Let me start by asking you lovely people a question, do you think it is possible to be TOO productive? If someone would have asked me that six months ago, I would have very quickly and very adamantly replied, “No way!”. There is so much to do and not enough time in the day to do it! Ask me that today, and my answer has completely changed to not only a resounding yes, but a yes based on my own personal experiences over the past couple months While being productive is usually viewed as a good thing, I have recently been feeling like I am putting too much pressure on myself to be CONSTANTLY productive and it might be starting to not only become counterproductive but downright unhealthy. So my monthly goal intention for July is to pump the breaks, ease up on myself and make sure my mental health remains just as strong as its physical counterpart.
This feeling of having to always be doing something started back in March when the pandemic hit and we all went into lockdown mode. One of my first thoughts when it happened was as awful and scary as this situation is, I am not going to use my new “house arrest” as an excuse to be lazy and sit in front of the TV all day. I knew we had all been given a unique opportunity to spend more time at home and focus on things that maybe previously we had been too busy rushing around to prioritize. Within the first week or two of the lockdown I had made it a mission to completely clean and organize my house, donate a bunch of old clothes and furniture in an major effort to feng shui my surroundings and set out to walk my dogs more and get outside and be active as much as I possibly could. I thought to myself I will be able to read twice as much, write a bunch more, put real time in studying for a couple different exams I had my been planning on taking and crush my workout goals because after all I don’t need a gym to get those done anyway!
Figuring, I think like so many others, that this situation would maybe last a few weeks, a month tops, I threw myself into utilizing every second I could to get as much done as possible because it seemed to be only a matter of time before I was back to the grind of waking up, commuting to work, spending the entire day in an office and only really having a few hours at night and the weekends to fit everything else in. Well here we are five months later and at least where I live we are still pretty much on lockdown. Despite that being the case, I am happy to report that my health and fitness have remained on point! I have finished two workout programs since the lockdown began and even restarted the second one, Barre Blend, because I loved it so much the first time. I have also been consistently getting outside and hiking, biking and running a ton and at this point I am probably in better shape then I was five months ago!
While I am happy I have not let my health slide, the problem has become I am now having trouble letting myself relax and unwind like even just a little bit at all. I have started feeling this constant need to always be doing something productive, something that is bettering my life, something to get me one step closer toward whatever goal I am focused on in that moment and I am not allowing myself any down time whatsoever. Even in the rate instance that I do allow myself to sit down in front of the TV or just sit down period, I instantly feel guilty and am very quickly thinking about what I need to do when I get my butt up in the next few seconds. It is like I have all this nervous energy when my body comes to a resting state and if I don’t get up and start go go going again I might jump right out of my skin due to the momentary inactivity!
When I first started feeling the overwhelming need to always be doing I thought it might be because I wasn’t being active enough. I thought I just wasn’t pushing it hard enough each day to where I needed a break or I wasn’t tiring myself out as much as I needed to be for my body to be ok taking a rest. This led me to up my exertion even more, cramming just about every second of every day with one activity after the next. I have been getting up, running, sitting in front of my laptop for the duration of the work day, getting my home workouts in, walking my dogs, reading, writing, cooking and then when all that is done I have been finding myself back in front of my computer many nights getting even more work done.
Basically, I haven’t been letting myself stop and I am ready to admit I am rapidly approaching the burnout zone aka – point of no return. I know if I continue on this path there is a chance I will end up going to the other extreme where I throw in the towel on the goals I have been working toward because they are starting to be too much work and the joy I had been finding in the process is no longer present. So what am I planning on doing to make sure that extreme doesn’t happen? I am glad you asked!! Let’s start with:
Change my self-talk!
This is where I know I need to start. I need to stop telling myself that I am going to run out of time. Or that I am not doing enough. Or that I am lazy if I don’t feel like being productive anymore that minute, hour or even day. How you talk to yourself matters guys! No one else is putting this pressure on me to get everything done right away. It is literally all my doing, which I guess is bad because I am the one causing the issues in the first place but also good because it too means that I have complete control over making the situation better for myself. I also need to start telling myself that down time isn’t necessarily wasted time. If the down time I allow myself helps me to regain some energy and allows me to refocus, how could that be a waste?! I probably need to remove the phrase wasted time altogether from my vocabulary and start telling myself I am taking some much needed refreshing time or reviving time!
Better Time Management!
I have been finding that I am so frantic to get everything done that my attention span lately has been crap. It has become a regular occurance that I spend five minutes doing one task before my mind is skipping ahead to the ten others I also need to check off my list for the day and before I know it I am on to something else without having completed the first thing I had intended on finishing. I definitely need to plan out my time better and stick to that plan. I heard somewhere that people tend to be most productive when they schedule their time out in 25 minute blocks. By that I mean, sitting down and focusing on one task and one task only for a solid 25 minutes without allowing for any other distractions. For instance, if I come to the part in my day where I have scheduled time to work on my blog, I need to put my cell phone away, close my office door, resist the urge to check my email multiple times and just write for 25 minutes straight. I think organizing my time into smaller, more productive blocks will not only keep me from trying to multitask too much but will also slow down my brain a bit and allow me to really focus and knock things off my to-do list much faster and with better quality.
Schedule down time!
And honor it! I don’t need a ton of down time because I do in fact like being productive, but I recognize the complete absence of it altogether is not healthy either. The same principle that applies to rest days in your workout routine can and should be applied to taking a break in other parts of your life as well. If you don’t stop to let your body repair and recover as a regular part of your workout schedule you will inevitably end up burning out and very likely find yourself with an injury to boot. Likewise, if you never allow yourself time to disconnect and decompress from life in general the same negative impact may occur. Ok so you might not get physically injured but mental burnout is entirely possible! I am planing on scheduling an hour a day to start with where I allow myself to do whatever I want or nothing at all. I need to give myself permission to relax and I think if I put it on my daily schedule every day I will be more likely to assign it the same importance as all of the other items on that list.
In a world that values “busy” sometimes even more than mental health, it is my mission this month to reframe that potentially harmful way of thinking and allow myself permission to just be. I have enough trust in myself to know that I am firmly committed to achieving all the goals I set out for myself so taking a hour or even two a day isn’t by any means going to derail my progress or slow down my forward momentum. I actually think it might increase the speed at which I attain some of my goals because I will be more focused, less frazzled and be able to attack my to-do list with a much clearer and calmer mind. Maybe adding in some small mediation sessions, some deep breathing perhaps and upping the amount of yoga sessions I have added into my weekly workout routine will help as well. I know I have already taken the first big step in dealing with this issue just by recognizing it is occurring and planning ways to combat it. I actually feel better already! If any of you have felt or are feeling the same way I would love to hear if you have found anything that works for you as well! As always, hope everyone is staying safe and healthy!