Forget Productivity—It’s OK to Lower Your Standards Right Now

By now, we have all seen the messages across social media: get busy, they say. Achieve that dream. Accomplish that goal. Get to work. After all, we’re prodded, Shakespeare used his moments of forced solitude to write King Lear, so what could possibly be your excuse?

With all of us at home and kids newly underfoot, I’ll be honest: I’m tired. I have less time than ever before. And the few moments I get to myself? Yeah, I don’t want to spend them deep-cleaning and organizing my linen closet. As someone who struggles with contamination-related Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, this strange time has downshifted me into survival mode. I won’t be wallpapering my office. I won’t be working on a novel. I won’t be organizing the basement or cooking elaborate meals, or even crafting intricate art projects with my kindergartner. 

 

With all of us at home and kids newly underfoot, I’ll be honest: I’m tired. I have less time than ever before. And the few moments I get to myself? Yeah, I don’t want to spend them deep-cleaning and organizing my linen closet.

 

I’ll just be—day in and day out until this is over—and no amount of pressure thinly veiled as inspiration is going to change that. If you’re anything like me and can’t find the energy, strength, or focus needed to experience a super-charged surge in your productivity, I’m here to tell you that it’s OK. Be gentle on yourself. We have never done anything like this before, and none of us is doing it wrong. 

I called on a Chicago-based psychologist, Dr. Carrie Thomas, who assured me that my instinct to lay low for a while might not be such a bad idea. “Right now, we are in a globally stressful and traumatic situation,” Dr. Thomas said. “As a culture that stays very busy, the impulse may be to fill our extra time with a lot of projects and distractions.” 

 

 

While it isn’t inherently unhealthy to tick things off your to-do list, Dr. Thomas encouraged folks to lean into the slower pace this season has forced upon us. “This is an opportunity to reconnect with our values and important relationships. It may be helpful to give ourselves permission to let go of our need to remain constantly busy and allow time for connection with our families and to some of the slower and more relaxed things in life,” Dr. Thomas said.

At the same time, Dr. Thomas is careful not to dismiss the power of productivity. It comes down to balance, she said. If working toward a larger goal brings you peace, then by all means, carry on. Staying on-task and engaged may be helpful in coping with anxiety and depression, as long as you have found healthy outlets for your energy—and you are not hiding behind one distraction after the next.

 

‘This is an opportunity to reconnect with our values and important relationships. It may be helpful to give ourselves permission to let go of our need to remain constantly busy and allow time for connection with our families and to some of the slower and more relaxed things in life.’

 

“People in our society have a hard time being still and sitting with their feelings and what is happening with their lives,” Dr. Thomas said. “We live in a culture of distractions. It doesn’t help anyone to overload themselves with projects that may create unneeded stress.” 

The antidote? Do what feels right for you. Give yourself permission to go easy. Take the pressure off to constantly achieve. This moment we find ourselves in is one of collective grief and anxiety—and all we need to do right now is carry on in the very best way we know how, to-do list 100 percent optional. 

 

Read More: How Moms Are Occupying Their Kids During School Closures

 

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