Productivity: Find What You Value. Follow It.

“Keep your thoughts positive because your thoughts become your words. Keep your words positive because your words become your behavior. Keep your behavior positive because your behavior becomes your habits. Keep your habits positive because your habits become your values. Keep your values positive because your values become your destiny.”

Mahatma Gandhi

Well, here we are at the final week of our Peak Performance Pyramid series.

A short recap:

Tony Schwartz and Jim Loeher of the Energy Project are executive coaches. Based on their research, they argue that it’s not time that needs to be managed in our overextended lives; it’s energy. And managing energy requires building capacity in four key areas, which they define as a Peak Performance Pyramid.

They also argue that the path to building capacity is through ritual, which eliminates decision fatigue. In other words, the less you have to think about, the better. 

To review: To increase Physical Capacity build rituals around physical care: Scheduled workouts, meal planning, regular sleep and wake times.

To increase Emotional Capacity embrace energy-generating emotions more than energy- sucking ones. In other words, locate your joy, and find ways to insert it into your day when you begin to grind down. Even the briefest engagement with a uplifting memory or feeling will change your energy.

To increase Cognitive Capacity spend less time thinking and more time allowing your brain to relax from solving problems. All of these means of reducing decision fatigue are part of that, of course, but also developing habits that allow you to step away from a problem. A short walk every hour. Stretches in your office. Ten minutes of breathing with your eyes closed. Just step away and allow your mind to rest.

The final level of the Productivity Pyramid is Spiritual Capacity.

I know. That word, spiritual, tends to set some academics off, putting deflector shields on high alert: What do you mean by spiritual? Do you mean I have to have a religious practice?

That’s not what Schwartz and Loeher are talking about, at all. Building Spiritual Capacity in their paradigm means making sure that you are connected to your own personal values and your purpose.

Now there’s something to consider: What are your core values, first of all? You actually have to sit down and figure those out, and that takes some doing!

Once you have a sense of what they are, can you articulate them to yourself and others?

And then, you have to figure out if or how they are embedded in the work you do.

Why does Spiritual Capacity matter for productivity? 

Because if you feel like what you are doing represents your values, you’ll be more likely to do it.

It’s that simple. And it’s not simple at all!  It’s quite deep.

In the rat race of the academic career, it’s easy to lose track of your values and start chasing outcomes in a way that allows you to forget you even have values — beyond just “adding a line to the CV.”

At this point, it should come as no surprise that building Spiritual Capacity (i.e. living by your core values) requires getting off the deadline treadmill and exploring what they are and how you are living them. 

A lot of  participants in Unstuck build Spiritual Capacity with Morning Pages. Morning Pages is the practice of starting each morning writing three longhand pages of whatever is in your  head; it’s drawn from Julia Cameron’s work in “The Artist’s Way.” It works for all creatives, and guess what? Academics are creative.

For others, their practice is meditation, dancing, prayer, art journals, 15 minutes of silence. Anything that allows time to pause, and connect with your internal world unrelated to work, builds Spiritual Capacity.

So one last time, I am challenging you to: 

  1. Devote time to more than the single-minded (literally) cognitive imperative that drives you like a racehorse and wears you down the way a jackhammer breaks up concrete.
  2. Create rituals to build your physical, emotional and cognitive capacity that create fluid cycles of oscillation between stress and relief.
  3. Set aside time every day to reflect, allowing your values to rise over and over to the forefront of your motivation.

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