The Most Productive Thing I Did This Week
Somehow I constantly forget this helpful little tip
I’ve been worn out. I find myself stressing over things that I can’t control, and I also find myself being stressed out about being stressed out.
I’ll be honest, this time of year isn’t always the best for me. Daylight savings rolls around and all of a sudden my exposure to the sun during the workweek is the sunrise in the morning and the sunset in the evening. Days are getting cloudy and cold, and my mood depletes. And there’s something about these cloudy days that makes me more contemplative. I’ve already been told that I think too much, but I feel like I think even deeper during this time of year. I think about my progress, I think about my future, I think about what I want, but more than ever I think about all the doubts I have in myself.
Busy vs. Productive
One of my personal daily goals is to make sure I’m more ‘productive’ than I am ‘busy’. I often forget that these words carry completely different meanings.
When someone is busy, they are “having a great deal to do” or “keeping themselves occupied”.
When someone is productive, they are “creating large amounts of goods or commodities” or “achieving or producing a significant amount or result”.
In other words, ‘busy’ pertains to a process while ‘productive’ pertains to a result of work that is being done. Lately, I’ve been doing things that need to be done. I’ve been working, keeping my space clean, making sure I cook rather than eating out, etc. I’ve been doing some reading, I’ve been writing content (nothing that I was particularly impressed with or proud of). These aren’t bad things, and yet I felt so dull while doing them. I fell into the habit of forgetting the most important differentiator of what makes me ‘busy’ and what makes me ‘productive’: Intentionality.
I could do these same tasks but the biggest thing that differentiates whether I feel busy or productive is remembering why I’m doing them in the first place. This is what makes the difference between going through the motions and producing a result from the activity being done. When my mindset shifts from “I’m doing this because [insert solid reason]” to “I’m doing this because this is my routine”, I automatically fall into a slump every single time.
The Most Productive Thing I Did
My cousins and I were pretty active as children. And there’s a special little phrase for little kids that can’t keep still:
Get somewhere and sit down!
This phrase, of course, usually comes about after getting on an adult’s last possible nerve. You probably had been running around the house, you probably knocked something over, you probably got in your aunt’s way and made her drop something, you were constantly running in and out of the house every 4.5 minutes. The result? A mom or auntie trying their best to keep their composure while telling you to get somewhere and sit down.
So yesterday that’s what I did. I came home, sat at the dining room table and journaled. But more importantly, I thought. I was under the impression that I was “thinking” before but really I was just worrying. When we worry, we give our emotions more authority than our reasoning. I wanted to keep doing the work I was doing because I wanted to avoid the guilt of doing nothing. We tend to mistake being still for doing nothing, but it’s not “nothing”. Being able to sit down and deeply think about the work we’re doing is an action, there’s nothing passive about it.
Author and pastor John C. Maxwell states that he schedules thinking time in his calendar just as he would with any other appointment. I’ve taken note of this and have started scheduling my thinking time and treating it as the appointment that it truly is. Find an area that makes you feel at peace, where you can truly focus. For me, that’s the dining room table in my small apartment. For someone else, it could be their bedroom, a home office, a ‘thinking chair’, a library, etc.
We can do as much working and hustling as we want, but if the work is done without a clear and concise purpose, we’ll only end up frustrated.
There’s no perfection in any of this. Thankfully, I caught myself operating on this mindset and am now recalibrating. It’s literally something that I have to actively remind myself about, usually by keeping a positive mantra or Bible verse on my phone that I can keep referencing. Find what works for you.
If you find yourself working and getting nowhere, stressing about what is or isn’t happening: get somewhere and sit down.