My first blog post’s headline serves as an important reminder. A productive mindset is a burden. When work becomes an addiction, it’s an addiction. Reliance on anything is counter-intuitive, even if it’s seemingly positive.
“Sometimes I feel useless when I’m unproductive.”
It was my first blog post, please don’t judge me. I wrote it near the beginning of the pandemic. I was frustrated by things I couldn’t control. My tutoring job slowed significantly, so I made less money.
I could only play so many video games or run so many miles before feeling like I was wasting my life away.
Now I wish I had that kind of freedom. I know exactly what I’d do if I had more time on my hands. However, that’s only because I’ve experienced both sides of the coin.
I choose productivity, but sometimes, it’s better to take an adult-sized dose of generic brand chill pills. Last week, I felt mildly burnt out, and I decided to ignore my urge to go the extra mile; instead, I baked cookies and played fetch with my crazy little chihuahua.
We love playing mind games with ourselves.
Productivity is a crutch that makes you feel like you’re contributing to yourself, others, and the rest of the world all at the same time.
Where is that contribution going to, though?
The stigma is that if you aren’t constantly working to better society or improve yourself, you’re failing at life.
The evil, Danny Devito-esque voice in your head chuckles:
“Oh, you couldn’t be productive for three more hours AFTER working an 8- hour shift. You’re a loser. You will amount to nothing!”
When does it end? The pressures of the world are nothing compared to the pressure we put on ourselves.
Get this: You are your own worst critic.
The devil on your shoulder reveals itself more often than the angel. It’s confusing trying to tell the difference. The angel tells you to use your God-given skills to the best of your ability, but the devil persuades you to use them nonstop.
He wants you to work yourself to death.
What good are you if you’re dead (figuratively speaking)?
Life changes when you accept limitations.
There are only two forces in this world.
Don’t believe me? I studied geology in college. So I know a thing or two about the flow of energy, at least in the physical world.
Not everything needs to be taken literally. I’m referring to day-to-day energy flows for everyday people.
Only two forces apply to us everyday humans who don’t spend time in a lab. One is a force you can control, and the other you cannot.
We can’t control this force, yet we let it control us.
Here’s a real-world example:
Your boss gives you some tough love. You take it to heart, get frustrated, and let it ruin your day. You can’t control how your boss is feeling. They’re the ones who had a bad day. They’re projecting onto you.
Your boss kept you five minutes after the end of your shift too. You don’t think much about it, so you collect your things and walk to your car. As you back out of the driveway, a box truck rolls in and blocks the only exit.
You think to yourself:
“Are you serious?”
“Now of all times?”
“This is when you decide to unload supplies for the office building?”
It’s frustrating when a moment sparks a chain of minorly unfortunate events.
However, that’s just life, and you’re better off recognizing that there’s nothing you can do about the forces you can’t control.
You control this. Internal force is the only thing in the entire world that you genuinely have influence over. It’s powerful, but it’s stubborn.
The way you react to negative situations, perceive a loss in the family, or even respond to spilling coffee on your white shirt (you knew you shouldn’t have worn it today) is all controlled by you, no one else.
Your energy is intense, but you let external forces keep it locked up in a box.
Let it be known; you deserved that $6 cup of coffee. Spilling the coffee is just an unfortunate accident. You treated yourself to make yourself feel better. Laugh at yourself and move on.
Look for equilibrium.
Okay, let’s get a bit scientific. Equilibrium means balance. It’s not so plain and straightforward, though. Nothing is ever perfectly balanced, not even the “balanced breakfast” featured alongside the sugary cereal in a commercial.
Equilibrium represents a constant struggle for balance. A cell in your body releases water and lets salt in through its semi-permeable membrane. Once it has too much salt, it lets water in again.
Life is about balance.
Cliche advice, I know, but sayings are cliche for a reason. On the other hand, some are authentic and should be repeated to yourself on a day-to-day basis.
I have to tell myself that as well. I’m not perfect. I'm just like you: I’m confused, tired, and I want a vacation to Japan even though I feel like I don’t deserve it. Some nights you have to put a little more effort than you want to into your side hustle.
Others, it’s better to drop the responsibilities and toss a tennis ball with your dog instead. Sure, you’re doing Fido a favor, but don’t forget to thank yourself for the work you’ve already done.
I’m lucky to have realized that writing is about the journey. There are so many damn bumps in the road. Most nights, I can’t fathom typing after teaching, lifting, and doing video edits for my client.
Those are three things I have to do. Okay, I don’t have to exercise, but I’ve chosen to prioritize fitness in my life. Writing is an extra activity. It’s fun, but it burns my energy. And by the time I’m ready to write, I’m running on fumes.
Finding perfect balance, which we know isn’t possible, is about defying the laws that our science books taught us about. Instead, we can create our energy. The forces we need to produce works of art come from within us.
It would help if you learned to control your internal energy first.
How to Take Control of Your Internal Energy
When you have control, you have respect for yourself. You understand when to take your foot off the gas. You realize that your body and mind need time to recharge their batteries.
Try and sleep more.
It’s the effort that counts. I have a terrible habit of getting in bed early but staying up on my phone watching random Youtube videos. Of course, some nights are better than others, but I’m trying to get better. That’s all that matters.
Some other ways to get quality sleep:
- Melatonin capsules: Originally, I didn’t want to use them, but they help. It’s worth it to rely on a naturally occurring chemical to feel rested the next day. Feeling rested pays actual dividends in your life.
- Exercise: Lift weights 3–5 times a week. Run outside or on a treadmill. Walk your dog around a few blocks. Activity puts your mind in the right place. It speedruns your negative thoughts out of your head, so you don’t psych yourself out before bed.
- Do something you enjoy: When I work until bedtime, I sleep horribly. I think about the work and whether I did it well or not. That’s not the way to go. When I play video games before bed with my friends, I sleep better. My mind goes from work to fun, and I sleep better knowing I allowed myself some free time.
Do something novel to occupy your brain.
I found a protein cookie recipe a while ago but didn't have the time to make them. So then, during the workweek, I stepped away from my computer and baked the sweets. Then I played fetch with my dog while they baked.
I needed a moment without the extra burdens on my back. It helped me mentally, and my week went on as usual.
I’ve noticed that cliches advice, “less is more,” is also true. I’m just stubborn and don’t like being told how to feel. Time has taught me more lessons than I can count.
Productivity is the most significant life skill. It’s a prerequisite for future success.
With great power comes great responsibility for yourself.
You are the only one in control of your internal energy. How you use it is up to you. You can grind your life away Gary V. style, or you can set aside time to recharge. You’ll see the benefits in the long run.
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