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’s 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 lessens 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.
As a productivity expert, I have learned how to do be more efficient, get more done, and be more effective all around, in my work and at 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. This was not productive, but very satisfying. These 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. I confess that, this past Monday, 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 bestselling novel after dinner. It was good for me on a psychic and intellectual level.
Quality of life breaks and regular doses 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 realize you had been “thinking” about the problem?! This has happened to many great minds, including Einstein’s 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!