Monday, February 6, 2017

Productivity Perfectionism

Photo: Byskt via Pixabay
Sometimes, I wonder if productivity is overrated. Don't get me wrong -- it's important to get things done -- but is it important to be charging forward all the time?

Being more productive sounds like a good thing. Productivity means getting more done in less time, so that should mean there's time left over to do fun stuff, right?

Those were my thoughts when I started reading articles about time management and productivity. I began reading on these topics because I write and teach about organization, and, after all, what is time management if not organizing time? Each article offered new tips and ideas, some of which I accepted and some of which I rejected. But, along the way, something unexpected -- and a bit unwelcome -- happened.

I adopted a hyperproductive mindset.

No hours were off limits. If I could get more things done in eight hours than I could before, imagine how much more I could get done in sixteen!

I wasn't really aware that my thinking had taken this turn. It was only when I became unable to relax guilt-free that I realized that a constant, driving need to be productive can become a way of life that actually sucks the joy out of the very things I was supposed to be saving time for.

How much is too much leisure time? Does this change based on whether we're on vacation or we're at work? Should we spend every single moment at work working? Where does networking come in? Or building relationships because relationships matter? If, as a work-at-home person, I start my day later than the average out-of-home work person, should I be making up those hours somewhere else in the day?

The articles and their authors aren't to blame; I take full responsibility for this counterproductive productivity mindset. In my case, the collision of a fair amount of perfectionism and "do more better and faster" strategies led to what I'm calling productivity perfectionism.

Luckily, I know the cure. It's called "balance."

Photo: Devanath via Pixabay

This mysterious "balance" is difficult to achieve when work and passion collide, because the work time/down time line is very, very fuzzy. I'm working on it (pun intended), beginning with my Big 3 approach, which gives me the joy of checking things off my list along with a logical end point. I'm also trying to establish a time of day after which work is off-limits, so far, with limited success.

Changing the activities is easy, but changing the mindset is hard. I'm hoping each will feed the other.

Meanwhile, the usual strategies for combating perfectionism apply. Self-talk. Acknowledgement of what's been done along with what hasn't, with the focus on the former. Striving to be conscientious instead of perfect. Finding -- or making -- quiet time for prayer and contemplation.

The path is a bit rocky, but I think the climb will be worth it -- especially if I remember to stop and catch my breath along the way.

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