There is no perfect algorithm that will tell you how to maximize your time for the things you most care about. You need to rely on your intuition.
You need self-awareness to know what is truly important and understand what is actually stopping you from getting something done. But this perspective is often missing because productivity thought leaders focus on the technical and often ignore the intangible underlying feelings, fears, and desires.
Productivity is not about optimizing every aspect of your life or being well-versed on the latest and most flashy new app. The point of productivity is to do what brings you pleasure and to have more freedom.
We aren’t machines. We are humans.
To be productive, we all need to balance the logical, technical side with the emotional, intuitive side. These can be understood as masculine and feminine energies. I define masculine-energy as associated with logic, order, and the technical, whereas feminine energy is associated with intuition, self-awareness, and creativity.
Another way we can think about this is using the left-side and right-side of the brain. Most productivity advice lies on the masculine side, but you need the yin and yang balance between both these energies. No matter where on the gender spectrum you fall, we all can tap into our masculine and feminine energies.
Throughout history and cultures, we’ve divided many things along the gender spectrum.
The urban theory book The Sphinx in the City discusses the split between city and nature. The author Elizabeth Wilson discusses how nature is seen as female (“mother nature”) while cities are an attempt for man to instill order and control the chaos of nature.
In man’s attempt to control and build utopias, they destroy what is most intoxicating about cities: the randomness, the ambiguity, the serendipity. This is what happens when we try to over-architect our productivity systems. We lose the magical and mystical. We crowd out the very space that allows for flow, magic, and creativity to arise.
Wilson writes, “…Urban life is actually based on this perpetual struggle between rigid routinised order and pleasurable anarchy, the male-female dichotomy.” Our productivity systems have this same struggle. But rather than fighting for the masculine order and logical side to win, we need to appreciate and find the balance with feminine-based productivity.
I think masculine-based productivity is the dominant framework because most productivity thought leaders are men, and the tech community is at the center of developing and promoting productivity approaches.
Also, logical/technical approaches are easier to define. It’s easier to sell a course on “How to develop your task management system” versus “How to tap into your intuition.” There are plenty of women productivity thought leaders and feminine-centered approaches, but often they aren’t categorized under “productivity” but fall instead under organizing or self-care.
I’m also not saying that your gender determines how you work. I know plenty of women-identifying people who are super logical and technical, and I know plenty of male-identifying people who are self-aware and trust their intuition. When we can recognize our default tendency, we can tap into the other side of the spectrum to enhance what we are trying to achieve.
As an artist, I had to work hard to develop my structured, action-oriented muscles when I got my first project management job. When I first met my future husband Tiago, he recommended I read David Allen’s Getting Things Done. We then went on to create Forte Labs.
Over the years, as he’s helped me become more organized and get more done, I’ve helped him get more in tune with his emotions and body. We are each other’s yin and yang. You can see Tiago’s progression through his blog posts, starting with technical how-to’s and over time leading to subjects like healing from trauma.
My provocation is for you to think about where on the spectrum you fall and work towards balancing your logical technical side with your intuitive, emotional, creative side. If you struggle with structure and taking action, tap into some masculine-centered approaches. If you struggle with trusting your intuition and creativity, tap into some female-centered approaches.
The feminine-centered approaches are foundational to productivity because they help you figure out where you want to go and what is stopping you.
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The goal of balancing these two sides is not just to maximize your time, but to give you maximum pleasure in life.
If your productivity system feels oppressive and you can’t keep up with maintaining it, it’s too rigid. If you aren’t clear on what truly matters to you, then it doesn’t matter how productive you are. If you don’t allow for some chaotic randomness to arise in your life, you might miss out on some genius insights. If you can’t determine your priorities without someone else telling you, then you need to learn how to trust your intuition. If you are too hard on yourself for not getting as much done as you would like, you need to work on letting go and having more playfulness.
Balancing your female and male energies will liberate you and your time to focus on the things that truly matter for a joyous life.
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