When we moved into our house, we immediately noticed that our next-door neighbor spent a lot of time outside tending to his grill and smoker. The scent of baby-back ribs and pork brisket continually wafted through our windows. Other neighbors we met told us about Ted’s infamous barbecue skills.
So a few weeks later, when we found ourselves sitting in patio chairs with the barbecue master himself, my husband pulled out all the cash he had and said that when Ted grilled, he wanted a taste of whatever he was cooking.
That weekend, Ted dropped by with two enormous trays of smoky, moist chicken breasts and thighs. We thanked him profusely and tried to say we didn’t need that much chicken. He chuckled, shrugged, and sauntered back to his house.
It appeared that while my husband thought he’d paid 60 bucks for a lifetime of barbecue samples, Ted thought his neighbor just wanted a motherload of chicken all at once.
We ate that chicken for two weeks straight… And we haven’t asked Ted for many samples since.
The Deception of Busyness & Productivity
Sometimes you don’t get what you were expecting. It’s a funny thing about life: you think you’re playing by the rules, but the outcomes don’t always line up.
Take, for instance, your drive to keep busy, to be productive. We think that filling our lives to the brim with activity will help us feel valuable and fulfilled. And for a while, it actually might.
But eventually, the hustle catches up with you, and you realize that for all the energy you’ve expended, you don’t have as much to show for it as you expected.
And you’re tired. So very tired.
The People It’s Affecting
A hyper-focus on productivity comes in a hundred shapes and sizes.
It’s the administrator who can’t leave the office until every email is answered and every paper filed away. It’s the creative entrepreneur who hasn’t been on a coffee date with friends in months because she’s too driven to attract more and better clients.
It’s the stay-at-home parent who can’t remember the last time she put her feet up but could easily tell you what the family had for dinner last Tuesday.
It’s all of us, when we lose sight of our real priorities and allow ourselves to be overcome with a compulsion to do more and be more.
Here are 7 ways productivity is failing you:
1. You’re burned out.
When you’ve lost the zest you used to feel about the things that matter to you, that’s worth noting.
2. You feel embarrassed when you’re in a creative funk.
Slumps are bound to come when you’re overworking, and they feel all the worse when your self-worth is tangled up with your productivity.
3. You feel guilty when you take some time off to enjoy life.
Sometimes I feel a twinge of guilt—that feeling that I could be making better use of my time—when I sit down in the yard with my kids. I have to actively remind myself that sharing restful moments with my loved ones is actually the best use of my time.
4. You are getting sick more than you should.
Trouble sleeping? More sick days than you’ve ever taken?
5. You snap at people when they need you at inopportune times or when they interrupt your work.
This is especially frustrating when the people you snap at are the people you love most in the world, because then you feel terrible about it. It’s not a fun cycle to be locked in.
6. Your friendships are bordering on dormant.
How many of your most meaningful friendships have been relegated to social media updates at best?
7. Your self-worth is hitting new lows.
Because, like I mentioned above, it’s a slippery slope when your self-worth is tied to your performance.
Fixating on how fast you can run or how much you can produce is like paying 60 dollars for a lifetime of mouth-watering barbecue samples. It’s all well and good until you find two week’s worth of chicken thighs on your front porch.
…Or a decade’s worth of deteriorating relationships, mounting health problems, and a flatlining self-concept.
I love the wise words of Lin Yutang:
“Besides the noble art of getting things done, there is the noble art of leaving things undone.”
For many of us, the need to stay on top of things, to be seen as a doer, and to exceed our own expectations runs deep. It’s a trait we were raised with—and one that our culture generally approves of.
But when we finally quiet our world, I think we all have a deeper, stronger voice telling us just what we need.
It’s only a matter of listening to it.