No matter how much I accomplish in any given day, I notice that I often carry around a vague sense of Not Doing Enough.
I might have had a pretty good work day, but I didn’t exercise. Or I spent quality time with my family, but fifty unanswered emails are waiting in my InBox.
I’m a sucker for articles and books about increasing productivity. A headline like “5 Timesaving Apps That Will Change Your Life!” will get me to click every time.
Because I’m a Type A but also prone to distraction, I’ve tried keeping a little chart to track daily tasks like exercising, meditating, writing, flossing, and organizing. It’s a rare, rare day when I circle every task on the chart.
I write books and articles, and the only way I can meet my deadlines is to break up the work in daily chunks. So I’m constantly setting word counts for writing and editing. When I miss my goals, which is frequently, I pay the price with increased pressure.
Like many of you, I also work full time. I’m a parent and a pet owner, with a house and yard to maintain.
The Martha Complex
A recent article I read about Martha Stewart quoted her as saying that she brushes her dogs every day. Every day! I thought, and a wave of guilt swept over me. I should be brushing our dogs every day… poor mutts.
I attended my son’s parent-teacher conference last night, and his English teacher said, “His reading comprehension needs work, but we’re grateful that you’ve been doing the nightly 15 minutes of parent-student reading together.”
I know my face betrayed me.
My friends, we are seven months into the school year and I somehow missed the directive that my son and I are supposed to be reading together for 15 minutes each night. No wonder his comprehension needs work!
I’ve always suspected that other people had the productivity thing down. But I might be wrong. In talking with a number of my friends, I have yet to hear from anyone who does not feel, some days or many days, as if the things they accomplished are somehow lacking.
“At the end of the day, I always feel like I let someone down,” one busy mom of four told me.
What about you, dear ones? Do you belong to the You’re Not Doing Enough Club?
Searching for Answers
When I prayed and meditated about this question, what floated into my mind was the image of Mary choosing to sit on the floor and visit with Jesus. Remember that story? Meanwhile, Mary’s sister (named Martha, ironically) bustled around cleaning, cooking, and feeling overwhelmed.
I want to be more like Mary. I really do.
At the same time, I can sort of relate to Martha in this story. As a food lover, I can imagine wanting to prepare a good meal for the great teacher. I’d be in the kitchen making fresh pita breads and pouring wine and wanting everything be just right.
Jesus died a short time later, and then the meal really didn’t matter. I can imagine poor Martha feeling such regret that she was stressed out and distracted during that final evening with her friend.
Is it possible that the vaguely unsettling cloud of Not Doing Enough is creating daily unhappiness, and that the thing we might need to do most is… to do less?
To be present?
To let some things go?
To seek that which is truly important?
It is Finished
If you have been a member of the You’re Not Doing Enough Club, I have news for you: We’re disbanding the club. The gig is up.
You and me — we’re not going to do this any more. Okay?
The next time we feel those clouds gathering, we’re fighting back.
We’re going to pause, and think about what really matters.
We’ll give ourselves permission to slow down.
You are doing enough.
Take a deep breath.
Be easy on yourself.
You are amazing.
You really are.
Grateful thanks to Henric Silversnö for the use of his wonderful dog image.