Productivity vs Self-Care
One of the pitfalls of doing nothing is that nothing gets done. On the other hand, sometimes doing nothing is actually doing something. As I try to tease these sentiments apart, a quote from Stephen Covey is helpful: “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.”
Before I get to Stephen Covey’s words, here are some quotes from the Get ‘er Done side of the argument:
- Dreams don’t work unless you do!
- You have to sow to reap!
- Just do it!
- Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today!
- Lost time is never found again!
- The difference between try and triumph is a little umph!
- Never throw in the towel! Use it to wipe off the sweat and then keep going!
I’d like to share a lot of quotes on the other side of the argument, but I don’t have many because I have lived so many years being PRODUCTIVE. But here’s one:
- Even convicted criminals get time off for good behavior. Why don’t I?
As we get back to the Stephen Covey quote, I guess one first needs to figure out what the main thing is before one can choose the appropriate quotes to live by. If we’re talking about being productive, the Get ‘er Done quotes work! (But my blood pressure spikes with each exclamation point!) If we are talking about self-care and maintaining balance in life, perhaps we take the towel in the aforementioned quote and use it as a small blankie as we take a tiny nap on the sofa.
Here’s what got me thinking about this: Four of the grandkids were over recently, and we were sharing riddles like this one: A man left home, turned left three times, only to return home again. A masked man was waiting for him there! Who was the masked man? The answer is that he was the umpire. This was a baseball game, and the left-turning man had just scored a homerun.
I posed a riddle to the kids next. On the door leading out to my deck and back yard, there is currently a post-it note hanging. Were you to try to read it, you’d be confused because it has no words written on it. I asked the grandkids to figure out that riddle. What does the note mean? Their answer was sublime: It’s a reminder to do nothing.
That’s not at all what I had intended with the note. Except for my morning walk, it would never occur to me to go outside. This was to remind me to go sit on the deck now that the weather is nice again. The door alone would not remind me of such a thing, but a sticky-note would. I am Pavlov’s dog, and I salivate to the sight of a note. I’m good at getting things done. If it’s on a to-do list, I can sit on the deck…and then scratch it off the list!
The kids’ way of thinking implied a different “main thing” to keep in mind. It seemed more in keeping with self-care and life balance. Frankly, I’m not so well versed on how to do that, so I turn to some experts for advice.
- Brené Brown says, “It takes courage to say yes to rest and play in a culture where exhaustion is seen as a status symbol.”
- Wayne Dyer reminds us to be a human being, not a human doing.
- Anne Lamott says, “Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.”
- Others have extrapolated from Anne Lamott to ask, “What if we recharged ourselves as often as we did our phones?”
Great advice though all of this is, one caveat is needed. Doing nothing and wasting time are not the same thing. I’ll hope to remember this the next time I try to believe that scrolling through my Facebook feed is a mode of relaxation. It does nothing to unplug my mind or recharge my soul.
In the weeks since the experience with the grandkids, I have not taken down the sign on the door to the deck. I have not sat on the deck as a means of restoring my soul. I have not even sat on the deck to scratch it off the to-do list. Instead, I have worked at my desk – and scrolled Facebook – a lot. Argh!
I guess I have not decided yet what my main thing is. But I know which way I am leaning. I hope someday to really publish the story called, How Beautiful It Is to Do Nothing and Then Rest Afterward.
Someday…but not quite yet.
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