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Don’t Put Your Worth on Your Productivity

There is more to you than the outputs you produce.

I used to be a yes-woman. I said “yes” to every task that was given to me.

This was about three years ago. I was part of the Executive Committee of an organization with a cause that I believe in. I wanted to show everyone that I was capable and I can do everything that was assigned to me. At the time, I was relatively new to the organization, but I was nominated and elected, hence, my seat in the E.C. I wanted to prove myself to the org, to the committee, and to myself as well. People believed in me, and I thought, I should believe in myself too.

It was alright at first. I had a lot of to-dos on my plate, but none that was outside my job description. I was able to handle it all because I was very organized in managing my tasks. I knew that I was not fantastic at my job, but I was trying. I treated every task as one step to getting better at my craft. For me, the important thing was that I did not lose the drive to learn and develop my skills. I always believed perseverance would take me way farther than plain skill would. I loved what I was doing, so everything was good.

The organization was not the only thing occupying my time. I also had responsibilities that lie somewhere else, and so it was a very hectic time for me. Still, I worked very hard to not disappoint anyone in any of the commitments I had. I was so busy all the time that I rarely had some time for myself. I was always trying to finish something, and I didn’t have time for any recreational activities. When I actually took the time to think about myself, I realized a very important thing: I was tired. It has been months of draining work and criticisms. I wasn’t happy anymore, and I was (nearly) burnt out.

What I had failed to realize earlier was that I was not enjoying myself anymore. I was still accomplishing my tasks for the sake of completing them and because I committed to it, but I was not happy about it anymore. I wanted to rest and actually focus on other things for a while, but I still had a lot on my plate. Thankfully, the Christmas season was near, which meant that resting is near. There were still tasks that I needed to complete, but I thought that if I finished them all earlier, I would have finally time to myself. That was not an entirely good idea because I went crazy in my tasks, trying to finish them as soon as I can.

I’m not going to lie, actual tears were shed during my really hectic moments. The moment I realized that I was tired was a breakthrough for me. I really did not expect it, it just crept up on me. I thought everything was fine, but the thing is, I was just too busy to notice that I was having a hard time. It took me some weeks before I actually did something about it. I committed to other tasks for the rest of our E.C. term, I became more outspoken about the tasks we needed to do, and the most important thing: I learned to say no.

I said no to some of the tasks that we assigned to me, being honest and saying that I would not be able to handle such endeavors at the moment. Sometimes I say a “half-no” when it comes to tasks that I want to do and I know I can do, but just not yet. With those kinds of tasks, I would tell people that I’d commit to it at a later time and that often works well. Before, I always did my tasks immediately, which led to multitasking, having a lot of to-dos, and frying my brain. What I did to change that to try and not be a superwoman for once. I always wanted to be ahead of my tasks (like that idea with my tasks around the Christmas season), but I learned to take my time. I assessed my commitments and made necessary changes that would be agreeable to me and to whatever I committed to.

It was wrong for me to keep chasing after productivity. I was happy with all the tasks I was finishing, but at what cost? I had no time for myself, I wasn’t happy doing what I used to love to do, and I was beginning to dislike the social environment I was in. When I took a step back and decided that my productivity wasn’t anchored on my worth, I made decisions that were good for me. I learned to prioritize myself over my tasks, and that has changed everything.

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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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