We live in a productivity-centred world. Everything revolves around increasing output. Our new consumer-led crazes buy objects and experiences at an alarming rate. Couches, handbags, fancy kitchens, electronics, education, vacations. Time becomes compressed and a commodity. The week is reduced to a hasty blur as we race towards the weekend. At times, we may lose our vitality and wonder what this is all for. I doubt this is solely my own experience. I have lived as a productivity-centred person for a long time now. I come to realize it is not the way that I want to live. At times, it can be difficult to slow down to take a breath as the fear of inactivity englobes me.
There was a time when I deeply valued meditation and self-exploration. Unfortunately, in the last few years, it seems I have only returned to it in times of absolute chaos because I felt not able to handle all I had to do. Only hitting the bottom of the emotional tram motivated me to care a bit for myself. I fear that is unfortunately common behaviour. Many tend to oversee their own natural needs for rest and introspection by supplanting them with life-squeezing productivity. There are even people whose lives are based on teaching tricks to do more in less time. Our to-do lists have so many tasks to be done, and so many more could be added that they become unachievable goals. Doing more is not the solution. When we tick things off, new tasks magically appear. Before we know it, our lives become about doing as much as is humanly possible. In the over-productivity atmosphere, discontent becomes the norm. We cannot achieve all that we would want to. Choices must be made. And yet, we mostly do not dare make them as we are afraid of missing out.
We want to do it all. Yet, the older we get, the more apparent it is that every opportunity taken is many more refused. Our lives started with seemingly limitless potential. However, each year we live reduces our possible paths. Life is about sacrificing many goals for a few. There is an interesting rule from Warren Buffet called the 5/25. Write down your top twenty-five goals and only focus on the five most important. Forget the next twenty entirely as they would distract you from achieving the first five. Unlike popular claims about limitless capabilities, not everything can be achieved. Fact is, we are limited from the day we are born. Our environmental and biological foundations give us a different starting point to all. Some are lucky, some are unlucky, and most are in the middle. But whatever goals we choose for ourselves, we must prioritize the most important ones so as to not lose ourselves in details...goals we do not truly value.
So how about we all do less? Myself, I tend to be a perfectionistic workaholic. I am truly afraid of missing out on many opportunities. I push myself to achieve as much as possible as fast as possible, and my expectations are mostly unachievably high, triggering much anxiety and stress. But comes a point, to transform from a productive workaholic to a joyful human being, choices must be made. By starkly reducing the number of goals I have, I plan to be able to enjoy more downtime, sanity and joy. Constant noise from “productive” activities is often a way to keep introspection at bay. By putting on the brakes, you may get a clearer picture of what it is you genuinely want to focus on. In turn, you will become productive on these goals that are truly important to you.