Yes, I know it’s Thursday. Typically this means a Thursday Thoughts post, but I try to reserve those for brief ideas that don’t feel fleshed out enough for a full post. Today, though, I feel like the topic deserves a full “regular” post. Unsurprisingly, it is inspired by another vlogbrothers video.
vlogbrothers is My Jam
I’ve mentioned the vlogbrothers before in a Thursday Thoughts post. More often then not I find their videos insightful, thought provoking, and clever. They are quick watches – usually only around 3 or 4 minutes, but incredibly impactful. John’s video from Tuesday is no exception.
Part A: How We Spend Our Days
John opens the video talking about a quote from his favorite book on writing.
How we spend our days, is of course, how we spend our lives.Annie Dillard
Talk about a quote with some weight. Just take that in. All the little things that create our day, in turn, stack up to create our life achievements. I am tremendously guilty of getting caught up in “all the things” that I miss true appreciation of what is actually happening around me.
Take this week for example. I’ve been up pretty early (at least for me) every day to let a drywall crew in to work on a room we are finishing in the house. I’m tired, both physically and mentally, from this change to my normal pattern. I feel sluggish, and I’ve been constantly planning for the next day’s schedule.
In the midst of the chaos, I’ve lost the reason why I’m doing all this. Once this work is completed, our vision for our home is pretty complete. We always intended to finish this attic space into a living area/library, even in the early days of our build. In a few short weeks, it will be! This is incredibly exciting for us, and feels like the grand closing of our house build chapter.
This idea of “how we spend our days is how we spend our lives” gave me so much pause this week. These small daily moments – yes, even the incredibly sleepy ones – are the foundation for the bigger picture. John’s video was an incredible reminder of that this week.
Part B: Personal Productivity
John goes on to discuss the concept of productivity in relation to Annie’s quote. After all, if how we spend our days becomes our life, then we need to be productive and actually accomplish something, right?
I have always pushed myself to be productive. So much, in fact, that I am almost incapable of taking time off. Whether it’s professionally or personally, I feel like I always have to “be doing,” always be moving, always showing my work. I think some of this comes from our “always on” culture. I feel an inherent need to have something to show for my time.
The idea of personal productivity is something I’ve thought of before. In some ways, the concept is how I justified taking time away to myself. Sure, I needed to take the day off from work, but I had to run this errand, or complete this appointment, or care for a loved one. I was still producing something, just not in a professional context. It wasn’t necessarily something I was actively engaging with, rather, a justification for myself.
The way that John ties personal productivity together with Annie’s quote was groundbreaking to my “always on” mind. Personal productivity is productivity. It means no less than our professional or economic productivity. And In some case, it means way more.
I have always felt guilty for completing tasks that were only personally productive. On some level, I think this is a symptom of a bigger issue in our culture that your work defines you. I also know that doing things for myself makes me feel selfish, almost as if I am neglecting my professional life or my loved ones or some other task I’m not doing at that precise moment. Sometimes, it feels wasteful, as if I could be using my time better a different way.
John’s thoughts shifted my view on this. Personally productive tasks matter just as much (or more) as the things I accomplish professionally. Why? Because those moments are how I spend my day, and therefore how I chose to spend my life. Granted, I believe that my professional and personal productive moments can over lap. But on the occasions they don’t – that’s ok. Sometimes you just have to check the mail, get groceries at 1 pm in the afternoon, or take a nap. Those things are still productive to me, and will ultimately lead me down the path of long term accomplishment. Whether that long term plan is to be professionally successful, to enjoy the tea that was in my mail box, or to not be sleepy – it is all the same at the end of the day.
A Personally Productive Week
So, in light of my new “aha!” moment, I’ve had a hella productive week. I attended several webinars and event sessions for my 9-5 gig. I made sure the drywall team had access to what they needed. I took an awesome picture of Arwen. I made an amazing banana cake with cream cheese frosting. I wrote this blog. I made a grocery list, and clipped some Kroger coupons for our weekly food run tomorrow. And the beauty of it all? All those things were productive, whether professionally or personally. And I’m ok with that.
I hope your week has been just as productive.