Society places a great deal of importance on productivity. Why must we always be doing something? And why isn’t it ok to have a day (or more) where we do nothing? Where is the line between laziness and needing a break?
I recently got back from a mini-vacation at the beach. I didn’t do any work other than check my email once a day. After our three day trip, I threw myself back into work and had the most productive day I’ve had in two weeks.
That was last Thursday. But then Friday came and I couldn’t get out of bed. I felt depressed and low, lethargic and underwhelmed. I use a time-tracking app when I’m working so I can see how much time I spend on each task. I wasn’t surprised to learn that I did two hours of work that day.
And I felt terrible about it. The thing is, everything that needed to get done I took care of. I made my deadlines no problem. But that’s because I was so productive the day before and the weekend before vacation. See, there I go, using that word “productive” again.
It got me thinking. Why is it ok to “do nothing” on vacation, but it’s not ok to take time during your regular work hours for yourself? Why must we always be doing something?
I’m not saying that you should watch Netflix or take a nap when you don’t feel like working. I am saying that we need to stop putting so much pressure on ourselves to be productive every minute of the day.
It’s impossible! No one can be expected to maintain that level of productivity all day every day.
What Is Productivity?
Some people have a harder time than others being productive. But what exactly does it mean to be productive?
Productivity can take lots of forms. It can be the work that you do, the emails you respond to, the cleaning you get done, the continuing education you do to better your craft, reading, listening to podcasts that further your work, etc.
What if productivity included self-care? If we can learn to make taking care of ourselves a priority and view it as something we accomplished, then we can flip the script about productivity.
Take Time For YOU
As a therapist, I hope that you build time into your busy days for yourself. Half an hour for a walk, some time to eat lunch, and a few minutes here and there to sit and take a few breaths.
You spend so much of your brainpower on listening and actively engaging with people who have come to you for help. You need to take breaks.
But what about days off? How often do you take a mental health day? What does your mental health day look like?
For some people, it’s doing something fun. Some people choose to relax and do nothing. Others do something in between. Maybe you clean the house or get your car inspected for part of the day and then spend the rest of the day reading and relaxing.
Whatever works for you, you should do it. If you’re not taking care of yourself there’s no way you can take care of others!
Don’t Should Yourself
I don’t know about you but when I have a day when I am less productive, like last Friday, I judge myself harshly. I call myself lazy, I tell myself I’m bad, that I should be doing more.
“Should” is a dangerous word. It makes us feel like whatever we’re doing isn’t enough, that we need to be doing more. But what should you really be doing? My first instinct is to say there’s no right or wrong answer to this question because it’s different for everybody. But then I realize that there is no answer at all. The word should can’t exist in our vocabulary if we’re going to keep ourselves mentally healthy.
“The other problem is that we tend to judge others based on their productivity level. In some cases, this is necessary, like when it comes to working at a regular 9-5, but you run your own business, like me. And with that comes the freedom to make your own schedule, your own rules, and decide when you’re going to do things and when you’re not.
As Long As The Work Gets Done
I’ve been working on my mindset lately, and I’m trying to make a shift. I want to cut the word “should” from my vocabulary (easier said than done). There’s a fine line between doing what you need to do to fulfill obligations and doing things because you think you should be doing them.
One thing I’ve been doing is making a list at the end of the day of all the things I did that day. It’s a reverse to-do list. This way I can look back at my day and realize that I was busier than I thought I was and that everything I did mattered. Some days I even include “getting out of bed” and “taking a shower” when things feel really hard. On those days, putting on real clothes and making a meal are huge accomplishments.
And then there are other days where my evening list is long. I often stare at it and think “did I really do all that today? Was I that productive?”
And I feel better about myself on days like that.
The Bottom Line When It Comes to Being Productive
The bottom line is that as long as the work gets done, it doesn’t matter what you do with the rest of your day. You need to be taking care of yourself, especially for my therapists who spend all day tending to others’ emotional needs.
When you’re that busy, you don’t have time to do everything you think you should be doing. So why not ask for a little help?
What if you outsource your copywriting so that you don’t have to think about it. You should hire a mental health copywriter who understands your day, your week and your needs.
Let me lighten your load and take the work off your plate so you can find productivity in self-care and managing your work-life balance. Schedule a call today to talk about how we can work together so you can focus on the stuff you have to do and not the stuff that’s weighing you down.