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Letting go of productivity guilt 💔
So what if you didn’t do The Thing today?
Productivity guilt can be a mess to deal with. Every day, we push ourselves to tackle a set of impossible to-do lists, to start our day with purpose and intention.
Then if we fail to complete the mountain of tasks, we send ourselves into a neverending guilt trip.
But is it really all there is to it?
If you constantly beat yourselves up over not being productive enough, these quotes by Madeleine Dore’s I Didn’t Do the Thing Today: On letting go of productivity guilt might be just for you.
I didn’t do the thing today.
I didn’t start; I didn’t finish.
I didn’t achieve; I didn’t progress.
And it didn’t matter. For doing the thing today
Isn’t the measure of a day
Productivity is too narrow a lens for our days. It flattens the day to a plan, an order, an outcome.
When we conflate productivity with worthiness, what we do is never enough. We can always do more, and there is always more to do.
We’re running just to stand still, and we’re missing the point. We’re doing all this work to improve ourselves, only to go on judging ourselves for being imperfect.
We’ve taken what’s incomplete as proof there is something wrong with us, when in fact being imperfect is an inevitable part of being human.
The pressure to optimise our days has led some of us to revere elaborate routines to the point they’ve become precarious structures built atop our aspirations to be better. We let the slight detour at the beginning prevent us from resuming the course.
Creating the ideal routine can, rather ironically, be the very thing that lands us in a rut. A thing that was providing momentum starts to feel tired, the pursuit of improving ourselves makes us feel exhausted, the chasing of better becomes boring.
We reach for routine because we think it will help instil in us a sense of control, and maybe that’s true for some people. But flexibility can accomplish the same for others.
Disruption brings new possibilities—in how we interact with our day, a particular situation or the people around us.
If productivity narrows our days, creativity expands them. Creativity doesn’t follow a plan, but has its own ebb and flow. Instead of confining a day to doing, it enlivens us to the ways we can do it differently.
Because caring is not about fixing completely; rather, it’s a work in progress of fostering, trusting and shifting position as necessary.
Instead of trying to play catch-up, maybe we should simply shrug and get on with it. Doing so can open us up to possibility. It shifts the focus from what we didn’t do today to what can happen today.
Often when we accept ourselves, we are more likely to get the best from ourselves. Taking away the self-judgements allows us to look at what we need to thrive instead of what we need to change.
We can compose the day for ourselves, bucking the rigidity of routine in favour of being open to its ebb and flow.
We might make checklists for our days or weeks, and allow them to be order-less reminders of what makes a good day.
One ticked checkbox fuels others, while offering small rewards along the way. So maybe that’s where we start—not with a perfectly ordered routine, but with a checklist of small things that we can do each day to make it a good day.
It’s hard sending this on Monday, when the pressure to do well and seize the day is higher than ever.
We hope these takeaways, on letting go of productivity guilt, could lessen your pressure of having to do well every second of the day. As the book said, being imperfect is perfectly human.
Thanks for sticking with us, and see you next week! 👋