As a Lifehacker reader, you probably spend some portion of your life actively trying to live better. That can look like a lot of things, but it usually includes trying to be as productive as possible. Constantly pushing yourself to be productive, however, can get pretty stressful.
If, in your quest for productivity, you’re starting to beat yourself up over all the stuff you’re not doing: stop! Blogger Scott H. Young has been writing productivity advice for over a decade, and he has come clean in a new post (via Postanly) about “productivity guilt,” admitting that blogs like his have something to do with why it exists:
It’s the constant nagging feeling that you should be doing more. And if you’re not doing everything, then you’re a lazy slacker who will never reach your goals.
That’s simply not true. Even small efforts have a cumulative effect. So even if you’re not getting up at 4am to meditate, getting in some high interval intensity training, and polishing off an activated charcoal smoothie, here’s how you can let go of the guilt.
No one is perfect—not even the people you admire most. Many of them are probably dissatisfied with their accomplishments on some level, or have things they never get around to, either. As Young writes, the reality is we can’t realistically implement every life hack out there. There simply isn’t enough time in the day:
Old ideas I wrote about get replaced with new ones. Not always because the new is better than the old, but because I’m always changing (as will you). If you see, instead, that everything I’ve written about is a static and permanent part of who I am, when you sum it all up, you’ll get to something that’s probably unmanageable as a whole.
If something falls by the wayside, it probably wasn’t serving you in the way you needed, or you found something else that works better. And if there is an aspect to your productivity you think worked, just pick it up again. Doing it a little is better than not doing it at all.
Understand The Flaw Of Perfection
But it’s hard to let go of our ideals. Young says the next step is to realise being perfect is’t even desirable, because “taking everything to its logical extreme or conclusion often isn’t actually very good.” If you were to do everything you’re advised to do to have a perfect, productive life, you’d basically have no time to just be alive, no matter how efficiently executed. The net value of all that work would decrease, as would your quality of life. Instead of trying to do everything you’re advised to, just pick a few main things:
Separate the nice-to-have from the essential. Most advice is nice-to-have—it helps, but only a little. If you can focus on the essential things that matter for your few goals, then you can stop feeling guilty about everything else.
Start Where You’re At
Often what’s motivating productivity is a sense of competition with someone you perceive as being way ahead of you. Trying to catch up with them is the wrong frame of mind, because then we’re always looking at this gap. The gap feels like a lack in ourselves and our life. Instead, look at yourself:
The question is never, “What should I do, ideally, to solve this problem?” Instead it’s always, “How could I do things a little differently than last time for a little better results?”
The only thing you need to do is take one step: that’s productive enough. And if even that is stressing you out, maybe you just need to stop and smell the roses. Not everything needs to get done right now.
What is Productivity Guilt? (And How Can You Prevent It?) | Scott H. Young