Get rid of these habits to unleash your full potential
Since May 14, 2020, I’ve had a superb run on Medium. Well, it might not be classifiable as “superb” per sè, but I made more than $200 with 15-days-worth of writing. According to the official Medium statistics, only 7% of their writers make more than $100 each month.
That sort of makes me the crème de la crème here, doesn’t it?
Inspired by this success, I took up a “30 Days, 30 Articles” challenge, where I decided I would be writing 30 articles for each day in June.
This sounded exciting and crazy at the same time. Not crazy in a bad way, but crazy fun! I couldn’t wait to dive right in.
The initial few days were amazing. I had so many brilliant ideas; I filled my journal with pages upon pages of prospective titles for Medium articles.
While on the one hand, this was great. It led to some fantastic results. For each day of June, I earned at least $10 per day. Going by the trend, I should make at least $300 by the end of the month. That is an excellent motivation in itself.
But, on the other, it made me realise motivation isn’t always enough.
When you start equating your sense of self-worth to how productive you have been, there is something seriously wrong with your method of self-evaluation.
After all, we are human. We will have bad days. No matter how happy and healthy we are, no man is an island. The actions and mood of our near and dear ones will affect us, and there will be days we won’t be able to write.
Do you know what I did on such days?
I started beating myself up, criticising my “laziness” and “lack of will power” for not writing something valuable. My mood took a downward spiral, and I found myself resenting all the moments I spent in doing other things but writing.
This went on for a while till I posted a picture on my Instagram story of an open window and the words: “Not feeling very productive today”. This was accompanied by a crying emoji.
Seeing this, a friend of mine reacted with laughter. When I asked him what’s so funny, he replied, “You always post the crying emoji whenever you have an unproductive day.”
This hit hard, more so because it was true. I did indeed let my mood for the day depend on how productive I was.
But then, the question arose: why did I have to be so hard on myself?
To detoxify, I took a break from writing for a few days and analysed my behaviour, trying to understand what this revealed about me. I am thankful I took this time off because it made me come to terms with a lot of things I had known but was too frightened to acknowledge.
In this article, I have compiled the six myths about productivity that had been holding me back and how I got rid of them. Read on to know how you can let these toxic beliefs go.
1. Every Single Day Needs to Be Productive
No matter what the capitalist society of today might have led you to believe — every single day does NOT need to be productive. You are allowed to take days off when you feel exhausted. You are allowed to run away on vacations with nothing else but a polaroid camera and a dear friend. You are permitted to do things apart from your job — things that fill your soul with happiness.
If you have this belief inside you that makes you strive to get some work done every day, here is what you can do to let this go-
- Take it easy on yourself. You are human, not a productivity machine.
- Understand that in the grand scheme of things, one wasted day will not matter much.
- You are dedicated to your goal, and you will make up for all the lost time when you get back to work.
- Sometimes, a break is necessary to rejuvenate your mind and get back to work with renewed vigour.
2. You Need to Be Exhausted Before You Can Take A Break
You can take breaks whenever your body and mind tell you to.
You can take a break when an old friend calls you up to inquire about your well being.
You can take breaks to spend quality time with your pets and loved ones.
You can take breaks, period.
You don’t have to feel guilty about listening to your body.
As for the need to be exhausted, there is no rule in the universe that requires you to work to your breaking point before you can take time off. Rest can be just as productive as it gives you time to think of smarter ways to tackle the problem at hand.
You are more important than your job. Remember this.
Prioritise self-care. Prioritise yourself.
3. You Snooze, You Lose
Or “Sleep is for losers”, or whatever variation of this you might have heard. Any person who tells you sleeping is counter-productive is either lying or has only read a few books and possesses no real clue about how the world works.
There have been several studies that have established that a good night’s sleep not only improves concentration and productivity but can also reduce chances of depression.
You might have heard about famous achievers like Marissa Mayer or Jack Dorsey who only sleep four hours each night. If that is indeed true, then good for them. That is how they have trained their body and mind to function — an incredible feat, no doubt.
