Even in 2020, the themes of hustling and productivity and to-do lists longer than the Empire State and the One World Trade Center combined are continuing to thrive.
If you’ve spent the last 10 months learning three new languages, launching five online businesses, and writing your fourth book, all the while getting in decent enough shape that you’re about to join a bodybuilding contest, you’re a pandemic success. Good for you. Otherwise, do not pass go, do not collect $200.
I have jumped on and off this wave of trying to make the most of our locked downtime. And while the highs were nice, the lows were difficult enough, and I’d often make it tenfold harder by beating myself up for not being grateful enough, not doing more, and for not always being the highly joyful energetic motivated person I love to be.
And yet. As usual, everything is about a perspective shift.
As I was discussing healing from past trauma with a friend, she referred to my efforts and willingness to heal myself as hard work. And while I never saw it that way, I couldn’t unsee that it was indeed a lot of effort, time, and energy to explore my inner landscape.
I wasn’t always producing something, but the moments I was spending trying to decipher my own psyche were, in fact, extremely productive.
This change in perspective may seem subtle, but it’s changing everything for me.
Through the emotional productivity lens, sitting down and letting the waves of whatever emotion arise is no longer weakness, or a missed opportunity to get something done. No longer a second-class way to spend time, or worst, wasted time.
Through the emotional productivity lens, not being motivated to make progress on personal projects is no longer a sign of laziness, but rather a helpful signal to let me know there’s other inside work I need to attend to.
Through the emotional productivity lens, I’ve started to recognize traditionally unproductive times as a first-class, high-quality time to find clarity for myself. Just like one could celebrate having a tremendously productive day, I now see these slower times as huge wins.
And indeed, huge wins they are. Don’t get me wrong, emotional productivity is hard. As much as I’ve gotten used to wandering in the depths of my own mind, I sometimes find myself raw and bare, and sometimes it goes too far.
It can be scary and exhausting and it sometimes feels like I’m scratching close to my limits.
But it’s well worth it because I always come back from these inner adventures closer to me than I was when diving in. The sinusoidal lows are becoming emotional highs, preparing me for the creative and joyful highs that always end up following.
The most magic part of all this is that nothing else changed other than putting a new label on the same process.
Acknowledging all of this time as productive, rather than seeing it as a side piece of work, has helped me recognize the emotional toll and need for rest that often follows. Which in turn has helped me set better expectations for myself, rather than becoming disappointed when I couldn’t complete something else I had in mind to get done.
Yet another powerful wonder of the human mind and proof of the importance of the words we use.
So, if you also judge yourself for not always running 100 miles a minute on the hamster wheel, I invite you to play with this different outlook.
And one last thing: What would happen if we all strived to embrace emotional productivity?