This is a continuation of my last post, Do Nothing. Based on your feedback, I have a feeling this is a topic of interest to you. I’d love to hear what you think in the comments.
Your eyes open. They feel heavy, and puffy.
You’re looking up at the ceiling and you know what time it is.
It’s time to get up.
Time to brush your teeth.
Time to get dressed.
Time to catch a train or beat the traffic.
Time to do what you did yesterday…all over again.
So you go back to sleep. You’re mind, your body… your SOUL! – are asking for rest.
For a break.
For a day off.
You need it.
You want it.
You deserve it.
You wrestle with the idea of calling out. You wish you didn’t have to speak to your boss. You don’t want to fake a sick voice – it’s humiliating.
You’re afraid he’ll know you’re bullshitting. Anxiety sets in so you suck it up and get out of bed. You start getting ready.
As you wash your face you look yourself in the mirror and say “I can’t do this. Not again… Not another day.” The nagging feeling that you need a day off sets in deeper, and you finally give in.
You make the call.
You tell him you’re not feeling well, and you need a day off. Surprisingly, he’s completely understanding. He wishes you the best, tells you to get better and to call him if you need another day off tomorrow. You sigh a sigh of relief, smile and get happy. You feel foolish for ever thinking the world would end by taking a day off.
You go back to sleep and enjoy some much needed rest.
When you wake up, you’re expecting to feel rested and relaxed. But you’re taken back by a sickening feeling in your gut. The rollercoaster of emotions begins.
You feel unproductive. You should have gone in today. There’s so much to do and your boss will be pissed.
Maybe he was being nice on the phone, because as an employer, he can’t just call you a flat out liar. Maybe this is going on your permanent record. Maybe he’s planning your dismissal.
Maybe he’s writing up the termination letter at this very moment!
You feel like you’ve wasted a perfectly good day, and now you’ve put your job on the line just to get a few extra z’s. Maybe you should get dressed and show up. Maybe you shouldn’t have called in at all.
You should have sucked it up and gotten your ass in there.
What a big baby.
When you dig deep enough, you realize what you’re feeling is guilt.
Why do you beat yourself up for taking one day off?
You think you should always be “productive.”
You read on the train ride to work instead of enjoying the energy of the people around you. You listen to audiobooks in the car, instead of enjoying the scenery. You take business calls when you’re grocery shopping.
You respond to emails from your toilet bowl.
A quick Google search reveals that productivity is defined as the quality of being productive or having the power to produce. I think this definition clearly reflects how we behave as a culture.
We feel the need to always be doing something. We should always be getting results. We must always be moving forward. We must always be making progress. We should always be striving to reach our goals.
It’s our job to dedicate our lives to achievement!
But I challenge you to question the purpose of productivity. If it’s about the act of producing, you have to take a moment and ask yourself, “What am I producing?”
If the answer is TPS reports, excel spreadsheets and ridiculously long emails about nothing meaningful, then maybe you need to redefine what productivity means to you.
What are you producing? Are you producing anything meaningful? Are you producing anything that’s actually valuable? Are you producing something that adds fulfillment, enjoyment and happiness to your life?
Are you making art?
Are you writing a book?
Are you teaching a child?
Are you growing a garden?
Are you making music?
Are you making history?
Are you leaving anything behind that will be remembered when you’re gone?
Will the blood, sweat and tears you put into your job paint a beautiful picture on the canvas of history forever?
Is what you’re doing with your life really being productive according to YOUR own standards?
Is it possible that the common idea of productivity is totally and completely warped?
In response to my last post, I received an email from a good friend which is what inspired this post. She felt guilty about taking a day off, to the point that she was angered. Here’s what she had to say:
“Yesterday, I was a “QWITR” for a day. I had already worked past my normal hours per week for my graduate assistanship (which I do every week but continue to still put in more hours) so I told my boss “I’m not coming in tomorrow or the next day”. I don’t know why that was so hard for me to do b/c she didn’t seem to mind one bit since I’d already put my hours in (perhaps this is all a hell of my own making). [My dog] had a small operation yesterday too. Anytime anyone or anything has an operation, you see them at their weakest and it is so sad. I wrote my professor for my night class and said “look, I’ve got a dog having an operation I can’t come to class”. I felt guilty, like a teenager skipping class when I’m supposed to be a dutiful grad student. My professor writes back “i love dogs too and completely understand. see you after spring break”. WTH? Why did I feel guilty? So after dropping [my dog] off in the morning, I went home and fell asleep for three hours b/c I’d only slept for 4 hrs the night before. I immediately felt guilty, so guilty it was one of those moments where it actually made me angry that I felt that way. After picking [my dog] up though, it’s like I hit my stride. I am planning a babyshower for a good friend next week and where normally I’d sort of drudgingly do what I have to do for it (in light of all my other commitments…not a reflection of my friendship), I busted out all my crafting supplies, had an awesome organized mess (my preferred working environment) and got to town. It is the first time in probably 3 years (or more) where I found that “sweet spot” the times in my life where I feel most happy making stuff…unadulterated creation time. I too am most happy when I create. When I am deprived/or deprive myself of that, it’s like a slow death. I am told by some artist friends and builders that some people are simply like this. It’s practically genetic.”
Are you depriving yourself of creativity and dying a slow death?
You must allow yourself time to be creative and do what you love. This is what productivity is. We’ve been told our whole lives that going to school and getting a job is what it means to be a productive part of society. That our own interests, which bring us happiness and fulfillment, should remain as hobbies.
Stuff we do when we have time.
It should be priority to put your passions first.
Here’s how I do it, on top of having a full-time job, a wife and two kids.
- I wake up two hours earlier than I have to.
- I do what I love, which is writing.
- I repeat steps 1 and 2 as often as I can.
How early I get up totally depends on how much sleep I get the night before, though. So make sure you go to sleep at a reasonable hour.
Getting up early to work on your passions has it’s benefits, but the REAL feeling of productivity you get is the most fulfilling reason to do it.
- Waking up early, especially if you have a family, gives you that quiet, uninterrupted “YOU” time that you need to focus.
- You get to honor your passions and do what you love first thing in the morning. No matter how “unproductive” you may be from that point forward, you still feel like you’ve already done what’s most important to you.
- Honoring your passions first thing in the morning gets you out the door in a MUCH better mood. You feel happy and fulfilled for the rest of the day. A slight sense of invincibility overcomes you.
Yes, it was hard waking up two hours earlier than I normally did, but I’m telling you, my life has improved tremendously since I started doing it. I still go through some days all groggy-like, and sometimes I yawn up a storm, but it still beats the feeling of skipping out on my passion.
Also keep in mind that two hours is what I need. Maybe you need less time. Maybe you can start by waking up 30 minutes early.
So don’t feel guilty the next time you call in sick. Know that productivity is what you make it. Redefine it to your liking and focus on doing what really makes you happy.
Screw your boss, he doesn’t know shit. :)
If you’ve never left a comment before, either here or on any blog, take a moment to “produce” one today and answer this:
What activities in your life make you feel most productive?
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