I am a super productive person. I’m not bragging: I don’t produce perfection! Achievement and productivity are a huge part of my identity and, in the past, were a huge measure of my self-worth. I drove myself hard and rested very little. I burned every candle at both ends and I have some great stories from those times in my 20s. But in the end, I came to the realization that I needed to rest and slow down. My compulsion to do, do, do was slowly eating away at my health and sanity. Eventually, what I needed was anti-anxiety medication. And when I heard that, my very first worry was: how will I get anything accomplished if I lose my anxiety? That’s right. When two medical professionals told me that I needed to take anti anxiety medication in order to improve my physical health, my primary concern was that I would cease to achieve.
I truly believed that my anxiety and fear were the only reason for my accomplishments.
Why I am telling you this? Because our culture adores busyness. Children are being rushed from one activity to another instead of being allowed to run and play aimlessly. Parents who work full time also volunteer and attend sports and school events. We carry the knowledge of the world in our pockets and tune into multiple conversations via text message and try to watch TV or movies at the same time. We are all too busy.
I understand your fear. Regardless of the root for your busyness, I know the driving force beneath it is the fear that you will not achieve your goals without work, work, and more work.
This is the monster we all share in common.
This is the lie we have all fallen for. That the amount of work we do directly correlates to the amount of success we experience.
Let’s all slow down and take a breath.
Let me assure you of two truths.
- You are worthy, loveable, and amazing exactly as you are, even if you don’t accomplish a single thing for the rest of your life. (For a brilliant reminder of this, check out this guest post).
- You can increase your productivity by decreasing the amount of “doing” in your life.
I know this sounds insane. But I see it happen time and time again. I first saw it in my own life. I started taking Lexapro. And immediately (because I’m quite lucky), the critical voice in my head, the slave driver that constantly pushed me, just went silent. I was able to walk away from a conversation without reviewing it endlessly and wincing at my perceived mistakes. I was able to complete a project without apologizing for perceived flaws and imperfections. It was miraculous.
The second thing that happened was sleep. I began to sleep a lot. I napped 2 – 4 hours every day, on top of the 8+ hours of sleep I got every night! It was absolutely blissful. Did my productivity drop? Why no! I continued to cook dinner every night, clean the house, work in my garden, and maintain straight A’s in my graduate program.
In short, I continued to accomplish everything that I set out to do, and I was able to enjoy it for the first time in years.
I don’t know what drives your busyness.
Maybe it’s anxiety, or depression. Maybe it’s a nagging feeling that you are only worth your achievements. Maybe it’s your attempt to be the best woman you know how to be, using the standards of our (somewhat insane) culture.
But I do know that you can slow down.
You can learn how to balance your calendar, take care of yourself, and still accomplish the important tasks in life.
And you can learn how to enjoy the process!