On our drive home from a hiking trip this past weekend, I was reflecting on how free it felt to live without a sense of time. I had this incredible sense of freedom the entire day as we hiked in a relatively remote place with some amazing views. Is this productivity?

There was nothing to rush back to because everyone is stuck inside and businesses are closed. There’s no restaurant to plan to go to at the perfect time after the perfect hike with the perfect patio view on a perfect sunny day.

We even did the unthinkable. Made a confident, quick decision about food! Instead of looking, we had the simple intention of finding something easy that looked nutritious from Whole Foods and drove nearby to eat along a dirt road somewhere in a forest. I’ve never experienced life with so little options. It’s quite amazing.

Have you had these moments? When everything feels just right and you live into being more present? My one task was to release into the day without the fear of forgetting all of the content I’m consuming and not thinking of all the other things I need to do or could be doing.

Isn’t it better than forcing productivity into your day because of determined opportunity? How much of my life have I tied productivity to my identity?

If you don’t come out of this with a skill then…

Then…what? You are incompetent? This time was a waste? Fill in the blank that makes you feel shameful, guilty, lazy, or sad. You’ve probably seen a lot of content out there on what you should be doing and how this is also an amazing opportunity.

Its also a chaotic, unforgettable, and life-defining time that is taking on weird energy. Do we really need this added pressure and guilt on top of everything else in life? How about we be a little kinder to ourselves, ay?

This coming from the guy who started this quarantine all wrong and believed just that. If you’re like me, you’ve already been working towards a productive and optimal life. Add in the restrictions of COVID, and all of the things I’ve put off over the years due to lack of time and you feel even more pressure.

This led to a long to-do list of things to do as a way to optimize every minute. Weekday mornings/nights, break time, lunchtime, weekends, you name it. This time must be filled and it must have a purpose. You know, because we live in unprecedented times.

Now, I’ve been aiming my attention at something different. Can you relate?

What is productivity anyway?

I soon found that this forced productivity at all costs was making me miserable. Whose idea was this anyway? What even is “productivity”? Who defines what is valuable in our lives? Isn’t that us?

A measure of the efficiency of a person, machine, factory, system, etc., in converting inputs into useful outputs

Business Dictionary

Sounds amazing, doesn’t it? Efficiency and useful outputs are just buzz words when it comes to you. And they might come at a cost if your compass isn’t aligned.

I’ll give myself some credit. I’m a happy person with ambitious personal growth goals that I work on daily. But it becomes harder to distinguish what’s essential and what’s noise when you are chasing productivity. Productivity for what? To not feel like I’m wasting precious time and getting some return on investment during COVID?

I’ve thought about this as it relates to the past 3-5 years I have spent with a similar FOMO mentality, should-ing all over myself. How much of my identity have I tied to productivity and personal achievement?

Be as productive as possible

Maximum efficiency has been sold to us as the American Dream. We have to hustle unapologetically to get what we want which leads to a great life. No doubt that’s true to some extent. But when did intentionally surrendering to a simpler life become less valuable than acquiring some skill, money, accolade, etc.?

What’s wrong with building the skill of presence, gratitude, and vulnerability, not as a secondary skill but as the sole skill(s)? What if the skill you choose to develop during this time is having the ability to better be able to recall all of the happy moments in your life and living into those feelings so when you come across these in the future, you’re more aware of the right things?

Haven’t you always want to experience being a human being, not a human doing?

How can I re-frame this?

Michelle asked me, what do you want to look back on during this time? What would you want this to mean? To me, it seems that it’s the right time to take a step back to redefine my personal philosophy.

Maybe this is the one time in my life I let all of my Type A thoughts of achieving, ego positioning, and skill-building go and instead, just embraced mindfulness. As much as I am still learning something career-related, these actions come from a place of more curiosity and less of return on investment.

But mindfulness is a skill too, you know. Mindfulness is cultivated by focusing on your breath and simply noticing your thoughts without judgment. When your mind starts to wander and think, bring it back to the breath. That practice over and over is powerful and it shows up in different ways in your daily life.

Mindfulness is not forcing thoughts or outsmarting the process by trying to plan and address everything that comes through your head. It can also be focusing on an activity with the same intention such as:

  • drawing
  • coloring in a coloring book like Michelle
  • having no time constraints
  • no alarm clock
  • napping
  • playing a game
  • staring into your dog’s eyes
  • feeling empathy
  • staring at a bird
  • having a great conversation with a friend/family/wife
  • leaving your phone behind
  • FaceTime with friends
  • sitting on the grass in the park reflecting on the amazing gifts you have
  • staring into a blue sky
  • riding a bike without a time limit
  • discovering a new part of your city
  • social media

All with the deep intention of being, not doing.
Be careful not to make these things just another thing on your to-do list. Maybe this is the one time in your life you don’t have a to-do list.

It has always been about intention

Intention is the distinguishing factor between what’s productive and what isn’t and so are the stories we’ve been telling ourselves. If you’re framing the above list as less valuable ways to spend your time then you’re less likely to choose them and they become chores. And when they become chores, you rob yourself from being present when you do them.

What if you re-framed your story into a powerful narrative based on the sole belief that these and these things alone are what lead to a happy life? Even just for a while. Then, try comparing the energy of this new narrative to all of the “production” society suggests you spend your time that way you can feel better about where you are in life.

Productivity is what you make it

Productivity can mean many things including doing absolutely nothing or spending the day wandering in the woods somewhere. If you truly want to sit back and catch up on all your shows, then I’d say that’s your call only on whether you feel its a productive way to spend your time.

If you’re intentional about it and not running from something more important, you’re golden. A strong intention helps you fight your FOMO and guilt about what you’re not doing.

The important things we all want to do are often difficult and take a lot of effort. But maybe now isn’t the time to do them with guns blazing. Or maybe it is.

Maybe all we really need is to experience and share simple acts of kindness through the form of kind words, meaningful messages, keeping strong ties with friends and families, journaling about stuff that matters, smiling, being optimistic, and being more present in phone conversations. How’s that for productivity?

Life is not a problem to solve and happiness is wanting what you already have

Unknown Source

A simple act on a positive thought can make all the difference in the world; both in your own life and in someone else. You could also re-frame this time to “NO-VID”: avoiding developing guilt or shame around who you are and what you should be doing