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Unleashing the Power of Unconventional Productivity: 7 Tips to Work Smarter, Not Harder

Published: November 1st, 2023

Photos & Words by Liz Craig

Unconventional productivity tips

Exploring a museum with Tim in Wasaga Beach.

Unconventional Productivity Tip 1: Don't write to do lists

Because forgetting is good for you! Forgetting is half of learning and memory retention so if you always rely on reminders, alarms, lists, you are doing your brain a disservice. Your brain has a built in filter of what is important and what's not. If you think of something you want to do on a whim, it may not actually be that fulfilling or important and if it haunts you on a list you've just lost out. I also find that when I put something I want to do on a to do list it loses about 10% of it's appeal and more so as it stays on the list. It is good to let yourself forget things because the things that stay top of mind are your true desires and important goals for yourself. This isn't to say I never write anything down, I just tend to put it in my calendar instead of on a list or as a draft email if it's something I need to send.

I like this quote from William Blake: “He who binds to himself a joy doth the winged life destroy. But he who kisses the joy as it flies lives in Eternity’s sunrise.”

Unconventional Productivity Tip 2: Don't be hasty

Especially with buying things. My husband Tim taught me this along with Treebeard from LOTR. It's good to sometimes let things simmer so that the filtering process can happen. What may seem super important and exciting one day can fade pretty quickly. Especially with buying something, I tend to just put it in a cart and then leave it there until either my desire builds or wanes. With tasks, sometimes it's not the right time yet and that time will become apparent as you let it sit. One day you may be super keen to get to it, or it will really fade and then you can just let it go without guilt.

Unconventional Productivity Tip 3: Follow your moment to moment desires & energy - but also play with denial

I recently have been listening to a podcast about the BDSM community so I'm thinking a lot about pleasure, pain, denial and building anticipation. I think this mindset can apply to a lot of areas of life. You can treat your energy levels, desires and needs with a sense of play and wonderment instead of dread and drudgery. See what language you need to uplift what you are doing, create a sense of anticipation, joy and excitement and work on expanding yourself instead of contracting. If you find yourself saying "I just need to get through this day/hour of work/these three things, etc. before I can relax/enjoy/chill, etc. then life contracts. If you say, wow I get to do so many wonderful things today and be with so many interesting people! I don't even know where my day will lead me - then life becomes super expansive and interesting.

Unconventional Productivity Tip 4: Don't have routines - listen to your body

Some people really live by their routine of always eating, sleeping, showering, exercising, etc. at the same time. Whenever I've tried to do that, I find myself always lacking somewhere and feeling disappointed. I read somewhere (and I'm paraphrasing) that enlightenment is eating when you are hungry, sleeping when you are tired, drinking when you are thirsty. I think that is really true for me. I like to go through my day paying attention to my body and what it needs without having a prescribed routine. Sometimes I feel like biking for 30 kms and other days I need more rest. Sometimes I get very hungry and eat a lot and other times I don't eat until 2 pm. It's all good. Also for female bodies, our cycle does make having a strict routine a bit difficult as our bodies really change through the month. I love observing this in myself and seeing how closely I can predict certain markers without an app telling me how far or close I am to the normal cycle. I am the normal cycle.

Unconventional Productivity Tip 5: Spend as little time "working" as possible

This is coming from The 4 Hour Workweek which was a life changing book for me by Tim Ferris when I read it about 10 years ago. I love the way he really tailors his life around what he loves and minimizes the necessary evils/admin etc. to as little as possible. I do this in various ways (see my September blog post about technology minimalism) and I think the key is focusing on what you do want to do and being really efficient with what you have to do to make that happen. Put limits on yourself like only checking email once a day or social media once a week (if you don't like social media or email). Tailor it to what you like and don't like. Pay real attention to how tasks turn you on and off, not what society tells you is fun or not fun. This will help maximize your time for your own joy and connection with others.

Haliburton sculpture forest rest as productivity

My photo of "Curled Figures" by Susan Low-Beer in the Haliburton sculpture forest.

Unconventional Productivity Tip 6: Travel & novelty are always worth it

I find that anytime I go somewhere new or have a new experience, it makes a subtle shift in my perspective that I am so grateful for. Travelling especially is really good for shaking up routines and really knocking things loose that aren't serving you.

Unconventional Productivity Tip 7: Re-framing is powerful

I find it so funny when my students say things like "We had to go hiking this weekend, so I didn't practice" or "We had to go to a resort over the holidays and there wasn't a piano there". From their perspective it was like they had to do this awful thing because their parents took them. Or maybe their parents thought they had to because everyone else was? It is funny what kids pick up on, however subtlety. I like to give them a little re-frame, you "get" to go hiking, you "get" to go to a resort, and that is wonderful. I'm really glad you didn't practice during your vacation. Then they lighten up considerably! A lot of students also say "next week will be better/less busy/etc." but it never is of course, because they are always living one week ahead of where they are. Now is everything, now is all we have.

Unconventional productivity tip from Winnipeg streets

Seen in Winnipeg on the streets.


These are a few of the unconventional producitivity tips that I've discovered over the years and found helpful - of course everyone is different and maybe none of this will work for you. I really enjoyed writing this for you gentle reader!




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