The power of less productivity

Many of the people I meet are trying to do too much. This can be in the domain of home, work or community groups. Often the problem is that these people volunteer to help but do so to their own detriment and then become overwhelmed and ineffective. I have clients who volunteer to join committees, run errands, do someone else’s job or say they will show up for an event when they should just say no. Countless people have told me they said yes before they had even really thought it through. Often they take on too much for too little good reason and then get sucked into the vortex of someone else’s need or lack. It is important to volunteer, get involved in organizations you care about and make a contribution, but it is more important to take care of yourself.

It is absolutely appropriate to the millennials who are just starting out to spend the first 10 years working hard and establishing themselves in their careers. For those of us further down that road, our lives and families have probably stabilized and this drive to achieve has lessened as our lives have broadened and deepened. At this point, we need to reconsider what motivates us now and what we want to get done in our public and private lives. Parents of young children often bemoan the chaos of the house, but forget that this is temporary; that the kids will outgrow their toys and dolls and the detritus will fade with the memory.

We have to remember what is important now and how our lives reflect that.

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As a productivity expert, I have learned how to be more efficient, get more done and all around, be more effective in my work and home. However, there is a good argument for slacking off and being less productive on a regular basis. Last week, I met a friend for breakfast on Monday, another for lunch on Wednesday and another for cappuccino on Friday at the local café. It was not productive, but very satisfying. These kind of experiences enrich our lives and make us more fully able to engage in our families and work.  When you are regularly charged with the experience of meaningful relationships and events in your life, you are more equipped to deal with the challenges and problem solving.

A recent TED talk revealed that the people who live the longest are those who have regular contact with other people. These relationships can be as casual as the butcher at ShopRite or a favorite librarian, and yet they still significantly enhance the quality of life. This past Monday, I confess that I left the dishes in the sink from the night before and the laundry unfolded, but I did walk the dog, kiss the husband and read the latest best-selling novel after dinner. It was good for me on a psychological and intellectual level.

Quality-of-life breaks and a regular dose of non-productivity can also actually increase your ability to get things done. The brain does two kinds of problem solving: one when you are actively working on a problem and a second when you are more relaxed and the solution comes to you, as in a eureka moment. How many times have you gotten a brilliant idea in the shower when you didn’t even realized you had been “thinking” about the problem?! This has happened to many great minds, including Einstein and yours, I’m sure. This kind of brain activity happens when you meditate, do mindless puttering or when walking outdoors with the dog. Creating regular periods of mindlessness can actually sharpen your brain for when it returns “to work.”
So I encourage you to tune into the people and experiences you love and tune out your “problems” on a regular basis to have a more satisfying and productive day! Enjoy the break and then happy organizing!

Andréa Deinstadt, is a professional organizer who helps people create order to their homes and reduce the stress during life’s transitions.

Contact:    914.391.8816

The opinions expressed herein are the writer's alone, and do not reflect the opinions of or anyone who works for is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the writer.

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