Productivity Doesn’t Determine Your Worth

>>woman on phone work stay late nightBY SARA LANG

Admitting a problem is the first step in recovery, right? Well, I have a problem.

I have become one of those proverbial hamsters on a wheel. Running, running, running and never getting anywhere. I am ridiculously attached to my IPhone. Quality time with my husband is the two of us sitting on the couch working on our laptops. Vacations are planned around conference calls, and God forbid a location doesn’t have wifi. I routinely send emails at ridiculous times of the night. I actually pitched the idea for this post in an email sent at 1:46 a.m.

The work never seems to end. And I never seem to be able to put it down. I’m not sure if this is the new normal for everyone, or if I’m driving the crazy train.

University of Houston professor Brené Brown explores this phenomenon in her book, >>Daring Greatly. She points out that many of us are perpetuating the culture of the 24-hour workday even as we are victims of it.

As I can attest, the drive for immediacy — the quest for inbox zero — becomes a habit, and it is driven by fear. We are afraid we will miss something or that we will be perceived as irrelevant. So, we work all hours and never unplug. The combination of fear, technology and economic realities is potent.

In an >>interview with The Washington Post, Brown talked about this phenomenon: “It’s the whole adage of doing more with less. To be really honest with you, I don’t think it’s doable. The expectations of what we can get done, and how well we can do it are beyond human scale.”

She recommends that we all take time to pause and note accomplishments, rather than rushing headlong into the next item on our never-ending to-do list. She advises that leaders make time to provide meaningful feedback – and that we all make ourselves open – vulnerable even – to receiving that feedback.

Brown also articulates something that many of us have probably considered in the deep, dark recesses of our subconscious: all this work is just a way to shield ourselves. It keeps us busy so we don’t have time to think about our insecurities, our lack of connection with family and friends, our fears.

She says we have to let go of the notion that exhaustion is a status symbol and that productivity determines self worth. We have to get more comfortable setting boundaries and saying no sometimes. We have to really rest and refuel. In those quiet moments, we can consider what is really meaningful.

I’ll be looking for those quiet moments, or small ways I can create them. I think I have a good idea of what’s most important to me – my kids, my husband, my friends. I just need to let go of the fear and embrace the stillness.

Maybe I’ll just take one laptop to the beach this year…

>>Sara LangSara Lang has worked in North Carolina politics at the state, federal, and local levels for more than 15 years. A communications consultant, she lives in Cary with her husband, two young children, and a pampered dog.

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