Not-doing: how redefining productivity strengthens family ties
At 38 years old, part of me is incredulous that I’m only just now learning to be independently productive. Somehow, somewhere along the line, I’ve learnt to be productive only with someone leaning over my shoulder or by allowing someone else to dictate my priorities. And until just recently, I have placed family at the bottom of the heap because the things I had to do, the pressure to be productive, urgently demanded my time and attention and I felt helpless to say no.
But is getting things done the only definition of productivity? I’d argue not always… I’d argue that a hugely productive use of your time can be to deliberately not do anything. I am slowly learning that I have a huge inner resource of strength and confidence I never knew existed, and the more I try to do the more chance I have of losing this and becoming reliant on others for reassurance and direction. Not doing can be a greater challenge than any action you’ll undertake today, and ultimately a hugely rewarding achievement.
I don’t have a close family. That is, I don’t have children and most of the members of my family are in different parts of the country and see little of each other. I personally can’t imagine how people with children or a close family even begin to make time for themselves in amongst all the external demands they must have on their time.
What I’m beginning to understand, however, is that my understanding of family as something that makes time-consuming demands, a barrier to productivity, stems from my own desire to please and over-willingness to give away my energy, attention and precious time to whoever asks either first, or loudest. Not keeping anything back for myself, I’m in constant danger of resenting those to whom I give my time, and of being torn between different demands, therefore producing nothing of value to anyone.
So now I’m fighting back by doing nothing once in a while. I’m giving myself permission to reconnect with those inner resources which allow me to be astoundingly productive in my remaining time. The productivity of not-doing is the ability to recoup energy and focus; to feel fed and nurtured so that I once again have something to give away; to find myself so I retain my identity and work from my personal strengths.
Not only that, I’m finding that strengthening my identity by actively choosing to stop is helping me view my family in a different way, too. I’m looking forward to the pleasure of contact with those I love, because I am confident in my ability to independently achieve the things I want to do. I’m happy to share my time because I’m finally starting to feel I have enough.
Meg Ward is a creativity coach at Transform Coaching who believes that connecting with your inner strengths is the only way to sustainable productivity. Meg’s current project, ‘In Search of Time’ (http://thetimeninjas.com) is a shared learning opportunity for all who wish to make productive use of their time, whatever their personal definition of that may be.
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