Cynthia Cummins is a top 1% Realtor and founder and owner of Kindred SF Homes, a boutique agency in San Francisco. Also known as “the real estate therapist,” she’s been a solopreneur for over three decades and knows about productivity.

Her website

Mister Productivity: Many people think you must be doing something to be productive. They believe if they’re not something, they’re being lazy.

Cynthia Cummins: I think it’s important to have downtime. A completely unstructured time when there’s no goal. I once heard someone refer to this as “cow time.” Think of a cow out in the field, just chewing its cud and not really thinking about anything in particular. We need to have “cow time,” too. A time when we’re not meditating, visualizing, praying, or even listening to a podcast. Just let yourself meander and loathe.

Mark: I like to go out in my backyard on sunny days, get some vitamin D with my bare feet on the ground while reading my Kindle. Sometimes I just sit there, not doing or thinking about anything. It’s just amazing how rejuvenating it is.

Cynthia Cummins: It’s very rejuvenating, but you know, the productivity police might come along and say, “What are you doing, Mark? You’re just sitting there in the sun not doing anything.”

Mark: There is a pandemic of attention in our world today. Sometimes you don’t need to move on to the next thing, but you need to pull back on the reins!

Cynthia Cummins: If we get caught up in the next thing all the time, we haven’t taken a moment to be face-to-face, heart-to-heart, or even listen to other people. 

The thought we can have in our minds and hearts goes something like, “I am here for you. I see that you’re here with me, and I’m here for you. We’re here. We’re listening to each other.” And you don’t have to say that out loud. But what a generous idea that I’m here. I’m witnessing you. I’m here in this moment. It’s kind of cool.

Mark: I believe not doing things that bring you joy can negatively affect your productivity. What are your thoughts on this?

Cynthia Cummins: Joy comes in all different shapes and sizes. For me, this is making my first cup of tea in the morning. But it also might be watching a little bit of comedy or a social media meme that makes me laugh. As long as I don’t fall into endless scrolling of videos of funny animal videos but just use that little moment to chuckle over something can change the tone of the day.

Mark: Happy people tend to be productive people. Ask yourself, do you tend to get more things done when you’re angry or happy?

Cynthia Cummins: What you allow in and become makes a huge difference. I could go through that course or find something every 30 seconds that I can be upset about. Or I can choose to be happy. Being happy is an inside job. There’s nobody who can make you happy. We make ourselves happy. And I’d rather meet things with a smile than a frown. It just feels better.

Mark: I gotta believe you have some days when things don’t work out. I have those days, and I’m known as Mister Productivity. What do you do?

Cynthia Cummins: I think you have to give yourself permission. Extend yourself some self-compassion, which may not be easy to do. Many people are compassionate toward everyone except themselves. I’ll think, “Do I have to do this? Can someone else do it? Can I delay it?” And that makes a big difference. 

But if I have a day where I don’t have a packed agenda, or it’s a day that I’ve chosen to be “free,” I often find myself sitting with a feeling of slight depression and anxiety, and uncertainty because I don’t have the day mapped out with an agenda that can be a little on grounding. And that’s where I have to bring my practice and discipline into play and say, “Hey, Cynthia, you can not do anything today. It’s okay.”