How Not to Let Productivity Get in the Way of Your Life

Katherine Smith
How Not to Let Productivity Get in the Way of Your Life

Productivity seems to have become one of those buzzwords of late. Ever since Tim Ferris released the ‘Four Hour Work Week,’ we’ve all been asking ourselves how can we do less and gain more.

I can’t help but wonder, in a society where striving is celebrated, are we not beginning to confuse purpose with productivity and get lost in a world of logic?

In an effort to do, have we forgotten how to be?

I am someone who was once positively turned on by getting things done. I was always looking for the next thing. I had lists about my lists. I never failed to have a strategy or a contingency plan, and risk assessment came as second nature.

I was happiest juggling multiple projects and a myriad of complex tasks, all at once. I always bit off more than I could chew and loved to challenge myself to see just how much I could cope with.

It was exhausting. One day I just stopped and started to feel my way through life instead.

It occurred to me that the reason we’re all turning our attention to productivity is because we’re all just craving some time without a looming deadline or the pressure of ‘doing.’

We must learn to life intuitively.

So instead of actioning goal-oriented plans, I tried to leave room so things could unfold more organically and make space for simple things that brought fulfilment. I made it my mission to live a purposeful life instead or a productive one.

At first, it was utterly uncomfortable because I was learning how to live without the validation of checking boxes and the security of achievement that reassured me I was important.

For me, my sense of self was so closely linked to my profession and my ability to perform that letting go of those was disconcerting.

Make more room for what’s important.

Then, something wonderful happened: I realised how much stress I’d been putting on myself by maintaining such high expectations to excel.

Without it, I did more of what I loved. I began to enjoy life more. I developed a different sense of presence and brought new levels of attention to my everyday tasks. I slowed right down and focused on doing things properly instead of fast—which inadvertently made me more efficient anyhow.

Instead of forcing myself to meet deadlines, I waited until inspiration hit, and my productivity and creativity increased! I began to feel like I was in control of my life, rather than it being in control of me. Here are a few ways you can invite more ‘being’ into your life.

  1. Take time to appreciated the simple pleasures that have absolutely nothing to do with achievement.
  2. Prioritise things and people that are important to you.
  3. Spend time outdoors away from your calendars and schedules.
  4. Don’t always rationalise decisions or look for data to back up your thinking. Feel your way.
  5. Whatever it is you’re doing, do it with renewed awareness and avoid multitasking.
  6. Allocate ‘dead’ time in your schedule that you can use to do whatever you feel like in that moment.
  7. Set intentions and design goals that are smaller and closer to home, so there is room for organic growth and adjustment down the line.

I’m not saying productivity is bad. In fact, I think it’s probably an essential part of modern day living—just so long as it’s not at the expense of your ability to be.