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The gist: when rules weren’t written for you in the first place, it makes sense not to follow them. But sometimes that’s hard to remember when it comes to productivity best practices, so favorite this for those moments.


why you can ignore productivity best practices

Ever feel like you’re wasting time trying to force your life to fit into other people’s productivity frameworks?

Then this Brighter Broadcast is for you.

We’re following up on the video from a few weeks ago about screwing the productivity rules with a bit of a different take on the topic.

This time, we’re talking about how most rules aren’t meant for you in the first place. That’s why it’s completely fine to tell them to GTFO!

This is something that, if you think about it, it’s not hard to realize. And it’s something that most of us instinctively know.

But it’s all too easy for us to forget.

Myself included.

And if talking about this stuff is my LIFE, and I still need the reminder pretty frequently? I’m assuming you can probably use the reminder too.

So this is for you. 🙌

How It All Started: Revisiting Previously Helpful Productivity Advice

Lately I’ve been researching some different productivity frameworks for the Work Brighter Clubhouse. And for this research, I’ve been going back to a lot of my old favorite productivity books. Full of a lot of the traditional productivity advice.

These were books that totally rewired my brain and changed my way of thinking when I first read them. They legitimately changed my life. 🤯

So I figured that big shifts would be coming again, as I reread them. Makes sense, right?

But when I did go back to them, overall they felt really, really irrelevant.

Obviously, they felt “for me” at one point in my life. But right now? They just didn’t feel applicable. ¯_(ツ)_/¯

So I’ve also been making a huge effort to expand my learning. To fill some of the gaps that have popped up. To find new advice to follow.

And that means being okay with breaking the traditional “best practices.”

a rule is a rule and without rules it's chaos

The Productivity Best Practices Weren’t Written for People Like You

When we’re struggling to follow the rulebook of best practices, the most important thing is also the hardest thing to remember.

And that’s the fact that most productivity advice is not made for you in the first place. THAT is why you struggle to follow it.

Because you’re simply not wired to!

Because if you’re trying to force your whole life to fit into other people’s frameworks? That’s adding SO much work on top of the work that it’s promising to help you with.

No wonder things don’t feel right when you try them.

Even if something DOES have the potential to make your work easier or make you more productive *on paper*, it doesn’t matter if you’re working against your natural tendencies.

That extra friction of trying to make other people’s habits your lifestyle can cancel it out. ❌

Or worse, it ends up creating even more work for you than before that silly rule came into your life in the first place.

No thank you! 💁🏻‍♀️

The Uncomfortable Truth About Productivity Best Practices

Once you start considering the friction it takes to implement a lot of the productivity rules out there, you might notice another problem with them:

Most productivity advice and systems were either created by or influenced by healthy, wealthy, white men. And that was a long time ago, meaning they’re boomers or Gen Xers.

They’re based in old theories that aren’t easily applicable to how we live and work today.

First of all, we’re living in a way more tech-enabled world than the rules were written for.

But more importantly, most of that advice doesn’t take into consideration the reality of life outside your work and your productivity.

Their advice is shaped by their privilege and doesn’t look past it.

(Hat tip to Brigid Schulte’s essay Why Time is a Feminist Issue for helping me get clear on this, as well as Kelly Diels’ writing on the topic.)

So if you’re a woman or a parent or caretaker?

If you’re chronically physically or mentally ill?

If you’re gay or Black or trans or an immigrant (or all of the above)?

There are just. so. many. identities for whom the old rules don’t apply.

Those rules were written for a different game. They don’t take into account that game being unfortunately rigged against you.

rules aren't real

When I first started learning and writing about productivity, I honestly didn’t see past my own privilege either. (But I also wasn’t trying to preach to the masses…alas, a rant for another day.)

It wasn’t until (a) I started learning more about social justice, and (b) my chronic illness got out of hand, that I truly realized how small of an audience traditional productivity advice is meant for.

Everyone’s Using Their Spoons Differently

Since shifting my lifestyle to prioritize self-care, those systems and rules rarely fit my reality.

