How to stay out of your own way as you produce more and stress less

In this blog series, I’ve been writing about an approach to managing your life in a way that both positions you to be more productive and gives you access to real peace of mind. Today I want to take a closer look at what this practice requires of us.


We all have so many responsibilities to handle and so many people counting on us to do this or that. The sense of burden can be overwhelming. When we’re constantly putting out fires and chasing deadlines, we can easily find ourselves in survival mode and mired in stress, even exhaustion. That’s why I advocate for another way to design your life.

People often think they lack peace of mind because there’s too much going on in their lives. But that’s not the issue: It’s how we confront all there is to do… or fail to confront it. We may think we’re handling things effectively if we’ve developed our own special recipe for multi-tasking. We may know how to continually convince ourselves and others that we have everything under control. But here’s the thing: Even the best multitaskers in the world will never get it all done.

Once we accept this reality and shift our perspective, we can candidly take stock of every single thing, big and small, that there is for us to do. Then, if we can re-train ourselves to prioritize those items based on what’s most important to us, we can begin to see and act with much greater clarity.

This entails sometimes deciding with deliberation not to do something — at least not now. This aspect of the work is not procrastination because we’ve shifted the dynamic and taken charge of the item. And when we do declare it’s time to handle it, we’ll be able to do so very effectively.

Part of what makes us more productive in this new practice is the act of very consciously committing to do things; we’re giving our word. And as long as we operate with discipline and rigor to honor our word, we will find ourselves regularly accomplishing what we said we would do when we said we would do it. It’s a challenging practice… and it works. Over time, we will realize that we’re less stressed and exhausted and that we’re feeling real peace of mind. There’s something very powerful about designing our lives this way.

On the flip side, we will invariably fail to keep our word at times. Perhaps we allow an interruption to take hold of our morning or day. Or maybe part of us misses the messy rush of doggedly running after multiple obligations simultaneously. I call this letting our identity get in our way. Our identity can still be attached to survival mode; it’s not necessarily interested in our new sense of fulfillment and satisfaction. Our identity may be telling us that we “hate” doing something — and when we allow that thought to limit us, we will fail to meet our commitment to do that thing.

But when we reach beyond our identity and refuse to settle for survival mode, so much more becomes possible. We’re able to get things done with a sense of purpose because we’re not getting “all up in our heads” about it. We’re deciding to do something and we do it, period. Then we’re complete and we’re free to do the next thing that matters to us. We’re honoring our word and experiencing the benefits of powerfully meeting our commitments.

I caution you that our survival mode identities can be intimidated by this version of us that possesses greater clarity and calm. We thought we knew precisely who we were. Are we not that person, after all?

Rest assured, this isn’t about changing who you are. Just the opposite: The decisions you make are all about you, and what matters most to you. It’s about directing yourself based on your word rather than your identity. It’s about you being free to show up and deliver for your colleagues, for your loved ones, and for yourself.

This is the eighth and final post in the series by productivity expert John Fisher

Read article 1article 2, article 3, article 4, article 5, article 6, article 7