March 6, 2020

Supercharging our productivity with Sanctuary

A few years ago I was seeking a more peaceful way to handle all of the work involved with running a busy design firm, raising a daughter with disabilities, and getting a teenage son through high school.

The stress was starting to wear on me.

I asked my husband about the productivity app that he used, Omnifocus , and he showed me the GTD (Getting Things Done) methodology and how to use it to keep track of everything, keep my mind clear, and get through my day with more focus and presence.

Wow. My productivity system really made a difference.

But then, once I achieved a level of proficiency with GTD, I became acutely aware of how much more capacity I had.

And what does a productive human being do with all that capacity? I filled it up with more stuff.

“Argue for your limitations, and you get to keep them” was certainly true, and therefore, I reasoned, the obverse was also true: believe in your limitless capacity and it is yours.

As you can imagine, a few things didn’t go exactly as planned.

My morning meditation started to become twenty minutes of reviewing my upcoming deadlines and outstanding obligations with my eyes closed.

My morning writing started to become a time for making lists of everything that needed to be done.

My weekends morphed into focused work and study sessions.

In spite of knowing more about sanctuary than I ever have, I stopped feeling refreshed. I was just… tired.

The wake up call

My husband Philip wrote about greying out our phones a few weeks ago, and I have been thinking about why that has been so magical for me .

I believe the answer is that greying out my phone suddenly freed up a hundred little moments in my day when I would have otherwise been tempted to scroll through Facebook, look at emails, or review my to-do lists. There is so much magic in those little in-between moments.

Those moments are the ones that get plowed over when we try to clear every deep forest in our souls and turn them into uber-productive farmland.

When I was raising my kids (I’m still raising my kids, let’s be honest): the deepest connection with them came not in well-planned “quality time” that came in canned vacation packages or Mother’s Day brunches.

Rather, it was in the little moments, when we were folding the laundry together, or making a bed together, or making dinner.

Maybe it’s the same with our own souls. Maybe our inner being peeks out at us and wants to talk when everything else is quiet and we have nowhere else we feel we must be.

Here’s a quick exercise: when’s the last time you looked out the window just to watch the way the branches sway in the wind for five minutes?

If you can, I challenge you to do that now. Stop reading this, set a timer (so as not to cheat yourself out of your full five minutes), and stare out the window at whatever you have there. 

I just did that while writing the last paragraph, so now it’s your turn. I’ll wait right here while you do.

Did you do it? Did it feel like a breath of fresh air? This is your life, and you only get so many chances to daydream while staring out the window. The truth of us awaits in the quiet of our souls.

I’m beginning to see that like so many things in life, the path to getting more done isn’t straightforward. 

Perhaps the way to more productivity in the big things, the really important things, is to do less of the other things, and create space for my soul to breathe.

The experience we’re having is important. We are more than our accomplishments.

And while I’ve been writing Finding Sanctuary for a few years now, I am still ever-seeking, and ever-finding sanctuary for myself in new ways. I’m beginning to see that perhaps that’s how it’s supposed to be.

With deep gratitude,


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