I have a theory that chasing productivity actually backfires.

As a Native New Yorker, the intense hustle and bustle has kept me at the edge of my seat for years, and I’m only 20. Throughout my life, I’m constantly trying to be more and more productive. Why? Because the girl next to me on the train is being productive (I don’t know her but I’m sure she is). Because social media is telling me that productivity is key to success and happiness. Because every millionaire somehow has a 5am morning routine (like why…?).

I’d like to put it out there that that is a load of poo. We need to have healthier conversations about productivity and prioritize balance in people’s lives. Productivity is not linear. The more hours you put in doesn’t mean more work will be put out. Productivity simply looks different for everyone, and there is honestly no “one size fits all” productivity method. Just because a certain method has worked for a billionaire, it doesn’t mean that you doing the same will make you a billionaire. It doesn’t work like that.

After spending a lot of time working my butt off, I find out that I actually spend more time burning out and recuperating. Depression would hit me every 2-3 months. I’d rest for two days and then jump back to work. It was a toxic cycle perpetuated by me, and me only. I wouldn’t take care of myself mentally and physically, and I’d be detached from relationships with people that I deeply cared about.

When I decided to end my productivity frenzy, I surprisingly found myself more productive with a consistent level of happiness and health. So, what was the difference? I looked closely at my life to figure out what was really different because my goals are the same and I’m still technically “working” the same. How did I manage to be happier working less?

Well, the answer is rest. No, it’s not as simple as it sounds (as always) but rest was the stepping stone to better mental and physical capabilities. It sounds obvious but you’d be surprised how many people have spent hours on end working on something while they’re half-awake or half-there and then produce terrible work.

When I rest and take care of myself by putting my needs first, my friendships and family relationships flourish with me. I’d start to feel good, look good, and then, I produce good. Then this cycle of positive productivity starts. If I’m mentally exhausted, I’d give myself that 20 minute How I Met Your Mother Hulu episode and eat ice cream. Then get back to work, finish with a bang and then watch another episode. Sounds ridiculous, but I still produce the same amount of work as I did when I worked hours non-stop, and the work is remarkably better too.

I’m not saying this method should be your next 5am morning routine to optimizing your productivity. But I am saying that productivity looks different on everyone. If you’re like me and you’re in that negative feedback loop from Hell on productivity, then maybe you’d like to give ice cream and How I Met Your Mother a try too (or whatever show you like lol). Just saying.

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