5 Ways to Squash Productivity Pressure
Does anyone else feel the need to be doing something every minute of the day?
I have always been like this, but it didn't bother me until recently. Since we've been in quarantine, Peter and I have been going for daily walks around our neighborhood. I would always grab headphones and offer him the left ear, "do you want to listen to this podcast with me?", and one day he responded:
"can we just... walk?"
I paused. That's when I realized that I never just do something as simple as take a walk without feeling the need to be listening, learning and being productive. This is just one example of how I succumb to the pressure of productivity.
I like to joke that I am the worst binge-watcher on the planet. It takes me at least 4x as long to finish a TV series compared to my friends. When I sit down to watch a show or a movie my anxiety stirs. I find myself thinking about all of the other things I should be doing instead, I run through my never-ending to do list. This too, is the productivity pressure resurfacing! Why can't I just be in the present moment and enjoy some entertainment?
The definition of productivity guilt is the constant desire for forward momentum. It's the anxious feeling of always wanting to accomplish more.
Being productive is so encouraged in our corporate society. If we're not being productive, we're falling behind. What I'm realizing now is that working ourselves to the bone and burning ourselves out is not always the most productive way to live. Maybe it's actually more productive to schedule in some "me time", to calm our minds and recharge.
I read this excerpt in Sahara Rose Ketabi's book Ayurveda (Idiot's Guides):
"In yogic tradition, it's believed you only have a certain amount of breaths in your lifetime. If you breathe too fast, you'll move through them quickly and have a shorter lifespan. Take things slow, and breathe deeply and meaningfully as if you were sucking in more life with each breath"
In an effort to breathe slower and suck in more of my life, here are the 5 things I'm doing to squash productivity pressure:
Yoga for my Mind, Not my Body - you might find it hard to believe, but yoga was not created for people to get abs or show off cool headstands. The purpose is to create harmony in the body, mind, and environment. It's a moving meditation, to quiet the fluctuations of the mind. I honestly do not gravitate towards yoga, I prefer workouts that involve HIIT cardio, or a tough weight sequence. But when I realized the true purpose of yoga, not as a workout, but as a way to calm my thoughts and connect my mind and body, I felt more excited to do it!
Taking Walks in Silence - Sometimes, like Peter suggested, you need to just walk. I used to be simultaneously checking emails and Instagram, while listening to a podcast and dodging NYC traffic--and I would miss things. Silent walks have made me much more aware of my neighborhood, the people, the buildings and architecture, the details and beauty of Central Park.
Singing in the Shower - I didn't grow up listening to music, so I don't naturally look for it. I can go days and even weeks without listening to any music at all- and probably not even care. However, I remember the emotional release I used to get from singing along to the radio in my car. Living in NYC, I don't have that escape anymore. So, I recently re-introduced the good old singing in the shower. I'm happy to take any song requests if you have any, otherwise it's just me and 90s pop.
Reading for Fun - As I've gotten older I've moved away from reading for fun, and started reading more educational books instead (ya know, productive). Although I find do enjoy informative reads, it was kind of taxing on my mind after a while. I bought myself a few fiction novels and I've been reading them before bed to help distract my mind from the other millions of thoughts I have.
Phone-Free Nights/Weekends - I've been sleeping with my phone out of the bedroom for over a year and it's honestly life changing. I bought a light alarm clock, but using any OG alarm clock would work, too. Now my phone is no longer the last thing I look at before I go to sleep, and it's not the first thing I look at in the morning. My sleep has overall improved because of it. I've also started taking a break from my phone during the weekends. I have been putting less pressure on myself to post, share, and scroll, because we all need a day or two off from social media once in a while.
Incorporating these "less productive" tasks into my day has helped me feel a little more grounded. Like with everything, it is something I continually will need to work on. Small steps, slow breaths, and I think we can all live a fuller life.