Do You Have a Productivity Problem?
I have a productivity problem.
The problem isn’t that I’m not productive enough. No, my real productivity problem is I never feel productive enough. Ever. No matter how much I do.
Logically, I know I’m doing my best. But on an emotional level, it rarely feels good enough. Even on my most productive days, there will almost always be a moment, usually just before I go to bed, where I remember some little thing that’s still on my never-ending to-do list, and I’m seized with guilt.
Sure, I was productive that day. But not (never) enough.
What’s wrong with me? I think. I should have been able to get so much more done.
I’m more likely to beat myself up for not doing something I think I should have than to give myself credit for the things I accomplish.
I know that part of my guilt over not being able to reach some elusive and unattainable level of productivity comes from my tendency to be too hard on myself in general. I’m more likely to beat myself up for not doing something I think I should have than to give myself credit for the things I accomplish. But I also know I’m not the only one struggles with feeling like I’m not doing enough.
I’m not the first to say it, and I probably won’t be the last, but we live in a society that glorifies the “hustle,” and it’s incredibly toxic and damaging.
These days, if you don’t have side hustles on top of your side hustles and you haven’t monetized all of your hobbies, are you even really trying?
(Side question: When do they stop becoming “side hustles” and start becoming “having several different jobs?”)
I know that much of this over-productivity comes out of necessity. Many people have to take on side gigs and craft multiple income streams just to survive. Wage stagnation and a lack of high-paying jobs have forced many to get creative with their career.
But while the work may be necessary, the glorification of it is not. It’s not glamorous to forgo sleep and work yourself into the ground because you think you have to “hustle harder” in order to be a valuable member of society.
Even though I know I have limits I will often feel bad for not going over them because I feel like I should be pushing myself harder. I start to think that slowing down and taking care of myself is equal to laziness. This line of thinking doesn’t make me magically able to do more, it just makes me feel terrible.
Better to accept that you aren’t a machine and take care of yourself before your body breaks down and forces you to.
If you’re like me and you have a productivity problem, you may be wondering how to stop constantly berating yourself for not doing “enough.”
This is something that I have been working on myself recently, and while I don’t have any concrete answers, I do have a few suggestions.
Reframe what you view as productive.
I have a hard time seeing self-care as a worthy use of my time. Why should I relax for an hour or two in the evening before bed when I could be working? Why should I spend a day doing something I enjoy when there are so many truly productive things I could be getting done?
In order to combat these thoughts, try to see relaxation as productive. Taking breaks is productive. Spending time with people you love is productive. Doing things that you enjoy and that help you to relax and recharge are productive because they allow you to work with a clearer mind when you do go back to your “real” work.
You can keep working without breaks, but it will catch up with you eventually. Better to accept that you aren’t a machine and take care of yourself before your body breaks down and forces you to.
Remember, you will die!
A little morbid perhaps, yes, but consider: When your life flashes before your eyes what do you want to see, your multiple income streams or actual good memories? A healthy sense of your own mortality can keep things in perspective.
You weren’t put on this earth to work yourself crazy. You only get one life so you should at least try to enjoy it a little bit.
Be realistic and prioritize
If you constantly feel like you can never get enough done, it could be because you’re not being realistic about how much you can reasonably accomplish in a day. You may be taking on too many commitments as a result.
Look at what you are prioritizing and ask yourself if it really needs to be a priority. Is that new side gig necessary? Could you maybe cut back on expenses so you don’t need to work so much? Are you making too many social commitments that are just out of a sense of obligation?
On the flip side, what things do you really want to spend your time doing, and what do you want to be a priority?
There are only so many hours in a day. Don’t set yourself up for failure by over-scheduling things and taking on more than is necessary.
I don’t know if I will ever truly be free of my productivity problem. To be honest, it’s something I only recently began to recognize as a problem, instead of just seeing myself as a lazy failure who can’t get things done. I’m working on finding the right balance of being productive while still taking care of myself and respecting my limits.
It’s not an easy or quick process to retrain yourself to stop being so self-critical of your productivity. But it’ll be worth it in the end.
Grace Carlson is a writer from Washington. She writes fiction, creative nonfiction, and the occasional poem. She also writes articles on travel, mental health, writing, and books. Sometimes she’s funny, or at least that’s what her mom says. Visit her blog, A Passport And A Pencil.