Dear Productivity Maven: How do I balance self discipline with self compassion?

Donna M. writes: "I think I am not the only one to struggle with the balance between self discipline & self compassion. How do you know (or decide) when to push yourself to greater effort and when to acknowledge that you need to rest even though the project isn't done?"

Wow, Donna, great question!

IMG_0638 What I hear in this is: how do you discern between real fatigue and something else that may be drawing you away?

Your question reminded me of advice I always hear about eating. Experts say that to maintain a healthy weight, you should eat only when you’re actually hungry. The problem is, many folks don’t know how to distinguish actual hunger from cravings or emotions. The same can be true about distinguishing fatigue (which is being truly tired) from confusion, distraction, or boredom–to name just a few. This is a case for mindfulness! (You probably knew that was coming, huh?)

When you find that you have the urge to stop working, take a moment to check in with yourself. What were you doing in the moment right before the urge to get up and walk away hit? Practice noticing when the urge to quit working shows up. Many times, the urge to stop isn’t related to actual physical fatigue; it’s something else like confusion about what to do next or overhwhelm or something else entirely.

Next, take a quick inventory of your body, too. Are you feeling tension somewhere? Are you hungry? When was the last time you got up and stretched? Are you drinking enough water? There are all sorts of physical symptoms of things other than fatigue that may be asking you to get up and walk around.

Finally, pay attention to what real fatigue feels like. At the end of a long day, be fully present to the sensation of tired. Describe it to yourself. Be fully mindful of it in that moment.

By knowing what true fatigue feels like, you’ll be able to start to distinguish between the real need to rest and everything else, and be able to respond appropriately. If you’re not really tired and other sorts of self care aren’t needed, that’s the time to get present, return to your breath, and return to the work at hand.

Seven Dimensions Summary:
Learning how to discern when to stop and rest versus when to keep going will improve your ability to manage your attention, which is the second dimension of productivity.

It’s Word of Mouth Wednesday! We often mistake emotions and distractions for fatigue. Learning how to tell the difference will help you to be more productive. If you think this topic is worth talking about, pass it on! You might:

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Thanks for your support! Word of mouth is just the best.

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