Practices to exit the grind

Practices to exit the grind


This is part 3 of a series about unhooking from Toxic Productivity. If you missed it…

You can read part 1 here, where I set the scene, tell some jokes and share my experience with the Pathology of Productivity. 

Part 2 explores the signs that it may be time to gear down. 

Aside from updating the info page for LEAD (which is now open for enrollment!), this series is the only thing I’ve written this summer. It’s pretty meta since one of the things I struggle with is the very full-on impulse to create and do. There’s a lot I feel joyously called to create. But this season, I wanted family time and deep rest. It’s been sweet to explore this topic with you while I apply it to myself with a kind of reverence and faith in what becomes possible when we give ourselves the breaks we truly need. 

When you know it’s time to exit the prioritization of productivity, here are some interventions or practices that help to wind that sucker down.

Cull the shadow priorities

Is your overstuffed, crammed schedule a signifier of Resistance?

Maybe your dreams and ambitions scare you. Or you don’t know how to make them happen. If you’re constantly at the edge and beyond your capacity, you won’t have the bandwidth to do the brave and scary things. 

This has been a hard lesson for me. Trading what I really want for a gazillion priorities in front of me. If this hits your gut, take a step back, and consider what you really, deeply long for. 

If you had absolute faith you could make that happen, what would you trade for it that you’re currently giving your precious energy to? These are shadow priorities. Consider how you can extricate yourself from them. 

Imagine a winter’s rest. Dream it. Book it. 

If you plan to rest or take a break only when you “get to the other side” of whatever keeps the wheel spinning, the mind, attention and imagination tend to stay hooked on what needs doing. As variables shift, which they will, things likely get added. 

If you’re an exhausted shell of a meat suit, your decision-making and prioritization capacity will diminish. 

Enter…imagination. What would be a dream wintering for you? Is it a week on a beach? A month-long sabbatical? One day to lay in bed, watch movies and eat cookies? Intentionally allow your imagination to rest there daily. If your dream wintering feels impossible, scale it smaller to what could give some short-term reprieve. 

Once you have a vision, book it in! Even if it’s far out. You schedule your meetings, you prioritize your productivity. Prioritize your wintering. 

If that’s too far a stretch, keep your imagination going. As you do, you train your attention to focus on what you deeply need, rather than solely on what to get done.  

Do an expectation audit

Why you doin’ all this sh*t? Seriously. Who is it for? What are you trying to prove? Who are you ensuring you don’t let down? The voices that occupy the push, whose are they? This practice can be fast or a slowed-down ritual.

Get a notebook and pen and dump down all the things you think you need to do.

Next, ask whose expectations you’re trying to meet by going at this pace. Are these commitments you’ve explicitly made to people relying on you? Do they know it’s beyond your capacity right now? Are they your expectations? What do you believe about yourself if you can’t or don’t meet them?

What new stories can you tell yourself? What communication can you have with others to re-set the expectations to be reasonable and aligned with the capacity and energy you have right now?

Re-cap what you’ve done – feel the sufficiency

When we only focus on the gap, it can feel like nothing is enough. 

Look back at what you’ve already accomplished and let yourself feel the fullness of it. Life unfolds through time. What you get done is simply one part of it. You will not arrive and you’re doing just fine. 

There may still be a climb ahead, but anchoring into how far you’ve come can help to cultivate a deeper time space, one where you’ll be best served by being rested and joyful when engaging with your activities. 

A Definition of Done list

Write down a “Definition of Done” for the projects you’ve been cranking through. Meaning, What are the specific and measurable factors that define them as complete? 

You may discover as you do that “there is no done” because some items just come back endlessly (like e-mail! Operational tasks and laundry). If everything you’re tending to is this kind of thing, chances are you have way too much on your plate and you need help. 

Most of us, however, will probably find that there are projects we’re engaged with that have things that end. Get clear on what those are. 

Once you have your definition of done list, see how in reach it is. Is it a few items and a week’s worth of work that you’ll feel relieved to get through? Build in a break once it’s done. Does it look like months or years? Break it down more and build in pauses and regeneration time or you’ll burn out. 

