We live in a consumerist society that is largely characterised by greed, with the majority of our population possessing a desire for more, whether that be more money, more friends, or more status.
We also live in a society that possesses a desire to be doing more, a consequence of our record low levels of self-esteem and our collective lack of purpose.
In an attempt to reverse our feelings of inadequacy, we constantly strive for productivity. This new buzz word has become something that people are, quite literally, ‘buzzing’ over.
But, is our obsession with being productive doing us more harm than good? Is it even working?
The short answer is, yes, productivity is doing us more harm than good, and no, our attempts to reach it are not working.
Now for the long answer- why? Why is our desire to be productive harming us so much that I felt the need to write a blog post about it?
Well, the majority of people find that when they do more, rather than noticing an increase in their productivity, what they actually experience is an increase in stress, with their lack of rest harming not only their physical health, but their mental health too.
It is therefore paramount that people do not sacrifice their health and wellbeing, regardless of what Instagram is telling them they should be doing, to be ‘#productive.’ I know all too well how by doing so, harmless routines become unbreakable ‘rules’, and productivity inevitably becomes unproductivity.
With personal experience in the harm that to-do lists can cause people, in todays post I will be sharing my story and providing recommendations for those who have fallen victim to a to-do list ‘gone wrong.’
My Story, & Reccomendations to guide you through yours
This past year has been a strange one, what with the whole coronavirus pandemic. Here in the UK, we have been in and out of national lockdowns since March 2020, with, I’m sorry to say, a slim chance of that changing any time soon.
Like most people, I have found the unprecedented circumstances we have found ourselves in, difficult to adjust to.
As someone who thrives from having a routine, the uncertainty of the pandemic has caused me to experience a lot of anxiety. To help manage this anxiety, I have been, up until very recently, creating to-do lists, in an attempt to stop every day from blurring into one, and to give me a sense of purpose.
My to-do lists have typically consisted of anything and everything I have wanted to get done, even including the basic things like brushing my teeth. Although highly unlikely to ever forget to brush my teeth, writing it down meant that when I had completed it, I could have the satisfaction of crossing it off, giving me a sense that I was still being productive.
Sounds fine, right?
It would’ve been fine, if I wasn’t placing so much pressure on myself, making the expectations of what I would achieve in a day so high. By assigning myself an unrealistic and unachievable volume of tasks to complete per day,I became increasingly stressed and overwhelmed.
The hobbies that I would’ve previously engaged in to ‘de-stress’ were no longer enjoyable. I had resorted to writing them on my to-do list which, over time, made them feel like a chore that I had to do. Any sense of enjoyment that I did get from the things on my list was always short-lived, because I was constantly thinking and worrying about what I had to do next.
Spontanaeouty became very much a ‘thing of the past’, along with my ability to live in the present moment.
Instead, I felt like I was trapped, trapped in a never ending cycle of mundane tasks, with no idea how my future could be any different, no idea of how I could escape the fixed rules I had created surrounding what it meant to be productive.
This is extremely concerning as, like everything in this weird and wonderful world we inhabit, our energy reserves are not infinite, therefore we must not forsake rest and recovery, for the reality is that sometimes, having a break is the most productive thing we can do.
Allowing our mind and body to rest and recuperate is an absolute necessity if we want to achieve our potential in life. Failing to acknowledge this means that the only type of productivity we will be engaging in, is the unproductive version.
After a chat with my Dad, and a lot of self-reflection, I decided, on Sunday, that from that day on, I would no longer write to-do lists, and the result so far? I already feel so much more relaxed than I have done in previous weeks. I no longer worry about having ‘so much to do’, I just get on with my day. Whatever I achieve is enough, even if thats just getting out of bed on some days. The fact is; we are all enough as we are. We don’t have anything to prove to ourselves, or to anyone else.
If you, however, don’t want to go ‘cold turkey’ on your to-do list writing because, lets face it, there are undoubtebly some benefits of them, I have one reccomendation for you to keep in mind;
- Keep lists short.
The whole purpose of to-do lists is to increase our productivity levels, something that cannot be achieved if we are feeling overwhelmed with stress, as this would have an adverse effect on our productivity. Instead, to-do lists should contain only a handful (at most) of the key things that need to be completed, or at least started on, on each particular day. You don’t need to include the basic chores that you do every day on your list, like hoovering or taking your tablets, as you are unlikely to forget to do these things. Having unnecessary things on your list will just make it excessively long and leave you more susceptible to becoming overwhelmed by it all again. In contrast, having just a few activities to complete is a manageable solution for people who still want to write a to-do list, but want to ‘hone it in’ slightly.