While I don’t claim to know what the meaning of life is, there is one thing I know for sure: Life is not all about being productive…(in the effortful sense of the word).
After-all, it’s true that “productive” things can happen with little to no effort. Important things, like tiny seeds growing into towering oaks and fertilized eggs becoming babies becoming you and me.
A couple weeks ago I wrote to you about hustle culture. Another term used to describe this obsession with getting things done is toxic productivity.
Toxic productivity is when we strive to be productive all the time, and feel guilty or lazy when we’re not checking things off our list.
It’s when we associate our value with how much we produce, how much we accomplish in a day or our lives.
While I am all for being more effective, creating greater impact, and pushing past our energetic limit from time to time to remind ourselves just what we’re capable of, I do not advocate for a purely goal-oriented approach to life.
Many problems with our modern day world stem from an over-focus on forward progress and an under focus on rest, wellbeing, mental health, and the true costs of productivity (human and environmental).
Toxic productivity can look like:
- An obsession with efficiency (doing more in less time)
- An expectation that you should be as productive as you were yesterday, last month, last year…
- Thinking about your to-do list while in conversation
- Regretting or feeling guilty about time spent not getting things done
Sure, accomplishing our goals, and helping our team, employer or customers accomplish theirs, is fulfilling, but too much focus on goals can drain us of our joy, life force and ability to connect with each other.
I may have shared this quote with you before, but it’s so good I don’t mind sharing it twice:
“If you want to find meaning, stop chasing after so many things.”
(wrote the Zen monk Ryokan)
So often our quest for meaning is characterized by doing more, and while sometimes this is the answer (unfettered laziness can be as draining as busyness)…
…it’s often more presence and less escapism (yep, work can be a form of escape too) that makes our life rich. And as ironic as it is, skyrockets our impact.
There is power is focusing our awareness on the present moment and seeing what arises
There is power is dedicating entire days to being present with family (sans technology)
There is power in lingering in a tub
There is power in sitting by the garden
There is power is taking an aimless walk and seeing where we end up
There is power in looking out the window or sitting in a park without a sense of urgency
There is power in lying on the couch for an afternoon nap
There is power in letting the mind frivolously wander
There is power in creating something just for the sake of it
It’s one thing to know this in our heads — that life is about more than being productive — and it’s another to align with it in our daily life…amid pings, endless to do lists, expectations and other people’s agendas.
It may be easier to embrace this truth when we’re on vacation, when we’ve had some space from the grind, but what about during our normal, day to day work life?
These are the times when we probably feel most guilty, or even ashamed, for taking idle time to simply be. And these are the times we need it most.
Here’s to napping and playing more,
P.S. The pandemic is straining us in new ways, and it’s showing in our mental health. According to the NY Times Coronavirus briefing: substance abuse, eating disorders, depression, anxiety, burnout, loneliness, sleep problems, stress from caregiving and working from home, hopelessness, languishing (that blah, joyless, aimless feeling) are all on the rise.
If you’re experiencing any of these, know you’re not alone. Meditating, journaling, regular exercise, technology breaks, spending time outside, sharing your experience with someone who won’t judge you, and reaching out for professional support can all help.
Try to put down any guilt you feel about dropping balls and do your best to pick the important ones back up.
About the Author: Allie Andrews
With a decade of experience in the wellness and coaching industry, Allie has partnered with 65 companies and helped hundreds of achievers and workaholics find a pace and rhythm to living that feels sustainable and nourishing.
As a coach, Allie helps her clients grow their impact while prioritizing their health, deepening their relationships, and following their joy.
Allie is a lifelong student of personal growth, certified health coach, yoga teacher, and sex and relationship coach.
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