When did we become so consumed with doing so much, with being “productive”? What does it mean? What are we “producing” or accomplishing? If we realize it’s noon and we’ve made the beds, emptied and filled the dishwasher, washed-dried-folded and put away the laundry, and maybe even made a trip to the grocery store, have we been more productive than if we spent the morning having coffee and conversation with a friend? Or simply sleeping in and recovering from a wonderful night out? Is it more productive to complete a project at work than to take the day off, take your child out of school and spend the day at the zoo? I used to think so… but I don’t any more. I used to think that I couldn’t, or shouldn’t, “waste” my time doing “frivolous” things when there were “things to get done”. Then one day, after my mom passed away, I wished I hadn’t been so “busy” doing all the things that constantly require redoing, and had just dropped everything more often to just be with and talk to her. The fact is, all of those things would have waited for me, and even if the house was a little messier or my work load a little larger, it really wouldn’t have taken much more time to complete, and it would have no impact on my life in just a few days. I wish I had just let all the things that, in hindsight, really don’t matter, sit there, while I spent time with my mom. Instead, I let my mom sit there while I “took care of things”.
LESS time with things, MORE time connecting.
Sometimes I think being “productive” is just another, more acceptable, way of pushing aside our real feelings about our lives. As long as we keep our mind and bodies preoccupied, much the way some do with drugs or alcohol, we don’t feel (or at least can more easily ignore) that annoying gut wrenching sensation that we somehow wish things were a little different. But as long as we’re “productive” we have a great excuse why we just didn’t have the time to do anything about it…right? So how much of the stuff that you are so busy doing really matters to you? How much of it will matter five years from now? How long have you been wishing things were just a little different? How were you thinking those wishes were going to come true?
Think LESS, Feel MORE
Recently, I have decided to try to be a little less productive with the things that don’t get me any closer to my dreams/goals, or have no significant meaning to me, until I have done at least one thing, regardless of how small, that matters to me (which can simply mean… it makes me happy). Just something to remind me to appreciate the fact that I’m alive. Sometimes it’s taking the dog for a walk, spending five minutes looking at horses, exercise, or another attempt at a yoga pose. Other times it means writing, reading a book, volunteering, being a mom/wife/friend/sibling/daughter… or taking a course in something that interests me. Honestly, most of the time I still feel that “guilty, listing all the things I “should” be doing, who I am going to disappoint”, feeling inside when I first set out to do these things, the difference is, now… I do them anyway (most of the time). I remind myself how I will feel after and that, 90% of the time, I will still get all of those other things done too. Maybe I’ll have to get up a little earlier, stay up a little later, work harder or faster, but they’ll get done, and I’ll feel so much better that I spent part of my day actually living my life. The five minutes I spend doing something that adds value to my life has such a significantly greater impact on me, and ultimately those around me, than some of the entire days I spend being “productive” with things that just don’t matter. The point is, all those “productive” things will still be there when you finally get to them, but time…appreciating being alive, once it passes, is gone forever.
LESS stuff, MORE value.
Some people say that, because of their jobs or responsibilities, they “can’t”. Is that really true? If your life depended on it, would you be able to find the time? Well guess what…it does! Every day is another day of your life that you won’t get back, there are no redo’s in your current set of circumstances. If your work doesn’t provide you with a sense of purpose or fulfillment, than what are you doing to provide yourself with that? I totally understand that some people are lucky enough to have a job they love, it’s a passion vs. “work”; my mom was that way in her career. Others have jobs that provide them the means to pursue their passion.
But what if you don’t put yourself in either of those categories? What if you just get up and go through the motions each and every day on auto pilot? What is one small thing you can do to change that? Is it a special cup of coffee? A snuggle with your child? What are you waiting for? What are the excuses you’re telling yourself as to why you can’t? Are they really true? Or is it a case of “if I can’t do it BIG or PERFECT I might as well not do it at all”?
LESS perfect ideas, MORE real action.
How much time do you spend surfing social media? What if you told yourself that you were going to spend half of that time every day for a week doing one small thing that really mattered to you or just made you feel good? Just to see how it feels? What not try? Do you remember what those things are?
Don’t wait until you reach your goal; to lose 5 lbs., get in shape, have X dollars in the bank, get that promotion, etc.… Are any of those things really what you’re striving for? Or is it how you imagine you will feel when you have them? If it’s the latter, the secret is, you can choose to feel that way now! It’s true, you can start feeling and living that way now while continuing to work towards your goals. For many of us, as soon as we reach our goal we find a new one anyway, so why wait to feel great and love your life? What’s the point? How much longer are you willing to put your life and your happiness (and those around you) on hold? The world needs you NOW, today, goals will always be there; they may be your destination but what about the journey? That journey is your life, and you get to, no…actually…you have to, CHOOSE how you feel as you live it.
Wait LESS, Appreciate the current moment MORE.
If you disagree, I’m willing to bet that you have felt that way for a while, long enough for that way of thinking to have become a habit. There are numerous studies out there that prove that habits can be changed. “Old habits die hard”, but just because something isn’t easy doesn’t mean it isn’t possible or worthwhile. Some of the most rewarding things in life are the most challenging to achieve. What could be more rewarding than living a life you love, a life that matters to you? What could be worth more?
LESS “productive”, MORE true to your heart.
Try to imagine yourself in the future… all of these days that you are letting slip by, or just “getting through”, being “productive”… that’s your life, this is not a dress rehearsal, you can’t get that time back. What do you really want to have accomplished 3, 5 or 10 years from now? How do you want to feel along the way? Make a list of all the things you do on a daily basis, and then ask yourself if any of them are getting you at least a little closer to your dreams (saving money doesn’t count). Do they make you appreciate being alive? If not, how are those dreams or that happiness going to happen? What are you waiting for? You just have to start, don’t strive for perfect, just take the first step. One small imperfect step forward will get you so much further than 10 big perfectly planned steps never taken. If you take one small action each day, 5 minutes or 5 hours, I promise you will be getting closer to your dreams, and LIVING your life at the same time. 🙂
DO less, BE more!