Productivity is so seductive. It feels wonderful to accomplish a task and check it off our to-do lists. It feels awesome to accomplish more than we even thought possible in a given day.
Plus, there are many tasks that are non-negotiable. There are many chores that as responsible, mature, working adults we must do. Or many projects, that if not done today, just get transferred onto our lists for tomorrow. And then we’re behind. And then we’re scrambling. And what if we never catch up?
There’s also the gnawing anxiety of tasks remaining incomplete, in limbo, messing with our desire to have closure. There’s also the need to be useful and effective. There’s also the anger (at ourselves) for wasting time (precious time), for not being quick enough, for getting sucked into social media. (Interesting how we will search for relief and reprieve in all sorts of places, places that don’t necessarily nourish us very well.)
Yet we’re also tired. So tired. Our minds shout GO, GO, GO, while our bodies yearn to cuddle up on the couch and watch a sitcom or take a 20-minute shower, just because.
It’s funny how complicated and multilayered slowing down and resting have become. Why do we expect ourselves to keep moving when we aren’t machines? Why do we expect so much of ourselves? Why do we expect to function and produce when we don’t feed ourselves? Why do we glorify efficiency and exhaustion?
In the wonderful book Nurturing the Soul of Your Family: 10 Ways to Reconnect and Find Peace in Everyday Life, Renée Peterson Trudeau includes a list of questions she gently asks herself when she’s “seeking to come into balance with being and doing,” which I think are vital to ask ourselves, too:
- What choices can I make every day to feel more grounded, relaxed, and focused?
- What can I do to live intentionally?
- At the beginning of every day, what can I do to feel more centered?
- What self-care practices add spaciousness to my days?
- What can I say ‘no’ to in my professional and personal life?
- How can I support my loved ones in being less busy?
- Am I getting sucked into someone else’s “busy-ness” and sense of urgency? Or am I staying true to what’s important to me?
- What decisions do I need to make in order to create more blocks of unscheduled time in my days?
Trudeau includes a thought-provoking quote from Joan Borysenko’s book Inner Peace for Busy People, “Remember—your to-do list is immortal. It will live on long after you’re dead.”
Maybe the answer is to regularly ask ourselves tthese questions. Maybe the answer is to keep reminding ourselves that to-do lists will never empty, which means that in order to slow down, in order to really rest, we need to make the commitment. We need to say, it’s enough, and we’re enough. And we need to carve out time and honor that time like it’s precious. Because it is. And because we are.