Why You’ll Never Be Productive (and 3 Things You Can Be Instead)

So, here’s the thing.

Productivity? It sucks.

Yes, that thing we’ve lifted so high onto a pedestal. The thing we search for, strive for in every endeavor. The thing that’s supposed to carry us across the finish line right into the arms of the life we want.

It sucks. And wanna know why?

Because even though you can see it, smell it, literally taste it, even though it feels like it’s sitting at the ends of your fingertips if you could just reach a liiiiittle further, you don’t know what it is.

And that makes it pretty much impossible to achieve.

But you mean well. You and your good intentions know exactly how to swipe up, Google, whatever you need to do to be resourceful and get the info that you think will take you to the next level. You look to social media, your friends, your coworkers, anyone who seems to be making life work for them somehow. You want it. You want it bad.

Isn’t it real? Isn’t it real when we see it every single day?

It’s in our newsfeeds. Our inboxes. Our TVs. It feels so, so real when you watch case after case of another human being with the same 24 hours as you achieving their dream.

You might even start asking yourself: ‘Why aren’t I operating at that speed?

Why isn’t my life more like theirs?

But you don’t rest on your laurels. You try to figure this thing out. You research, you adjust some habits, you make the changes that you think you’re supposed to make, because something’s gotta give. And try as you might, you still find yourself coming up short, all because you aren’t willing to sit down with yourself and have a conversation about what you think productivity is.

Why will you never be productive? Because it’s a buzzword. It’s a mainstream phrase filled with possibilities and meant to inspire you towards something bigger. And honestly, it’s your way of explaining to yourself why you’re avoiding the things you really want.

If you were open to having that conversation, to being honest with yourself, you wouldn’t be painstakingly time-batching your way through a to-do list of busy work that may or may not even move the needle for you.

You’d be focused. Energized. Inching your way towards that goal with not even close to enough spare time to consider how much time you have, how much time you’ve wasted, or how much time you’ve simply given away.

Why do you give your time away?

Why do you feel that that’s a more acceptable, more comfortable life than being honest with yourself and the people around you?

I’ll give you a hint: maybe to you, productivity is what looks good on someone else.

How does Mary have a thriving career and the time to tuck all 3 kids into bed at night (with a bedtime story?!)?

How does Suzy get to freelance on the side when she’s already in such high demand at her day job?

And where in the world does Erin get off learning French?!

To you, being productive means achieving what others have. But unfortunately, that’s not enough. And it’s never going to be enough. That mindset does not convert into the motivation that will drive you to finally listen to yourself. Instead, it drowns you out with greener grass on the other side of the fence. With the potential of someone else’s world.

Maybe you start distracting yourself. You make yourself feel better by tearing others down for how they spend their time. But why do you care? Why are you trying to put people into a pretty little box, just so you can decide where it belongs? You’re only increasing the likelihood of the exact same thing happening to you.

You box yourself away to avoid any potential complaints, comparisons, or confrontations. That doesn’t exactly sound like balance.

Speaking of balance…did you think that was real, too?

Is that what you want to be productive for? To strike that perfect balance of life and love and career and spirit? To merely stumble upon that balance like it’s been waiting for you this whole time?

Know this: balance cannot be simply found.

Like productivity, it’s not real. The only semblance you’ll discover of either is the whiff of specific, intentional action. And it smells good, doesn’t it?

But life doesn’t smell so sweet all the time. There’s work to do. Blood, sweat, and tears to shed. People die, pandemics hit, and you’re left sitting, waiting through those moments you dread so you can just get back to the moments you want. That’s what real balance looks like.

You’ll never be productive, because you can’t be something you can’t define. Nor can you be something that you just think somebody else is.

But here’s what you can do.

3 Things to Be Instead of Productive

1. Be present

If you’re scrolling the screen in search of productivity and balance and motivation, all while sitting next to someone you love dearly, hoping to become a better version of yourself for them — you’re missing the point.

Put the phone down.

Look them in the eye, and become 5% better already. When you align your mind and your eyeballs, you become present. Instantly.

And let me tell you, it’s beautiful — much more beautiful than comparing yourself to whatever you’re reading or watching right now.

2. Be particular

We’ve gotten so good — too good — at being agreeable that we’ve stopped speaking up about the things we’re after.

Get the thing you’re after. And be very particular about it.

I’m not telling you to go full-blown perfectionist, but stop allowing yourself to settle. Don’t ignore the possibilities that could unfold for you, if you only had the audacity to ask.

3. Be proactive

As Tony Robbins would say, it’s not about positivity. It’s about intelligence.

You don’t need to smile your way into making your dreams come true. In fact, you can’t. You just have to believe something about it, and use your mind to make it happen.

Stop ignoring the simple facts and take a more proactive approach to your goals. You have the skills, you have the brainpower. Let those things be your guide on the way to what you want to achieve.

Because believe it or not, it’s 100% okay to have something that’s just for you. It doesn’t make you a bad parent or a bad partner or a bad coworker or a bad friend. You just need something that’s yours. Otherwise, you’ll spend the rest of your life wondering what productivity looks like.

Don’t be productive.

Be unapologetically you.

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