The word “productivity” has, in many ways, been the mantra of the past decade. And it refers not just to the accomplishment of lofty lifetime or business goals, but also to things like remembering to unload the dishwasher.
Today, the “Cult of Busy” (an almost proverbial reference to our addiction to filling our days with tasks, crossing them off and then waking up and doing it all over again), has been accepted as the new normal. Between text and app messaging, social media scrolling, productivity apps, browser extensions, calendar syncing, email and keeping up with the news, it’s a wonder anyone has time for “regular” activities like walking the dog or bathing.
Why we are Addicted
Like a phone addiction, the Cult of Busy is in many ways a compulsion.
Entering into it may start slowly, by enjoying praise bestowed upon us in recognition of a quick email response or being the first to snag a great item for sale on the Facebook marketplace. In these moments, we get a quick hit of dopamine to the brain, the feel good hormone. This fills a void and makes us feel accomplished. As we continue to become hooked on this feeling, we can easily lose sight of what we truly care about. And once we set the bar for quick response times and a consistently online status, it becomes expected of us, heightening the pressure to continue the cycle.
Organization is about a lot of things, including productivity. But there is also such a thing as “organized enough.” Similar to the notion that creating adult time away from our kids makes us better parents, carving out time spent doing nothing (or very little) actually makes us more organized. We can think better. Process through emotions more easily. Our mental flexibility improves. We judge ourselves less.
Just like your kitchen pantry, your brain requires some white space in order to focus and be organized.
So How to Actually Become More Productive?
Reducing your busyness is less about your daily schedule and more about your relationship to it. It’s a reframing of the brain, a refocusing on what is important to you. That said, there are some truly concrete steps you can take to being less busy and more productive. Here are some of our favorites.
Adjust your Language
Rather than trying to do everything on your list simply because it’s written there, ask yourself if it is a priority. Using the word “priority” highlights the two or three items that actually NEED to get done, as opposed to focusing on doing everything and burning yourself out.
When someone asks you how you are doing, curb the automatic urge to say “I’m so busy!” The reality is that we are all busy. You don’t get special points for being busy, and by saying it out loud to another human, you are only reiterating the truth to yourself. Change your language intentionally, and say “I have a lot on my plate, but I’m working on prioritizing.” Tell them you are working on being less busy, and that it’s a work in progress.
Take a Social Media Detox
Scrolling through social media is kind of like eating Cheetos. It feels so satisfying in the moment, but a fair amount of it equates to empty calories. If you are a small business owner and you need to be on Facebook for your business, you can install an app (Facebook Pages Manager) which lets you manage your account from a separate app. Taking a break from social media is a great way to realign your goals and intentions with your current state, and to reset your brain. Use that extra time to do some of the things that feed your soul; pick up a book, listen to music, go for a walk and admire the changing leaves.
Lower Your Standards
In addition to simply taking up too much space in our lives, social media has filled our heads with impossible expectations for ourselves, particularly among women. Seeing others live their “best lives” through the lens of social apps has left us with the impossible task of measuring up to something that simply doesn’t exist.
We are all struggling in one way or another, and most people aren’t sharing that on social media. Remember to be kind to yourself. Give yourself a break. It’s ok to hold off on responding to that text message or email. Remind yourself that you are your toughest critic. When in doubt, refer back to the language reframing, asking yourself what is a priority, and what is not.