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How to Avoid Productivity Guilt (And become more productive in the process)

How to Avoid Productivity Guilt (And become more productive in the process)

“Self Development” sites (mine included) are constantly bombarding the internet with productivity advice. “Productivity” is a cultural trait that is now securely ingrained in our minds, mainly because we all have so much “stuff” to do in our everyday lives.

Within the self development “space”, there are a lot of people who are genuinely interested in accomplishing more in their everyday life. Whether this be coursework, business, blogging, or creating; people want to do more – and by god don’t we hear all about it. Productivity has become the buzzword to kill all buzzwords. There’s a new “hack” every day, a new way to work every week, and a new guru emerging on the subject from every corner of the internet.

Whilst the pursuit of productivity is often healthy and beneficial, something I’ve been experiencing recently has made me seriously re-evaluate the content I’m consuming and creating, and that is: productivity guilt.

Productivity Guilt

Productivity guilt is pretty self-explanatory. It’s a mindset of feeling bad about not creating, achieving, or working hard and it has (probably) been around since forever.

In the early 1900’s, Bluma Zeigarnik termed the Zeigarnik effect. This is the tendency to have “intrusive thoughts” about a task that we once started but didn’t finish. In other words, it is in our human nature to finish off things that we start and we often hate having to leave a project unfinished. In some ways, this explains productivity guilt, suggesting that it could be hardwired in to our psyche.

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Recently, I’ve been having some guilt of my own. I’ve found myself coming home after a 10 hour shift, going to the gym afterwards, but then feeling bad because I don’t feel like opening up the laptop and writing that post or replying to those emails. A big voice inside is telling me to “chill the f*ck out”, but a little voice is telling me to “be productive”, “get sh*t done”. That little voice is guilt.

We often feel guilty because we’ve been pumped with information about filling our day with productive things and “never wasting a second of our precious time”. Whilst there’s definitely merit in living a productive life (I write about it a lot myself), there’s a fine line between beating yourself up about it and realizing when to stop and just… chill.

Naturally, this is very subjective. Some people are very good at maintaining a detachment between their work and their outside life. For others (especially those indoctrinated in ‘life hacks’ and productivity tips), the guilt to be constantly doing something can be a real energy sucker.

Here’s how to beat productivity guilt in your everyday life:

Stop Comparing Yourself to Others

You’ve heard this one before. I hate clichés as much as you do, but hear me out.

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Just because Casey Neistat gets up at 5am and runs 10 miles before growing his start-up and editing his vlog until 1am doesn’t mean that you have to do the same.

There are massive costs to living a “productive” lifestyle. Before comparing yourself to that guy over there, realize what he’s sacrificing. If you’re okay with that, then carry on.

Don’t get me twisted on this one, this is not about living the path of least resistance. You should be actively seeking challenges and pushing yourself in some facet of your life. If you’re not, you’re going to live a very mundane, average life. However, if you’re feeling guilty about your lack of “productivity”, then you’re not going to be truly productive at all. This links to my next point:

Realize the Difference Between Being “Busy” and Being “Productive”

Lots of people are busy. Busy-ness (or business) is a state of doing what you are told to do, having tasks piled on top of you and running around frantically trying to balance them all. Often, when people say “I was so productive today”, they really mean “I had time to do all the things my life required of me today”.

I’ve worked in kitchens, so I understand the state of busy-ness extremely well. Having someone ask you to do 3 things. Then, whilst you’re doing one of those things, someone else asks you to do 2 things, then you get shouted at for not doing the first thing quick enough. It’s a never-ending cycle.

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Productivity; however, is a state of doing what we truly need to do to reach our goals. For me, that is writing a blog or doing some email outreach or guest posting. Whilst there may be some busy-ness involved in this process, cutting down the unnecessary and focusing on the essential is going to be a quick way to boost your real productivity

There is plenty of online literature on this subject and how you can make your tasks more efficient rather than doing more tasks (and this may just be a case of eliminating procrastination). That said, my main point here is to not feel guilty because you’ve not accomplished all the tasks you set out for yourself. Realizing the difference between being busy and being productive is the first step in cutting out some of that unnecessary guilt.

You Can’t Force Creativity

If ideas are an important aspect of your life, then you may need to realize that you cannot force creativity.