Scheduled “no-demand” time

On the theme of building in time so you don’t burn out, this is key to sustainability. Depending on your commitments, dependents and access to resources, this will totally vary. Maybe you can take one day a week. Maybe it’s an hour a week. Or 30 minutes a day. 

What’s key is that there are no demands or commitments at this time. That includes things you think you should do for your well-being. Schedule the time. Show up for it and feel what you need and what will fill you up when you meet the blank space. 

This is not a one-and-done practice. Schedule it regularly and see what happens when you give yourself whitespace. 

Give the Animal of your body time in Nature

Get outside and into nature. If you’re in a big city and this is hard to access, see if you can even find a tree along the sidewalk. Touch it. Hug it. Lean against it. 

If a forest is accessible, or a body of water, a garden, a patch of dirt or sand, get your body to it. Lean or lay down. Feel its pace. Breathe deeply. Feel the difference between pace, fullness and expectations of Nature, versus late-stage capitalism. Which is truly more aligned with your body and constitution? Nature. The answer is Nature. You are Nature.

Whenever I’m feeling so full, bubbling with overwhelm, immersing myself in and contemplating the pace of nature helps to reorient my perspective and cultivate greater inner space. Can you breathe with the wind until urgency dissolves?

Body-centred practice

Running. Walking. Yoga. Tai Chi. Cycling. Hot and cold water therapy. Hit the gym, the mat, the pavement. Choose something that matches the pace of your energetic system. If you’re cranking and rushing from thing to thing, it might be hard to get into a slow practice, your mind won’t settle. So go boxing. Do some high-intensity training. Put on some music with a beat and dance. If you’re dragging and the thought of exercise feels like more pressure and exhausting, grab a pillow and a blanket, and get yourself on the ground in a yin-like stretch you can slowly and effortlessly settle into. 

Play with pace

Sometimes slowing down when you’ve been producing at a breakneck speed creates more anxiety than peace. Play with pace intentionally while you switch your engagement to other things. Like the fast-paced exercise I described above. Or take yourself to a lively social environment, which interrupts the to-do list, but doesn’t ask your system to wind down faster than you can.

Or play with slow in titrated ways. One of my favourite practices for this is to move at half the pace when going from one thing to another. It doesn’t take that much more time, but you’re cultivating a pace in the direct experience of your body that’s more spacious. 

Consciously Consume

I taught a class once and said that binging Netflix was a reasonable “wintering” activity for deep rest. Some of the participants had a tough time with this, full of guilt and shame that it’s not a “higher consciousness” way to rejuvenate. 

My gosh, we can be hard on ourselves, even our self-care goes through the moral tracker. But it’s important to be attuned to your direct experience and what kind of consumption is ultimately depleting or rejuvenating. 

Maybe you love reading inspirational work from people in your field. But when you do, you feel like you need to implement the things they share and now there’s a weight of pressure to do more. Maybe re-watching episodes of Friends is something your mind judges as “frivolous”, but it’s incredibly relaxing. 

Can you distinguish between content that is positively stimulating or negatively activating? Can you feel the difference between consuming things that feel initially good but are numbing (like fast food, literally and figuratively) or are truly nourishing?

Choose what you may want to detox from. Since leaving social media two and a half years ago, my nervous system is way more regulated and my inner world more spacious. I have greater control over what I let in. I still love a good chillax with creator’s content, I’m simply intentional about WHAT I’m consuming and WHY.

If what you’re consuming leaves you feeling depleted, anxious or numb, consider what small shift in consumption would be more uplifting, relaxing or soothing. 

Start smaller than you think you should

Phew! That was quite a list. If you’re already overwhelmed with what you’ve got on, even reading all the possible ways out can feel daunting. Here’s a thought…

Choose 1. The easiest one. Start small. Then come back and try another. 

Hit reply and let me know what practice you want to try on behalf of cultivating a more regenerative relationship with life. 

Cheering you on!

With Love,


I’m an Integral Master Coach™, Master Certified Coach, writer, mother & people lover. My gifts are centered around helping others to meet their calling and unleash their genius, on behalf of our shared world. Get to know me...