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Why Doing Nothing is Essential if You Want to be Productive

How taking a timeout from your to-do list can help you find what is most important to building a happy future.

 I have to be honest here. I’m not the best at being productive. Well that’s not entirely true… 

While I’m good at being productive, I’m not the best at being productive for long stretches of time. I find I cycle every four days from being in a high producing state to becoming a log on the sofa binge watching Arrested Development for the 5th time.

So why am I writing an article on productivity you ask? Because like myself, I bet you go back and forth between getting things taken care of and times when all you want to do when you wake up is go lay on the couch. And I’m here to tell you that downtime is essential to producing what’s important in life. 

We live in this world where we are constantly “on”. We are easy to get a hold of no matter the time of day or where we are in the world. We are surrounded by stories and posts of others who are accomplishing a lot and we are susceptible to thinking we need to do what they’re doing in order to get what we want out of our life. We’ll be happy once we get the raise, new office, better job, that husband, buy that home, start that business that will get you in the 6 figures a year club, complete our to-do list every day, head to the gym, meal plan and prep, read that book, listen to that podcast.

Whew! Anyone else feeling a tinge of overwhelm set in after reading that? It’s because it is overwhelming to think about all the things we think we need to do everyday without stopping. We can’t stop because there isn’t enough time to get it all done. And you’re right. There isn’t enough time to get all this done because you are meant to get it all done yourself with no break. 

However, there is enough time to get done everything that is essential to building your version of a happy life. I say your version because everyone’s is different. What makes one person happy is going to make another miserable looking for a route out. You can do it all only when the “all” means everything that you know in your heart is what you really want and you prioritize the most meaningful things in your life. 

This is where the downtime comes into play. Now how are we expected to really know what we want in life? I’m not talking surface level wants here that are driven by our egos. Forget the Instagram scrolling where you want what others share. I’m talking about getting deep with yourself, your inner being that subtly calls to you with ideas, with dreams. 

Like many other humans I didn’t have the best relationship with myself. For me it was 33 years of ego running the show.  I thought all this talk of intuition and soul were basically fantasies. It wasn’t until I started removing what wasn’t working in my life that I started figuring out who I really was and where I wanted to go in life. What I wanted to accomplish before I die.

During this time I allowed myself to be still and quiet enough that intuition began speaking to me again. This time I listened and I continue to listen four years later. What is really cool is that learning to communicate with your intuition is like building up a muscle. It gets stronger over time as you work with it. 

So forget the time hacks and the top ten productivity steps needed to take back your life… instead I urge you to take a time out and evaluate anything on your to-do list. Allow your emotions to lead instead of your brain. Make note of anything that makes you feel constricted. What is the larger goal that this task ties into and is it necessary? How would your life look if you removed that item from the list? 

Or maybe you feel drained in general by it all because you’re trying to do too much. How can you prune your list back so there pockets of empty time for you throughout your day. Time for you to reconnect with yourself by being alone. Meditation or journaling are great activities to get you in touch with your inner self, but drawing, dancing, stretching, reading can also bring you back in touch with yourself. 

Productivity is only productive if it’s working towards a goal that is meaningful to you. Otherwise we’re all just hamsters on a wheel. In order to figure out what your meaningful goals are you must allow yourself some literal space in your day to day to hone in on what drives you forward to your best life. 

Don’t be afraid to alter course either. Your journey is not set in stone. Allowing space and flexibility into your life can welcome new unexpected opportunities to unfold that may help usher you ever closer to the life you dream of creating. 

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People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- MARCUS AURELIUS

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