The personal & professional blog behind Fearless In Training.
The productivity paradox
I often wonder about the ways in which people hold themselves accountable. Or rather the ways in which people metric their own accomplishments. I find myself wondering this a lot lately because I am trying to see my life through a broader lens than just performance and productivity. I am looking for something else, something more, because I tend to be particularly hard on myself when it comes to what I view at accomplishing things or how I see success in my day to day activities. When you have a small child, your daily idea of accomplishments changes dramatically. Simple things, even the most basic of human necessities, like feeding yourself and bathing, regularly go out the window sometimes for days when you bring a tiny human into your life and your home. Arguably, this gets much much better with age, and now that my little human is four he can manage to do miraculous things like eat breakfast by himself (if we put the cereal and pre-poured milk out the night before), get himself dressed in the morning, and even occasionally entertainment himself for the better part of an hour with legos or puzzles.
However, when he is in the proximity of me, especially at any time where I am strongly needing (whether it's actual or emotional need...more on that in a moment) to accomplish something whether it be work related or my writing, also tends to be the exact moment he feels the need to paste himself to my thigh. Or repeatedly crawl in my lap. Or walk in my office every five minutes even though I have told him that "Mommy is on a call" fifteen times. These are of course the moment he decides he needs me the very most. And this is also when I end up getting the most frustrated because I am not able to get what I need.
This is because I am a particular type of person that possesses a deep need to be accomplishing things day in and day out. In fact, for the majority of my life I have viewed myself and my self worth in a manner that has been entirely structured around how productive I have been, and how much I have accomplished within the time I woke up and the time I laid back down. I have spent many nights asking myself: What did I complete today? What did I check off the list? Did I create something new? Did I propel forward my business endeavors?
This is a flawed metric, and one that needs some tempering, if not replacing in entirety. Because on days where I am sick, or tired, or unexpectedly have a child home that makes it impossible to accomplish anything whatsoever, I end up extremely frustrated, and feeling down or even completely inadequate. After all, if you spend your days valuing your life around the things you are able to get done, how could you be anything other than disappointed on days when you can't really do anything?
To be clear, there is nothing wrong with being task oriented, arguably it's a trait that has gotten me far in life. But despite the amount of success it has brought me, it hasn't exactly equated to happiness in my day to day life. For the longest time I couldn't see this, and often questioned why I often felt so low or worthless at the end of a so-so work day, and found myself angry or resentful when Cayden's needs took priority over finishing a blog post or being able to get a work out in. The realization of how much this constant assessment of myself around productivity only came to light more recently because of the fact that working from home has caused a major shift in the way I work and am able to get things done each day.
As these realizations have begun to unfold, I have decided that what I really need to do is introduce new metrics into my life. I am doing this by trying to think about my days in terms of passion and people instead of purely productivity. I chose these metrics because they are qualities that I see the people I respect and admire most cultivate in their lives and work. Whether it is mentors, friends, or celebrities and writers that I hope to emulate, this is the way I see the most genuinely happy people I know of measure the worth of their lives on any given day.
When it comes to passion, I want to be fully invested in the work I do, and feel excited about the endeavors I engage in every single day. If I am able to find passion in my work, be it for business or my other outlets, that is a true indicator of success to me. The best part about passion as a metric is it also can be a guide for your work and your life (more about this here). Often times when I feel the passion go out of the work I am doing, I know it is time for me to shift perspective or possibly even change directions entirely.
The people aspect isn't quite as straightforward, but it is of equal importance. All of us interact with others during our day to day lives, but typically wear about three or so hats on any given day. During my typical work day I have the chance to be a mother, a partner, and a colleague. Of course, I wear "sub-hats" (chef, house-cleaner, best-friend, confidant, marketing-coordinator, consultant etc.) under each of these roles, but I try to think of them in a general and encompassing sense. While it is my sincerest hope that I can excel at all of these roles every day, I've decided consider a day a success if I am nailing 2 out of 3 of them, because then I know I am having a positive impact on the majority of the people I interface with in my life. I have found time and time again that doing well by this people component always gives back to me in spades, and it allows me to also forgive myself on the days that I can't do it all or be it all.
More than anything though, these metrics are qualitative. I end up measuring myself based on the way the work made me feel, rather than if I simply crossed it off the list. I am ending my days asking: What made me happiest? Did I make someone's life better today? What did I love about this day? What will I do differently next time?
Now to be clear, this is not to say that the to-do list has fallen by the wayside, and to be completely candid, it probably won't any time soon. Being tasked oriented is a huge part of who I am, and I am not looking to change that. However, I want to change the way I have allowed it make me feel. I don't want to define my self worth about just what I can do in a days time. By shifting away to thinking about my days in terms of people and passion, I have been able to loosen the grip that productivity held in determining whether or not I've been successful in a day, which in turn has allowed me to be more present and satisfied with my life in the long run.