To my mind, the most key aspect of developing inner productivity is the attitude I ask you to bring to relating to your inner experience. I mean an attitude of accepting whatever thoughts, emotions, physical sensations, beliefs, or other inner experiences arise in your work, and of staying curious about what value they may have to offer you. p.178 Chris Edgar – Inner Productivity

Chris Edgar has written what I think is an awesomely good book: Inner Productivity, A Mindful Path to Efficiency and Enjoyment in Your Work.

The first thing I want to say about reading this book is that it was a huge relief. The other productivity and time management books I have read have involved a good deal of effort. The effort is filtering out what I see as the negative stuff: all that advice about having to be unkind to yourself (“discipline, doing the hard things first, overcoming laziness and procrastination” and on and on, all of which usually comes down to ignoring, or disowning, or otherwise being unkind to, some part of yourself).

It was a huge relief to come across a productivity book that is not based on being unkind to yourself. Chris’s approach, mindfulness, does not involve being unkind to yourself, but instead being mindful – watching what you do and how you do it. Does this mean that Chris is unaware that there are some things we don’t like doing terribly much: hardly (this wouldn’t be mindfulness but delusion). Instead he recommends watching our thoughts, feelings and sensations and understanding them.

This is how Chris puts it:

Unfortunately, much productivity advice urges us to fight against our inner experience, giving us pointers like “force yourself to do the toughest task first,” “tell that lazy part of you to shut up,” “kick your fear in the rear,” and so on. We need to be our own strict parents or drill sergeants, coming down like a ton of bricks on internal dissent. This attitude encourages us to hate and ridicule parts of ourselves, rather than treating them with compassion or trying to understand where they’re coming from

. p.10

As Chris points out many productivity books recommend removing external distractions, but this leaves the internal ones. The internal distractions are trickier, should we try to get rid of them too? Perhaps not.

At a deeper level, we can do even more to achieve a sense of ease and inspiration in our work by not only allowing the thoughts and feelings that come up to be there, but also seeing them as a source of valuable inner wisdom. Whatever enters our consciousness as we work—whether it’s fear, despair, fretting about our relationship with our parents, or something else—it likely has something to teach us about where we have room to grow as human beings. p.16

This leads to a different approach to most productivity and time management books. If it is about being mindful of our own experience then there can’t be a list of recipes for how to be more productive, or lists of ‘shoulds’. Instead,

The exercises in this book, rather than prescribing a list of habits you must force yourself to adopt, help you to look within yourself, and discover and transform the specific patterns of thinking and feeling that tend to hold you back. p.179

I hope this gives you a sense of Chris’s approach and why I like it so much.

What’s in the book? Inner Productivity is 182 pages long and only one of these (the last one) is about Chris and what he offers. He gives his story in the Introduction and uses examples from people he has worked with to illustrate his points, but this is not one of those books that is one long ad for the author’s services.

This is the contents.
INTRODUCTION 1
I. YOUR INNER EXPERIENCE OF WORKING 28
II. ATTENTION
1. Being the Space for Your Thoughts 43
2. Anchoring Yourself in the Present 50
3. Cultivating Attention Through Curiosity 58
III. INTENTION
4. Peering into the Abyss 66
5. Moving from Product to Process 76
6. It’s Okay to Have Wants 88
7. Reopening Our Bodies to Inspiration 97
8. Learning to Be With Blankness 113
9. Notice How You Drain Your Energy 120
IV. FOUNDATION
10. Loving Yourself Really Can Help Pay the Bills 131
11. The Power of Admitting Where You’re At 138
12. Are You Withholding Your Gifts? 159
13. Breathing Through Your Fear 166
V. SUCCESS THROUGH SELF-KNOWLEDGE 178

As you can see from the chapter titles this is not your run-of-the-mill time management or efficiency book. Each chapter concludes with exercises (usually three) so that you can experience for yourself the topic of that chapter. These exercises are clearly explained, simple to do (though in one or two cases not easy) and very worthwhile in my experience.

One of the nice things about this book is that Chris has an easy to read and accessible style of writing. (Those of us who have written books know that this is probably the result of a lot of hard work – though it may just be that Chris finds writing easier than I do.) While Chris delves deep (about staying in the present, watching our thoughts and bodies, loving yourself and much more) he is never obscure. What Chris says he says clearly and crisply. I am glad to say that this is a very well written book.

Here is one example of what I mean. It is Chris dealing with that standard topic of the productivity literature: procrastination.

Fighting or fleeing may offer temporary relief from whatever emotion or thought is troubling us, but it also, of course, makes it hard to stay on task. Devoting all this energy to keeping our experience at bay is distracting and draining. In fact, I think it’s even fair to say that fighting and fleeing from our inner experience are essentially what procrastination is. pp.10-11

This I think is a better way of dealing with procrastination – it puts procrastination in the context of our whole experience, and does this in a simple and understandable way. I hope this, and the other quotes I’ve given, are enough to give you a sense of the quality of the writing.

If you have tried many time management and productivity books, and they haven’t worked for you; or if, like me, you find their ‘beat yourself up’ approach repellent, then I think this is the book for you.

There is much more I could say to recommend this book. However, this is already a long post. To get more of a sense of who Chris is he has a website with a blog called Purpose Power Coaching. On his blog he has the post announcing the release of Inner Productivity which gives his understanding of what the book is about. Chris has also created a separate site for the book called innerproductivity.com with more information about the book as well as interviews and videos. You can buy it from either innerproductivity.com or from the link in the sidebar on purposepowercoaching.com.


Would you like to feel less stressed?
Could you do with more joy in your life?

The answer is living authentically. Buy the book or sign up for the course now from my Living Authentically website.

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6 Comments to “How to be Productive and Still be Kind to Yourself”

  1. I suppose that’s why my “Possibility List” approach works. I do whatever feels right in the moment. It all gets done and I have a good time.

  2. Evan says:

    I’m sure you’re right. And I think the ‘possibility list’ approach is a great one. Thanks for your commentJean.

  3. Chris Edgar says:

    Yes, paying attention to what feels right in the moment seems like an underused productivity technique — I think a lot of us in our culture are so bogged down with beliefs about what we “should” be doing that we’re not used to feeling into where our intuition is leading us. Really bringing our attention into the body and the sensations we’re feeling, I think, is a great way to get reconnected with that intuition.

    Anyway, thanks for this review Evan — I think it does a great job capturing the compassionate approach I’m asking readers to take to their work and themselves.

  4. Adelaide says:

    Now this is something I need – and want – to learn and do.

    I have to deal with the impulse to fight and flee quite often.

  5. Evan says:

    Let me know how you go with it. It could be quite a challenge. Wishing you success with it.

  6. […] fits well with some practical things I’ve been reading lately, such as How to be Productive and Still be Kind to Yourself and How to Learn Without Memorizing. If a more-reasonable-than-usual teacher hadn’t […]

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