Flow over Force: Essential Existential Advice to Overcome Paltry Productivity

by Neha O’Rourke

For the woman who’s utterly frustrated by what she perceives to be her paltry productivity (or so it feels that way) in these duck-and-cover days of COVID-19: I see you. I hear you. And, I would like to introduce you to a concept that I turn to regularly to reset the day or when motivation or productivity becomes stagnant. It’s called “flow-over-force⁣.”

This process is designed to reframe how we think about the time and energy we put into the series of tasks and decisions that drive our days and weeks. It’s something I rely on personally and recommend professionally to the clients I serve.

Okay here we go:


Have you ever been in a body of water and tried to swim against the waves? It’s not easy.

The effort alone forces you to expend a lot of energy, and in the end, you don’t get very far. Think of your own energy in the same way. Forcing things to happen —whether they’re items that populate your to-do list; or are more of the long term big-picture sort —will get you similar results. You’re exhausted, you didn’t get very far along, and you may even feel burned by the time all is said and done.


Now think of yourself as floating in the water, allowing the waves to carry you. It still takes work, because you still have to keep yourself afloat. But the amount of energy you save is measurable and significant…and you’ll get there faster. The path of least resistance is shorter and a hell of a lot easier!

Being productive for sustainable success, especially in the era of economic headwinds, means you have to show up.  But counterintuitively, if you allow yourself to flow rather than force, you’ll be more productive. Listen to what your energy is telling you it needs: sleep, regular breaks, saying ‘no’ to what doesn’t serve you, and trying a novel way of approaching those ‘things’ that are always nagging at you to get done.

You see, it’s all about paying a little extra attention to what that precious energy of yours is telling you. How will you choose to move forward?

Neha O’Rourke is an award-winning Career Coach and Founder of Somewhere In Between Coaching, a coaching company that empowers women around the country and across industries in designing a career and life they love. Since founding Somewhere In Between, Neha has served hundreds of women, helping them to avoid career burnout, through her signature 1:1 career coaching programs, research-based blog series, and public appearances.

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