Recently, I’ve been building the habit of checking in with my emotions and taking time for contemplation before I start working on my tasks for the day. In doing so, I realized that when it comes to getting things done, my old habit of jumping straight into my plans was making me more stressed and less effective.
This new routine has been helping my days flow way more smoothly, and it’s because it addresses three essential parts of productivity that are very easy to undervalue. As a highly sensitive person, I’ve found that not giving myself the time for these three things were holding me back from getting things done without even realizing it.
So here are the three:
- Considering my emotions
- Taking time for contemplation
- Leaving space for rest
So why are all these important?
First of all, emotions.
It’s really easy to undervalue the impact emotions have on your productivity. I’ve found that not addressing my mood before trying to get things done can undermine my focus. Being moody is a warning signal from my mind and body that I’m working on the wrong things. I’m trying to work on external demands when I really need to work on the way I feel within myself.
A lot of times when you’re feeling distracted by your feelings or mood, that’s a signal for you to stop what you’re doing, and give attention to your emotions before moving onto what you have planned. It’s almost like we expect our emotions to bend to our will, but they won’t. They will stick around until they are acknowledged and addressed.
If you have a physical headache, you have to take care of it so you can concentrate enough to get things done. The same goes for your emotions. Addressing them before you do what you planned for the day makes it so much easier to concentrate overall.
And as an Enneagram inspired side note:
If you’re an Enneagram 4, you tend to do things when you’re in the mood for them, and it can be challenging to get things done when you’re not in the mood. As an Enneagram 4, giving some time to sort out your emotions before you start working can help you stabilize your mood and have the emotional clarity for taking on what you need to do.
If you’re an Enneagram 3 like myself, you tend to have the opposite problem. You know you’re feeling stuff, but you keep on working anyway until one day your suppressed emotions just explode out of you. You may end up having an emotional outburst that takes you completely by surprise, but in hindsight you see that it was only a matter of time.
Enneagram 3s should especially take time to examine their emotions before working, even if everything feels great. I’ve often found that I could have the mental illusion of feeling fine, but when I sit and actually start naming the emotions I’m feeling, I’m not in as good of a mood as I thought I was.
When I do an emotional check in, I do the following:
- Identify any positive emotions I feel.
- Identify any negative emotions I feel, including if I feel any kind of tiredness or slowness.
- Take three minutes to journal about the emotions that feel the strongest.
- If my emotions are very negative, my two favorite questions to ask myself (among many others) are “Am I going to let these thoughts control the rest of my day?”and “What else can I do with my time and energy instead that would serve me better or be more fun?”
Make sure you have a list of emotion words to refer to. Often what you think you feel is different from what you actually feel, and reading a list of feeling words can help you see the difference.
I used to believe that once I figured out what needed to be done for the day, the best thing to do was get right to it.
However, with this mindset I became blind to the impact of contemplation—taking time to think about what I’m doing, and asking myself questions about it. I’ve found that just taking 15 minutes to think over my intentions for the day is enough to stop me from doing tasks that may not be in my best interests, even if I have them on my To Do list.
When I don’t take time to contemplate, I often end up taking action prematurely or worrying over things that aren’t that important in the long run. Contemplation keeps me from taking on unnecessary tasks.
When I take 15 minutes for contemplation, I usually pick one question that showed up while I was checking in with my emotions and meditate on that.
But I have a few other questions that I love considering during my contemplation time. Here are my favorites:
- What is one thing I want to be today?
- How can I begin to choose more joy in my life today?
- How can I enjoy my current process of growth?
I only pick one or two questions to meditate on to give my mind plenty of room to wander. Sometimes my mind stays on task, other times it doesn’t, but either way the amount of time that my mind was willing to give to thinking over a question is the right amount.
I also keep a journal nearby to take note of any insights that may arrive.
If you’re feeling ready to dig deeper into using contemplation to plan your day, you may like my book, Thoughtful Planning:How to Use Questions for Self-reflection to Design Your Day.
The last thing that’s helped me to be more productive as a highly sensitive person is rest.
I think especially in modern culture, it is so easy to be like, “Let me focus on what I’m going to get done, not how many breaks I’m going to take.”
However, thinking about rest is so important because it is the fuel for getting things done. When you don’t consider how much rest you’re getting, it’s like driving a car without ever looking at the fuel gauge.
You’re like, “I’m going to drive here. I’m going to drive there, and do this and that,” but you never check the fuel indicator, and it might be flashing on empty. But you ignore it, try to keep doing stuff, and then the next thing, your car shuts off you. It has no gas. You’re stuck and can’t go anywhere.
That’s pretty much how it is with productivity. A lot of productivity advice focuses on where you’re going without considering the most important thing—refilling your tank. You can’t go anywhere without filling the gas tank.
It’s important to flip the way we think about productivity as highly sensitive people. Instead of asking, “Have I done enough to deserve rest?” ask, “Have I rested enough to do anything?”
Rest is a central part of your productivity because it is what fuels you. Without it, you’re not going anywhere, and you’re not going to get done what you want to.
And the other issues I mentioned, emotional resistance and not thinking things through, can be amplified by not getting a moment of rest before you try being productive.
If you struggle to accept your need for rest as a highly sensitive person, and you feel ready to learn more about what you can do to make peace with slowing down to take care of yourself, check out my book, Love Your Sensitivity:7 Essential Life Changes to Make After Learning You’re a Highly Sensitive Person.
So those are the three habits that have made me more productive as a highly sensitive person.
The hard part about these three things is that they’re not as easy as setting a Pomodoro timer and getting on it. They do take an investment of time and reflection—and can feel completely unproductive at first—but increased clarity and effectiveness with less effort are the payoffs.
Keeping with these habits have helped me get things done with a lot more joy. I can always tell the difference when I skip a few days of checking in with myself, reflecting, and prioritizing rest.
So take a moment to fill your tank today before you start going. Give yourself time to check your emotions and think about where you’re planning to go. Maybe in future posts. I’ll go a bit deeper into how I take care of my emotions before getting into my day.