By now you must have seen articles, books, courses, videos talking about productivity tools, hacks, etc. and I’m sure they (probably) have merit.
I want to offer to you a perspective on productivity that integrates a philosophy, psychology, and practical plan.
First, the actual tool/hack/trick = To be productive, make sure you are intentionally attend to non-productive things. In other words, make sure you are including some “non-doing” during your days because this will lead to more productive “doing.”
In classical Chinese medicine and philosophy, there is the concept of yin and yang – the two opposing forces / fields / aspects of everything that simultaneously oppose and nourish each other. Yin becomes yang, yang becomes yin; yin opposes yang, yang opposes yin; yin is within yang, yang is within yin.
For our context here about productivity, we can consider YANG to be the DOING part of the yin-yang; it is the active, up and out, getting things done, tasks are being accomplished, you’re climbing up that mountain, using up that energy and ultimately preparing to rest.
Many productivity tools and hacks are ways to help you YANG better.
We can consider YIN to be the BEING / NON-DOING part of the yin-yang; it is the passive, down and in, un-prioritizing tasks, whisking down that mountain, and stocking up on energy, and ultimately preparing for action.
You see more and more nowadays purporting the benefits of inner work (meditation or what not), breathing exercises, reflecting, and nourishing yourself on various aspects. Commonly they say to “wake up early to do this stuff and that will make you productive.”
Here’s another way to look at this yin-yang dynamic in productivity. If you YANG too much (keep being actively productive), your body-mind-spirit will “burn out,” break down, and collapse from exhaustion to rest, which is YIN. In a way, we can consider this new “work hour limitation” for residents to be a response of excessive YANG-ing during training (without going into an extensive discussion about this topic).
Understanding this philosophically is easy; it is actually applying to your life that’s hard. This is because we have a DEEPLY ingrained context and framework from our culture, upbringing, education, and training about DO, DO, DO, get it done, climb higher, I’ll sleep when I die! And stopping, resting, doing inner work is seen as lazy, bumming, and useless. Well, yes, it is lazy and bumming but not useless. Episodes of laziness and bumming, the YIN-ing is essential balance for the YANG-ing. There’s a spirit / atmosphere of YIN-ing the last few weeks of December into the New Year whether you are working or not – this a very YIN part of the year.
The approach to take then is to convince yourself about the importance of vacations in your life, post-call relaxation, etc and simply then intentionally apply these aspects of YIN-ing to every day.
A way to remember Yin vs Yang is “Yinside” as in Yin is in the inside. You need to find a way to cultivate your YINSIDE so that when times comes to be YANGING and being productive you have the reserve, capacity, and potential energy to turn into action and kinetic energy.
Exercises that emphasize breathing, stillness, contemplation, reflecting/journaling silence is clearly very YIN. Pick and choose the one that works for you.
What about physical exercise? How does that work? Physical exercise is very active and YANG. But by YANGing, you are preparing your YIN to build up so that when it comes to YANG again and be “productive” you got that YIN built up. In other words, YANG builds YIN which then builds YANG.
How do I YIN? I emphasize good sleep and improving my nutrition; I do KAP (Kundalini awakening process) practices/exercises; I cultivate myself by applying magnets and cords to my “extraordinary vessels” (primordial fields in acupuncture/chinese medicine/philosophy); I read, contemplate, reflect, take nice baths, and cultivate uplifting relationships.
Find your personal way of intentionally attending to your YIN so that this building up your capacity and potential energy will enable you to be more YANG and activate kinetic energy for productivity.
Consider my experience writing this very post. I am certified do practice acupuncture (studying it during residency) and learned more about its philosophy over the years. This knowledge built up and integrated (YIN input) which eventually allowed me to sit down, without preparation, without even planning it, to sit down and write this post for you (YANG) output.
How do you balance and integrate your YIN and YANG?