Am I Productive Enough? (spoiler alert, don’t worry about it so much)


Feeling Discouraged, Stuck, Lazy?

While we are all at home, there are lots of new kinds of pressures we face about doing it right. What should we be doing with our days?

How do we be productive, take care of kids, home schooling, remote working?

And beyond that, what about all those at-home projects and creative things you’ve been wanting to do, but still have not made progress on. Straightening up your home office, organizing your photos, learning a language. Shouldn’t you be doing those now?

This got me thinking about the general idea of stressing ourselves out for not being productive enough…

…and that we need to learn how to give ourselves a break!

People often ask me how I am so productive all the time.

Let’s clear this up first…

I am NOT productive ALL the time!

I am a fairly productive person, and because a lot of what I produce enters the world publicly in the form of books, talks, programs, etc., people seem to attribute to me that I am ALWAYS productive.

I can say truthfully that I am highly productive some of the time!

But I am also human, and I have bad days.

But I can share some things I think about and do when I’m not in the mood to do the work.

1. Move something forward, anything

Do you ever have one of those days when every single thing on your to-do list feels either impossible or just too annoying… and you can’t seem to get yourself engaged on anything? You feel stuck.

Try moving something forward. Anything. It does not need to be related to your task list. Just find something you can do and then you can say, I did that, and now something is a little better.

The feeling of moving something forward — anything– no matter how small, can break the curse.

This pattern of achieving something will settle in, and you’ll be ready to tackle something bigger.

Here is another article I wrote on this idea, that solutions come while moving.

2. Stop dreading it…

The other technique I use when I really need to do something I am dreading, is to stop thinking about it and just start.

And when I say “start” I don’t mean start with the hard, creative part. Start with the easy part.

For example instead of staring at my computer tempted to watch the next video about a giraffe who has become friends with squirrel, I grab a template of whatever sort the end result needs to be. I save it under an appropriate file name.

I swear, even this simple step creates forward momentum for me.

Then I start digging for content ideas, pasting in relevant items, recording placeholder notes…

Then I’ll look at this pile of stuff and say, “Wow, this is a mess.”

But then somehow looking at this initial mess gives me the will and energy to start making it better, to start organizing it.

But I have to create the pile of bad stuff first, or the energy and the creativity never come.

For example, people often ask me about how long it takes me to write a book. The answer: 1 year to write it badly, and 1 year to write it again.

I find that thinking about it too much before I start is what prevents me from starting.

For me the key to productivity is sometimes to simply stop worrying and to start doing something small.

3. One of those days… Understand Recovery Time

Some days, even when you can get yourself to start, it doesn’t go well. Your brain and your body have other plans that day. They want you to STOP.

What I learned is that recovery time is meaningful and necessary part of the work.

If you work hard and use your brain hard, at some point you need to stop.

And it doesn’t matter what stopping looks like. It could be sleeping, it could be walking, or it could be binge-watching TV on the sofa with a bag of cookies.

The trick here is when you need recovery time to NOT think…I should be doing something more productive during my recovery.

This is such a common reaction to recovery time, that you should always be doing something more important, meaningful or valiant — that your recovery time should be more inspiring.

Just think, “STOP”. Take your recovery time. It’s part of the work.

4. Lose the guilt

Following on from the idea of recovery time, is dealing with guilt in general.

This was probably the hardest one to master, but finally, I allowed myself to not feel bad about not being productive every single day.

On those days when it is just not going to happen I’ve learned to accept it, and more importantly, to not be wracked with guilt.

So on a day when being productive is off the table, the two remaining choices are:

1. Don’t be productive and be OK with it…Enjoy and appreciate the day for recovery or other reasons
2. Don’t be productive and feel miserable and guilty about it…let the guilt entirely ruin the day

I learned to choose to not ruin the entire day.

I know that there will be another day when I can go back to being super-productive and that I have earned this recovery time.

This was a hard fought lesson, but it was worth it.

This is why one of my favorite quotes is from Mary Anne Radmacher:

“Courage does not always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying I will try again tomorrow.”

Take care of yourself and your family and team as best you can, and use this at-home time to be productive or NOT. If you are just surviving right now, then do that. And don’t feel bad about it.


What do you think?

Join the conversation about this on my facebook page.

Patty Azzarello

Patty is available to speak at your company, annual meeting, or customer event. She can also deliver a custom workshop on Leadership or Strategy Execution for your leadership team. Contact Patty.


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Patty Azzarello is an executive, best-selling author, speaker and CEO/Business Advisor. She became the youngest general manager at HP at the age of 33, ran a billion dollar software business at 35 and became a CEO for the first time at 38 (all without turning into a self-centered, miserable jerk)

You can find Patty at, follow her on twitter or Facebook, or read her books RISE and MOVE.

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