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Why Productivity Won’t Make You Happy: Life Lessons From a Dying Man

Why Productivity Won’t Make You Happy: Life Lessons From a Dying Man

    I’m a sucker for productivity tips, they give me hope. I think it’s a hangover from school days when each September you would see me equipped with a new set of notebooks and pencils, just dazzled by the promise of a fresh new start on success. Reading productivity blog posts is the virtual version of indulging my office products habit and closely related to my secret guilty pleasure — “Organizing Porn” — but that’s the subject of another post.

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    More things, more quickly

    I am not a pilot, brain-surgeon or rocket scientist. Nor am I planning the invasion of a small country, yet you could be forgiven for thinking so judging by my ruthless obsession with increasing efficiency and my compulsive habit of systematically breaking down everything I do into incremental, sequential (or parallel) steps. I have de-cluttered and re-prioritized, systematized and categorized.

    I am doing more things, more quickly than I even thought possible. I have a full-time job, a part-time job, a small business and a private practice. I am communicating with more people, faster and better than before. I am LinkingIn, Facebooking, Tweeting and Blogging. I am OmniFocused and Evernoted, I have mind maps and action plans, to do lists and tickler files, 43 folders and a 5 year plan.

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    Even as I am dizzied by my own super-human levels of productivity, I’ve started to feel that I am surviving more than thriving. At the gym yesterday, as I dutifully clocked up my treadmill miles, I couldn’t help noticing that a large part of my life now closely resembles that of a plucky little hamster, sprinting gamely on its wheel. Last week, I spent my Thursday afternoon at the bedside of a patient who was dying. I met this man in the last months of his life, when he was suffering from end stage Alzheimer’s disease. He wasn’t the man he once was. Although he could no longer express himself, he communicated so much to me about who he was that truly inspired me.

    “Have you eaten?”

    When I would visit him in the nursing home at meal-times he didn’t recognize or remember me, yet without fail, as I sat down beside him he would pat my hand and say, “Have you eaten?” and offer me the food from his own plate. When I would get up to leave, he would look with concern out the window, checking on the weather and to see if it was dark, telling me to be careful as I bid him goodbye.

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    On the last day we were alone together for several hours. The stillness in the room descended like a heavy blanket of snow, pierced only by the sound of the oxygen machine and his breathing. Time slowed down at last and I felt a shift in my perspective and perceptions about what had been so important and urgent before I sat down beside him. I was holding his hand as he took his last breath and his heart beat its last. Accompanying someone to the end of their life is an experience that never fails to humble you but something about this experience has really changed me.

    A glorious legacy

    On Sunday, I was invited to a gathering of his family and friends. The house was full of people, eating and laughing, celebrating a life well-lived. Looking around, his daughter told me he would have loved this day. I sat down to look at a photo-album, eager to see glimpses of the man he had been. In this portrait of a life, I saw what was dear to him. As I turned the pages, looking at the photos of him playing with a grand-child or laughing at the helm of his boat in the Summer ocean, I saw confirmation of what I had felt intuitively; that this was a man who loved to spend time with his friends and family. A man brimming with generosity, fun, kindness and love. A man who brightened the lives of all those around him. A man who cared for, comforted and cherished those he loved. I remembered that I knew what he had done for a living and yet what struck me most was this. His glorious legacy was who he had been and not what he had done.

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    Conclusion

    What I offer you from this experience is a reminder to stop and smell the roses and in order to do that, you may well need to employ some productivity techniques to clear yourself some space. Order is the antidote to overwhelm and I am certainly not going to be abandoning all the tips and tricks for productivity I know but I may just be adapting them. The real key is, I think, is to remember that productivity is a tool and that the ultimate goal is quality of life.

    When you look back at your life, will you agree with current definitions of what is urgent and important?

    (Photo credit: life after death via Shutterstock)

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    Last Updated on August 4, 2020

    8 Benefits of a Minimalist Lifestyle That Get You to Live With Less

    8 Benefits of a Minimalist Lifestyle That Get You to Live With Less

    Minimalism is a way to put a stop to the gluttony of the world around us. It’s the opposite of every advertisement we see plastered on the radio and TV. We live in a society that prides itself on the accumulation of stuff; we eat up consumerism, material possessions, clutter, debt, distractions and noise.

    What we don’t seem to have is any meaning left in our world.

    By adopting a minimalist lifestyle, you can throw out what you don’t need in order to focus on what you do need.

    I know first hand how little we actually need to survive. I was fortunate enough to live in a van for four months while traveling throughout Australia. This experience taught me valuable lessons about what really matters and how little we really need all this stuff we surround ourselves with.

    Less is more.

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    Living a minimalist lifestyle is reducing.There are a few obvious benefits of minimalism such as less cleaning and stress, a more organized household and more money to be found, but there are also a few deep, life-changing benefits.

    What we don’t usually realize is that when we reduce, we reduce a lot more than just stuff.

    Consider just some of the benefits of living with fewer possessions:

    1. Create Room for What’s Important

    When we purge our junk drawers and closets we create space and peace. We lose that claustrophobic feeling and we can actually breathe again. Create the room to fill up our lives with meaning instead of stuff.

    2. More Freedom

    The accumulation of stuff is like an anchor, it ties us down. We are always terrified of losing all our ‘stuff’. Let it go and you will experience a freedom like never before: a freedom from greed, debt, obsession and overworking.

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    3. Focus on Health and Hobbies

    When you spend less time at Home Depot trying unsuccessfully to keep up with the Joneses, you create an opening to do the things you love, things that you never seem to have time for.

    Everyone is always saying they don’t have enough time, but how many people really stop and look at what they are spending their time doing?

    You could be enjoying a day with your kids, hitting up the gym, practicing yoga, reading a good book or traveling. Whatever it is that you love you could be doing, but instead you are stuck at Sears shopping for more stuff.

    4. Less Focus on Material Possessions

    All the stuff we surround ourselves with is merely a distraction, we are filling a void. Money can’t buy happiness, but it can buy comfort. After the initial comfort is satisfied, that’s where our obsession with money should end.

    We are bombarded by the media presenting promises of happiness through materialistic measures. It’s no wonder we struggle everyday. Resist those urges. It’s an empty path, it won’t make you happy.

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    It’s hard not to get roped into the consumerism trap. I need constant reminders that it’s a false sense of happiness. I enjoy stuff, but I also recognize that I don’t need it.

    5. More Peace of Mind

    When we cling onto material possessions we create stress because we are always afraid of losing these things. By simplifying your life you can lose your attachment to these things and ultimately create a calm, peaceful mind.

    The less things you have to worry about, the more peace you have, and it’s as simple as that.

    6. More Happiness

    When de-cluttering your life, happiness naturally comes because you gravitate towards the things that matter most. You see clearly the false promises in all the clutter, it’s like a broken shield against life’s true essence.

    You will also find happiness in being more efficient, you will find concentration by having refocused your priorities, you will find joy by enjoying slowing down.

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    7. Less Fear of Failure

    When you look at Buddhist monks, they have no fear, and they have no fear because they don’t have anything to lose.

    In whatever you wish to pursue doing you can excel, if you aren’t plagued with the fear of losing all your worldly possessions. Obviously you need to take the appropriate steps to put a roof over your head, but also know that you have little to fear except fear itself.

    8. More Confidence

    The entire minimalist lifestyle promotes individuality and self reliance. This will make you more confident in your pursuit of happiness.

    What’s Next? Go Minimalism.

    If you’re ready to start living a minimalist lifestyle, these articles can help you to kickstart:

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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