You are not a product of your productivity.

A simple statement that is easily understood and hard to accept in today’s world. I’m struggling with this and I suspect my partner, Jake, is as well. Maybe you are too. So, let me repeat: You are NOT a product of your productivity. 

Over the last few months, I’ve been exploring the concept of ‘do less, better,’ and it’s taken me down surprising and delightful paths. I’m reading books like Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport, Four Thousand Weeks by Oliver Burkeman, and Work Won’t Love You Back by Sarah Jaffe. I’m following individuals and small teams who practice a more gentle approach to productivity. It feels like an emerging conversation that I’m excited to engage in. 

It’s also hard to put into practice. 

A few weeks ago, Jake and I spoke about the tension between achieving our goals while avoiding burnout. That tension is intense. And I feel like I’m constantly failing on both sides. 

We’ve been working on building this company for almost four years. We joke that we can’t count the last two years because we didn’t make a lot of external progress. When the pandemic hit, we lost a lot of momentum and we are working to rebuild that now. 

If I were listening to the majority of entrepreneurial and startup leaders, to rebuild that momentum, I need to hustle. I need to be working every day for as long as possible on this business. And aggressively selling our product. And spending lots of money on ads and posting constantly on social media and going to every possible networking event I can and…I would be exhausted.

Remove yourself as a product of your productivity. A cartoon of a man running in a cog next to another cog.

I would be turning into a product of my productivity. 

This is precisely what our systems are designed to do:

“​​We need to recognise that it’s not our fault we’re struggling to keep up. We’re being set up to fail by societal systems that encourage chasing down goals that are always just out of reach.”  

Ellen Scott, How to free yourself from productivity guilt

It’s the main reason I’m resisting that mindset. And why I want to push back against that mindset as much as possible. 

For me, this resistance looks like:

  1. Healthy boundaries
  2. Being intentional
  3. Treating myself the way I treat others

I’m working on setting better boundaries with my time. I’m not always succeeding, but I’m trying. One of the ways that I’m doing this is by taking a cue from our intentional design of Cascadin with reduced notifications. I removed my personal email from my phone. I now only check that email twice a day. Or rather, that’s my goal. I’m a work in progress. 

Speaking of my phone, I turned off almost all the notifications for my apps. There is only a handful that I allow notifications from now. My phone is a whole lot less noisy. I also uninstalled quite a few of my social media apps. It’s liberating. 

Healthy boundaries aren’t just for my phone

Healthy boundaries are also about intentionality. The hustle culture often gives you the impression that you have to be doing all the things, all the time. That’s not sustainable. That’s not healthy. It’s not realistic. 

I’m attempting to be more intentional with where I spend my time and energy. That means that sometimes I’m not creating content for social media. Sometimes that means reading for an hour rather than going to a networking event. Other times it means that my mental health is put first rather than getting out a newsletter on the schedule I’ve set. 

The guilt of this is real

This is why I’m trying to treat myself with kindness and give myself grace. I may fail on healthy boundaries and being more intentional with my energy. We might not be able to get our momentum back with these boundaries. I might fail. 

So I’m naming my struggle. I’m naming my fear. And I’m exploring how it fits into my productivity while also resisting the urge to feel guilty about it.

Because I am not a product of my productivity. And neither are you.

You are not a product of your productivity. Background of a lake with clouds reflected in the water.

Alyson Roberts

Co-Founder & CEO

Known for organizing the dirty dishes before cleaning them, Alyson is learning how to do less, better and helping others do the same. She loves exploring beautiful lands near and far, trying new recipes, aspiring to be the next Star Baker, growing her garden, and avoiding board games at all cost.

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