Mind like water: Stress-free productivity

Don’t get set into one form: adapt it and build your own, and let it grow. Be like water. Empty your mind. Be formless, shapeless—like water. Now you put water in a cup, it becomes the cup; you put water into a bottle it becomes the bottle; you put it in a teapot it becomes the teapot. Now water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.

—Bruce Lee as found in Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen

Over the past year, during my work at the library or as a writer, I’ve heard comments like this:

  • I’m trying to read now that I have more time, but I can’t concentrate!
  • My mind doesn’t want to focus on anything “heavy.” My productivity has plummeted.
  • I’m supposed to be working/writing, but it’s so difficult to stick with it.

The stresses of COVID are messing with our minds, and our productivity.

Today I wanted to lie on my couch and do nothing. That sounded like the BEST plan.

I opened my phone. I clicked on an old link. I found Bruce Lee’s phrase, and I got up off the couch.

“Imagine throwing a pebble into a still pond. How does the water respond? The answer is, totally appropriately to the force and mass of the input, then it returns to calm. It doesn’t overreact or underreact.”

David Allen in Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity

If I throw a rock into a pond, the water has to react. It can’t NOT react.

COVID threw a rock into us. It was a BIG rock. We responded. We couldn’t NOT react. And we reacted appropriately to the force and mass.

Now, like water, we can return to calm. Out of that, productivity flows.

Ripples on water

7 thoughts on “Mind like water: Stress-free productivity

  1. marianbeaman

    Reading AND writing have saved my sanity during this strange year. With either, I could escape. Truthfully, in the beginning I couldn’t concentrate very well, but then I developed a “mind like water,” a phrase that suggests fluidity and flexibility.

    With the vaccine within reach for many of us in the States, especially older folks, some of the anxiety is beginning to subside. I hope that’s true for Canadians as well, Arlene. 🙂

    Reply
  2. karen

    Another good reminder to Flow and Be. You are right, Arlene, covid was a “big rock” and it’s healthy to admit that we have all been affected – those ripples are real, but they eventually subside. Your writing is lovely – it is like ‘haiku-prose’ for me.

    Reply
  3. Joni

    I haven’t had any problems concentrating or being focused since the pandemic hit, as I have a schedule and stick to it…..but have to admit I do have days I don’t feel like doing anything, but I get moving anyway…..a walk usually motivates me again, or a nap.

    Reply
    1. Arlene Somerton Smith Post author

      A walk is a great idea – good for both the body and mind. It’s amazing how better equipped we are to deal with things when we feel refreshed. Or, we could try making some Dutch Oven bread! The bread you made looked delicious.

      Reply

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