Community//

Productivity systems are like diets and they fail for the same reasons

The way you eat and how you spend your time are weirdly related.

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I know because I’ve done a lot of both. In pounds, I got all the way to 350. In productivity – no scale to measure – but 95% of my time was spent on things I didn’t like or didn’t care about. And I’ve tried everything under the sun to solve both of these issues.

Nothing changed. Not really. Not permanently. Not until I changed a couple of other data points. My deservability. My selfloveness. [I know both words are underlined because they don’t exist, but maybe they should.]

For years, my life was organized around avoiding my feelings. My sadness. My anger. My loneliness. Things from my past. Things that happened when I was unequipped to deal with them. So, I stuffed my mouth with unhealthy foods and my calendar with activities that brought me no joy.

I can’t say that I was officially choosing to fill myself and my life with bad content, but I wasn’t deliberate about what I was letting in. And that created consequences. Not the least of which was a body I felt super uncomfortable in and a life that didn’t feel like my own.

A few events led me to explore other practices. The birth of my child was a big one. I remember holding her for the first time and deliberately making the decision to take care of myself a whole new way now that I had a whole new reason. A journey of a thousand steps. Or a million.

Well-engrained habits protect us from feeling difficult feelings. But at some point, holding on to the old way costs more than trying new ones. So, I set out to question everything I was doing. What I was eating and how I was spending my time.

People often ask how long it takes to change a habit. It reminds me of washing dishes. You use soap, it suds, and you run fresh water to rinse it. How long does it take to remove all soap? It depends on the kind and amount of soap you used. Or the temperature of the water and how dirty the plate was to begin with.

The answer is: as long as it takes. There is no point in measuring in length of time. It only matters that we stay on task. For diets and for productivity systems, what makes the biggest difference in their success is not what kind we use but how willing we are to stay with it and explore, and try, and try some more, and make a dent, and celebrate, and fail a little, and recommit, and try some more. And fall again. And pick ourselves up. And try as if it was our first. And not quit.

Nothing changed. Not really. Not permanently. Not until I changed a couple of other data points. My deservability. My selfloveness. [I know both words are underlined because they don’t exist, but maybe they should.]

For years, my life was organized around avoiding my feelings. My sadness. My anger. My loneliness. Things from my past. Things that happened when I was unequipped to deal with them. So, I stuffed my mouth with unhealthy foods and my calendar with activities that brought me no joy.

I can’t say that I was officially choosing to fill myself and my life with bad content, but I wasn’t deliberate about what I was letting in. And that created consequences. Not the least of which was a body I felt super uncomfortable in and a life that didn’t feel like my own.

A few events led me to explore other practices. The birth of my child was a big one. I remember holding her for the first time and deliberately making the decision to take care of myself a whole new way now that I had a whole new reason. A journey of a thousand steps. Or a million.

Well-engrained habits protect us from feeling difficult feelings. But at some point, holding on to the old way costs more than trying new ones. So, I set out to question everything I was doing. What I was eating and how I was spending my time.

People often ask how long it takes to change a habit. It reminds me of washing dishes. You use soap, it suds, and you run fresh water to rinse it. How long does it take to remove all soap? It depends on the kind and amount of soap you used. Or the temperature of the water and how dirty the plate was to begin with.

The answer is: as long as it takes. There is no point in measuring in length of time. It only matters that we stay on task. For diets and for productivity systems, what makes the biggest difference in their success is not what kind we use but how willing we are to stay with it and explore, and try, and try some more, and make a dent, and celebrate, and fail a little, and recommit, and try some more. And fall again. And pick ourselves up. And try as if it was our first. And not quit.

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