Making Peace with Being Unproductive

 “Cleaning your house while your kids are still growing is like shoveling the sidewalk before it stops snowing.” –Phyllis Dyer

 I used to put tremendous pressure on myself to get everything “just right.” And that often resulted in feeling frustrated. Because while I would approach each day with the very best of intentions to be super productive, the demands of caring for little ones quickly took over and trumped almost everything on my to-do list. Even something as simple as making a phone to schedule a dentist appointment would sometimes take days to cross off the list. It really shouldn’t be that difficult to find 10 minutes of quiet to make a simple phone call. Yet it is. Surprisingly so. Because when you finally get that window of opportunity your phone has 3% battery and you can’t find the charger, and you make the call anyway hoping it will be quick, but of course you are put on hold and battery gives out before you can complete the call. And now “buy new charger” is added to your to-do list.

A while back I might have felt frustrated about the inability to complete such a simple task in a timely manner; but I now know that it all eventually gets done. And whatever doesn’t get done (you know, like that stack of Christmas cards you bought that just sat on your desk until February 3 when you finally decided to pack them away and try again next year) probably doesn’t really matter much in the grand scheme of life. And that’s the other beautiful refinement that comes along with being at peace with unproductivity; you generally strengthen your ability to prioritize. When you know it is likely you will only get one or two things done, you tend to pick the things that count the most. Usually. But then occasionally the darndest thing happens and you find yourself concentrating on a silly task like reorganizing the spice drawer, even though it is the most impractical thing to be doing. The kids are hungry, the dog needs to go on a walk, you have to be out the door in 22 minutes and yet there you are alphabetizing your spice drawer. Why do we do this? And furthermore why does it bring us so much satisfaction? Honestly I don’t really have an answer except that it just feels good from time to time to channel energy into a fresh and unexpected way.

So give yourself permission to go with the ebb and flow of the day. Relax and know what needs to get done, will get done. Anything beyond that is just icing on the cake. It might even be the sprinkles on the icing on the cake. And when you get the weird crazy impractical urge to reorganize your spice drawer, just embrace it. Surely it serves some purpose, which may well just be to help us make sense of our day that seem so out of our control. Perhaps it’s like building a snowman in the snowstorm, instead of shoveling.

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