And for so long, I felt like that was MY fault.

I felt like I needed to change my life to fit those best practices, instead of finding things that actually helped me. With the work and life that I had in reality, in that moment.

But like I said earlier, there’s nothing wrong with not being able to follow advice that that was never meant for you in the first place.

Consider spoon theory, and how energy management is basically spoon theory for both spoonies and non-spoonies alike.

Everything takes different numbers of spoons for everyone. 🥄

And so when your mind or body is dealing with and fighting an illness or other struggle every single day? It’s using tons of spoons just to exist.

You’re using massive amounts of energy just fighting the anxiety or depression or autoimmune disease or whatever inside your body. That’s energy that you don’t have for productivity and traditional energy management and life hacking and productivity hacking.

But a lot of the traditional productivity advice was made for and by people with way more spoons. They don’t need to think about their spoons so much – they’ve got drawers full!

Know When You’re the Target Audience (or Not)

We consume a lot of content for which we’re NOT the target audience.

As long as we’re *aware* of that, and take in their advice accordingly…that gives you back your power. Your difference or “otherness” is no longer a bad thing, it’s just a thing.

On top of that, don’t follow advice that wasn’t meant for you. Instead seek out advice that does come from a place of knowing what you have going on.

For example, when I was first adjusting to working with my illness, I used to get frustrated by my “unproductivity.”

“I used to be able to work eight hours and be fine. Why can’t I work eight hours anymore without feeling awful the next day??!”

And when I would vent about this in productivity circles, people would try to find holes in my systems and workflows. But when I’d go to friends, family, or medical professionals about it, they’d be quick to point out that the problem wasn’t me. (IMAGINE THAT!)

It took awhile to understand and accept that my body is different. I mean REALLY understand and accept it.

I’m using so much energy for all these hidden things that I can’t really see or notice. My body’s fighting a war inside me to keep me as well as possible.

But just because people can’t see that, doesn’t make the energy use or the feelings associated with it less real.

You’re Body is Busier Than You Think

Another reason I’m adamant traditional productivity best practices can be harmful to spoonies? Because our bodies are so much busier and doing so much more work than we give them credit for.

A common trope in traditional productivity advice is telling you that you have all this free time, you’re just not spending it well enough.

That’s probably NOT true.

You’re NOT crazy.

That person just probably didn’t consider your lifestyle, at least not from an educated place.

This can be really frustrating when trying to look for good business & productivity advice you CAN follow. Just remember in your search…

You’re Right On Time

I recently joined Amber McCue‘s group program. She loves to say, “whatever you’re doing, you’re right on time.”

And I love that because it’s a (frequently needed) reminder that we’re all living our own timelines.

Like, you hear a lot of business coaches say things like, “it’s not hard to earn the first six figures. You just do the work and hustle.”

Well, that advice is assuming how much work someone can do.

It’s assuming you CAN hustle.

It took awhile for me to realize how untrue that is to my own story.

Because I started my business at the same time my chronic illness was starting to really interfere with my life, hustling was not in my reality.

At the beginning, I was doing whatever I could for my brand in between my day job, doctors appointments, and medical tests in the quest for a diagnosis.

After that, the whole reason I left my day job was to focus on my health. I wasn’t going to hustle then, either.

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Those priorities are hard for me to keep, especially in that first year. And it’s because I kept forgetting that we’re all on our own timeline and was trying to live by other peoples’.

We’re all living our own lives and that requires our own frameworks, productivity techniques, systems, morning routines, evening routines…

All of it.

Productivity is personal. That’s one of the Work Brighter values.

When you ask me for advice or follow my work, I’m not going to tell you which frameworks to use. I’m going to help you build your own. Because I do believe in the importance of routines and habits, consistency, and systems.

But it’s all about creating your own, not following other people’s. Because once again, productivity is personal!

The only rulebook of productivity best practices you should be following is one your wrote YOURSELF.

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why you can ignore productivity best practices