The Secret to Letting Productivity Drive—Not Dominate—You

These days, especially in America, it’s commonplace to find yourself among people who are always in a hurry, no matter what. And I’m no exception—as an ambitious human and a people pleaser, I find myself feeling overscheduled about 80 percent of the time—and in a way, I find it satisfying. It feels exciting.

But one morning this summer, with ten things on my mind and ten more on my “get-to-do” list (the more empowering version of the to-do list), I had this strong urge to call an old friend of mine. It came outta nowhere. I have a bit of a “no meetings or calls” policy before noon during my creating time, but I couldn’t resist reaching out to her.

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And I was so happy I did.

As soon as she picked up her phone, I could tell something was wrong. She was in a rough patch with her husband and extended family, and as a result, her job. This normally very strong woman (who struggles to show vulnerability) let loose on the phone with me, and we spoke for 1.5 hours. She cried. I let her. We let some silence dance between us. And we ended the long, cathartic call in laughter.

It was the best thing I’d done in ages.

Have you ever let productivity overtake your intuition? In that moment, I realized I’ve probably done it more often than I think.

It’s not all about “getting it done” and ticking off the to-dos. Flying through the day is not the point. At our deepest level, we know this, but we don’t practice it so much, amirite? And with my personal boundaries and sometimes rigid schedule, I don’t want to miss out on what’s important because I’m tending to what’s urgent.

Here are some ways to let productivity drive—but not dominate—you:

Stand up.

Don’t just sit at your desk, looking at your screen, when you feel flat or bored or in need of a break. It feels like you’re working because you’re sitting in a work spot, right? Well, you’re wrong. Don’t let screen time in the name of productivity fool you. Get up! Talk to someone. Stretch your legs. Call someone you love. Like me, you might be really happy that you did.

Look again.

Once in a while, assess your regular weekly routine in full. Is it really still serving your highest good? Look at your calendar on a Sunday night and think: Is this week getting the best outta me? If it’s not, don’t be afraid to make some changes. What can you lose? With an extra few hours per week, what might you add? Just because it’s how you’ve always done it doesn’t mean that’s the right way to proceed from here. And there’s no guilt necessary for ditching book club or running night with co-workers. It’s your life.

Rebel.

It shouldn’t have, but that 9:30 a.m. call to a friend felt rebellious to me. How can you “act out” over the next few days by doing something outside of your norm? If you wake up early, instead of adding to your run, can you give yourself a face mask, a bath, or 25 minutes of a great, timeless book? Can you call your friend in a different time zone? Can you watch an episode of The Handmaid’s Tale? Who cares? It’s a little bit of shakin’ things up! We’re all allowed that—at least once in a while.

The most important thing to remember is this: Not everything must be controlled from the inside out. Sometimes our bodies, our emotions, our vibrations are seeking something else. Listen. Intuition might feel wild, but it’s also wise.

Susie Moore is Greatist’s life coach columnist and a confidence coach in New York City. Sign up for free weekly wellness tips on her website and check back every Tuesday for her latest No Regrets column!

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