How do you know when you’re putting too much pressure on yourself or just being unproductive?
For anyone who has a full-time job – or in my case a freelance role that feels like a full-time job – it’s likely that you’ll have goals and projects alongside the work you do from 9-5. Whether it be building a more visible social profile, pitching to magazines, looking for a new side project, or committing to a viable hobby, you’ve probably spent countless hours coming up with a schedule that feels doable but somehow, week to week, you fall short.
With the year coming to an end, I spent last weekend reflecting on what I did and didn’t accomplish, and surprise surprise, I fell short a fair bit. These aren’t new years resolutions, or anything so fickle, but things I genuinely wanted to do to help boost my career.
When I spoke to my friend about my worries, she told me I was being too critical of myself. She pointed out all the things I had achieved and gave me a tidy list of excuses for not completing the rest. And it did make me feel better – for about five seconds.
Even though she had a point, and I do have things I can point to that prove I haven’t spent the whole of 2022 whining about how much I want 2022 to be over, the thing that stuck with me was how much more I know I could have done.
No one really knows the ins and outs of your day unless they are tied to you 24/7. When I look back on how I spent the majority of my days, I can’t help but notice these reoccurring large gaps of unproductivity, procrastination, and full goblin mode sessions that may or may not have turned into days. I made time for fun this year as much as I did work, which I have zero regrets about, but balance is something I lack so much of in my life yet it’s the key to everything.
I know rest and procrastination are all part of anyone’s creative journey, but with how ridiculously fast 2022 flew by, leaving us all in a tailspin, I can’t help but feel slight resentment towards myself for not being more disciplined.
There’s the increasingly popular adage that you shouldn’t have expectations, and as much as I expect absolutely nothing from anyone, I do have expectations for myself. But just like cancelling plans, it’s so much easier to cancel plans on yourself than it is for other people. I don’t plan on making any big proclamations for the new year, but if I could achieve anything in 2023, it really would be treating myself the way I treat other people.
I don’t want to sleep on myself in what are supposed to be my prime years (whatever that means), but I also don’t want to spend my time berating myself for not allowing a task to monopolise every single part of my day. Why is it such a tough line to walk? Complaining about being unproductive diminishes the things I have achieved this year. However, not questioning my productivity and the amount of “down days” I’ve had makes me feel complacent and like I’m accepting a life I’m not done trying to improve. It’s giving exhausting.
If like me you’re reflecting on the year you’ve had with less enthusiasm than you would have liked, then heed the advice that for some reason I can’t take for myself: there’s still time. And just because your productivity doesn’t look like what you think it should, doesn’t mean that you aren’t being productive. Whether you’re being overcritical, which you probably are, or genuinely unproductive, handle both with kindness because self-deprecation is something we could stand to leave in 2022.
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