Too Much Productivity, Photo by Joanna Kosinska on Unsplash

Too much productivity

A long time ago, my friend Pedro asked me, when is it too much productivity and too much optimisation? When do we try to incorporate so many growth and productivity practices that it suddenly becomes one (or two) too many. He was inspired by a an FT article on 2019 resolutions. Worth a read.

“What are you guys still doing up here in the Middle of the night?”

Little Girl C, 11.30pm, Sunday evening

Bad sleep choices

As her confused face stares at us right in the middle of her night, I could have started with a righteous speech of all the things that Mummy needs to do after she goes to bed. But I went for honest rather than righteous – ‘You are right my dear, we are just being silly and I am going to bed right away’.

It took a 6 year old to remind me how it makes no sense to be up so late on a Sunday night, as I want to start my day at 6 am on Monday. And she does not even know sleeping is one of my top productivity tools n which I have decided to invest on this year. Little could she guess that Baby S planned to give us no sleep at all, so we really should have hit the bed when the little ones did…

The Conflict of Productivity

The weekend dedicated to family time. Be mindful. A parenting course with daily meditations. The family menu for more productive shopping. A book per month but late on my new read for my new book club. A new productive approach for the house project. Keeping away from email to get work done while email gets clogged up. Knowing I will be out 2 out of 4 nights this week. A 21 days abundance meditation where I am running significantly behind. Early morning yoga. Daily gratitudes. The turn of the month and wanting to spend time with my journal. You see what’s happening right? Bit too much productivity?

One Thing too Much

I was guessing that this would be my topic for the week as I was telling a friend how maybe this time I had one thing too much. It is not a common recognition for me as you may have noticed. I just take extra workload by finding space and prioritising as we go along, And with a late night to bring it back under control here and there.

But what felt too much was not the work, but rather the self-care or growth tools. Not that I am a person that can argue that I do too much self-care, but after a month of almost none (September), adding a parenting course with daily practices alongside a new 21 meditation practice brought me to a standstill. I did not know where to go.

The Incompleteness of it all

  • Whilst I was able to simply start the Parenting Course late and just do it at my own pace, the disruption of a new book, new long audio and new daily audios would have been a disruption to my daily commute without adding anything else already;
  • I managed to squeeze in a few daily tasks for the Abundance Program but felt difficult to do the meditations. Truth is, I am more of an eyes-open-on-the-go-meditation kind of person;
  • I also squeezed my usual daily gratitudes (in a not very daily manner) and started my journal for November but never really closed October
  • Ultimately, I have even found a solution to my broken kindle by stealing Hubby B’s kindle but found no time to open the book until today. Also, I was too tired after Baby S terrible nights this weekend to pick up a book. I took a nap instead, sleeping is important right?
  • I applied myself to family time as my course told me to but that meant I had no time to self this weekend.

A Broken Virtuous Circle

I had no doubt the productivity-growth-self-care cycle had a limit. And that you can’t just continue throwing things in, expecting it stretches, especially in a random manner. No, I don’t think there is a limit to how much growth you can have in life. But I do think there is a limit to how much growth you get out of parallel “experiments” and also most likely how much growth you can have at any point in life, assuming you don’t drop everything else. Yes, a limit to how much productive growth you can have.

So the circle breaks and whole of a sudden you are not getting all the benefit from each of the formerly virtuous practices. A bit like the law of diminishing returns. In this case applying to diminishing productivity.

Something’s gotta give… but what?

These are hard choices for me to make. And most times I never really give up anything. So I go back to what always saves me and I put my brain to a halt for just a bit. Not difficult, given how little sleep I got tonight. It is surprising my brain even showed up at all today.

Step 1: I open my Journal and move forward with the month of November, leaving out my ritual to list out my achievements in October. I will get to it this week but I know I want to take my time. It has been today a year that I first wrote about how the bullet journal changed by life, just after Baby S has left the hospital, so you have not read that article take a moment here to do that as it is quite defining for me.

Step 2: I deliberately delay the Abundance meditation and the parenting daily inspirations for a few days, so I can dedicate the next 3 days commute to reading the Tattooist of Auschwitz in time for my next book club meeting. I also want to look at some of the questions for a typical book club, so I can taste a bit of my own medicine on running a book club. In any case, I feel like I still have so much to practice from my week 2 of the parenting course on self-regulation that probably a few more days on the same topic won’t hurt me.

Step 3: I keep my daily practice of gratitude more timely than over the last few weeks, I dwell on it and let it sink in. I know in times of overwhelm it is key to focus on what goes well. And I have a ton going on. I keep the yoga going even when I am a zombie as I wake up and can only pull it through 5 minutes to avoid doing only a “half-day” at work.

These were my choices, at least this time round.

A balance for each

What you give up on each time will rarely be the same every time. That is the core of reaching balance. Balance is reached over time, not at each point in time. So yes, you can keep on learning, improving your sleep, your productivity, your self-care, your mental health, your physical state, your social interactions, your deep conversations. Just not all in the same day, and most likely not even in the same week. Your goals will determine what comes first and how much prominence it will get over time. Compromising, slowing down or stepping back is no failure. It is growth.

For short weekly tips on my constant compromise and small pieces of growth join The Viewpoint.

Credit where it is due: Photo by Joanna Kosinska on Unsplash

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