Relieving the Pressure of Productivity

The Problem

There is a crushing emphasis in today's world on being productive. It's like having a preacher in your head telling you all the time that leisure is laziness and recreation is borderline sin. At least that's how it is for me sometimes. So in order to oblige this ruthless taskmaster, I have the habit of putting a ton of things on my to-do list, thinking this will make me more productive. I put a long list of things into a short period of time and tell myself, "If I really focus, then I will be able to get all of these things done." But the result is that I usually underestimate the amount of time necessary to complete these tasks, and therefore either do not give each task enough attention, or am not able to finish all of the tasks. Either way, I end up feeling frustrated.

Even if I do get a lot of work done, I often find myself feeling dissatisfied with my level of productivity. I have a tendency to focus so much on what I didn't get done, and fail to rejoice in what I did get done. In the same way that I erase the finished items off of my to-do list, I seem to forget about the things that I've already accomplished in an effort to dedicate more attention to the remaining tasks. I think, "I'll be satisfied when I'm done with everything!" The problem with this mindset is that my to-do list is invariably longer than the list of my daily accomplishments, and keeps growing.

Focusing too much on what we don't get done results in a perceived deficit of productivity; we feel unrealized because we can't see the significance of our accomplishments in comparison to the mountain of chores we have accumulated. This ends up making life unsatisfying, incomplete, and mundane.

The Solution

Jesus said, "Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof." A scripture in the Book of Mormon says:

"And see that all these things are done in wisdom and order; for it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength" (Mosiah 4:27).

We always have something to do. There is no shortage of meetings or chores or projects that we could invest our time in. Plus there are always spontaneous opportunities to serve and help. But in the feast of life, we need to give ourselves time to chew, swallow, and enjoy our food, before moving on to the next course. This all ties back to a pretty simple principle called GRATITUDE. Being grateful for what we were able to get done during the course of the day is part of that "wisdom and order" quoted above. Someone who finds time to quietly introspect on what he or she has accomplished is wise and happy indeed.

If we don't take the time to humbly rejoice in our accomplishments, then we will feel like we are running faster than our strength permits. Being grateful revives the sinking spirit weighed down by endless to-dos, and provides us with greater insight into our own success.