Natural Productivity

Aligning drive with nature

I was jogging down one of the slight slopes we have in my neighborhood on a 40 degrees F morning. It took me unearthly willpower to do it. I was also feeling guilty, because I didn't check on my daughter in the morning to see if she would be hungry. I had about fifteen minutes. If I was going to pull off the rest of my day, I just couldn't afford to check on her and derail that time.

As I curved along the back road of small homes, I could see mountains. I decided to stretch myself a little longer. As I was coming up the driveway, I felt amazing. Both from the endorphins of exercise and also from the anticipated checking off of my habit tracker.

I see my mother at the doorway. She was visiting from out of town, trying to fulfill her grandparent obligations. She seemed upset. I wasn't going to spend the time to figure out what was going on. I needed to keep moving to feel proud about my schedule and pull off the day. But of course it's gnawing at me.

Me: What's the problem? 

Her: Your daughter needed you and you weren't here.

I saw my daughter awake. She was guzzling a cup of milk. I felt a little punch in my stomach.

I sped to work. My day went extremely well. Maybe I got lucky. Maybe I was strong enough to ignore the judgment earlier that I am a bad mother from my own mother. Or maybe it was the exercise!

I started to exercise more in relation to how the weather tracked. Instead of scheduling in that I would do it at certain times, I left certain time blocks open and depending on the weather, I would go do it. That weather didn't need to be sunny. It just had to be manageable.

I then extrapolated that out to many of my tasks. Similar to Daniel Pink's concept of a chronotype, I wondered if there were certain states that I could align myself into doing things better depending on the weather and the season.

Natural productivity

I enjoy seasons in all of its variations around the world. The seasonal cycle is a natural one that we can tap into in order to provide more alignment with our bodies, mind, and the environment.

You may hear that there is a strong cause and effect relationship with your mood and the seasons. This is empirically untrue [1]. In fact, researchers have found that there is no difference in people's extraversion, openness, agreeableness and conscientiousness depending on the season.

But let's step away from the science for a bit. I'm not an expert in these more existential-connection-with-earth modes, but it has been ultra fascinating in terms of my own productivity journey. The beauty of aligning with the seasons is that you are not burdened with deciding how to balance out the day - nature does it for you!

Winter

Winter is a season that some people think about resting and recharging. Depending on where you live, it can be so cold that you go numb in terms of planning and execution. I have tried to shift more deep work focus into the deepest winter months. Daylight is a rare sight. Something about working inside in a bright setting relative to the outside increases my focus, comprehension, and ultimately sets me up for retention. The sun is so distracting!

Spring

A huge season of growth and opportunity. I survived the harsh (and beautiful) winter. After intense focused work that probably wasn't all that fun a lot of the time, I am going to utilize the change in atmosphere to do more creative work. I also find a sense of optimism, coming out of the darkness, and into life.

Summer

I stop doing any real, meaningful work during this season. It is time to have a lot more physical activity. Every day of summer is planned and more intense, because there are more opportunities to be challenged by the outdoors. Because everyday is planned, and I am really trying hard to get myself and the kids out, the sense of time is augmented. This leads to both time abundance and time affluence.

Autumn

The idea of harvesting and slowing down takes over. The intense physicality in the summer is now moderated into literal harvest. Because this is a transitional season, it has some of the optimistic energy similar to spring. It is a time to be creative again.

I saw another beautiful morning where I was determined to go for a jog in a jam packed day. My mother is blocking the door. I touched her shoulder. I told her that even though it looks like I am abandoning my responsibilities, I am doing a service to my entire family by taking care of myself. I didn't register her response. I was already out the driveway onto the mountains.

Notes

  1. This statement does not challenge the diagnosis of seasonal affect disorder, which is a clinical condition that affects a portion of the population.

A different take?

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