Are you experiencing productivity guilt?

In today’s culture we base our worthiness on our level of productivity; spending time doing purposeless activities is rare. We’ve got so much to do that the idea of spending time doing anything unrelated to the to-do list actually creates stress. We often feel guilty if we can’t get it all.

How to live a productive life without so much guilt, pressure and exhaustion? Here are some ideas on how to let go of exhaustion as a status symbol and productivity as self-worth.

Make the right choices and manage your time

What is really important for you? Make the “ingredients for joy and meaning” list: sit down and think of specific conditions that are in place when everything feels good in your life. Than check that list against your to-do list and your to-accomplish list. It might surprise you! Prioritize your tasks based on their urgency and importance. Time is precious, so spend it wisely.

Notice the “supposed to” thoughts

Have you ever heard them? Those bothering thoughts can get in the way of cultivating meaningful work. It’s the battle cry  of fitting in, perfectionism, people-pleasing and proving ourselves. To overcome that, start owning the messages. What makes you afraid? What’s on your “supposed to” list? Who says that? Why? Write down those messages. It might sound counterintuitive, but it won’t give them more power- it gives you more power. It gives you the opportunity to say: “I get it. I see that I’m afraid of this, but I’m going to do it anyway”.

Move beyond comparing and competing

Comparison is all about conformity and competition. At first it seems like conforming and competing are mutually exclusive, but there’re not. When we compare, we want to see who or what is best out of specific collection  of “alike things”. It becomes this crushing paradox of “fit in and stand out!”. It’s not about cultivating self-acceptance, belonging and authenticity; it’s “be like everyone else, but better”. How can you find space for the important things such as creativity, true productivity, joy and authenticity when you’re spending enormous amounts of energy conforming and competing?

Realize the difference between being “busy” and being “productive”

Busy-ness is a state of doing what you are told to do, having tasks piled on top of you and running around frantically trying to balance them all. Productivity, however, is a state of doing what we truly need to do to reach our goals. Whilst there may be some busy-ness involved in this process, cutting down the unnecessary, letting go of some things and focusing on the essential is going to be a quick way to boost your real productivity.

Don’t  force creativity

Creativity is not something you “do”. It is not a process you can follow or a set of steps which lead to a destination. You can “grind” out a workout, you can “force” yourself to do some paperwork, but you cannot force ourselves or grind out a completely new creative idea. Relaxing and doing nothing can actually be a vital part of the creative process. Without the busy-ness of everyday life, you mind is free to wonder and create new and exciting things. You are often most productive when you feel it least.

Recognize process over endpoint

It’s all about your mindset! Reframe your life as a process of growth, not of being done. Focus on growing and moving toward your goal and celebrate your growth instead of feeling guilty for things left undone or incomplete.

Make the choice to rest and play!

Play is as essential to our health and functioning as rest. It can bring a lot of excitement and newness to what you’re doing. Did you know that play actually helps to deal with difficulties, promotes mastery of your craft and is an essential part of the creative process? True play that comes from your own inner needs and desires is one of the paths to finding lasting joy and satisfaction in your work.

Making the choice to rest and play is, at best, counterculture. The decision to let go of exhaustion and productivity as badges of honor may transform the way you relate to the pressure of achievement. 

Cultivate meaningful work 🌳