The Productivity Trap

I’ve been struggling a bit lately. This isn’t uncommon for me this time of year. We’re mid-July and really only starting our summer season. The weather’s already climbed over 110, and this shifts life. To be outside, where I’d rather be, you’ve got to get up before the sun.

None of this is new. You’d think after nearly 40 years of living in one place, I’d be adjusted. But no, as the temperatures rise and the days grow longer, I feel a heavy weight of seasonal depression wrap itself around me like a hungry snake.

Further, I’ve noticed a source of my sadness is that I’m not spending all the time doing all the hobbies. Pieces of a quilt waiting to be sewn are scattered on the dining room table. My knitting is on the couch, where it rests in a colorful heap waiting for me to have a moment at the end of the day. The tomato leaves have browned and curled in upon themselves, frustrated that my lack of time and love has left the garden looking rather apocalyptic.

I lived for so long alone, close to work. I had nearly every moment, outside of the 40 hours a week I was at a desk, to play. Today, in lieu of having a new recipe or quirky story to post on the blog, I’ve got a happy husband and three dogs on a leash pulling me around the block before I race across town to work.

I’ve hitched my happiness for too long on how much I could get done. How many crafts can I make? How many neighbors can I feed? How many XYZ can I do and write about and show the world that I’m busy and productive?

What a trap. In retrospect, this behavior is boastful smoke and mirrors. If you can’t be happy sitting still, are you really at peace?

Mindfully, I’m adjusting to this new schedule and trying instead to find moments of happiness in the routine. The way the dogs greet me at the door after a long day at work. The magic of an Instapot recipe that puts dinner on the table with minimal effort. The basil that grows under our Ficus tree and soldiers on regardless of the heat. The tiny bag of sock knitting I keep in my purse for conference calls at work, because the methodical movement is soothing and helps me focus on whatever I’m listening to on the phone.

This is where I am today, friends. No great photos to post. No funny conclusion to the story. Putting one foot in front of the other and pushing through another summer in the desert.


5 Replies to “The Productivity Trap”

  1. Sitting with feelings and navigating change are both hard. But it’s good work to do. And you’re doing it well, no matter how prickly the feelings are. Much love <3

  2. Oh how I can all relate! It’s funny in that I used to just run, run, run (doing crafts, cooking, knitting, etc.) and lately I have been learning to just be happy to “be”. Bob & I drove 6 hours in the car together this past weekend and I didn’t even pull out my knitting because I really was happy to be with Bob and hold his hand instead of knitting.

    I also understand the adjustment to not living alone where your time is your own. I too am working on that piece in small doses.

    One thing about life is it changes and readjusting our perspective is often the hardest. Letting yourself live for the moment and be in the moment and not beating yourself up about being “productive” is a gift you can give yourself!

  3. I can relate to this so much. Family time and work commitments cut into the amount of “creative” time I would like to have. It’s all a balancing act, though. Signing up for pottery studio time has been one way for me to carve out time that’s mine and creative and—because it’s based on an externally imposed schedule—fixed and immovable. I never plan anything else for Monday evenings, and my family treats that as my personal sacred time and never asks me to change it.

    Could you do something similar? Set aside a regular chunk of time that’s yours, when you know you can feed your creative impulses? True, you lose some spontaneity there. But there is something nice about knowing that, no matter how crazy busy work/life is, you can look forward to some already-scheduled-and-planned time to pursue your personal interests?

    (I’ve found that the fact that I’ve PAID for the studio time and the fact that my studio hours are fixed [if I don’t go on Monday evening, I don’t get to go until the next week] are HUGE motivators get me out the door after dinner, even on cold winter nights when I just want to put on my jammies and stay home. But at the end of the evening, I am ALWAYS glad to have gone to the studio.)

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