This post is sponsored by Brother International Corporation. All opinions are my own.
Every few months the promise of productivity stops me from whatever I’m doing – writing, running, cooking, cleaning, the usual routines of daily life – and tries to convince me that all of those things – the writing, the working out, the endless to-dos around the house – would be much easier to handle if I just circled back to them later, after I’ve gotten organized. As if finding the right way to rearrange or restructure my to-do list was the key to actually getting it done.
One time it was a stack of neon green, orange, yellow and pink post-it notes. On each post-it I wrote down one and only one to-do, sticking each brightly colored note to the door of my bedroom until they formed a collection of impressionist-like productivity plans. As I completed each task, I’d recycle the respective post-it from the door to the bin – or so I told myself.
Another time, it was a spreadsheet, broken down into 15-minute intervals where I’d track how I spent my time each day in the same way that I’d successfully tracked how I’d spent my dollars for the past decade.
Most recently it was the coworking space two blocks from my apartment where I reasoned the distance from my home and all its distractions – the fridge, the television, my husband – would be enough to create the clear boundaries and focus I’d always wanted around my work, but not be so far away that I would never actually go.
But much like the post-it notes that cluttered my door for months untouched, and the spreadsheet that sat empty in one of the 37 open tabs on my laptop, the fantasy of who I’d become when I found the space to unlock my productivity had already disappeared by the time the staff at the coworking offices followed up with me a few days later.
It’s only recently that I’ve stopped willing myself to break this cycle and accept it.
While I dream about being the kind of person who can sit down and write a column like this one with two to four hours of uninterrupted focus instead of five to seven days of fits and starts, writing and rewriting one sentence over and over again before turning to Twitter in search of inspiration that leads me down a rabbit hole of sharp commentary and insightful personal essays that convince me that I could never articulate the chaos inside my mind as clearly as the ‘real’ writers of the internet and so should probably just go ahead and cook my lunch anyway since it’s already 2pm and I’m feeling pretty exhausted and could really use a quick power nap before I get back to my desk… wait, what was I saying?
Even with time blocking or data detoxes or passion planners or project management systems – or everything else my well meaning colleagues swear by or promise to be the life changing solution I’ve been looking for.
I don’t say that to sound defeatist, I say it because willing myself to live and work differently has never actually proved productive – at least not for me. And I’ve come to realize that the time and energy and resources I’ve spent trying to change that, would be far better channeled into finding ways to support the way I live and work in my reality, not my fantasy.
After three days in January, my planners go empty, my project management software loaded with what I can only characterize as a wishlist for the small business I operate, the conference I co-founded, and the writing I hope to someday finish, goes unopened, and following an initial burst of enthusiastic albeit ineffective use, the habit trackers go untouched.
Unable to keep track of, make decisions about or complete anything more than the burning priority in front of me. And it’s taken me 35-years to recognize that that is its own system of productivity – a way of working that actually works for me.
Because through the lens of everything I haven’t done yet, my productivity can feel pretty demoralizing.
But through the lens of everything I have done, I’m coming to appreciate that it’s already more than enough.
Many thanks to the team at Brother for supporting today’s content and taking one thing off my to-do list with the Brother Refresh EZ Print Subscription Service – a flexible monthly printing plan that eliminates the need to buy ink or toner cartridges thanks to the Brother exclusive Smart Ordering printer technology that delivers ink or toner to your door just before you need it so you never run out, and you pay for the pages you actually print, not the cartridge.
As someone who has given up on the myth of being the perfectly organized woman who remembers to order things like printer ink or toner before running out in the middle of printing out my latest contracts, Brother Refresh EZ Print Subscription is the kind of system for supporting the way I work (rather than trying to change it) that I’m looking for more of in my life. Brother makes it so easy to track how many pages I have used each month, and not to worry, if I didn’t use all of my pages in my plan that month, they roll over. To see if your printer is compatible and sign up for a risk-free trial, check out Brother Refresh Subscription here. Not a current Brother user, you may want to reconsider.