Along my search + absorb of all things productivity. I’ve noticed that productivity, when defined incorrectly, can become a stronghold and a barrier to a happy and fulfilled life. When defined wrong it can be misinterpreted to mean that I need to do more to achieve more, when in fact it’s much more about doing less and finding more time for me, my people, and a little bit of nothing.
Productivity defined: Let me clear up what I think productivity really is. And explain why, it can improve our everyday happiness.
The common misconception about productivity
Productivity is not about doing more. In all of the definitions of productivity that I looked up I never once saw the word “more”. I saw words like “effective” “fertile” and “quality”.
Productive and Productivity defined
“the state of being able to generate, create, enhance”
Productivity is not about doing more in a day. It’s about doing the same tasks in less time. And then creating space for more important things.
The wrong definition of productivity can be a slippery slope
I use to get productivity wrong. I thought productivity was defined as getting a ton done in one day. When I had “productive” days, I felt on fire. When I had “lazy” days, I felt annoyed, frustrated, and disappointed with myself.
The problem, that I still battle on occasion today, is that I was so addicted to the feeling of accomplishment that accompanies getting stuff done that instead of making a list and knocking it out so I could play and sit and do whatever else would full up my cup, I would just do more and more and more.
If you are similar to me, you might feel antsy when you’re not completing something. It might be hard for you to sit still. And you might feel like the day was a waste if you didn’t check anything off “the list”.
Scientifically this makes sense because when we experience success, even small amounts like, checking something off of our to-do list, our brains release dopamine — which is connected to feelings of pleasure and motivation. When we experience success (dopamine) we want to repeat that again and again.
But if we just continue to do, do, do, we miss out on the very best part of being productive, creating space for your most important yes — doing nothing at all, being present with your family, and spending time doing things that light you up but check nothing off the list.
Let’s shift our mindset a bit. Instead of seeing how much we can pack into one day. Let’s see how little time we can spend doing our tasks and how much time we can spend soaking up time doing what we love with who we love.
The right definition of productivity can be freeing
Remember how I defined productivity above? Productivity is about doing the same tasks in less time. When you do the same tasks in less time. You have more space. You have, freedom.
When you think about productivity the right way, you don’t cram as much as you can into one day. You cram as much as you can into an hour or 30 minutes. You allow yourself to be super productive, get a ton done, and let the dopamine do its thing. But then you close that door for the day and soak up your most important yes.
Productivity doesn’t have to be a stronghold. When you use it intentionally and strategically, and let it go when you’re done, it can be freeing.
If you let yourself dream a bit, it’s pretty fun to think about the freedom productivity can create. With more time I would go on more adventures with my family and without my phone. I would workout for longer each day because it makes me feel alive and well. And I would go on a date every week with my husband.
What would you do with more time? Here are some things to spark your ideas:
- paint (like you’ve always wanted to)
- go on a walk
- finally visit that museum with your kiddos
- watch a movie on a weekday
- go to a yoga class
- bake something with the music blasting
- play a game with your kids
- finish that 1000 piece puzzle
The possibilities are endless! And when you realize how good it feels to be productive and then enjoy the freedom, you might just strive to make those stretches longer and longer.
Strategies to being productive
Now that productivity is defined. And we all know we want to amp it up so we have more freedom. It’s worth exploring how to be more productive.
There are four ways that I work productivity into my day and my week: prioritize, batch, time-box, and plan. I wrote about these four strategies to productivity and outlined actionable ways to incorporate them into your day. Check them out so you can find ways of saving time and doing more of what you love.
Productivity defined — now let’s go be free
When you get in a rhythm of productivity, what do you think you’ll add into your day? Will you soak up the free time and let your mind wander? Will you test out that curry recipe you “haven’t had time for” in the past?
I can’t wait to hear what lights you up.