How To Be Productive Without Losing Your Mind
Over the last few months I have been taking a hard look at what productivity truly means to me. We spend a lot of time trying to cram as much as possible into a day and often times fall short or feel overwhelmed. For me seeing a long list of items to check off leaves me feeling so overwhelmed I wind not getting anything done. Which only leaves me feeling even more overwhelmed and stressed out. It’s a vicious circle.
I recently had a discussion with my therapist about how I sometimes felt like I simply didn’t get enough done during my days. That I felt lazy or like a bit of an underachiever. And then she did something that made me look at my day to day routine and schedule with fresh new eyes. She listed out what I do on a day to day and weekly basis. I of course knew my schedule, this wasn’t new information. But to have someone else say it out loud made me realize that I wasn’t giving myself credit. I do a lot. Not as much as others but a lot for me.
“You have as many hours in your day as Beyonce “
The above quote is utter bullshit. Let’s just get that out of the way right now. I mean yes, technically we do have as many hours in the day as Beyonce. But to compare our daily lives and schedules to Beyonce’s or anyone else’s for that matter is defeatist and just flat out silly. Because while we all have the same number of hours in day we do not all have the same amount of energy. What one person can get done in a day may be far more or less than what you are capable of.
“Meet yourself where you are”
The above quite is mine. It’s something I have been saying to myself a lot recently. What I mean by “meet yourself where you are” is instead of comparing your energy levels/productivity to other people’s that you look at what YOUR energy levels are and work within those parameters.
Choose your victories, not your defeats
I have long work days. Between my commute (I wake up at 6 and am out the door by 7 every morning) and actual work day I have 11 hour days 5 days a week. I had been beating myself up about not finding time to squeeze in a workout early in the morning or when I get home like I used to. But the fact of the matter is that I was ten years younger when I worked out 6 days a week, for 30-45 minutes everyday after work. I no longer have the energy levels to do that. And that’s okay. So I decided to find an alternative way to fit working out and getting back into shape into my lifestyle. I now workout on Saturdays. I have started going to Barre classes which I have really been enjoying. I go every Saturday for an hour. Could I do more? Perhaps. But this is where my energy level is at the moment. And so instead of beating myself up I am choosing to give myself credit for making the effort early Saturday mornings to bundle up and go out into the freezing winter to workout for an hour instead of sleeping in. That is the victory I have chosen for myself.
Create a Weekly Action List
I recently started an experiment which so far has been working well for me. Every Sunday I create an action list. I write down 5-7 items; no more than that in the aNote app. Those items can be as simple and banal as ‘wash the dishes” or “Swiffer the kitchen floor”. Any chore or task that I would like to accomplish gets added to the list. And then I pick one item to accomplish that day. That’s it. If I can check off one item that day on top of my work day then I am golden. And if I have time or energy to complete a second task then I do it. But only if I feel like it. My goal is to have each item ticked off the list by Saturday. Which is why I keep the list manageable.
Every little bit counts
If you are anything like me, you always have a laundry list of “projects” you would like to complete. Right now for me it is getting my apartment re-organized. From the bathroom, to the kitchen to my bedroom. They all need an overhaul of some kind. Recently I overhauled my makeup collection. Which was a whole project unto itself since I am a makeup lover with more makeup products than the average person. Just thinking about tackling it overwhelmed me. And so I decided to do myself a solid and split the large project up into pieces. I tackled a small part of the project over the course of two weekends. When I got to the final part - which was the most time consuming I was originally only going to do one part and finish it the next weekend. But then I got started and…kept going. I finished the entire thing. I felt so accomplished afterwards. If I had set myself up for failure by telling myself that I had to finish the entire thing that day I would have fallen into that cycle of being overwhelmed and I probably wouldn’t have gotten anything done, let alone finished the entire thing. By giving myself permission to stop when I wanted to stop I was actually more productive.
Recharge when you need to
Taking time out to just relax and not worry about what you have or need to do is a huge portion of not only mental and physical self care but also of recharging so that you actually have the energy to accomplish your tasks. Most nights when I get home from work I immediately take off my work clothes, change into my comfies, take off my makeup and do my skincare routine. I then relax with a snack and a cup of tea. That’s my daily self care routine. If I have something on my action list pressing that needs to get done and it’s a task I particularly hate - like doing dishes or cleaning the litter box. I do it first. As soon as I get home. This way I am not spending my relaxing time dreading what’s to come. And once it’s done I am free for the rest of the evening. This works for me, but I encourage you to find what works best for you. I also encourage you to try a few ways of doing things to see how each one feels to you.
Be kind to yourself
This is perhaps the biggest lesson that I think we can all learn and it covers more than just our daily productivity. We are often harder on ourselves than we are on others. We hold ourselves to impossible standards that we would never think of imposing on our friends and family or even complete strangers. If you fail to get something done that doesn’t make you a failure. Or lazy. This is something that I myself am working on. Your internal dialogue matters. What we say to ourselves about ourselves is what we manifest in our daily lives. If you think you are lazy that makes you less inclined to get up and do something. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. So strike certain words from your mind. Ban them and when you find yourself slipping and saying them counteract them with something more positive. Instead of saying, “Ugh. I’m so lazy. I didn’t get anything done today.” Say, “Today I was tired and needed to recharge.” Do you see the distinction? You are telling yourself that you needed rest time - not that you are lazy. You can then regroup and do better the next day.
I hope this post was helpful and can set you on your way to finding a realistic balance within your daily lives and routine. My goal with this post was to push against the idea that we always need to be busy or doing something. I think quite the opposite is true. I think the key to mental happiness is balance. And not letting the daily grind, grind us down.