The constant churn of things to do, it’s an endless list, the more you tick off that list, the more comes on to the bottom. Busy lives get busier as we take on more and more, stretching our time, juggling relationships, careers, families, side hustles and hobbies. It is astonishing that any of us find the time to sleep and eat. All of these activities not only take time but they require schedules and planning, they require effort to maintain, compromise and sacrifice. There is a constant drive for us to be better than we were yesterday. Everywhere you look in magazines and social media there is endless information and articles about how to be successful, how to manage a side hustle, how to make money… the list goes on.
If you do a quick search on being unproductive, it comes up with ways to ‘shake it off’ or to ‘be productive when you don’t feel like it’. All this simply tells you being unproductive is a bad thing, something to avoid. In the simple context of industry then yes it is, but we are human and I think it’s time to normalise down days. You read so much about burnout and how to avoid it but a quick google search on feeling unproductive brings up a lot of information guilting you into doing something. The majority of advice is contradictory and whilst you are reading that and scrolling your Facebook or Instagram feed seeing everyone else posting their productive days its no wonder we all start to feel like we shouldn’t take the day.
Being productive and achieving things is great but at what point do you take a break? Is it your all inclusive beach break for two weeks and then come back to it all and start again?
I want to talk about productivity, what it actually means and what it should mean. When people talk about productivity it is usually in relation to company and a measure of output against input. I don’t need to tell you that for business, more in vs less out equals bad business. What does it mean for you and me? Well from a work point of view it’s definitely getting things done and jobs ticked off our lists, but bear in mind the working week is usually 40 or so hours accounting for ‘downtime’ as its acknowledged that we need a break. Now if you use your break time for a side hustle, hobbies, catching up with friendships, education etc then you aren’t really having much downtime. This would mean your input would be minimal when measured against your output.
So what is your input for yourself? If it is a couple of holidays a year and a day off where you feel guilty for being unproductive I would argue that doesn’t count. The days where you aren’t ‘productive’ by whatever measure that is to you are usually riddled with guilt. This is therefore, by definition, unproductive. By feeling guilty on down days you render them the very thing you fear that they are – unproductive. Down days are needed, they are the input to your production line, they are the measure for your productivity. No company in the world has high productivity without input.
Here are a few benefits of doing nothing at all;
- Allows time to process and reflect on what has gone
- Time to refocus your priorities and goals
- Using down time properly (guilt free) helps reduce anxiety and stress
- Taking time out to relax helps overall health and wellbeing
- Down time stops you from becoming burnt out or exhausted
- Being well rested allows you to be more productive in future
This is why it is important to have and maintain your personal boundaries and to ensure that you are able to work hard but to make the best use of your days off, which sometimes means doing nothing at all. Understand that the work will never be done, it is just a process and with that process is the need to take some days off and to spend them doing nothing at all without feeling like you need to be productive – don’t feel guilty, you deserve some time off!