What if our value was not linked to how busy we are?

“People brag about how busy they are, and how much sleep they’ve missed”

By Meika

Recently, I’ve been grappling with the idea of productivity. What does it mean? What does it mean to be productive and relaxed? Does productivity mean finishing your work or does it mean doing what makes you feel fulfilled at the end of the day?

We live in a world where people brag about how busy they are, and how much sleep they’ve missed like it proves their worth. I know I’ve had conversations where I’ve gone on and on about how many interesting things are piling up in my mental space as if it’s healthy to be that stressed. I’d much rather lead a life driven by my values than by my workload or the pressure to do everything and still stay sane. I think about this mindset and realize that this kind of competitive stress is urged on by my fear of wasting time and not doing enough, and therefore, not being enough. Often times I fear that if I’m not spending my time doing all the things I can, I’m wasting away the day, week, month, or year. I fear that if I’m not working, I’m not fulfilling my duty as a human. But since when is existing not enough? Should I have to validate my existence? This pressure to keep going, to keep writing, studying, etc. is relentless, and there must be something I can do to change this in my life.

This got me thinking, and reading: I had a conversation with a family-friend-of-a-friend about a book I was reading on how people spend their time in the 21st century. She told me about a method of planning out your day based on your values instead of the tasks that need to be done. I find myself often staring at a long list of to-do’s and feeling overwhelmed and unmotivated because I don’t actually care about the tasks that need to be done. On the flip-side, there are so many values I hold dear but neglect to actively incorporate into my life. The method this person described began with a list of your values in order to create a list of activities that make your values into realities. The activities can be simple or complicated; the point is to make abstract values into tangible experiences.

This conversation impacted me so much. It made me realize that instead of thinking about my values in a disconnected way, I could integrate them into my life. It also maps out more important things than checks on a list of tasks. Of course, we all have things that just need to get done, but they shouldn’t take up all our time and energy. When I stare at my to-do list, each bullet point feels like a mountain to climb, but when I truly care about and love what I’m doing, I feel motivated enough to take on the not-so-fun things I must do. It’s so important to find pockets of time to dedicate to the things that you hold dear. Your values may characterize you, but how you choose to act according to those values creates you as a person.

I don’t think productivity necessarily means finishing each little task if it means you did nothing else of substance. I’d much rather look back and feel fulfilled than check off every box on my to-do list. Now I understand that I need to use my time in a way that doesn’t just get me through the day, but reminds me of the things that make me happy like writing, dancing, reading, going on adventures, and creating stories.

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