Motivation and productivity...what I Could do is my choice

There are a million strategies and articles written to help motivate us and guide us toward becoming more productive. I'm not going to add heavily to that list today. Instead, I’m going to give you something simple to consider.

I read an article in Darling Magazine recently that reminded me of something I learned more than thirty years ago from a wise mentor. I'm going to share her sage advice with you now. It is a simple shift in thinking.

She told me to stop "should-ing on myself" and to "substitute the word could in place of the word should." It was that simple. This little shift in my mindset is a powerful tool when I feel the weight of external pressures and when my to do list feels unmanageable.

There are many things that we do in our day to day lives, and many demands upon our attention. Some them are not all that much fun. Need I say, paying bills, laundry, and staff meetings are not high on most lists of "I can't wait to do this?"; and yet, they serve a purpose we appreciate.

When we sit down with colleagues to discuss what is important to the group, we are choosing to keep communication lines open and choosing to give people the opportunity to be heard. When we see home caring tasks as ways to nurture our families rather than tasks that we should and must do, the tasks feel different. And, we feel different doing them.

Last week, I had a growing mountain of tasks on my list, along with appointments and scheduled work projects, and felt overwhelmed by the big picture. I heard this rumble of a nagging voice in the recesses of my mind telling me I should do this and should have already finished that!

How did I quiet that voice? I substituted should with could.

I wrote a list of every task that I thought I could do at the top of my planner page. Seeing it in black and white and resetting my mindset was a mental refresh for me. 

For the rest of the week, I looked at unscheduled blocks of time and asked myself, “What could I be doing with this time?” I considered the consequences of procrastinating a particularly tedious but time-sensitive task and opted to do it first thing that morning and felt instantly successful. I also, gave myself permission to take breaks as my energy waned. I savored the lulls rather than allow guilt to steal my joy.

Gandalf chooses to pace his busy day of grooming, eating, and sleeping by stopping to smell the roses. 

Gandalf chooses to pace his busy day of grooming, eating, and sleeping by stopping to smell the roses. 

Slowly but surely tasks on my could list disappeared along with a few other tasks that I added later, just because I could. Imagine that! 

When we say could, we take ownership for our actions and feel empowered. What we could do with our time may be exactly the same as what think we should be doing with our time. But the pressure is lifted. Should sucks the joy out of life. Could gives us back our joy and allows us to set our own course! I like that.