I’ve been reading a lot about productivity lately. I spent the winter beating myself up about not getting through as much as I wanted to personally and professionally, all while being exhausted from the demands of my professional life plus generalized winter lethargy. Once I recognized the self-flagellation, I took to the internet. If I want to be more productive, maybe I should not try to reinvent the wheel. The internet did not disappoint. There are so many articles and apps and tests and planners and blogposts and studies to send you on your way to being your most productive self. Great! Except in reading and trying and testing a plethora of suggestions, I discovered that the framework in which people discuss productivity isn’t quite right.

All of these posts and things – while definitely helpful – treat productivity as an on/off switch. As a lawyer who is also trying to write a book and get back into running, I kept trying to fit myself round-peg self into this square hole. It wasn’t working.

What was missing? For me, the idea of productivity isn’t just about having my best work times, it also has to incorporate my best exercise times and my best creative times, all while not forgetting the increasingly important rest times.

So I started experimenting, using the tools found through all that research and testing. I looked at my project list and decided on two non-work projects. I struggle with over committing and then feeling like a failure when so many things are left undone. So I have 1. Work, 2. My book, and 3. Running (not jogging) a 5k. I could handle that. The rest of my projects are in a list, waiting for the right time (if ever) for them to get done.

Then I started experimenting with when I work on these projects and how long per session and what order I would tackle them. After shuffling these things around (a lot), I’ve hit on a combo that works for me for now. I’ve found that my productivity for exercise comes at a different time than my productivity for my book which comes at a different time than my productivity for work. On top of that, I know that if I skip the exercise part, the other two suffer, and same with skipping work or book. They all need each together to keep me working at a pace and with a focus that makes sense for me.

This isn’t to say that it’s perfect or that it won’t change. My brain is notorious for fucking up a routine because it really doesn’t like them. But I do know now that I can’t treat working on my projects, my profession, or my goals as productive or not productive. They are too intertwined to parse out and flip on or off my productivity switch.

What do you do when it feels like pulling teeth to get anything done?

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