1. Productivity = Joy
It’s seriously easy to fall for this myth.
I sure did.
As a workaholic conservatory-trained classical musician, I used to beat myself up if I didn’t practice enough.
It didn’t matter if I was sick. It didn’t matter if I was home for the holidays. If I didn’t put in a full day of work, I felt worthless. I felt like a bad person.
So, I thought, the opposite must be true: If I work hard enough, I’ll be happy.
But that’s not quite how it worked out.
Every time I finished my to-do list or completed a big project, I would feel a wash of satisfaction. Especially when I immediately celebrated with a glass of wine or a fine craft beer.
But I quickly discovered that this kind of task-oriented satisfaction was painfully short-lived. True joy doesn’t come from completing tasks. It comes from living. It comes from mindfulness.
2. Hurrying from One Task to the Next Makes You Productive
Think of the most “productive” person you know.
Do they always seem to be in a hurry? When you see them running from one super-important meeting/task/activity to the next, how does that make you feel?
If they’re always in a hurry, they must be doing some really important stuff.
Here’s the truth: there’s a good chance that this “productive” person is barely holding it all together. They may be only a few steps away from losing control. Trust me. I know.
Joyful productivity is slow. Success takes time. Resist the urge to hurry. If you have to hurry to get things done, it’s time to edit your schedule.
3. Busyness Leads to Productivity (Or Efficiency. Or Success.)
So many people wear their busyness as a badge of honor.
Me: “How’re you doing?”
Nearly everyone: “Busy!”
I’m not innocent — I’ve done it too — complaining and/or bragging about being busy can be so satisfying.
Unfortunately, the kind of busyness where we rush from one task to the next, never stopping to breathe, often makes us less productive.
Spinning your wheels, wasting time on unnecessary tasks, and saying “Yes” to every opportunity is a recipe for disaster.
Before long, you’ll have no time left to work toward your most important professional goals. You’ll settle for mediocrity and just aim to get menial tasks done. And your personal life…well…a life of busyness won’t help your relationships with your family.
The key to time management is awareness. Not busyness.
4. Faster = Better. And Slower = Worse.
If you’re productive, you get things done quickly, right?
Well, if you’re like me, you’ve probably believed this myth at some point.
I didn’t just believe that faster was better. I used to do everything as quickly as I could. And I was proud of it!
I finished high school in three years. I flew through three degrees (including a doctorate) before I turned 28. And how did I manage the crazy schedule of projects, performances, and research?
I did everything as quickly as I possibly could.
On the outside, it looked like I had mastered time management.
But I’d left no time for reflection. No time for considering what was most important to me.
And how did that work out?
Well, it took me over a decade to realize that I was headed down the wrong path. I had successfully — mindlessly — committed myself to a career that didn’t align with my beliefs. Oof.
Eventually I slowed down long enough to consider what was truly important to me. I gave myself the time I needed to figure out the best use of my skills. I learned a lot in the process, but the most important lesson was this: faster is not always better.
Sure, sometimes you have to get things done quickly. But make sure you leave time to consider if you’re on the right path — it doesn’t do you any good to sprint down the wrong one.
Reflect. Meditate. Give yourself space. It’ll be OK. In fact, it’ll be better than OK.
5. Doing is the Same as Living
“Of all ridiculous things the most ridiculous seems to me, to be busy — to be a man who is brisk about his food and his work.” – Søren Kierkegaard
How do you know if you’ve had a good day?
Maybe your “good days” and “bad days” depend on how many to-do list items you check off…Or how many clients you book…Or how many dozens/hundreds/thousands of people visit your website.
For many of us, that’s just how we judge our lives. We search for easy-to-identify metrics for success and believe that they represent reality.
But in 50 years, when you look back on your life, will you still use the same metrics?
You have the capacity to live a joyful, productive life right now — you don’t have to wait to finish your to-do list. You don’t need to have 7 figures in your bank account to live your life.
As you go about your tasks for today, take pleasure in the small things. See just how fully you can experience your life.
Wonder at the complexity of nature. Feel the satisfaction that comes from simple, seemingly unimportant sensory experiences: the feel of the keyboard as you type, the satisfying weight of your smartphone, the coolness of air moving around you. There are a million sources for inspiration around you right now.
Notice your breath. Above all, live.