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In 2018, I'm changing the way I think about productivity

Jan. 12, 2018
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It’s 2:55pm right now on the first Friday of 2018, and I’ve just returned from grocery shopping. I should be at the office today, but I’m still sick. I’ve been sick on and off for a month now, but I’m keeping a positive attitude because it’s a new year. I have resolved to do a lot of things, such as add more color into my wardrobe, let go of bad feelings, and allow my thoughts to go by rather than letting myself be led by them.

But today I want to talk about a strange, mildly anxious, yet somewhat neutral feeling I had as I waited for the slow elevator car to transport me up to my apartment after grocery shopping: I’m afraid my life is turning a bit boring. 

What is boring, anyway? There’s a difference between “boring” and that sense of tranquility when things are alright and you are living in the moment, even if that only means staring at your Google inbox while you wait for one of your clients to respond to your email. That kind of tranquility means that you are where you need to be, and you don’t need anything else. But then there’s the real boring—exemplified in my own case by the tail end of a two-week winter break after the low-key-celebrated festivities, when two or three days could go by without my having done anything memorable. It’s not that everything I do has to be extraordinary, but the fact that I cannot really remember what I did the past few days generally means that I didn’t do anything important. 

Okay, I’ll confess now: I have this intense preoccupation with being as productive as I can. I had this conversation with someone a while ago, and they mentioned it could be rooted in the fact that our society is fixated with productivity and the usefulness of the human person. But I don’t think that’s true, at least not for the millennial generation, which places a lot of emphasis on self-care. Under the logic of self-care, spending time on oneself is rather important—but what should one do with so much time?

I am realizing the main reason why I’m feeling bored is due to the fact that I’ve been so sick and haven’t been able to go out much. When I felt hungry after getting groceries today, I was actually disappointed in myself: “Do I need to eat again? I woke up, cooked breakfast, didn’t do much, went to the store, and now I have to eat again?! Is this what my life is going to become—just waking up, eating, hanging out, and eating more, like your average mammal?!?” Cue existential crisis soundtrack.

I am realizing that, in the end, perhaps the key to productivity is learning how to take better care of myself. So, since we’re in the new year, I made some resolutions: 

  • Write more. I don’t just mean creative writing—I also mean things like making to-do lists and documenting my life.
  • Take care of my health. I need to stop getting sick now, and that starts with improving my diet and habits.
  • Obtain things for my comfort. It’s time to prioritize things that will improve my quality of life, from the things that will help me organize my belongings to better cooking tools and loose-fitting clothes that will make feel more relaxed.

My goal is to figure out a good way to set a routine. I bought a journal in which I’m writing every night, and rather than getting caught up in all the details, I’m writing in no more than five or six bullet points what I did every day. I’m writing each of the points on a positive tone as a way to remind myself we all achieve something every day, even if your achievements are simply waking up and surviving.

Making sure we do not only do the things that we like, but also the things we need to do, is a matter of time management. This means spending time not just having fun, but also running the errands that will keep our lives a little bit more organized. That also includes taking time for yourself: if suddenly you don’t feel like doing anything, then don’t do it! Take a ten minute break in which you don’t do anything but breathe. Stretch if you need to; go for a walk. Then let the motivation come back to you so you can continue your chores.

In order to try using my time a little bit more wisely, I realized I needed to let go of my preoccupation with being productive: by being preoccupied all the time, I’m actually not keeping myself busy—instead, I’m just dreaming and visualizing rather than planning and scheduling. This week still isn’t over, but I’ve already learned that taking care of oneself, one’s health, and one’s home is superlative to anything else, and I’m consciously going to apply this lesson more than ever. How are you supposed to perform well in any activity if you aren’t feeling well?

I’m glad 2018 started on a Monday. Maybe it’s going to be a really good year after all.