A productive garden that yields an abundance of flowers or vegetables is created by good seeds, rich soil, the sun, rain, and careful weeding and tending. A gardener has to prepare and enrich the soil, plant the seeds, weed, and nurture the garden, steps all provided in a committed and caring way. But what makes up the garden of your productive work life? What are the seeds of it? What nourishes it? How do you measure your “crop”? How can you be more productive?
We all like to feel productive. In fact, there seems to be an unwritten commandment that says, “Thou shalt be productive.” Yet too often our productivity can get lost in the numbers of how many hours we spend writing and how many pages, books or other projects we produce. How productive we are becomes dependent on how big a “crop” we’ve grown, rather than a sense of fulfillment. Some gardeners and farmers say they receive great satisfaction in planting seeds and watching them grow. They feel a sense of self-worth in having invested themselves in something that they consider worthwhile and valuable. If the crop yield is large or ablaze with a riot of flowers, they celebrate. If the results are smaller, they can still celebrate. They may have to make do with their old tractor or tiller, but they know the process is important and they can feel fulfilled.
Perhaps this is the key to being more productive in our work lives, as well as life in general —to create the feeling of value and fulfillment in whatever we are doing. If we are “fired up” by or excited about what we are writing about or the project we’re doing, then we’re more likely to be “in the zone” or “state of flow” where we lose our sense of time and are engaged in a process of such delight that the only thing that matters is what we are focused on this minute. Of course, most of us aren’t in this high frequency state every day, but we can nurture those elements that are more likely to put us there.
Some of these elements are reflected in the life of a gardener and may be applicable to your work life. For example:
Preparing the Soil – The gardener starts with an empty plot of land or flower bed. It has to be enriched and tilled to make it ready for the seeds. Writers start with an empty page. Yet there is more to just having that white space to write into. We also need to take time to create some white space in our minds in order to receive the idea seeds that will help create our word gardens. You probably have your own technique, whether it’s meditation, or immersing yourself in inspiring music or taking a walk in nature. Taking time to empty ourselves of whatever mind chatter and other activities that are going on will create more space for that brilliant idea to flow through. A gardener also has a sense of curiosity about the garden – what will grow, what won’t. This same curiosity can bring a sense of excitement to our writing. How will this story take shape? What will it grow into? Will it develop into a series?
Planting Seeds – A gardener knows the best time to plant seeds, based on the weather patterns in the area. A writer should know the best time of day to write. Most people are more productive in the morning hours before noon. Yet some are night owls and perform better after dark. According to a Forbes article, written earlier this year, the most productive people have a pattern of high intensity periods that are laser-like in focus, rather than a day-long work schedule. Also, during that time, it is extremely important to shut out all distractions, including social media and email notifications.
Tending the Garden – Weeding, watering, and adding plant food are an essential part of garden growing. The same is true of your writing life. Streamlining and weeding out what work processes are producing satisfaction and those that aren’t is an ongoing task. A part of the watering process can include finding web sites that offer resources of the trade and creating connections on social media and at local and national workshops. These connections can feed and nurture your own interests and spark your productivity.
Harvest Time – This is the gardener’s celebration. It is a time of fulfillment and satisfaction. It is a time of wonderment, gratitude and appreciation, not only for the abundance and bounty of Nature, but also for the opportunity to be connected to the life giving force of creation. As writer’s we can also be grateful for the same opportunity – and our harvest time can be celebrated every day! Those celebrations help keep our productive frequency high and carry us anew into each day. Read Part 2 (coming soon) of this blog for some specific steps you can take to grow your productivity garden.