Reminder: You Are Not Your Productivity

EMPTY CHAIRS

I’ve been an achiever my entire life. If you’re reading this, then you can likely relate to my personal experience of always putting in extra hours at work, revising every project to perfection and invariably choosing to go the extra mile. I love being an achiever; I credit both my natural hardcore work ethic and the thrill I get from completing a project to the success I’m seeing in my daily life and business now.

However, there’s an important conundrum that is lurking within myself (and most other achievers I meet!) and I feel like we need to address the elephant in the room. Plain and simple, when we self-identify as “Achievers,” it’s easy to equate our productivity and accomplishments with who we are.

This can be a beautiful thing when we’re feeling good and producing things we’re excited about. The problem is when the unexpected occurs. We all know that challenges like illness, job loss or family emergencies come when we least expect them. The frustrating truth is that sometimes our ability to crush our goals and projects just isn’t under our control. What happens to our sense of identity and self-worth when life interferes and forces us to take a step back from the productivity we’ve used to define ourselves? We’re thrown into a tailspin, without knowing where to turn for balance and confidence.

How can we prepare ourselves for life’s inevitable curveballs? We can proactively define ourselves and our self-worth as separate from our productivity. I’m sharing my favorite three methods on how to do that below.

flower supplies

We can decide to break our busy addiction.

It seems like the to-do lists are endless and our hours in the day are always short. Sometimes it’s pleasant to lose ourselves in a day of hard work, especially if we enjoy our job. When the day ahead looks lighter than usual, we tend to want to fill it – perhaps to mimic the busy feeling of those ultra-productive and rewarding days.

However, if you’re just keeping busy for the sake of being busy, then there’s usually a reason. Ask yourself what it is that you’re craving. Are you staying busy to avoid something else? Are you staying busy because you want to appear in demand to others? Breaking our addiction to staying busy for busy’s sake will allow us to show up more powerfully when it’s truly needed and to better enjoy the slow-paced days. It’s the first step in better understanding ourselves beyond our work-horse mentality.

Breaking our addiction to staying busy for busy’s sake will allow us to show up more powerfully when it’s truly needed and to better enjoy the slow-paced days.

We can start to value our input, rather than our output.

Your co-workers and boss no doubt appreciate the volume of work you’re producing (and envy your inbox zero goals!). However, you are valued as so much more than just a machine. It’s your human qualities like your experience, your insight, your unique skills and passions that bring the most value to your workplace.

Volume is great, but focused presence is better and more valuable. Spend some time taking stock of your current skill set and the skills you want to grow in the year ahead. Utilize tools such as Strengthsfinder or a simple journaling exercise to get started. Learning to recognize the unique elements you possess and the ways in which your incredible work contributes to wider conversations will help to keep you centered in the value of your work, even if you go through a period of lessened productivity.

flower bunch

We can become more well-rounded outside of work.

If we’re going to learn to separate our sense of self-worth from our productivity, we have to first learn who we are outside of the working context. Aside from your main gig, side hustle and passion projects, who are you? Who do you want to be? What are your values, interests and dreams?

The experiences we have outside of our cubicle are just as vital as the time we spend inside it, because life is what fuels our creativity and drive. We have to be seeking inspiration, growth and joy if we hope to contribute long term to a role and company we care about. Cultivating this relationship with ourselves is our real life’s work. It also makes us healthier and less frantic in our achieving ways.

Nobody’s doubting that you’re a powerhouse, Achiever. You do amazing things and it’s awe-inspiring to watch. My hope is that if you ever go through a bout of less than stellar productivity, you won’t be too hard on yourself. Instead, learn to accept that you are valuable, respected and admired not just because of the incredible things you do, but because of the amazing individual that you are. Celebrate that. Got any other ideas for how to separate your self-worth from your productivity? Share them in the comments below!

Who are you outside of the “working context?”

Images via Meagan Floris

Laura is a life coach for young women who are ready to do something big with their lives. She helps women tackle burn out and lack of direction to regain control and make some seriously exciting momentum in their personal and professional lives. Laura lives in Nashville, TN with her boyfriend and their (very!) rascally rescue pup.

11 COMMENTS
  • Chris June 7, 2017

    Great article – thank you so much for sharing!! For me, using the old school Franklin Covey method of prioritizing work as must do (a), should do (b) and could do (c) for the past thirty years has helped me get the most important things done and the freedom to let go of the rest. This and taking Sundays off from work, electronics and commitments is what keeps balance in my life.

    • Laura Weldy June 7, 2017

      I love that, Chris! Thanks for sharing your tips and tricks for staying productive and not overwhelmed.

  • Allison May 27, 2017

    I really enjoyed this article, Laura! Thanks for sharing your tips for those of us who need to untangle our achievements from our identities! I’m constantly falling into the pit of insecurity during “achievement droughts” and it is altogether unsettling!

    Allison
    http://Www.allisonwixted.com

    • Laura Weldy May 28, 2017

      Thank you, Allison! I’m glad it spoke to you. Don’t fall into the pit – you’ve got this!!

  • Jamie Kirk May 27, 2017

    Thank you so much for writing this, Laura. And to Darling for existing!

    • Laura Weldy May 28, 2017

      <3 Absolutely! It's an honor to share reminders like this with all my girl bosses! And I'm so thankful Darling exists, as well! 🙂

    • Darling Magazine May 31, 2017

      And we thank you for reading! 🙂

  • Natalie May 26, 2017

    I needed this today. I’ve been having a really unproductive and so low and frustrating week, for no reason at all. I think I’ve probably just burned out a bit. So this has helped buoy me a little. As for the big “who are you outside of working?’ question, right now, I honestly don’t know. It’s something I’m trying to figure out, slowly.

    – Natalie
    http://www.workovereasy.com

    • Laura Weldy May 28, 2017

      Oh I so hear you – burnout is a real thing! Allow yourself to be chill with it, and it will pass. The more fixated and frustrated we get, the longer it lasts! You’ll figure out the big questions – but it’s a lifelong journey, so don’t worry if you aren’t there yet!

  • I am the same as you. I was an over-achiever my whole life, and though I love feeling accomplished, I’m constantly feeling like I need to improve or I’m not good enough. It’s good to remember to separate my self-worth and self-esteem from my output – it’s something I always forget.

    Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog
    http://charmainenyw.com

    • Laura Weldy May 28, 2017

      Absolutely hear you on this. Feeling accomplished is sooooo good, and feeling like not enough sucks! You’ve got this, Charmaine!

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