How easy it is to fool yourself into thinking you’re doing something productive.
Its easy to trick your mind into thinking that finishing something means you’ve accomplished something. The need to be productive has been at its utmost importance throughout this year for me which got me thinking a lot about why finishing a task — big or small is so fulfilling. Perhaps its the fact that students within the North American education system have been nurtured to simply do things for the sake of doing them. Since day one of grade school, I’ve been told that as long as I get my homework, project or assignments done, it’ll benefit me. Especially when I wasn’t being evaluated for the task, I didn’t understand how simply finishing something can be beneficial.
This sense of productivity drives the competitive academic culture. It essentially causes us to take shortcuts. We choose to copy our classmates homework in order to please our teachers and earn the completion mark. With more than 11 years with this mentality, I now find myself guilty for every minute I spend relaxing; especially during my summer vacation. I feel as if I haven’t earned the right to do something for myself unless I’ve “accomplished” something that day. This again causes my mind to take shortcuts. Where something as simple as making the bed or folding the laundry causes me to feel fulfilled and I use it as an excuse to avoid doing more difficult yet important tasks.
Productivity has become an illusion.
With that being said, of course, having the desire to finish something is motivating. However, when it becomes an addiction, its no longer effective. I started this summer with the goal of “getting things done” and I approached everyday with one thought, “What can I get done today?”. What resulted was a productive summer. It may not sound too depressing but the fact was that I hadn’t gotten anything done for myself. In order to feel fulfilled I set short term goals that justified my leisurely time and grew too lazy to work on my long term goals.
I’m not saying school brainwashed me into a working machine but I do wish that I had learnt to build my own life away from class or my homework. Basically, I should’ve worked hard and played hard.
One of the most important things I’ve learned at my job is that there is a big difference between doing something productive and doing something purposeful. I didn’t realize it at the time but this advice from my boss explained exactly what was wrong with my current lifestyle. I needed to understand that finishing that assignment isn’t for the sake of finishing it anymore; that it serves a bigger purpose. The sense of productivity does not equate to a sense of accomplishment. To me, achieving something means getting closer to your goal. Making my bed and washing my dishes is not enough to feel fulfilled.
Looking back, the amount of time I spent on useless things really took away from my personal wellbeing. I would find myself feeling anxious and restless every single day.
I now hope to enjoy time to myself guilt free all while contributing each day to my short term goals and satisfying an aspect of my long term ambitions. Productivity is only an aspect of accomplishment. An aspect that will still be a part of my daily life but no longer the driving force.