Many of our daily interactions with others are transactional in nature and task-driven, even those with family and friends — do this, help me with that, do you have a project?, let's meet on Tuesday, help me carry out that couch, and so on.
Busy does not equal productive
I was reading about a study about the perception and scarcity of time where Americans found "busy-ness" to be a good thing.
Have you noticed how many say they're "busy" when you inquire how things are going? A banner of pride.
In contrast, Spanish and Italians are often judged as non productive due to the narrative of the long lunch break.
It is, you realize, by and large a myth in both cases today, don't you?
While I cannot speak for other countries, in my neck of the woods in Italy people do roll up their sleeves. And you know that, even as you may not admit it, being busy doesn't mean being productive in creative, connective, and collaborative pursuits.
In fact, it is mostly a trap to think it is.
It most certainly doesn't equal connected
When we most need to make connections, we find it hard pressed to express our desire, or even to think about someone to call.
We make fewer phone calls than in the past, except for when driving. I see lots of people on the phone behind the wheel. And when we do, we have a hard time coming out from behind ourselves and revealing our genuine wish to be in the company of another, without a specific agenda.
We do crave the company of other people, we are social beings. Plus, we are not machines, and when we encounter a difficult moment or have to face a rough patch, we risk also breaking down.
Even as we put on a brave face and push through
Moving from project to project, pushing through don't hold us together too long. Nor do sleep deprivation, poor nutrition, and denial. When we finally acknowledge we need to hit pause, seek help, we are often passed a critical point.
By the time we realize we're thirsty for slowing down, or a good night sleep, a balanced meal, and the company of friends, the emotional toll has already taken place.
In the haste to keep going, the spirit suffers from connection deprivation and acceptance that we are after all human and we need to take care of number one.
We need to re-engage differently
Over the years I learned two tricks that help me regain a sense of perspective and move from stuck to productive without running in overdrive:
1. refocus my awareness on the progress I am making instead of comparing with others
We do end up comparing our "inside" to someone the "outside" of others without concept of how they got there or how far along we truly are.
This is especially dangerous in a day and age where so much sharing is going on in social networks and where there is still confusion around reporting/reading/sharing the news with getting on with it.
Much of what we see is what we want to see or perceive about how others are so accomplished. Mostly by reacting to what they post in social networks.
Consuming media is not the same as processing information. They are the product of two very different environments and processes — both external and internal.
2. give up total control of needing to feel productive all the time
Technology and productivity advice lull us into a false sense of confidence that we can fill every second of our day to capacity and super achieve.
Building momentum and leaning into it is good. However, if there is a better way we may miss it in the rush to get on with it using the known path.
When we're able to hit pause and step back, we start breathing again, and breath injects new life into our thinking.
Re-engaging differently means being open to acknowledging when you need the support of others. When all else fails, I found that a sincere request for a hug works marvels.
How many times have you looked back and shaken your head at the silliness of not fully appreciating the people (and even the important work) in your life for fear of missing out?
Valeria is an experienced listener. She is also frequent speaker at conferences and companies on a variety of topics. To book her for a speaking engagement click here.