Creativity is not something we “do”. It is not a process we can follow or a set of steps which lead to a destination. We can “grind” out a workout, we can “force” ourselves to do some paperwork, but we cannot force ourselves or grind out a completely new creative idea for a blog post or essay.

Productivity guilt has often led to me sitting in my chair, aggressively pursuing an idea and wanting to find it, rather than letting it come to me. This is not the right way to do it.

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Relaxing and doing nothing can actually be a vital part of the creative process. Why do you think artists often go on retreats or isolate themselves from the outside world? Without the busy-ness of everyday life, our minds are free to wonder and create new and exciting things. This is also why people find themselves stuck in a rut when they work a busy and demanding office job. They cannot see past their immediate duties and assigned tasks, so they lack the creativity and mental capacity to break out of their routine and dream big ideas.

My articles often come to this conclusion, but it seems that most things in life are all about balance.

Conclusion

You ultimately know when something is important enough to stress you out. You ultimately know when you are being lazy. You ultimately know when you are being productive and when you are just being “busy”.

Step back and evaluate the day-to-day tasks which are the most important to you. If you’re feeling guilty about putting off an unimportant task, then cut that task out or outsource it to someone else. If you’re feeling guilty about putting off a really important task, then maybe you should do that task right now.

Most importantly, don’t let your most important tasks become a chore. My writing has suffered recently because it has been an afterthought rather than a primary importance. From now on I won’t be feeling guilty about not writing because I’ll be putting it first.

Featured photo credit: VFS Digital Design via imcreator.com

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Last Updated on April 9, 2020

10 Things High Achievers Do to Attain Greatness

10 Things High Achievers Do to Attain Greatness

Do you ever secretly wish that you could achieve more with your time? You are not alone. Most people want more from their lives but simply don’t know where to start.

The good news is that learning to accomplish greatness in your life is totally possible if you learn to study other successful high achievers.

Find out what sparkling new patterns you want to implement in your own life by studying what real high achievers do in the round up below.

1. They Know What They Want.

That seems pretty obvious, but if you don’t have a clear goal, dream or desire in mind, how will you know when you’ve gotten where you wanted to be?

Successful people have clear goals and a clear vision for how to get there.

For example, Albert Einstein remained obsessed with the big questions and problems of physics, and he knew exactly what he wanted to do: he wanted to answer the questions and solve the problems that no one else had been able to. And guess what? He did just that.

High achievers dream specific, plan smart, and confidently strive toward success.

2. They Focus on Their Goals.

Once achievers know what they want, they are tenacious and focused on forward progress toward their goals. They don’t run over people or deliberately hurt people to get what they want, but they do stay focused on the end goal in all their interactions and daily tasks.

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Elon Musk, with a net worth of $21.2 billion, is considered revolutionary.[1] Some might have seen his plans to totally reinvent transportation methods, including fantasy-like transportation methods in outer space, a little silly. But Musk proved them all wrong by staying focused on his goals with hawk-like attention to detail. He spends hours and hours at the office focusing on his goals in order to achieve them.

Learn How to Stay Focused on Your Goals in a Distracting World.

3. They Are Passionate.

It’s very helpful when reaching for a big goal to not just get excited by it, but to truly be passionate about it.

High achievers often talk about how much fun they are having, or say that they would do what they do even if they weren’t getting paid (and in the beginning, they probably weren’t). That’s the kind of passion and positive outlook you need to achieve your highest goals.

Bill Gates, creator of Microsoft, began his successful career early in life by simply being excited about things like video games and computers. You can be like Gates too. Identify your passions and pursue them in your career.

4. They Don’t Procrastinate.

Some of the things we have to do to meet our goals or achieve our dreams are not very easy, but high achievers are able to focus on what needs to get done and actually do it instead of living in a world of dreams. They have a plan and they can follow it starting right now.

Even though you may not be into arts, you must have heard of Vincent van Gogh, one of the most influential artists of all time. He is a perfect example of someone who not only dared to dream, but also dared to act.