However, your body knows better than any doctor or any internet survey. If your body tells you it needs sleep, listen to it. Don’t deprive it of the one thing that sustains it for the sake of “getting more work done”. As the renowned American author, Ernest Hemingway said-
I love sleep. My life has the tendency to fall apart when I’m awake, you know?
I have to say, I wholeheartedly agree with him.
4. If You Do Not See Tangible Results, You’re Doing It Wrong
I couldn’t stress enough on how important it is to remember this point.
Earlier today, a friend who I was mentoring about Medium told me that since she was not earning much from her articles despite them being curated, it is better that she should stop writing.
This sounded wrong on so many levels. First of all, it is impossible to see the fruits of your labour immediately. You can’t plant a seed and expect it to bear fruits immediately after, can you?
Similarly, when you work on a project, you have to keep putting in effort for days at end before you start seeing tangible results.
I wrote more than 200 stories on Medium before I hit $100 with a single story. Even after breaching that elusive barrier, several of my stories don’t get curated and barely make $10. But, does that mean I should quit?
A resounding no!
When you start writing on Medium, you have planted the seed.
As you keep publishing daily, keep improving, and keep learning from Top Writers in your niche, you are watering the plant. Only when the tree matures, it can bear fruit. Only then, can you enjoy the fruits of your labour.
You will not get tangible results immediately. But know that your efforts are not being wasted. They are getting accumulated so one day you can reap the benefits.
Till then, keep working, keep learning, and don’t give up.
5. There’s A One-Size-Fits-All Productivity Guide
You might have heard people say the morning is the most productive time in the day.
If I wake up early in the morning, I spend the rest of the day like a sleep-deprived zombie, downing cup after cup of coffee and checking my watch till it’s time for my afternoon nap.
Or you might be familiar with Marie Kondo’s principle of de-cluttering your life and increasing productivity by de-cluttering your room.
I find cleaning my room (or even my desk) such a chore, I would rather do it tomorrow, thank you (even if that tomorrow never comes).
The thing is, I have lived in a hostel for more than ten years of my life. I am so used to functioning in close, cramped spaces, that I can turn a blind eye to the mess in my room (or on my desk), and my work goes on unabated.
The truth is — there is no “one size fits all” guide to productivity.
An organised desk or waking up early in the morning might work for some people, but, if they don’t feel right to you, don’t waste your precious time in trying to get yourself to get used to them.
Heck, some people even suggest listening to music while reading (or — horror of horrors — writing). I swear if I play a song while reading, my brain would ONLY be able to concentrate on the lyrics, all thoughts of the book forgotten.
Don’t try to fit yourself into a box someone else has designed.
Find your rhythm, figure out what works for you best, and stick to them to create your routine.
6. Social Media Needs to Go
When I was a student, I was tired of hearing the same advice over and over again: “If you want to do well in your exams, delete all social media apps from your phone.”
The adult me cannot fathom how conflicted the younger me must have felt, not knowing any better.
There might be many people (myself included) who find it easier to work if they have a social media tab open simultaneously. A quick Instagram update, a message to a friend over WhatsApp, or a teeny scroll through Facebook might actually uplift their mood and help them focus better on their work.
When I was a student, I used to click pictures of whatever doubts I had and share them with my classmates. This method of group study was beneficial for all of us, and I cannot imagine how we would have scored even half the marks we did had we listened to this advice and deleted all social media apps from our phones.
It helps to remember that you should control social media, and not the other way round. If you use it to your benefit, it can act as a blessing in disguise.
The Bottom Line
When you have a clear goal in mind and enough dedication to see it through, you don’t have to worry about being productive all the time. At the end of the day, it is your mental, physical, and spiritual well-being that matters. Being productive is a luxury, not a necessity.
Your sense of self-worth should not be tied to how much work you managed to get done in the day. Even if the entire day passed by with no work, but with enough things, people, and experiences to fill your soul with contentment, you cannot say the day was a ‘waste’.
Your productivity is a function of your happiness. Don’t make your happiness a function of your productivity.
Be dedicated to your goal and find a rhythm that works for you. Be clear about what you want from life, so you don’t lose sight of your goal.
Stay cheerful, keep working, and take your time management seriously.
You are awesome. You deserve it.