productivity

Take a Nap on the Floor

Yesterday, as I drove home from church, I began to map out the rest of my Sunday in my head.

It was 11:45 a.m. and I was trying to plan my day out by the hour. I thought about going for a walk, or even a run. I wanted to get some chores done, to write for a few hours, to try on the dresses I bought and decide which ones I need to take back, to finish a report, to start doing peer reviews in my writing class, to plan the next big vacation I want to take, to buy a friend’s birthday gift, to book flights for an upcoming wedding—and about 10 more things.

If I did all these things, I thought, it would be a successful Sunday, and I would feel good.

But even as I planned, I knew I already didn’t feel good. I’d had trouble falling asleep the night before and woke up feeling anxious. And with this to-do list buzzing through my head, I felt, for the most part, like I wanted to burst into tears.

I am someone who has often believed that being productive makes me a better person. That living “right”—exercising, eating healthy, achieving things in a timely and efficient manner, checking off life events in time with everyone else—means I am living a successful life. And on the flip side of that, when I am not getting things done, when I’m not doing everything “right”, I feel like a failure, or like I’ve wasted time/days/etc.  I am quick to beat myself up over not getting things done or doing things right, and I am quick to assume that other people are judging me just as hard.

For example, I have an alarm set on my phone on weekends—weekends. This is partially because I like to get up at a decent hour and have time to take the morning slow and fully embrace my day off. But up until recently, I never fully admitted to myself that this alarm was also to ensure that I would not sleep in late and be deemed as lazy by other people.

This is a habit I am trying to break, it is a mindset I am trying to unlearn, it is an alarm I’m trying to turn off. I like to call this process untangling knots, and this is one that’s been double and triple tied for a long time. Having an unproductive day feels like making a mistake, being lazy feels like making a mistake, and I don’t give myself a lot of grace when it comes to “making mistakes.”

But yesterday, after I got home from church, and as I sat on the couch, feeling anxious and overwhelmed, I decided to do yoga.

My body was tired, my mind was tired. I had so much I wanted to do, so much on my mind, so much that was saying “if you don’t do this, you will WASTE your day!” But I rolled out my mat.

At the end, as I lay in savasana—which is just lying flat on your back with your eyes closed—I got tired. I told myself I should get up, I should get things done, I needed to get a move on my to-list or risk wasting the entire day. But instead, I grabbed a pillow and went to sleep, right there, on the floor. And when I woke up, I felt so much better.

Afterward, I walked into the living room and sat on the couch and watched the Dodger game. I did my daily bible study and then wrote this blog post. I ate dinner and then made banana bread.

A lot of my to-do list went unfinished, but I still felt good because I did things that served my soul. Things that helped me slow down and rest. Things that make the more traditionally productive days possible.

There are times when we need to buckle down and get things done. There are times when we can push ourselves to do things we never thought we could do. But what I’m trying to remind myself, is that the value of a day is not based on its productivity. My value is not based on my productivity. And neither is yours. Some days we can muster up the strength to check every single thing off our to-do list, and other days we might need to put the whole list aside and rest.

Both days are important. Both days will add value to your life. It is okay to make mistakes, it is okay to take days off, it is okay to sleep in on the weekends (or whenever your schedule allows.)

The only way to waste a day is to spend it in the past, regretting what you could have done, rather than spending it in the present, taking advantage of what you can do—even if that’s taking a nap on the floor.

Start with Sweeping the Floor

Lately I’ve been feeling a little disoriented. There are so many things on my mind that I’d like to get accomplished and so many steps forward that I’m feeling motivated to take, that my brain has become somewhat of a chaotic mess, wondering where to even start.

Amongst this chaos, even going so far as to walk hand in hand with it most of the time, is exhaustion and frustration. I’ll get home from work with a laundry list of to-dos and my mind spirals, convinced it can’t do any of it, so I’ll end up stressing the hours away until I fall into bed, incredibly disappointed that I didn’t get anything done.

“I didn’t even sweep the floor,” I’ll think.

For among all the big goals I have, there are also little chores around the house that I want to get done. I want to clean my bathroom and do my laundry. I want to organize my desk and change the batteries in my clock. I want to sweep the floor. Having these chores done puts my mind at ease and makes room for other problems to be solved. 

Yesterday, while feeling a particularly cloudy shade of bleh, I got home from work wanting to go for a run, but didn’t feel like I had it in me.

Then you should probably sit down and write, I thought.

Or finish that project siting on your desk.

Or run through the to-do list you have written in your notebook.

Or research future blog posts

Or!

Or!

Or!

 Instead, I took a nap. My head was pounding and with a busy few weeks ahead, it felt like the healthiest thing to do.

When I woke up, I didn’t feel like writing, or working on unfinished projects, or going through to-do lists. But after eating dinner I did have a burst of inspiration to sweep the floor. Which then led to me cleaning my bathroom, doing some laundry and organizing my desk.

I ended up having a very productive evening. And even though I might not have gotten to all (or most) of the things on my to-do list, I got to some, which sometimes is all you can ask for from yourself.

When given the chance, our minds will choose a path to weed through the chaos, and when they do, the best thing to do is follow it. Trying to swim against the current and force yourself to work on projects that your brain isn’t ready for will often result in more days filled with stilted productivity. So go with the flow, and take things one at a time. Get done what you can get done and don’t beat yourself up with timelines and expectations.

At the end of the day, the hardest thing to do is move forward, and sometimes taking the smallest steps to prove yourself wrong will make all the difference. Those steps will get you moving, giving you the momentum you need to take the big ones. Plus, at the end of a long day, when your mind starts to swirl its way into an insomniac stress ball, you can quiet it.

At least I swept the floor.