Instead of procrastinating or staying in a rut, he made a choice to pursue art and dove in head-first. Although he only worked for about ten years due to a tragically short life, van Gogh produced an estimated 900 paintings and more than 1,000 drawings.[2]

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If you want to get more out of your life, then stop dreaming and start taking actions today, not tomorrow: How to Stop Procrastinating: 11 Practical Ways for Procrastinators

5. They Create Their Own Opportunities.

True achievers know that they don’t have to be stuck in a box – they can create their own story through hard work.

Brené Brown is a respected social researcher and increasingly popular speaker and author. She has been hosted on Oprah. She has written and published a slew of popular self-help books, and she has one of the most-watched TEDx talks in history.

Interestingly, Brown didn’t start her story in a glamorous way. In fact, many social sciences professionals scoffed at her unusual methods of research and her passion for the topic of vulnerability and shame. Brown, however, continued forging her own path until she reached her destination: greatness.

Brown is a striking example of a person who knew what she wanted and paved her way into her own story of success with dedication. High achievers know that nothing good comes without hard work. They are willing to create their own opportunities and don’t expect to be handed cookie-cutter dreams in life.

6. They Have Positive Attitudes.

Studies of high-performing students find that the happiest students are those who excel most academically.[3] The same holds true for adults in business and in life.

If you have a good attitude, enjoy what you’re doing and remember that setbacks are temporary, it’s a lot easier to be successful. Without negativity, there’s nothing to hold you back from achieving whatever it is you want to achieve.

A positive attitude also helps people to think of what they are doing as important, which is a great way to stay motivated and working toward a goal.

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Jim Carey, the famous comedian and actor, began looking for gigs as a teenager. At age fifteen, he performed onstage and completely disappointed the crowd with a less-than-successful first performance. Carey ultimately succeeded, though, by maintaining a positive outlook. He is known for visualizing success, staying positive, and continuing to work hard.

7. They Have a Team They Can Count On.

High achievers know they can’t do everything themselves. There’s a time very early on when you can go it alone, but even the smallest startups need help. It’s actually easier for a company‒or a dream‒to grow more quickly if there are more people engaged in making it work.

Your team could even be one or two trusted individuals who have your back when things get hard. Stephen King, an iconic author, submitted one of his first novels, “Carrie”, to more than 30 publishers. He received rejection after rejection and even threw his manuscript in the trash. His wife was his team; she pulled the manuscript out of the trash and asked him to try again. “Carrie” was a hit and became a springboard to a successful writing career spanning more than 50 bestsellers.

High achievers are able to foster great relationships and build teams that can help them achieve what they want even faster. They tend to have an eye for talent and are good at attracting the right people to their teams.

If you want to be a better leader, these tips can help: How to Master Your Management Skills and Build a Strong Team

8. They Take Time for Themselves.

Amid all this hard work, multitasking and big dreaming, high achievers know they need to take care of themselves too. Getting sick in the middle of a major launch isn’t good for anyone.

So a lot of stories you read about people who’ve had a lot of success will note that they eat well, exercise regularly, try to get enough sleep and even occasionally take time away from the office to refuel.

Emma Stone, a highly esteemed actress, is open with the media about her struggle with anxiety and stress.[4] She reportedly practices self-compassion, meditation, and self-kindness to take care of herself.

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Successful people know that sacrifice is often required for success, but they understand what they need to do to keep their bodies and minds performing well.

9. They Don’t Bad-Mouth Others.

High achievers know better than to burn bridges. They practice the advice that you shouldn’t say bad things about others, and they usually listen more than they speak.

They also tend not to compare themselves to others or get envious. They’re so focused on what they want to do that they don’t stop to look around at what others are doing.

10. They Never Quit.

Tyler Perry, an accomplished director, writer, and performer, faced early failures in both his personal life and professional life. Perry pushed through these personal challenges and dealt with failure after failure with his first production. Finally, his production gained momentum, and he is now successful because he never gave up.

High achievers are tenacious, sticking to their plans and goals as long as they need to in order to get where they want to be. If they didn’t stick with it, they wouldn’t achieve anything.

Final Thoughts

Success and achievement are not just for the people mentioned above — they are for you, too!

Unlock your future by finding your passions and goals, and working hard. Pay attention to what other high achievers around you are doing, and follow suit.

Before you know it, you will be creating your own famous success story.

More Tips About Achieving Success

Featured photo credit: Fabrizio Verrecchia via unsplash.com

Reference

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