To be productive

What I dream of is an art of balance.”- Henri Matisse

After a series of long days involving back to back meetings with finance advisors and lawyers, I began to sense a new feeling. It was a feeling I didn’t welcome and didn’t want.

Panic. Fear. Failure. How on earth was I going to get through my original action list when I had spent hours with these advisors? I had too much to do and not enough time. And now they had presented me with another set of challenges to navigate. I was drowning. How had my life become so stressful again when I had left a cubicle career to avoid this kind of negative feeling?

It was only through reading some blogs and journals from freelance colleagues and fellow company owners that I begun to feel a little better. I wasn’t alone. They had also been struggling with the balance of driving a career or new enterprise and managing to live well at the same time. Some were reaching out for guidance and others had found their own solutions. For me it was about the mindset.


Sakura Season Japan
Photography by Jovian Lim


I was inspired to read an article by Kate Harrison – an expert in green business and startups. She wrote in Forbes about becoming a mindful entrepreneur. I was intrigued – was that even possible?  Did those two words go together? Apparently yes. She claims that numerous studies have shown by doing less, we achieve more. Even Elon Musk admits that this is a better mindset. But how?

Enter my friends and colleagues. I’m so pleased to share experiences and insights from my own mentors and influencers. These got me back on track and I want to share with you in case you have been facing the same feelings.


Photography by Jovian Lim
“Moderate in order to taste the joys of life in abundance.” – Epicurus Photography by Jovian Lim


Make a Realistic Plan


We all have our action lists and my life seems now to be driven by my own action list but my new insight is that action lists need to be realistic. Set two major things to do each day. If it is a meeting day, be prepared the need to be present and it could be stressful at times. And this means not much could be achieved for that day. The mindset here would have been realistic, enabling release from feelings of stress. You can only do so much in one day and accept that.

Allow for Breaks


When you make a daily plan (not weekly – that’s also unrealistic!), allow for headspace breaks. It could be just moving away from the mobile, laptop and getting some fresh air. It could be eating and hydrating. However, you choose to fill your break – it’s up to you but make sure you create a break. Every 45 minutes. Giving yourself that time to move away, look away, stretch and breathe, will definitely make you more productive.

Don’t multi-task


I hope I am finally learning this. I know that the more I try to do, the less happy I become. As tempting as it is, don’t check your messages or emails whilst writing a business proposal. Be in the moment and focus on just that one singular task. If you are in shared office space, it’s worth letting people know that you are working on that proposal and may need headphones or a different working desk to allow the focus.

Don’t be afraid


Avoiding tasks can be more stressful than just getting on and doing what’s needed. Don’t overthink or be afraid, just trust your ability and take inspiration from that famous quote Just Do It – and move on. Allow yourself to make mistakes. And to quote Phil Knight once more “the problem is not that we are making too many mistakes. It’s that we are making too few”.


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