Sunday, 12 August 2018

Being unproductive does not make you worthless: 10 ways to find balance in life

Notebook that says make it happen. The image also has some red tulips

As I was strolling across the infamous Paperchase haven of stationery, I come to a realisation that we obsess about being productive. This made me think about my habits as a student - I used to constantly engross myself with making long lists and punish myself if those lists were left incomplete.

Even my weeks were made into planned lists because it gave me a sense of control. I knew what to do and what to expect. On the other hand, the curse of productivity addiction screwed my mental health. This troublesome voice in my head kept calling me worthless when I was unproductive.

I think that we are all brought up with the notion that productivity is something to strive for. After all, it reflects a hard work ethic, determination and responsibility. Productive achievements feel good – some argue that they bring happiness and others that happier people are naturally more productive. Nevertheless, productivity should never be forced. When I have nothing to do, I still feel like there is something that I should do. The productivity craze runs through my veins and I hate it.

Let’s be honest here. I think that for me, productivity acts as a distraction from unwanted feelings. I would rather work myself to death than face how I feel. Having said that, I have thought of some ways to escape the jaws of the productivity curse and find balance in life. If you can relate to my problem, read on!  

Man looking at papers and graphs on the wall
This is a representation of how I wish my life was - planning gives me a sense of control.

Black and white image of a woman holding her head
This is how forced productivity makes me feel. Forced productivity results in emotional breakdowns.

1. Allow yourself to have a day off 

Having days off is vital for your well-being, life will not crumble to pieces if you put your chores for another day and have a day off. Plan around your schedule, dedicate some time for self-care.

2.       Stop isolating yourself and go out to work

There is nothing worse than becoming isolated at home due to work. Take your work outside with you to avoid isolation and loneliness. Find a work buddy, meet at a coffee shop, socialise. You can also check out Ziferblat in London: “it is a place where you can do as you please, like an extension of your own home.”. Genius!

3. Shut your inner critic by being active

Sometimes my inner critic gets too much. If you can’t stop being productive or when relaxation gets impossible, try to be active to drown this voice in your head. You could go for a run, sign up for an exercise class or start practicing yoga. Whatever it is, being active will bring calm.

4.       Learn to do nothing

Doing nothing is something that you should practice each day. Dedicate a few minutes to being still, focusing on your feelings and re-entering yourself. Your mind will be grateful for this.

5.       Stop feeling guilty

There’s nothing wrong with having bad days. It’s normal to feel like you can’t be bothered to do anything. Stop feeling guilty and don’t push yourself when your mind is not ready for productivity.  

6.       Start prioritizing tasks

There is nothing worse than having a huge to-do list. It is overwhelming. You should start to prioritize tasks. Ask yourself - what is the most important task and what is the least important? You don’t have to force yourself to complete every task set.   

7.       Always take breaks

Taking breaks is crucial. In fact, psychology has proposed a stage of creativity called ‘incubation’. It has been shown that problem-solving tends to improve after taking a break compared to continuously working. This suggests that taking a break will improve both your mental health and work efficiency.

8.       Stop over-planning tasks

Know your limits, stop-over planning tasks. When the length of your to-do list starts getting too long - do not add any more tasks! You could start combining similar tasks into a single task. It may be tempting to finish everything in one day but like always – you should never force it.   

9.       Break from the routine

For me having a routine gives a sense of control. However, once in a while you should do something that you wouldn’t normally do. Break from the routine, allow yourself a little change (it’s healthy).

10. Make connections with others

Have social time with others as part of your to-do list. Make connections to stop the productivity curse causing loneliness. It’s okay to be alone but don’t shut yourself away from the world.   

People's hands on top of eachother
Never underestimate the importance of human connection for your well-being.

The length of your completed to-do list should not correlate with your success as a human being. Everyone should be allowed to take their own time with things, as long as you don’t procrastinate your life away. Being good is not just about being productive – it’s about being a decent human. So, reflect on your behaviours. Know that help is available for when life gets unbearable. Take care of yourself, and don’t let the jaws of productivity eat you alive.

 Check out this fabulous blog post by Emily Aagaard about having productive lazy days. 

Pinterest image that says how to find balance in life


  1. I am so with you when it comes to buying stationery!!! It's okay to be "unproductive". We need those me-times. YES on #1! You need time to recharge for the upcoming week or days. I don't enjoy working from home because of the isolation. Prioritizing tasks is important, keep a journal if it helps :). Thanks for sharing ways to find balance!

    Nancy ♥

    1. Hey there Nancy, thank you for your comment :) I'm glad you have enjoyed the post

  2. An excellent post and a much needed read. Thank you so much!

    1. You are very much welcome x Thank you so much for reading it!

  3. This is something that I admit I am SO bad about - I genuinely fail to give myself a day off when I really should... I'm trying to get better about this
    Britt |

    1. Hey Britt, thank you for reading the post x This is something i struggle horribly with myself, so if it helps - you are not alone :) Don't be too harsh on your self x

  4. I’m absolutely agreeing with this 100%! There can be unprofuctive days as well & ones shouldn’t feel bad about it!

    1. Hey Jasmin, exactly that's the right attitude to have :)

  5. I loved this! I'm way too hard on myself when I do nothing and always try to do a million things the next day to make up for it, learning to be okay doing nothing is so important. I love going out to work when I've been spending a bit too long at home x


    1. Guilt is horrible, I hope with practice it gets easier for you to relax and not be too hard on yourself. x

  6. Oh, this post is so relateable. I never sit and do nothing, I feel too guilty about it. Even when I'm watching tv I'm writing lists or replying to social media notifications. There are never enough hours in the day to do all the things I think I need to do. I love your tip about not forcing productivity though, it's something I need to try and remember! Great post, xx

    Lisa |

  7. Completely agree with all of this! I always need a day off to just recuperate and take time for myself and I think not feeling guilty for that is so important

    Beth |

    1. I'm glad you do! Don't forget to do lots of self-care, reward your hard work and don't punish yourself for not working 'enough' x

  8. LOVE this!


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