I have heard from a lot of you in the Badass Beauty Club on Facebook and in private coaching sessions that you’re feeling overwhelmed. And for real, I totally get it. A recent Gallup poll claims 2020 marked a twenty-year low in mental health for Americans.
Even though the world grinded to an almost-standstill last year, it seemed like everyone was focused on being super productive, even if they couldn’t leave their homes. Everywhere you turned, there was another webinar, online course or app you needed to engage with—filled with promises to help you dominate your WFH game or become a better human being. And it hasn’t waned yet.
Now this may be controversial, but the reality is: you don’t always have to be productive.
Or more specifically, that being productive doesn’t have to mean you’re frantic, exhausted and always on. So this month, we’re going to focus on how to be peacefully productive: to get your work done but respect your limits and build in rest—and most importantly, learn to determine what outside noise actually deserves your attention.
Productivity is not a personality trait.
As author, teacher and consultant Daniel Markovitz said for the Harvard Business Review earlier this year, “productivity is about your systems,” not specific people. But we’re hardwired in society to measure our success by how much we accomplish. When we don’t meet all our expectations, most people feel shame and experience negative self-talk.
It is important to remember that “being busy” is not a characteristic like being honest, loyal, funny or kind. It simply means you have a lot going on. Sure, your work ethic is a part of your personality, but work ethic says nothing about how much you do, just how you do something. See the difference?
So if you’re struggling right now, if you’re having trouble checking everything off your list in a day, it’s not a personal defect. Instead, it may be a sign from your body and mind that you need to slow down.
And that’s one system you should definitely create!
Markovitz calls it defining the bat signal. The police summoned Batman in times of crisis with this simple light in the night’s sky, and everyone involved knew what it meant.
You don’t exist in a bubble. Maybe you live with a roommate or partner, maybe you have kids or family around a lot. This can lead to a lot of interruptions and distractions, especially when you’re stressed out or really focused.
You need your own version of a bat signal you can throw up when you’re feeling overwhelmed, to signal that you need some space, quiet and patience. If your work is constantly stressing you out, consider streamlining communication (if you can) with your clients, boss, agent, co-workers or employees to just one or two ways to reach out. This way you’re not checking six different devices or apps to keep tabs on assignments.
There isn’t an app for this.
People are spending more time on their phones and social media since the pandemic began than ever before. According to the NY Times, “the number of daily active Twitter users jumped 24 percent” last year. That bump is in no small part to how many complex social issues 2020 forced us to reexamine (epidemiology, civics, capitalism, work environments, home-schooling, white supremacy, mutual aid and healthcare, to name only a few).
Then all over the Internet ads and offers popped up for everything—meditation and sleep apps, child care services, food delivery, teletherapy, career coaching, personal development, and business loans. In addition to increasing profits for these industries, it also increased our stress level.
What was once a coping mechanism now put us directly in the raging river of constant pressure, to be involved, to “use this lockdown time wisely”, to take up new hobbies, to not “be lazy” and gain weight, and on and on.
My friends, there is no app for peace of mind. Don’t get me wrong, technology is a great tool, but it can also be a distraction from what is most important to us. Research suggests that “our fixation on our smartphones contributes to headaches, bad posture, fatigue, depression and anxiety”.
So I encourage you to find alternative ways to relax that aren’t digital. Check out my list of Energy Shifting Activities For Stress Relief (most are offline options, so you can put those devices in a drawer). Being able to connect with nature, your spirit and your loved ones is the true key to greater happiness.
“You’re OFF the list”
If you have a morning routine (and I highly recommend you do), you probably start your day by prioritizing your important to-dos. Well, today, I want you to start by deprioritizing.
Channel your inner Heidi Klum and tell those stressful tasks, toxic relationships and bad habits, “I’m sorry, but that means you are out!” So you’re no longer going to expend energy on things you cannot control, and you’re going to turn down things you already know will stress you out to the max.
Your 2021 goal is to replenish your spirit, so more of your energy is poured into your own cup before you start sharing with others.
Here are a few suggestions from Fast Company Magazine to get you started:
- Limit how much time you’ll spend on specific projects or tasks, especially if you do not enjoy doing them.
- Create a ‘not doing’ list, so you can make sure you’re only focusing on what is necessary and what brings you joy. Plus, it’s a good reminder for yourself if you have trouble saying ‘no’ to things.
- Delegate tasks that stress you out, if you can.
- Have a weekly check-in with yourself to ask, “Is this still important to me?”
- Focus on the parts of your work that bring you satisfaction or make the most impact. This exercise will help you concentrate on the good rather than the bad.
If you’re looking for permission to do things other than work, work, work, to explore your passions and have a little fun, this is it. The past 12 months have been emotionally and physically exhausting for everyone, and you deserve a break.
Save at least one hour of your best time of day for something you are passionate about, or focus on it during the day when you need a boost in your spirits. You’ll not only feel better, but by finding new ways to be motivated and focused, you’ll be better prepared to handle the post-pandemic world.
For artists and creative entrepreneurs, this can be especially hard because our passion and career are usually intertwined. But investigate other ways to reignite your creativity and curiosity besides what you already do for work. After all, your imagination is already one of your greatest valued assets.
Have you been struggling with this expectation of productivity? Are you feeling overwhelmed? Let me know how you’re handling it in The Badass Beauty Club.
LOVE + bliss!