Maybe the best way to be productive is to slow right down
We all living in a state of burnout.
More or less. Humans are just busy creatures.
I was watching a gardener at work the other day. She had a Jack Russel with her. The dog was running around, getting its nose into things, while she moved from one job to the next. Shovelling and spreading the mulch for an hour. Picking up the palm fronds for an hour. Mowing the grass for a couple of hours.
Through the eyes of her dog, she was an incredibly productive being. How many animals on earth work a solid 8-hour day? Most do maybe a couple of hours tops – with a fairly fine line between work and just hanging out.
Was our biology ever meant to sustain these levels of productivity?
I don’t think so. It’s not natural.
Add to that the constant pressures of deadlines, with some deadlines dragged out over months and months, and we have created a very stress-filled environment for ourselves.
And so we rise to meet the challenge. We light up our adrenals and give ourselves to the fight.
Day after day after day.
In that way, we create a sort of polarised reality for ourselves. We are either on, hustling to get the stuff we need to get done, done. Or, we’re collapsing in exhaustion.
With nothing in between.
And as a result, we when think about our productive life, we instinctively think about how to fire ourselves up into an adrenal ping-pong ball of energy. And that’s about moving into a state of nervous activity, but it’s also about running away from exhausted collapse.
‘If I sit still I’m going to fall over’.
But more and more, I’m realising this is not a sustainable way to live and it’s not a sustainable way to be a productive being.
Rather, I think our challenge is to come into that exhausted space, and move from there.
That’s hard because being tired is hard. It’s feels like a slog to drag your weary legs through the day. It’s a type of pain and we avoid pain.
But what I’ve found is that it’s kind of like being cold. At first you want to run away from it. But after a while you get used to it and it’s not so bad.
Moving into your exhaustion is like that. At first it’s hard. It’s hard to be productive, especially when you’ve been acclimatised to the bing of coffee.
But after a while, you get used to it. You learn to be able to get things on your to-do list done. You can have adult conversations. You can strategize.
And in fact, because you are moving from a slower, deeper place, you can actually do these things better.
Now you might be saying, but I’ve got so much to do. I need get my adrenals all pingy if I’m going to get through it all.
But to that I’d say, “if you need to be burning out your adrenals to get through your to do list, isn’t your to do list just too big? Don’t you need to bring it back to a sustainable level of output?”
Far better to come from a slow place and do what you can, rather than trying to elevate yourself into the impossible.
Life is best enjoyed as a marathon, not a sprint.