help book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey distinguishes between our actual “production” and our “production capability”, explaining that we need to pay attention to the latter in order to continue to have the former.

So how can you take care of your ability to keep on working towards your goals?

Take Regular Breaks

Working for too long without a break will sap your concentration levels and leave you feeling exhausted. When you’re truly focusing hard on a difficult task, you may find that you can only work effectively for 30 – 45 minutes before you need a break.

Learn to distinguish between the times when you’re unfocused and distracted – and the times when your mind and body are demanding a rest. If you’ve been working for a while and you find yourself struggling to maintain concentration, that’s often a signal that you need to stop and take a complete break.

As well as taking mini breaks throughout the day, make sure you’ve scheduled in time to rest each week. Many of us have jobs and other commitments which eat into our weekends – but try to have at least one weekend day when you simply relax and recharge. You’ll really see the difference in your commitment and focus levels on Monday…

Find Sources of Energy

What energizes you and gets you motivated? Much of my life involves writing, and sometimes this is hard and draining: I find that talking to writer friends and being part of an academic creative writing course helps me to keep up my energy.

We all draw inspiration from different places, but here are some things you might want to consider:

  • Finding like-minded friends – people working towards a similar goal. That might mean joining a weight loss club, going to an evening class, or finding an internet forum to be a part of.
  • Creative activity – perhaps drawing, painting, knitting, writing, cooking… anything which you enjoy doing purely for the fun of it!
  • Relaxing times – a long bath, journaling, being outside in nature, sitting in silence for twenty minutes, meditating … whatever helps you to switch off.
  • Reading inspirational material – you might have favorite blogs, or particular authors which you enjoy. Biographies of people you admire can often be inspiring.
  • Favorite television shows or novels – TV gets a bad press from productivity writers, but watching something you truly love can be a great way to recharge your batteries. Reading a gripping novel can be even more engrossing.

Watch the Energy-Drains

As well as having people, activities and resources which help us to recharge our batteries, we also have factors in our life which drain our energy.

Sometimes, other people can really sap our strength. Perhaps it’s a colleague who you can never get along with, or a family member who’s always moaning or grouching about something. It could be a child who’s acting up, or a partner who never seems content.

You can’t always get rid of people (and in many cases you wouldn’t want to!) but you can be aware of who drains your enthusiasm. You may want to limit the time that you spend with them, or at least avoid prolonged contact with them during a pressured week.
If you’re an introvert like me, even being around a group of friends is draining after a while. Don’t feel bad about having some time alone – the extroverts of the world may not totally understand, but most people will respect your need for some quiet.

As well as people, certain activities may drain your energy. Perhaps you loath doing your taxes and find it a huge chore, or maybe you can’t face focusing on your small business when you’ve spent a morning doing housework. Look for ways to delegate any dreaded activities, or to cut down the time you spend on them.


Are you taking good care of yourself? How can you boost your energy this week?

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Erin shows overscheduled, overwhelmed women how to do less so that they can achieve more. Traditional productivity books—written by men—barely touch the tangle of cultural pressures that women feel when facing down a to-do list. How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.

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