Easing Into Intentional Productivity

person sits with book in ring-adorned hands holding dried flowers

I’ve always worn productivity as a badge of honor. In a world full of possibilities, the ability to maximize my time seems like the golden ticket to climbing the ladder in my career and enjoying life to the fullest. But when COVID-19 hit and millions of people were required to work from home to protect public health, I quickly realized that my tendency to burn the candle at both ends was no longer sustainable. I had hit an energy level wall after months of unrecognized burnout and came to appreciate the opportunity to embrace slow living.

woman sits on carpet floor with laptop

This shift gave me the chance to pause and evaluate what I was pouring my energy into in the first place. Productivity, I realized, is an excellent outcome when you are in the flow of intentional effort but is an unrealistic standard to set for yourself 24/7. As a woman, my productivity and energy levels are also closely tied to my menstrual cycle and the hormonal changes it brings. Rather than fight the inevitable, I decided to reframe my perception of my own varying energy and productivity levels. I learned about the concept of “slow productivity,” which emphasizes a combination of intentional and nonjudgmental rest, effective boundaries and systems, and establishing values to help you find your flow. By embracing the natural rhythms of your energy - intentionally using those bursts of motivation and embracing rest when your body calls for it - you can achieve truly sustainable energy that builds up your self-confidence and avoid burnout for good.

a wicker rattan chair with an orange throw pillow next to a laptop on a wooden side table

I’m a big believer in leaning into the mood rather than fighting it. If it’s gloomy outside, I’m happy to snuggle up in a comfy sweater with a cup of tea rather than put myself in a bad mood by complaining about the weather. So why not treat your internal weather the same way? Whether you’re studying or working from home, you have the power to set yourself up for success by establishing the ambient environment that best supports your mood. Candles and essential oils are a great way to achieve this, as the aromatherapeutic properties provided by essential oils can boost your energy, mood, and creativity while helping to improve focus and motivation. Other essential oils support feelings of ease and tranquility. Here are some of my favorites for studying or working from home:

Eucalyptus + Lavenderdried eucalyptus fresh lavender slow north candle

When you’re feeling stressed, lethargic, or have the worst creative block of your life, take it easy on yourself and light a Eucalyptus + Lavender candle. The crisp, airy aroma of eucalyptus stimulates your brain and improves energy, while lavender’s floral note is known for its ability to help you relax by relieving the body’s fight or flight response.

Rosemary + Lemonrosemary lemon candle

Feeling good and ready to start your day? Boost your mood and get to work with a Rosemary + Lemon candle. Rosemary has stimulating properties that encourage memory retention and fight fatigue, while bright, tangy lemon promotes concentration and can help minimize anxiety.

Grapefruit + Spearmintgrapefruit spearmint candle

When you’re in the flow and feeling at the top of your game, keep that energy going with a Grapefruit + Spearmint candle. The clarifying and cool scent of spearmint promotes a sense of focus and positivity after studying or working for long periods of time. Blended with the cheery citrus aroma of grapefruit, this candle is sure to evoke pure happiness and energize any room.

Whatever your energy level is at a given moment, it’s essential to reframe productivity as a marathon, not a sprint. Take it from us at Slow North - if you burn the candle at both ends, there’s nothing left to enjoy tomorrow. Taking intentional breaks and checking in with your mood will help you enjoy life to the fullest, find alignment with the work you do, and contribute to a more holistic sense of success.

slow north blog writer gina kotos
Gina Kotos
Gina is a freelance writer and contributor to Slow North. She writes about intentional living and sustainability in beauty, wellness, and food. She has a degree in public health and environmental biology from the University of California, Berkeley and is based in San Francisco, CA.