We’re all tired, and we just want to stop for a while. But we can’t, can we? We have bills to pay. But, god, do you wish you could stop. Maybe there is some alleviation to this drudgery. Maybe the answer lies in soft productivity.
In the simplest terms, it is optimising yourself for maximum output with minimum mental taxation. There is harmony between your body, your mind, and your goals. Targets are achieved without sacrificing mental health. Progress is celebrated, not perfection. Toxic productivity aims for results, but soft productivity aims for well-being.
Why do we do it?
Toxic productivity is unrealistic. Hustling results in quick burnouts. The erstwhile trend is to work until you drop. But you cannot hustle endlessly, because humans are simply not built for that. Promoting a narrative like that, by influencers or organisations, ensures a high turnover rate.
Soft productivity, however, is a gentler approach that sets you on the right path to efficiently achieving your goals at a steadfast, realistic pace that is sustainable, practicable and good for you. And ultimately, the organisation.
How do we do it?
Outline what is urgent and what is not. Understand that you don’t have to do everything right now. You can take it slow and still achieve everything you want to.
Set boundaries. Explore boundaries. Learn to say no, but test your limits to see what works for you and what does not. Stepping out of your comfort zone like this does not have to be immensely uncomfortable—if you keep your mind, body and goals in alignment, broaching new territories will seem less scary.
Take a break.
Granted, that it is difficult to take breaks as working adults with families and social lives. But a break can be as simple as 5 minutes with your eyes closed, right at your desk, shutting out the world for a bit. A break can be a walk around your office. The very design of soft productivity warrants rest—because this is how you learn to be gentle with yourself. In a way, slowing down is a part of discipline, too. If time is money, don’t be frugal about spending it on yourself. Splurge a little.
Focus on your energy patterns.
Figure out when you have the most energy, and make the best of those times. Are you a morning person or a night owl? Do you think better when you’re sitting and focused, or when you’re walking around and letting your mind wander? Productivity cannot be engineered, it is conditioned. Learn to mould your workday around yourself, instead of the other way around, but synergistically. You will find that your work will suddenly seem so much simpler that way.
Some goals are time-bound. Others aren’t. Segregate these and work on them accordingly. Trying to do everything all at once will lead you to doing little of what you have burdened yourself with. Sometimes, just the idea of a full to-do list can send you into a procrastination loop. Or worse, into overdrive. Take things one step at a time. And rather than focusing on the next step, stop and retrospect. What could you have done better? What can you do better? Remember, soft productivity is about improvement. Not labour. Allow yourself to reach your goals at your own pace, in your own way, because each roadmap is unique. If it wasn’t, everybody would have the blueprint to ultimate success—and that would obliterate individuality. Wouldn’t it?
Commitment is consistency. Commitment is not working on the same thing every waking moment. Commitment means showing up every day—but being kind to yourself at the same time. No excuses and all that sounds great in theory, until you feel your will to continue being slowly drained out with each working day. We aim for sustainability here. Forcing yourself to work, no matter what, is anything but that.
When you are a part of an organisation, you are part of something much bigger than yourself. Hence, this change has to occur at an organisational level and an individual level, simultaneously. Soft productivity is not something that can be taught, but a mindset that has to be cultivated through the culture. It is a concept that should be introduced and propagated by the management. This promotes a healthy work environment, which ensures better retention rates, goal-setting, results, higher quality work, and generous returns.