How to be Less Productive
I really hate it, sometimes, the pressure to be more productive. The number of books, articles, and websites on the topic is bloody overwhelming.
As a mom as well as a writer and business owner, the constant push to cram as much shit as possible into a 24 hour period makes me feel like the biggest underachieving loser ever. Like no matter how much I do, it’s never going to be enough.
The funny thing is…it won’t ever be enough. No matter how many things I cross off my to do list every day, there will always be 100 other things I didn’t do. Which pissed me off to no end until I realized I’ve been going about this thing all wrong.
A couple months ago, I shut down my home daycare so that I could build my other business and my blog. I also closed it so that I could be more active in my kids’ lives.
We had some fun in the summer and it was fantastic not being tied to the house; being able to come and go as we pleased and spend our days however we wanted.
I was super excited about September when the kids would be in school and I would have 6 sweet hours a day to work on my stuff. Then September came. How quickly my plans went sideways. ARGH!!
Driving kids to and from school, to and from friends’ houses, to and from activities. Cleaning the house. Helping out at the kids’ schools. Going to this Meetup and that networking group. It was ridiculous.
September flew by and I accomplished nothing. My business and blog went on the back burner and I resented all this other stuff that filled my days. I felt massively unhappy and completely lost, not to mention wildly out of control.
Stupidly, it was all self-imposed. I had so much guilt about never being able to participate in the kids’ lives this way that I was trying to make up for the last 10 years by saying yes to everything. And I was sure if I didn’t network weekly and go to all these business functions, I’d fail miserably as an entrepreneur. Sigh.
As is typical for me when I’m feeling unhappy and out of control, I rebelled. This is my life, dammit, and I’ve waded through a lot of shit to get where I am. No way am I going to let guilt/society/fear dictate how I spend my time.
Then I got super selfish and protective of my time. When the kids are in school, that’s my time. To work on me, my blog, my business, my dreams. I set up some boundaries with the kids and their friends and activities so there would be some balance. I started delegating and asking for help. I limited my business meetings and events to once or twice a month.
Being uber productive and getting a million things done every day is fine and dandy for some people, but it doesn’t make me happy. I don’t find it satisfying or fulfilling to be busy all the time. I hate it. I miss out on so much of life’s joy and beauty when I’m so focused on crossing all of these things off my list. And, to be honest, I don’t find myself moving that much closer to my goals when I’m super productive. I actually have a harder time staying focused on what I’m truly trying to accomplish.
Now my aim is to be less productive. The fewer things I try to get done in a day, the more effective and valuable the work is that I do. I get to fully engage and get lost in the task at hand. I get to stare off into space and let my mind wander. I get to think and reflect and brainstorm. I end up creating work that truly represents who I am and what I’m about because I’m not constantly checking the time and going over an endless to do list.
While I get that my situation is not the same as everyone else’s and not everyone has 6 hours of kid free/obligation free time every day, I’m pretty sure everyone has things on their list that are done out of guilt or pressure or fear, but that are not absolutely essential or set in stone.
I think we need to stop looking for ways to be more productive and start looking for ways to simplify and prioritize. Take an honest look at how you’re spending your days and ask yourself what you could delegate or eliminate. A lot of the time when we say ‘I have to…’ what we really mean is ‘I should…’ or ‘If I don’t do it, it won’t get done right’.
There are very few things that have to get done. We have to eat. We have to breath. We have to sleep. Everything else is optional and done by choice. Granted, there are consequences, good and bad, to every decision we make. So a great way to simplify and decide if something is a ‘must’ is to ask yourself what would happen if you don’t do it or get someone else to do it.
If your answer to that question is something you can live with, get rid of it! It’s your life and you deserve to spend the majority of it doing things that bring you joy and satisfaction. Get creative, delegate, eliminate, outsource.
What’s something time-sucking you do on a regular basis out of guilt or ‘should’?