Do you feel bad when you aren't productive?
It doesn't often happen that I wake up on Monday, wishing it was Sunday.
I absolutely love what I do for a living and most days I’m excited to wake up and look forward to starting the day I designed so intentionally (btw, writing this sentence felt uncomfortable… Especially as women, we’ve been programmed to feel okay to share our fears and vulnerabilities but made wrong in celebrating our wins).
This past weekend Maya was teething and needed my full attention, so I didn’t have much time for myself. Nights were also not great, which all together meant that came Sunday evening and I didn’t really feel rested and replenished (what weekends are made for if you ask me!).
I woke up on Monday with a sore throat. One of the amazing benefits of having a relationship with my body is knowing how it’s communicating with me. A sore throat has always been my body’s way of saying “slow down, rest, take a break”.
I stepped on my yoga mat and kept hearing my intuition telling me: “take a day off”.
As soon as I finished my practice I looked at my calendar and moved some things around so I could take a day off. No guilt attached. That’s it. I am done with the guilt... It’s something I’ve been really working through.
In a recent poll I did on Instagram, 78% shared that they feel bad when they aren't being productive. So many of us attach our self worth to our level of productivity.
I see this pattern frequently in my coaching practice: pressure to always be “productive,” guilt and anxiety when perceiving oneself as not.
Even on the weekend!
Can you relate? You know, when you just want to curl up and watch Netflix, but you can’t stop the internal nagging: ”You should be using this time to work on your blog!” “This would be a great opportunity to clear out that cupboard that’s been bugging you for weeks” “Look at all these things you wanted to get done this week and haven’t yet” “Are you really going to waste this precious time away on relaxing??”
The answer I’ve been practicing: You bet I am!
I actually feel empowered saying these four words. In a world where stillness and slowness can often be judged as laziness (we’re culturally programmed to glorify busy-ness and believe we have to be productive 24/7), it feels like a little act of rebellion from my corner of the world.
Constant pressure to be productive is continuously reinforced by narratives like: “you have to suffer to be good”, “you have to work hard to deserve [insert: brownie, rest, holiday, etc.]”. It creates a mentality in which our self-worth is correlated with things outside of ourselves. For some of us, the status of our romantic relationships can make us feel more or less worthy. For others, it’s financial success, or physical appearance, or a job title.
Untangling your inherent worth as a human from how productive you are is a process and practice. Yes, it’s hard to change beliefs that are still being reinforced in our culture. But it’s possible to come back to yourself with this truth: you’re worthy based on nothing more than your existence. Your worth just is. It’s inherent.
Here’s the thing though -
Detaching self-worth from productivity isn’t hard, it’s detaching self-worth from busy-ness that’s hard. There’s a difference between being “busy” and being “productive”.
Productivity means spending time on things that matter to us, while busy-ness is doing things for the sake of being busy (if you read my last email you know that that’s usually an indication of avoidance). Doing is only productive if it’s actually adding something to our lives. With that in mind, you can see that rest is actually productive. We are not meant to be productive 24/7. Our body, mind and soul need recovery, rest and nourishment.
If this is something you struggle with, pressure to always be “productive,” guilt and anxiety when perceiving yourself as not, I’d love to share with you this wisdom + reframe today -
A “busy” life doesn't promise a meaningful one.
Shift your goal from making your time productive to making it meaningful.
How can you make this shift?
Grab a pen and paper, and make a list of everything you’ve been categorizing under “productive time” (Working? Studying? Chores? Parenting?)
So basically any time you’re not doing one of those things, you’re vulnerable to guilt and anxiety, right? Now, make a list of everything that’s meaningful in your life.
“Meaningful time” includes your “productive” activities, but also encompasses connection, fun, rest, self care, growth, self awareness, creativity, and presence.
Reframing “productive” to “meaningful” protects us from the 24/7 self talk of guilt and recrimination and empowers us to relax alongside the fun, the mundane, the unexpected, the undesired, and the unstructured.
Reframing productivity is redefining success. A meaningful life, a life well lived, is no longer measured by a collection of achievements, but instead by a collection of presence filled experiences. When we allow this subtle yet profound realization, our entire world shifts - we no longer seek external validation or external worth. We tune inwards and trust our intuitive wisdom. The voice that whispers: “pssst… take a break”
That doesn’t mean that you can’t have ambitions and work on chasing your dreams. You can have both. You can learn to chase your dreams and savour your life right now. To do that, you need to learn to quiet down the voice in your head. Because when you become more present everything in your life becomes easier. And the energy you used to beat yourself up with will be directed to inspiration, creativity and focus.
Life is a series of experiences strung together, you get to determine which of those experiences are of meaning to you.
p.s. when guilt kicks in and you hear your inner critic saying "are you really going to waste your time on [insert meaningful activity]?" write yourself a permission slip or say out loud YOU BET I AM!
p.p.s. share with me your BET I AM moments here or instagram x