You Don’t Need To Be Productive All The Time

Tom Stevenson
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One of the biggest misconceptions of modern life is that we need to be working all the time. If we’re not, we’re wasting our potential and doomed to a life of mediocrity.

I realise this attitude doesn’t represent everybody, but it sure as hell represents a lot of people. I remember my old office job obsessing over productivity.

The targets we were supposed to reach were as sacrosanct to my managers as the ten commandments were to Moses. God forbid you didn’t meet them and let your manager down, never mind your own team!

Eventually, I got to the point where I was able to jump off this carousel of chasing targets whose importance were over-egged. The problem was, I was now working for myself.

This was my first experience working for myself and I didn’t have a clue how to go about it. Should I work as much as I can, or should I stick to a more traditional working day?

The freedom to set your own hours and work at a pace you desire sounds great until you actually have to do it. If you’re used to working for someone else it can take a while to adjust to this new reality.

Early on, I worked as much as I could. This meant some days I was working ten hours on various endeavours such as my travel blog and here on Medium.

What I soon learnt was that most of this time was wasted. I wasn’t productive, I was just fixing various tiny annoyances on my site, or writing a few paragraphs here and there.

When I started working fewer hours and focused on important tasks, I found I was more productive. A simple change in attitude is all you need to actually become productive instead of wasting hours trying to be productive.

Less is better

Trying to be productive as much as you can is seductive. It lures us into the false sense of security that because we are doing something, that something must be worthwhile because we are doing it.

This is a fundamental flaw in how we think. I could spend hours scrolling through Twitter, but just because I’m doing it does not mean it’s worthwhile, nor does it mean its productive.

The key is to differentiate between just doing and doing things that matter. Most of the time what we do doesn’t affect our overall productivity. I can play around with my website for a few hours but am I really being productive?

The other side of the argument is also true. You could argue that because you’re working ten hours a day, every one of those hours is worthwhile. But the question you should be asking yourself is, do I need to work ten hours a day?

Can I get all this done in a shorter space of time, say six hours? Working for the sake of working is often pointless. You miss out on the other joys of life such as spending time with loved ones and enjoying the beautiful world we live in.

The word you should apply to your life is balance. By trying to squeeze productivity out of every waking hour, you’re putting yourself out of balance. If you were walking on a tightrope, you’d be struggling to stay on the straight and narrow.

It’s easy to get sucked into what people like Gary Vee preach and work ridiculous hours to realise your dream. The problem with this is that Gary Vee is a unique individual. He seems to have a supernatural ability to stay switched on all day, every day.

If I tried to work like him, I’d run out of steam within days. Work is important but it’s not the most important thing in life. You’re not going to regret those hours you didn’t put in when you look back at life years from now.

Instead, it will be those opportunities you passed up, the conversations you didn’t have and the time you didn’t spend enjoying yourself.

Work hard but don’t take it to the extreme. It’s ok to take a break once in a while. It’s a paradox of life but taking a step back from work may make you more productive in the long run.

Remember, life is a marathon, not a sprint. The tortoise beat the hare because he understood that if you burn yourself out early on, you won’t last the distance.

Heed this advice and you’ll be more productive in half the time.

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