Productivity Suffocates Happiness
Hi, my name is Garrick and I’m hyper-productive.
It’s been 6 minutes since I last achieved something and I’m afraid I’ll relapse at any moment. I know that I should take a break, but I can’t. I need to get sh!t done and I need to get it done NOW!
Everywhere I go, it follows, like a shadow of guilt, whispering, ‘you should be doing more.’
I can’t even go for a leisurely walk without being interrupted. ‘You should turn this into a run,’ it says. ‘You should use this opportunity to work on your fitness, or at least get a tan.’
Even when I’m trying to watch Game of Thrones, it’s there. ‘Wouldn’t a TED Talk be better, or maybe an educational podcast..?’
I try to pretend it’s under control, that I could stop any time, but I know I can’t – I’ve tried.
When I’m with my friends I struggle to stay present. I can’t focus on what they’re saying because my mind is elsewhere. All I can think about is work, or the gym, or the stuff I need to do at home, or the next great project I’m going to start. Wait, shouldn’t I be working on my book rather than writing this article?
Being busy was once the hallmark of a rich and fulfilling life. It included social engagements, hobbies, sport, creativity and down time. Nowadays, it seems like the fulfilling life has been replaced with the productive life.
The problem is, living a life that is merely productive is not fulfilling. And, once productivity takes over, we lose the ability to enjoy our leisure time.
When we lump everything into 2 categories – productive and unproductive – we feel guilty about anything that isn’t work. This guilt penetrates our leisure time, completely ruining it.
In fact, Psychologist Shawn Achor describes one of the key characteristics of happy people as, ‘the ability to see the value of leisure’. So, how can we learn to value leisure when our brain see’s it as unproductive? The solution, I believe, is by learning greater self-compassion.
Author and Psychologist Kristin Neff describes self-compassion as ‘how much we care for ourselves.’ It is made up of everything we say, and everything we do, that is just for us. It is very different from self-esteem and self-confidence because it is not based on seeing ourselves as successful. Rather, it is based on seeing ourselves as enough.
This viewpoint can be hard to maintain, particularly in a hyper-competitive consumerist world which teaches us that wanting more is healthy. As a result, we often sacrifice our happiness to the pursuit of productivity. We stop reading for fun, we quit playing social sport and we become too busy to spend time with friends.
We feed and reinforce that little voice inside which tells us to quit mucking around and get back to work. Before we know it, that little voice isn’t so little anymore.
Instead, we need to start asking ourselves – Do I really need to be productive right now? Is this making me happy? Will the world end if I take some time to relax and recover? When was the last time I did something that was just for me?
So today, even if it’s just for a short while, do something that’s just for you. Go for a walk, listen to some music, call a friend and chat, read a novel – and above all, try to be a little nicer to the most important person in your life – you.
If you’d like to learn a little more about self-compassion and the science of happiness, grab a FREE copy of our 14 page eBook – The No-Bull Pathway to Happiness, by simply telling us where to send it, below.