The Art of Aligned Productivity: If Productivity Hurts, You’re Doing It Wrong

I’m done with productivity as usual.

Or at least I’d like to be.

What is sold to us as productivity is often about frantically getting more and more things done, without feeling more fulfilled.

At some point, this productivity treadmill feels like driving a car without asking if a) you actually want to continue driving that car, b) if that car is even going in the right direction or taking you further away from your destination, and c) what impact that car ride has on the rest of your life.

If that sounds like what you’re dealing with, welcome to the world’s most populated club! (I guess that is my cue: “Hi, I’m Bere and I am a productivity addict.” *waves awkwardly*)

How to move towards aligned productivity

What you’re doing next is very, very important. I once was taught that when stuck in quicksand, you shouldn’t frantically struggle to free yourself.

It makes things worse.

If you’re stuck in the quicksand of non-stop busyness, stop moving for a moment and consider a better option: the art of aligned productivity.

Basically, aligned productivity is about being productive in ways that feel good and that work for you.

Aligned productivity is to regular productivity what Aikido is to fighting. It’s non-resistance. It’s being like water. It’s flowing instead of pushing.

But until you get it right, it’s confusing as hell.

Punching, blocking, kicking, hitting, jabbing, etc. are pretty straightforward fighting moves. In contrast, the elegant Aikido moves are like… if cats took up dancing and used it to defend themselves?

(With my genuine apologies to this beautiful art for my ignorance. I have only attended a few Aikido classes. *deep bow and respect*)

Similarly, aligned productivity is initially less straightforward than what we typically do.

How aligned productivity is different

Regular productivity assumes that there’s a right way to be productive and that once we account for certain differences, it’s pretty similar for everyone.

As a certified habit coach, I used to think that, too.

For instance, I was certain that you really don’t want to check Social Media while trying to be productive. Except I have a friend who’s the author of a bestselling book… and interacting on Social Media while creating it was a crucial part of her writing process.

Similarly, I’ve been told that we’re more productive in the morning. I’m not. I’m writing this at 8:30… pm, not am.

While regular productivity is (mostly) about a one-size-fits-all approach, aligned productivity is about discovering what works for you, knowing that that might change over time, or even every day (for instance, based on your energy level).

This brings us to the next point: Aligned productivity is about discovering how to be productive in a way that feels good for you.

Make productivity fun again

Making productivity fun, playful, and feel good is perhaps the world’s most underrated productivity advice.

Why? Well, unlike constant busyness (which could lead to a burnout), aligned productivity helps you keep going!

Here’s the thing about whether or not productivity feels good: ultimately nobody can judge that better than yourself.

People can give you feedback (“gee, you look unhappy”) but it’s up to you to decide what to do with that feedback. Perhaps you aren’t unhappy because of YouTube’s algorithm but because your cat just attacked you with some dance moves?

Coaches and experts can have all the productivity research and knowledge they want, and yet you’re the expert of you. Nobody can argue with your lived experience.

Bruce Lee’s powerful insight

If you decide to embark on a path of aligned productivity, you will be engaged in war with non-stop busyness.

Your skill will be tested while you’re still finding your sea legs. Is it really okay to listen to the ebb and flow of your productivity (and perhaps even take a vacation) instead of pushing yourself all the time?

At this point, perhaps a few words from the great Bruce Lee are in order (since I am studying his martial arts system, I feel slightly less ignorant about this than about Aikido).

Here’s an important moment in Lee’s journey, as described in his own words:

“On the sea I thought of all my past training and got mad at myself and punched the water! … I struck it but it did not suffer hurt. Again I struck it with all of my might — yet it was not wounded! I then tried to grasp a handful of it but this proved impossible. This water, the softest substance in the world, which could be contained in the smallest jar, only seemed weak. In reality, it could penetrate the hardest substance in the world. That was it! I wanted to be like the nature of water.”

Non-stop productivity is fire.

Aligned productivity is water. It only looks weak.


When I stopped doing some of my busywork and focused on my priorities, I earned more and worked less.

In my experience, aligned actions are more powerful than begrudgingly doing things because you feel you have to do them.

While I still have a long adventure in front of me, my car is finally on the right road and headed in the right direction.

If yours isn’t, now’s the best time to stop and turn around.

P.S.: I help my clients become more productive in aligned ways. If you're interested, you can find more about my coaching here.

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Louise is the founder of Leader for Good. She's a former lawyer and academic who moved from Germany to the United States where she started her own business. Today, Louise loves helping her coaching clients and students connect with their passion and purpose. You can find out more about her coaching business at


  1. Narayan KamathDecember 9, 2022

    Aligned productivity converts busyness into business

    1. BereDecember 12, 2022

      I love that way of thinking about it, Narayan!

  2. Brigitte GemmeDecember 9, 2022

    This is a powerful comparison Bere, thank you for sharing!

    1. BereDecember 12, 2022

      Thank you for taking the time to comment, Brigitte!

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