After my wildly productive fourth quarter last year, in which I wrote, published, and launched a book — all in the span of three months! — I’ve been feeling woefully unproductive in comparison.
Like an unanchored boat, bobbing about in the waves, getting things done here and there, but with nothing like the drive and focus that I had last Fall.
Add in the fact that the aftermath of the U.S. elections have thrown me for a loop, as a lot of my time and energy have gone toward becoming a citizen activist, and well, it’s like an earthquake has shaken my productivity foundations.
It’s also very easy to get down on myself because my life does not conform to the tidy lines and boxes of a day planner.
Now, I am not anti-planner. I actually have a planner — a paper planner.
(I love pencil and paper, and I love working big. The planner I use right now, which is not perfect, but which has some features I like, is called the Week Dominator, by NeuYear.net. I also have their year wall calendar, although I don’t put either planner to optimal use.)
I DO like to write down all the things I want to accomplish over the course of a week. I don’t always get to each of these things, but I like to see them as a checklist on the side of the planner week.
And I DO like to assign those tasks across the days of the week, to a certain extent.
But really, I can only project out a couple of days in advance with any accuracy at all, and even then, I am NOT one of those people who can assign exactly which task I am going to do at exactly which minute of the day.
My life is way too fluid and improvisational for that. Unexpected stuff comes up, and I need to allow space.
So at the top of each day’s column I’ll write a checklist of the items I want to accomplish that day, and more often than not, the box next to half of those items, instead of having an X in it at the end of the day, will have an arrow in it, indicating it’s been deferred to the next day.
This is normal.
Anyway, I’m telling you all this to share that I was feeling really badly about being so unproductive lately. And I was sharing with my mastermind group the other day how frustrated I’ve been, that I’ve felt like a slacker.
Honestly, I’ve been escaping into novels a lot lately, too, which doesn’t help.
I did get a draft of a speech done for a couple of gigs I have coming up next month, and I ran a successful free online creativity workshop a couple of weeks ago (I’ll run another one again in March — sign up here), and I’m almost done with a bonus lesson I’m creating for Life Book 2017, but man, compared to last Fall, I feel so unproductive, like such a slacker.
And my mastermind group said, “Melissa, um, that doesn’t sound to us like you’re slacking!”
And I suddenly realized, oh, my god, I was putting myself in the Comparison Trap against myself!
For goodness’ sake, writing, publishing, and launching a book in three months is not normal productivity! And it’s certainly not sustainable productivity!
Maybe the way that I do things during “normal” periods is not squeezing every last drop of productivity out of me — maybe it’s not “fully optimized” — but hey, it’s gotten me this far.
I’ve somehow managed to get by okay for fifty years…
Also, maybe this low-tide phase, which feels like slacking right now is a necessary part of the process.
As Karen from my mastermind group said, maybe all the novels I’ve been reading, maybe that’s a necessary part of the process right now.
It was exactly the reframe I needed. Instead of thinking of myself as a failure who can’t get her act together, I could see myself as someone who’s simply in a different season.
I did manage to write a book last year, so I’ve clearly figured a few things out…
And here are a few of those things:
Art takes time.
We need to incubate.
We cannot rush the creative process.
Our productivity isn’t like a conveyor belt with an on/off switch, it’s more like fluctuating seasons, with variations from season to season and year to year.
This is to be expected.
Most of all, we are not machines.
Much as the productivity experts might tell us otherwise, efficiency isn’t everything.
So yes, planning is great. To a point.
As always, my Golden Formula is the ultimate tool: Self-awareness + self-compassion = the key to everything good.
Are you stuck in the Comparison Trap against yourself?
Where can you bring in some self-awareness? Where might your life benefit from a reframe? Where you can practice self-compassion and self-forgiveness?
Thanks for Listening!
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