I’m sure like many of us do, I put a lot of pressure on myself to be productive every day, and there’s nothing that can put me in a bad mood quicker than the feeling of not getting things done (okay, apart from people with bad manners and a trip to the local supermarket)
Here’s what’s got me thinking about this –
This morning I sketched some lettering, sent emails, and sorted through my archive of drawings and fine art prints. It was a relaxing morning and helped distract my thoughts from the looming dentist appointment in the afternoon. Going to the dentist is always a little nerve-racking, but this was to be my first one in Germany and I’m sure fellow expats will understand the anxiety of trying to talk in a second language about an unfamiliar topic, especially one that involves important information that won’t lead to them unnecessarily taking a tooth out. Anyway, it was a positive experience and once home I photographed the drawings I had sorted in the morning and made a yummy pumpkin soup for dinner.
Writing this out makes me realise that it’s a reasonable amount of things for one day…yet I’ve felt frustrated about my post-dinner zombie like state and have this overwhelming need to do more.
This feeling lead me to question what I perceive as being productive…I didn’t just lay in my bed and watch TV all day, so why do I feel like this? I was productive in taking care of my health, doing a little creative work and ticking a few lingering tasks off my to-do list, yet I still don’t feel satisfied enough to end the day.
I think we have become programmed to make use of every minute of the day. There’s so much emphasis and pressure on being efficient and getting unrealistic amounts of work done.
We are human and cannot be 100% productive 100% of the time, nor should we be, and we have to get better at not feeling bad about it.
Of course, long work days are sometimes inevitable but this has to be balanced with taking time out for ourselves to relax.
It sounds like a stupid thing to be bad at… but I suck at relaxing. Not always, but often when I’m at home and “relaxing” I feel guilty doing something that isn’t work. I’m just guessing here, but I imagine this is a problem more often felt by those who work or study from home, the line between when work stops and personal time begins is more blurred.
I realise I sound like an uptight, anxious workaholic which I’m definitely not. I know when enough is enough and lead a balanced life of work and play, but I can’t say I don’t frequently have this anxiety of getting things done bubbling under the surface.
It’s something I am working on improving and one thing I have put in place is to stop writing myself unrealistic daily to-do lists. Instead, I write a big, more general to-do list, highlighting the most urgent tasks I need to get done, the tasks which are quick, painless but necessary and the tasks that can wait for another day. From this list, I chose one urgent task for the day and a couple of quick painless but necessary ones. The other things I will get around to at some point or will happen organically.
I’m writing this post as self-advice really and maybe you can’t relate to this topic at all. Perhaps you are a relaxation master, if so, well done you! Tell me your secrets!
However, if like me you set yourself impossible amounts of work and sometimes beat yourself up about not being superhuman enough to get through them all, then firstly let’s start being kinder to ourselves, let’s practice shifting our mindset to the things we did accomplish that day, prioritise our lists and praise ourselves for ticking off a couple things each day and finally take breaks or days off to enjoy ourselves…guilt free!
I’d be interested to know your thoughts on your relationship with productivity and what makes you feel productive and how you deal with days of unproductivity. Feel free to get in touch on social media.