Looking at your schedule for the day, what is your immediate feeling? Dread? Stress? Anxiety? Panic attack? Now, what if I told you, you’re not alone.
We often feel overwhelmed by all of our looming responsibilities, most days our calendars are booked down to the minute. Meeting after meeting, unfinished projects and unread emails, not to mention packing our free time with errands and household duties. Do you notice personal projects and activities that have been on your list forever keep getting bumped down in priority for more productive activities? This can actually be detrimental to our mental health, people can often feel the weight of all their emerging tasks and jam-packed schedules and feel like there’s simply not enough time in the day. This feeling can build a really toxic amount of stress and anxiety. There’s a misconceived idea that happiness is derived from things like success or money and that the only way to attain those things is to maximize productivity. While there is nothing wrong with leading a productive life, everybody needs a break.
Now that we’ve identified the problem, what’s the solution and how do we deal with all the stress? Easy: take a page out of Tom Hodgkinson’s book (or at least one of them). Stop being a slave to the clock. Hodgkinson points out that our workday is centred around checking our clocks from the moment we wake up to the dreaded sound of our alarm clock. He deems this need for productivity a negative habit of our society and questions the morals behind working too hard. He also points out that this behaviour can be hard on our personal lives, family life and relationships. Surprisingly, it can be very difficult to break free from this productivity loop and “be idle” as suggested by Hodgkinson since many people feel that they’re wasting time when they sit down and watch a tv show or a movie instead of tending to their inbox or doing household chores.
So how exactly can we learn to “be idle”? Luckily, there’s no wrong answer. This simply means that you need to make time for yourself that doesn’t involve checking the clock or worrying about work or other responsibilities. Setting aside time for those activities that have been deprioritized time and time again or adding items to your to-do list that you’re actually looking forward to. It can even be as simple as taking a nap, there are millions of ways you can take a step back and create moments for yourself. If you find yourself on this productivity chasing cycle make it a goal to set aside a little time every day to “be idle”, destress, and relieve yourself from your duties. Making time for yourself and your loved ones is never wasted time and you shouldn’t feel guilty about taking a break.
1: How to Be Idle, Tom Hodgkinson
2: Do Pause: You are not a To Do list, by Robert Poynton
3: How to Sit, by Thich Nhat Hanh
Reference: For Whom the Alarm Clock Tolls, The Happiness Lab with Dr. Laurie Santos