Improve your productivity in a sustainable way

“Pushing through” is not a sustainable productivity strategy for small business owners.

Jenna Hellberg
7 min readMay 17, 2022
Photo by Ron Lach on Pexels

The tricky part with productivity, or not being productive, is that we often think that we just don’t have enough willpower to do the things. We think we need to push harder.

But actually, that’s probably not the right solution.

Feeling like you have to push yourself a ton (but you just can’t push yourself enough to get eeeverything done), is a sign that your Productivity ecosystem is off-balance.

Last week, I told you all about the Productivity Ecosystem — which consists of the three things that support you being a productive, balanced human business owner. These are wholeness, design, and sisu.

Let’s talk about what that might look like when your ecosystem is off-balance, and what you can do to strengthen the parts that could use some work. I’m trying to give some more “broad strokes” ideas, because what works for you is going to be different from what works for someone else.


In short, wholeness is about feeling well physically, emotionally and mentally. When you feel well, you do well.

Possible signs that your wholeness could use a little work

You are often tired, you get brain fog, or feel really sluggish throughout your workdays. It is natural for energy to fluctuate throughout the day, but there are ways to make those slumps less intense.

You feel lots of jams and kinks in your body, you experience headaches, or your body feels uncomfortable in some other way throughout the day.

You don’t feel connected to yourself, your loved ones, your friends, maybe even your environment or the world. You’re not feeling a sense of community and support.

You don’t have energy to do much other than watch Netflix after you stop working. We all need a break from social interaction sometimes, but if you’re continuously choosing to stay on your couch instead of venturing out into the world, it’s probably a sign that you don’t have enough time to decompress. Even introverts need human interaction.

Some examples of what could benefit your wholeness

  • taking regular breaks, especially from screens, throughout your workday helps with energy slumps (even better if you can go outside)
  • evaluating what you eat, and whether your diet is supporting you or contributing to energy crashes
  • a better wind-down routine before bed, so that you can get a restful night’s sleep
  • reaching out to some friends or loved ones more often to feel that connection
  • incorporating some regular movement into your day (our brains are built to support movement, so if we only sit by our computers all day our brain doesn’t get activated as much as is beneficial)
  • when in doubt, drink water


Design has to do with the practices, routines, and systems that are in place, aka the way in which you operate your business.

Possible signs that your design could use a little work

You often feel frazzled or overwhelmed behind the scenes.

You feel like you’re pulled in a million directions, and you rarely have time to work on the big ideas or updates you have in mind for your business.

You’re not really sure what to work on when you sit down at your desk. You often feel like you’re behind, or like your to-do list is just too overwhelming and will never get done.

You find yourself being reactive instead of proactive. This looks like doing tasks and “putting out fires” as they pop up on your radar, and might leave you feeling a bit guilty about not getting the work you had planned done.

Maybe you’re worried that how things are behind the scenes also affects your clients, or you worry that people will find out how disorganized things can get.

If you go to bed in the evening feeling like you were pretty busy all day but don’t feel like you actually accomplished anything that’ll make a difference.

Some examples of what could benefit your design

Depending on how your business stuff is set up, there are so many potential things to do within the design piece of the ecosystem.

  • setting up software and automation that simplify your tasks (or take them off your plate completely)
  • creating templates to make your processes more streamlined
  • boundaries (towards clients, family members, even yourself!)
  • clear start and stop times for your workday
  • planning out a regular weekly schedule
  • documenting workflows for things you do often, so that you don’t have to remember every single step in the process (also makes it easier to outsource that task in the future)
  • aligning your services to fit the way you want to work, and how much time and energy you have

To note: Sometimes the things we can do for design are more around how we do things vs what software or systems we have in place. For example, you might decide to only book calls on particular days of the week, so that you have more peace and brain space to tackle other types of work on the remaining days.


Sisu is a Finnish word that means showing up with spirit, grit, and determination for the things that you want to accomplish. It’s not about pushing or forcing, but about feeling an internal motivation to do something — even when it’s challenging.

Possible signs that your sisu could use a little work

When your sisu is depleted, you may feel like things in your life and business in theory seem like they should be good, but you find yourself not following through on plans. And you’ve noticed that trying to push it isn’t really helping.

Maybe you don’t have as much patience anymore, you’re not happy to experiment until you figure out what works, or can’t find the energy to tweak things — even if you feel like there’s gotta be a better way to do a thing.

Maybe you’re feeling a lack of motivation and drive. You find yourself debating whether or not to do the thing you had planned because you *know* in your bones that it would be important — or if you should watch the newest season of Workin’ Moms.

Maybe you’re not where you’d like to be yet with your revenue yet, but you’re finding that making more money isn’t really enough of a driver for you anymore. Maybe you catch yourself wondering if what you do actually has meaning.

Some examples of what could benefit your design

The sisu piece of the Productivity Ecosystem can be a bit trickier to solve for than the other two, because it has to do with less tangible problems and solutions.

Something that can chip away at your sisu is doing marketing or other things in your business in a way that you don’t enjoy or that doesn’t fit you — you identifying those things could be helpful so that you can change them.

A journaling suggestion:

Look back at the past few months, and write down a few things that made you feel really great, excited, energized or proud.

  • What did you enjoy about the things you did?
  • What exactly felt exciting or energizing to you?
  • What motivated you to do the things you did?

If things pop up for you as you journal, you could then think about how you could incorporate more of that into your life.

Maybe there’s a change you could do in how you approach your work, or maybe there’s something new you could incorporate into your daily routines outside of work?

For example, I would go nuts if I only got to share my thoughts and ideas with 1:1 clients — I don’t think we’d get very far on their action plans if I was telling them all the things I’d like to talk about. So that’s why I started my podcast, Building Balance. It’s a way for me to do something that I really love *and* at the same time it benefits people who listen.

To consider when it comes to your own Productivity Ecosystem

Now that we’ve gone through each part in the ecosystem, I want to point out that struggles and solutions may not be quite as black-and-white as they might seem “on paper”. Because this IS an ecosystem, if something’s lacking in one of the areas, it also affects the others. But the good news is that when we improve one of them, it also affects the others.

And I should also point out, that even if one of the pieces is suuuper well taken care of, it doesn’t compensate for the others.

Each piece has to be at a good basic level for life and business to feel doable and good and sustainable.

Having just amazing sisu isn’t enough; you need to take care of yourself and operate your business in a way that’s supportive of you. Or having #AllTheSystems in place doesn’t make up for not taking good care of yourself.

It’s all very much connected.

The solutions for each part of the ecosystem may vary quite a lot from person to person because of personality, situations, capacity, privileges etc — but I hope that this gave you some insight into what you might be able to shift. And that the solutions can be pretty simple!

Want to be more productive ASAP?

Together we can figure out practical things you can do to be more productive (without hustle and push). Find out how we can team up on my website>>

Or listen to the Building Balance podcast for weekly thoughts and tips around productivity and work-life balance for solo business owners.



Jenna Hellberg

Helping small business owners make progress without hustle. Get my free planning guide that helps you prioritize impactful tasks: