Extreme productivity is everyone’s goal.
You want to get the most out of every day and stop wasting your time on things that don’t matter.
You schedule your days, track your time, and carefully craft your to-do lists.
You hear about a new software that claims to boost your productivity, and you sign up without second thought. You’ve tried multiple calendars, planners, to-do list makers, and time trackers, seeking the one that will save you the most time and the most effort.
You have a constant need to do more and work harder. A cloud of disappointment follows you home, because even though you accomplished some things, you could have done better.
You are never satisfied.
You may have ticked every to-do off the list, but if you didn’t take that five-minute break, you could have got two more tasks out of the way.
Every second of every day must be put to its best use.
No minute should be wasted. No hour should go untracked.
Productivity has become a way of life. It’s no longer a measurement for our work—it’s a measure of our worth.
We all wish we could do more, have more time, and achieve more, that is, we all strive for maximum productivity.
The question is not can you take productivity too far…
You know you can.
The real question is:
How far is too far?
I can tell you.
Because on the road to increased productivity, there’s a fine line that should never be crossed.
And I crossed it.
Productivity Taken Too Far
When you can’t watch a movie without thinking about the ‘better uses’ of your time, you know there’s something wrong with you.
I love being productive. It’s a drug I crave. The high of achieving keeps me coming back for more.
Dopamine surges through my brain when I accomplish 70% of my long to-do list two hours after starting the day.
Every minute not put into my goals is a minute wasted. I sigh in frustration whenever I have to deal with daily life tasks, such as going grocery shopping or doing my laundry.
Everything I do must have a purpose. Every hour I spend must be spent well.
It’s the way I am—the way I have always been, and I like me that way.
These traits did me well when I started prepping for my medical licensing exam.
I made a schedule to learn the basic sciences of medicine—the equivalent of two years of medical school in the US.
Mind you, before this, I had studied only enough to pass my college tests, which wasn’t much at all.
This schedule required me to study from the moment I woke up to the moment I fell asleep, 7 days a week. I could fit everything in the timeline as long as I woke up two hours earlier than usual and never took breaks.
I teach people productivity. I know this was a surefire way to burnout.
But then again, sacrifices had to be made. Success isn’t easy.
I would watch the video lectures on double speed and study in the back of the classroom at college. Six hours of flashcards was nothing as long as you did it while on the bus, standing in line, talking to your friends, and visiting relatives. (I’m not exaggerating, I swear.)
Two months before my test date, I still had a lot to study. I hadn’t even started a question bank that people do two or three times before their test. From what I had heard, it takes around 3 months to go through for the first time.
But, when there’s a will, there’s a way. I watched motivational videos on YouTube, and I was sure I could finish it within 4 weeks. I decided I didn’t need that much sleep. I thought I could fit two days of questions into one.
“I got this. No worries,” I told myself.
That was a lie because one month on this schedule, I realized I wouldn’t make it and had to postpone the test another few months.
It took 9 months to finish studying for the exam. I lived every day on overdrive.
Here’s where the actual problem began…
After giving my everything every day for so long, I finished my test and was thrown back into normal life.
Suddenly, everything was so slow.
People spoke too slowly for my liking. Waiting for them to finish a sentence was like waiting for traffic to move during rush hour.
I couldn’t sit through a movie without thinking of all the other things I could be doing. I watched Stranger Things and skipped ahead 10 seconds every time there was dramatic exploration or people walked (if you pay attention, you’ll be amazed how many times they show you people commuting.)
Not the best way to enjoy a series, but I need to finish the episodes, so I can move on with life.
I used to love reading fiction, but because I usually get lost in the story and only emerge when the book is over, I reserve this leisure activity for long weekends or vacations.
Now, I can’t read fiction without wondering, “Why am I reading about somebody else’s life when I could be living my own?”
Busy Is a Blessing… Or Is It?
Chances are, you haven’t fallen into the deep end of productivity like I have, but you’re not out of the waters, either.
We complain about being busy. We complain about it even when we aren’t busy. Between the Ugh’s, and I wish-I-had-the-time’s, we are actually bragging.
Being busy is a badge we hang on our chests to show the world that we are doing things—that we are achieving.
When we have nothing to do, we don’t relax or enjoy the moment. We busy ourselves with tasks we shouldn’t even be doing in the first place, like checking our emails for the trillionth time.
Society tells you to feel bad about every day taken off. It tells you that daily tasks like chores and spending time with family is wasted because it’s not real work. It tells you that opportunities drip off you like rain off a raincoat every moment you are not working, striving, or achieving.
It’s no wonder we are dissatisfied when we put our heads on the pillows after only accomplishing a fraction of what was on our unrealistic to-do list.
Productivity is not bad. We need to be productive. We should strive to make the most of our time and be done with our work early.
Worshipping productivity is what destroys you.
We shouldn’t create more time just to fill it with more work. And we absolutely shouldn’t become productive at the expense of our life enjoyment.
We only get one life. Too often, we forget that. We run through life going from one task to the next to the next without taking time to enjoy the only journey we are ever going to take, that is, life.
Some people need to pick up the pace, get off their butts, and get to work. But some of us need to do the opposite. We need to get out of the office, sit down, and enjoy life.
There’s more to life than the next item on your to-do list.