The Cult Of Productivity
It feels good to get things done. Do you get that hit of happy when you cross things off your to-do list?
ADHDers & ADDers often wish they could get more things done. They may be passionate and creative, full of plans and ideas, but are also distractible, and excellent at self-sabotage. Going through your days feeling like you are consistently under-achieving really sucks.
This is a challenging time. Many of us have felt the pressure to make the most of any time off work and “be productive”. Productivity-pressure on social media and from advertisements can be a very toxic message. Some of the more toxic messages explicitly shame people for not baking sourdough bread from scratch, writing a book, creating a podcast, or getting super fit with at-home workouts. This shaming is harmful, especially to those with pre-existing mental health concerns or low self-esteem.
You knead to know that you are not a bad person because you did not bake bread (sorry, knot sorry, for the crummy puns, oh dear). You are not a bad person for being less than optimally productive during this pandemic or at any other time. Your value as a human being does not come from how busy you are or how much you accomplish. It is tough to find a balance. While we need to be productive in some ways to survive and meet obligations, sometimes just getting through the day is all we can do, and that’s okay.
In this time of COVID, with masking and physical distancing, having your routine or schedule pulled out from beneath you can increase anxiety and make you feel floaty. The lack of familiar structure can kill your motivation and momentum. As can the guilt we feel about said lack of productivity! Being hard on ourselves about feeling down, drained, and unproductive will make us feel even worse. The increase in stress hormones in our bodies make it harder to focus and get things done. Does this downward spiral sound familiar? We can stop this negative cycle with self-care.
Self-care is not selfish, it is self-preservation. As part of our self-care we need to have some downtime to replenish our energy. Downtime is simply unplugging from your daily tasks and giving yourself full permission to relax. If you choose to relax by watching a show or surfing the net, then try to let yourself do so with no guilt or shame. If we have those feelings while watching Netflix or internet surfing, our enjoyment of those activities is significantly reduced and our cup of metaphorical internal energy doesn’t refill as it should.
We are on auto-pilot much of the time. Bringing awareness to the quality of your pleasure, joy, or relaxation can be helpful when filling your cup of energy. Notice if you are enjoying your activity. Feel it. Are you having fun playing your video game, or when you are sipping delicious coffee while daydreaming and looking out the window? Or do you notice a tug to do something else? Just being aware is an important first step. Only when we take notice can we change something. Do you want to REALLY enjoy that toast you are having as a snack? Then give yourself permission. 100% permission to REALLY enjoy that toast. Every, damn, finger-licking crumb.
While doing your downtime activity of choice, take a moment to check in with yourself about how much you feel you are relaxing, and see what you notice. Do you feel 3% relaxed? 50%? 80%? Sometimes a number pops up and it may surprise you. This can be helpful to understand which activities feed or drain you, and how quickly that flow of energy happens. If you feel you can’t fully enjoy your downtime because you have been procrastinating a chore, take a chunk out of that chore before unplugging, then unplug with your own full permission. As notorious self-bullshitters: “Oh, I’ll do that later, right after I watch this episode...” I call your bluff because I’ve been there, too!
Uber-productivity during COVID, or really anytime, is an unfair and unrealistic expectation for most humans. While it’s hard to avoid feeling guilty for falling short of this “ideal”, we can recharge more effectively by reframing our approach to downtime. We can enjoy ourselves more and reduce our stress so that we can then do some needed work sans the guilt or FOMO.
Have fun with it, and as always, take gentle care.