“Wait! No! I just put those in there!”
Your toddler sprints to the other side of the room, socks in hand. You’re in the process of putting away some laundry — something that should, at most, take five minutes. But alas, your little one has taken it upon herself to play Let’s Grab The Socks.
A fun game that only requires one player: herself. It’s a game that she’s played before, although the name sometimes varies:
- Let’s Steal The Hairbrush
- Let’s Empty The Drawers
- Or Let’s Grab A Handful Of Soil From The Indoor Tree
The end result is the same though — a reversal of whatever work you just completed (normally cleaning related).
What’s this about
In watching her, you experience a weird sensation. Equal parts frustration and joy. Joy in watching your kid giggle at the fun she’s having, frustration that your laundry efforts have been sufficiently wasted.
Which brings me to the following point: This story is only in regards to productivity. It does not have anything to do with the love of a parent, or the fulfillment children add to your life, or the reward of parenthood as a whole.
Things that are all totally present in the case of a day.
But let’s set aside the wonders of parenthood for a moment so that we may talk about the art of getting things done. About being productive as a parent with a list of must-dos.
How things changed
I wrote up a story a while back about ways to be productive on a Sunday. It was generally well-received, although some people claimed that as an expectant parent myself, any notion of productivity would soon be permanently changed.
And they were right… but not entirely.
In some ways my productivity has forever been altered, and in others, it hasn’t. For example, my ability to write during the day or read in the afternoon is still intact (as of this writing*). But other things, like unloading the dishwasher on a Sunday, for instance, has become a lot less efficient.
*I am grateful for our daycare situation that allows me these and other freedoms.
Two to five times
In the case of the dishwasher, or folding laundry, or even tidying up a particular room, I’ve started to joke with my wife. Well… maybe not joke… vent may be a better word. Regardless, I’ve found that any given task done with my daughter present takes at least two times, but sometimes up to five times, longer than it should.
Which makes sense.
Anyone with any responsibility can attest to this same experience.
- Are you a manager with an open door policy?
- Do you have a dog that loves to go for walks?
- Are you training a new assistant?
Whenever a dependent is involved, your productivity will take a hit.
Wait. I just had a realization.
I should be talking about fulfillment, and love, and the reward. Who cares about productivity? Productivity is just a means for getting things done faster so that you can spend more time doing things that add meaning to your life.
Productivity is a tool to help you free up your time so that you can spend it with people you love.
Yes, the dishwasher may take all day to unload, but the cause is worth it. The dishwasher is just another chore in a long list of chores that will forever be necessary. But Let’s Grab The Socks? How many times will you be able to play that game with your daughter?
How many times will you be able to have meaningful conversations with your employees? Or go on a hike with your dog? Or make a connection with your new assistant?
The reason for productivity
As someone that writes about productivity a great deal, I easily get consumed with doing. With being effective, doing things efficiently, adjusting plans. Which many times is quite helpful.
But unless you realize what’s happening, unless you remember to look up, you’ll forget that the dishwasher isn’t important. It may feel important because it’s on your list of things to do, but it’s not. It’ll be there later today. And if not today, certainly tomorrow.
Those times of Let’s Grab The Socks though, those only come around so often.
Balancing productivity and fulfillment
I’m not advocating that you shirk your responsibilities. And furthermore, I promise I’m not judging in any way. In fact, this story is more a reminder to myself than anything else. But since you’re here, I might as well make it beneficial for you too, right?
So let this story serve as a reminder to put things in perspective.
Don’t trade fulfillment for your to-do list. Instead, be cognizant of both. Recognize what you want to get done, but if an opportunity arises that will add meaning to your life, be open to changing your plans. Remember what your priorities are.
It’s not always easy to realize (note how this story started in the complete opposite direction), but when you do, jump on it.
Speaking of which, I’m going to go play Let’s Hide Mama’s Kindle with my daughter.
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