I woke up yesterday morning roaring to get the day started. I leaped out of bed, went for a long walk with my dog, and had some oatmeal. The next thing I knew, it was noon.
In the morning, I was able to clean out my inbox, schedule some important meetings, and wrap up a big project. After a quick lunch, I then crossed off the next three items on my to-do list.
When I sat back and reflected on the day, I felt like a million bucks. After all, when we’re more productive, happiness increases. And, when we’re in a better mood, we tend to work harder.
There are several reasons for this. When you cross items off our lists, endorphins are released. Additionally, it gives us a sense of purpose and boosts self-esteem.
However, when the alarm went off the next day, I wanted to hit snooze. I was mentally exhausted. While I begrudgingly flipped the comforter off, I didn’t attack the day with the same zeal.
Even though we all pride ourselves on hustling day in and out, the truth is we can’t maintain that 24/7. Despite what you may think, we only have so much time and energy. And, always being on isn’t just draining; it’s detrimental to your productivity and health.
Why is being productive associated with self-worth?
I get it. When you are getting things done, you feel like a superhero. It’s also ingrained in our culture as we idolize the hustlers who work 80 plus hours per week.
In reality, though, this isn’t sustainable. Eventually, you will crash and burn. And, just because you’re constantly busy doesn’t mean that you’re spending your time wisely.
“Being busy isn’t a badge of honor,” states Carrie Heinze-Musgrove, MA, LCPC. “Productivity isn’t the only thing that makes a person fulfilled.”
“And while it’s easy to look for external things to make us feel worthy, in this approach, worthiness becomes dependent on constantly chasing the next best thing,” adds Heinze-Musgrove. But they “never really attaining anything.”
“Hustling can be a way to feel ‘good enough’ while struggling with low self-esteem, low confidence, and low self-worth,” she adds. After all, “busyness, chaos, and goal chasing can be a way to avoid just sitting and feeling.” It can also help you avoid making decisions or having to face whatever life throws your way.
“Please know that you are strong enough, smart enough, and good enough,” advises Heinze-Musgrove. “You don’t need other people or accomplishments to validate you. You are already VALUABLE.”
While I couldn’t agree more, that can be easier said than done. But, it is possible to detangle your self-worth from your productivity. And, you can start by giving the following six strategies.
1. Follow the desire map.
Danielle LaPorte created a program in her book The Desire Map that will change how to measure your success. Instead of linking how successful you are to your accomplishments, LaPorte suggests identifying the top five feelings you want to feel in your life.
It’s a relatively simple exercise designed to help redefine your definition of success. More importantly, it can help set goals that will help you achieve what truly matters in life.
As LaPorte writes in the book:
“When we want to feel courageous more than we want to check accomplishments off our list and “feel free more than we want to please other people,” then we’ve got our priorities in order. Divine priorities—the kind that will steer you to the life you long for most deeply.”
2. Less is more.
I can understand if you believe that the above is too new-age for you. But, I think the main takeaway is that less is always more. In fact, working fewer hours per week is beneficial to your well-being and output.
For starters, we aren’t meant to work eight consecutive hours in a day. Mainly this is because we all march to our own tune, aka circadian rhythms. Moreover, when you aren’t working as much, you’ll live a better life.
Still not convinced? Ditching excessive workweeks can also reduce errors and accidents and improve interpersonal relationships. On a broader stage, it could also combat climate change and inequality.
3. Write yourself a permission slip to take a break.
It’s no secret that breaks can boost productivity. We actually need them in order to rest, recharge, and get a dose of joy. Yet, with so much going on, who has time to a breather?
The truth is, everyone does. I actually schedule breaks into my calendar to make them a priority. But, you could even write yourself a permission slip so that you don’t feel as guilty.
How you spend this downtime is up to you. For me, I enjoy going for a short walk sans phone. You may also use this block to meditate, watch a TED Talk, or just close your eyes and do nothing.
4. Replace and switch your thoughts.
“You are about to change the things that you tell yourself,” writes life coach Jes Dickerson. “In order to be able to do that, especially when the thoughts are swimming around your head like sharks, you need to be prepared with a new and better thought pattern.”
“The choice of replacement is up to you,” adds Jes. “It could simply be something like my value is not in how much I get done.” Another suggestion is to “remind yourself of all the wonderful things that make up who you are — and that none of those things are how much you accomplish.”
It may even be helpful to find a daily mantra or affirmation. For example, you could say, “I have a lot of offer to my family.”
“The next step is to work on changing the thoughts themselves,” Jes continues. “Changing thought patterns is work. It’s uncomfortable, clunky, awkward, and time-consuming. And totally worth it.”
Thankfully, the process is simple. “Every time you notice yourself having thoughts about how you have to go do something, or you’re failing somehow; then you need to stop the thought and replace it.”
Just note that this is going to take some time to get used to. Be patient and stick with it until you’ve kicked your old thought pattern to the curb.
5. What’s the point in worrying?
As of this writing, Tom Petty’s Wildflowers & All The Rest was recently released. Every time I listen to it, I’m reminded at beautifully wonderful the album is. And, one of the most underrated songs on it is “Crawling Back to You.”
What I love most about this track is the line, “Most things I worry about never happen anyway.”
Whenever I get anxious or overwhelmed, I recite those words. It’s so easy to get caught up in whataboutisms and worse case scenarios — you know what I mean? The coulda, woulda, and shoulda scenarios. But, I’m here to tell you that a majority of things that you want to accomplish rarely matter.
That may sound harsh. But, if you look at the big picture, just because you didn’t cross everything off your to-do list today doesn’t mean that you’re a failure. It’s not the end either. You can jump back into tomorrow when you’re refreshed.
6. Remove “hustle and grind” from your vocabulary.
I’m all about hard work and giving it my all. But, I also know my limitations. For example, I’ve cut back on the number of meetings, social engagements, and networking events each month.
While each of these may have provided some value, limiting them to a vital few has been a godsend. I’m no longer having to juggle calendar conflicts or go directly from the office to a meetup. Instead, I use this newly found availability to be lazy.
What’s more, I’ve established hard boundaries. When I’m off the clock, I don’t respond to emails or work. I spend time with friends, family, or activities that I enjoy.
And, I’ve also stopped comparing myself to others. If there’s someone on social media, for example, boating about “the hustle,” I don’t follow them. If that’s the life they want to live, then that’s on them, and I don’t need to compete with that.
7. Enjoy the process.
Finally, as Elizabeth Gilbert wrote in Big Magic, “Measure your worth by your dedication to your path, not by your successes and failures.” Rather than focusing on outcomes, reflect on the steps you took to get there. And, think about what you learned and how it helped you grow as a person.
Image Credit: cottonbro; pexels; thank you!