What to Say When Your Inner Critic Challenges Your Productivity

Redefine What Productivity Means to You

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A parting gift of the pandemic will likely be a preponderance of learned OCD once we return to relative normalcy. We obsessive-compulsively wash our hands, wipe doorknobs, rinse groceries and glare disapprovingly at anyone having the audacity of even clearing their throat in our presence, and some of that will surely stick, just to be on the safe side.

And for some of us, productivity is getting the same treatment. If we do not squeeze every second of value out of our gradually increasing daylight hours by doing something “productive”, we somehow feel like failures, quarantine notwithstanding. Your daily dose of browsing Inc., Fast Company or Entrepreneur.com, among hundreds of other advice portals may have something to do with it. While well-intended, the relentless treatment of blogs, articles and columns that lay out checklist after checklist on how to get stuff done while WFH comes with the unpleasant side-effects of anxiety, guilt and periodic feelings of worthlessness.  

You feel like you should be working harder to approximate your typically packed workday when, right now, all you want to do is pull your puppy up to your chin for a super-cute staring contest.

Fortunately, it seems that an increasing number of writers push back on the notion that, like sharks, we must keep moving or we’ll die.  

The Yale News scoffs “that our culture has a toxic relationship with productivity”; the Washington Post gently lets us off the hook with the headline “It’s okay not to be productive during a pandemic”, and The New York Times flat-out tells us to “Stop Trying to Be Productive”.

Sensing that the added stress over feeling unproductive only adds to the stress-levels caused by a global climate of uncertainty, kind of like adding insult to injury, we’re getting wise to the idea that fretting too much over productivity is nothing but highly counter-productive.  

While I personally feel happy when I’m productive, I’ve learned to redefine what that means for me during this collective forced time-out we’re in. I don’t have to stack my day with meeting after meeting or check off one item after another on my, admittedly, growing to-do list in order to feel “accomplished”. Instead, I draw positive energy from truly experiencing and being in the moment with the things that bring me joy. From an insightful coaching session that leaves a client inspired and energized, to reading a short chapter in a good book first thing in the morning, to a stimulating conversation with a friend, to immersing myself in the aforementioned quality time with my pup, I can ease into a good night’s sleep feeling as productive and fulfilled as an intensive 2-day workshop out of town would have afforded me.

So, the next time your inner critic tries to corner you about your productivity, maybe you’ll push back and let him know your refined definition of “getting stuff done”.

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