Hi, my name is Garrick and I’m productive.
It’s been six minutes since I last achieved something and I’m afraid I’ll relapse at any moment. I know that I should take some time to relax, but I can’t. I need to get sh!t done and I need to get it done now!
Everywhere I go, it follows, like a shadow of guilt, whispering “you should be doing more.”
I can’t even go for a leisurely walk without being interrupted. “You should turn this into a run,” it says. “You should use this opportunity to work on your fitness, or at least get a tan.”
Even when I’m trying to watch Game of Thrones, it’s there. ‘Wouldn’t a TED Talk be better, or maybe an educational podcast…?’
I try to pretend it’s not that bad, that I could stop any time, but I know I can’t —I’ve tried.
When I’m with my friends I struggle to stay present, to focus on what they’re saying, to really listen. All I can think about is work, or the gym, or the stuff I need to do at home, or the next great project I’m going to start. Wait, shouldn’t I be working on my book rather than writing another article?
Being busy was once the hallmark of a rich and fulfilling life. It included social engagements, hobbies, sport, creativity and down time. Nowadays, it seems like the busy life has been replaced with the productive life.
The problem is that being busy and being productive aren’t the same thing. If we can’t let go of productivity, we risk losing the ability to enjoy our leisure time.
When we lump everything into two categories, productive and unproductive, we start to feel guilty about anything that isn’t work. This guilt penetrates our leisure time, all but ruining it.
Psychologist Shawn Achor describes one of the key characteristics of happy people as “the ability to see the value of leisure.” So, how can we learn to value leisure when our brain see’s it as unproductive?
The solution, I believe, is greater self-compassion.
Author and Psychologist Kristin Neff describes self-compassion as “how much we care for ourselves.” It is made up of everything we say, and everything we do, that is just for us.
When we get caught up in the hyper-competitive consumerist world, we often sacrifice ourselves in the pursuit of productivity. We stop reading for fun, we quit playing social sport and we become too busy to spend time with friends.
We feed and reinforce the little voice that tells us to quit mucking around and get back to work. Before we know it, that little voice isn’t so little anymore.
However, by challenging our negative self-talk and giving ourselves a break, we might be able to break the cycle and build a more compassionate mindset.
We need to start asking ourselves: Do I really need to be productive right now? Will the world end if I take some time to relax and recover? When was the last time I did something that was just for me?
So today, even if it’s just for a short while, do something that’s just for you. Go for a walk, listen to some music, call a friend and chat, read some fiction– and above all, try to be a little nicer to the most important person in your life —you.
Author: Garrick Transell
Editor: Renée Picard
Image: LaurMG via Wikimedia