I’ve read countless books and articles and theories on productivity (not a humble brag… it’s dumb — and a bit ironic — how much time I’ve wasted trying to crack the productivity code). It wasn’t until recently that I had a breakthrough… it all comes down to one thing: mindfulness. Now, I know this may not be this amazing breakthrough for everyone, but for me it wasn’t until I began a regular mindfulness practice that I truly understood the key to my own productivity blocks.

Productivity and mindfulness are both buzz words so let’s first define and clarify some things:

Productivity is the effectiveness of your efforts. It doesn’t mean full steam ahead and do all the things! Productivity does not equal busy — busy is a symptom of poor productivity. If you’re busy, then your scattered and you can’t possibly focus on any one thing. If you’re productive, then you’re giving full honest efforts and attention to the things that are important to you to get done.

Mindfulness is the foundation of good productivity. It’s knowing where your attention is — what your consciousness is aware of. A mindfulness practice will help you to keep your attention focused on what is important to you and block out distractions that will impede productivity.

There are countless methods of achieving productivity, but none of them will work if you don’t have a strong sense of self-awareness and mindfulness. Meditation is one of the most common ways to start a mindfulness practice, but there are other habits you can develop so that mindfulness becomes second nature and contributes to your productivity. Here are some mindfulness practices that have worked for me.

Morning Routine

A solid morning routine sets up your entire day — I start mine with my morning potion. This varies, but is usually some sort of blended drink with coconut milk, bee pollen, collagen, usually a banana, and sometimes matcha. I’ll mix it up with some oils or adaptogenic herbs depending on the season and how I’ve been feeling.

I follow up my morning potion with a meditation and some stretching or yoga. I use the Down Dog app for yoga and Insight Timer for meditation — I love their guided meditations! I meditate for around 10 minutes — if you’re new to meditating start with short 3 minute guided meditations and gradually increase your time. I use the Insight timer for both the guided meditations and the timer. Because of my autoimmune disease I can’t do too much movement yet, but even a small amount of stretching after a meditation can get the blood flowing and opens up the creative juices for the day.

Daily Journaling

This isn’t like a “dear diary” type thing, but rather a tool to check in with my physical and mental self and set my intentions for the day, with a recap at the end of the day. It’s a way to practice mindfulness so I can set yourself up for the most productive day.

After meditating and some light movement I’ll sit down with my daily journal. I start with reflections from my meditation. This is a free write that I keep in a physical journal.

Then I’ll move to my iPad, where I’ve built a template to fill in for the day (you can simply use Apple’s stock Notes app or a more robust app like Evernote or Notability). This template includes sections and questions like how I slept, what symptoms (physical and emotional) I have, and my major to-do items for the day. By writing out my symptoms I can make a realistic projection of my to do list. One of the biggest pitfalls I’ve learned to avoid is setting myself up for failure. My advice: Don’t over-schedule yourself because it will only put in you in a negative mindset that you can’t get things done. Or worse, you’ll fall into that category of busy!

At the end of the day I revisit my journal. I check in on my symptoms from throughout the day, tick off all my accomplishments on my to-do list, and answer some reflection questions. This tool is something I learned from the book Triggers by Marshall Goldsmith. I have a set of 10 questions that relate to bigger goals on which I rate myself from day-to-day or week-to-week. Example:

Did I do my best to move today?

Did I do my best to share or connect today?

Did I do my best to support my business today?

I rate myself from 1-5 based on whether I worked toward these goals. This is a great tool in qualifying your time rather than quantifying. Instead of saying “Complete X blog post today” I gauge whether I am happy with the effort I put in to work on that post. Instead of saying “walk every day for 1 hour,” then feeling like I failed that point if I’m having a fatigued day, I qualify the effort I put in to move based on my physical symptoms that day. So, if all I could do that day is stretch or do yoga for 15 minutes, I still succeeded.

The questions are all about setting yourself with a positive mindset to gauge your productivity. By creating a template to use every day, it doesn’t feel like an extensive, time consuming practice. In a future post I’ll get into more detail about my daily journaling and offer some templates to download for your own journals!

Aromatherapy + Essential oils

Introducing aromatherapy to my mindfulness practice has made a big difference. I will use different blends aromatically, topically, or internally (consult your doctor first) depending on how I’m feeling. If I need some energy in the morning I’ll diffuse some uplifting blends. If I need to do some hardcore focusing, I’ll use more grounding blends.

The specific oils to use are personal and can change from person to person. Some to try are:

Balance (grounding) Blend 
This blend calms and eases anxiety, but at the same time uplifts with blue tansy which inspires, energizes, and motivates. I love diffusing/inhaling this blend or rubbing it on the back of my neck when I have trouble focusing, or have anxious/scattered energy. It’s a bottle of pure, calm happiness!

Lemon, “The oil of focus”
Lemon provides mental clarity and is emotionally supportive to help with focus and mental presence. I use a drop of lemon under my tongue, and diffuse it with peppermint, cypress, and/or frankincense.

Cypress, “The oil of motion + flow”
Cypress is wonderful if you’re feeling stuck. It helps to let your energy flow so it’s great for promoting creativity. I like to diffuse or inhale cypress with lemon and/or eucalyptus.

Past Tense Blend
This blend eases headaches and neck/shoulder tension so it’s perfect when sitting at a desk all day or if you’re suffering from tension headaches/migraines. The wintergreen and peppermint aid in alertness, while the lavender, frankincense, and marjoram support you in calming stress and balancing emotions. I rub this on the back of my neck and shoulders and inhale from the bottle.

My Meditation Blend
I blend vetiver, cedarwood, and ylang ylang for my morning meditations. The vetiver and cedar wood are grounding oils to support being emotionally aware, connected and present. Ylang ylang is uplifting and supports intuition, being emotionally connected, and feelings of joy. I also use this blend when I need to start big projects.

Having a specific blend or single oil to use for specific reasons like meditation or focus can be triggering to your mind that it’s time get in a certain mindset. It’s like a little reminder alert for your brain. I could go on for days about oils for emotional support, mindset, and productivity! You really do have to try different things and figure out what oils speak to you.

Self Care + Connecting with Nature

Connecting with nature through what we put on and in our bodies is a practice in mindfulness and self care. Every time I use an oil or a natural skincare product or when I cook/prepare whole clean foods, I’m mindful of where it came from and how it is nourishing my body. As you wash your face be mindful of the fragrance and feeling of the cleanser on your skin; when you chop veggies or herbs pay attention to the sounds and aromas; when scooping a teaspoon of bee pollen or honey think about the hard work of the bee going from flower to flower to collect that pollen.

Knowing when to take a beat and step back from work is just as important as doing the work. Without rest and connecting with nature, you’ll burn yourself out. Taking regular walks, or day trips to get out of the city help to reset your body and mind. Whenever Brandon and I do a short weekend getaway we both end up working on some sort of creative project. It’s like we can breathe again and the energy just opens up and starts flowing once we leave the city.

Through holistic healing I have learned that connection with nature and everyday mindfulness empower us to be in tune with our bodies. When you’re in tune with your body you can be realistic about your goals be more productive. In being mindful with the everyday actions in my life, I have found wellness and productivity by tapping into what my body, mind, and soul need. In becoming tuned in with my body, I am able to work with it rather than against it.

Originally published at laviecreative.co