The Secret To Productivity? Forgiveness.

I have often been given the advice, “Don’t try to do everything. You will never succeed. Instead, try to do one or two things at a time, really well.”

I have also been given the advice, “Don’t succumb to fear of missing out. Whatever you’re imagining is probably ten times cooler than what’s actually going on.”

But still, I find myself committing to everything and actually doing nothing because I don’t know what to prioritize. And it sucks.

Take, for example, this website. I made it in two days when I was visiting the east coast during a horrendous cold snap this January. Since then there have been no blog posts, no maintenance. I have learned so much about HTML and CSS since then, and yet I haven’t put any of it into practice.

Why? Because I’m paralyzed. I have seventeen different things pulling my attention at any given moment, and it is impossible to focus on any one of them at a given time. There’s a little voice telling me in the back of my head that I should be doing something else, that something else is more important. So I don’t do anything at all, because I can’t decide what it is that I should do.

On the rare occasion that I can bring myself to do something, I am not actually thinking about whatever I’m doing; I’m thinking about all of the things I’m not doing and should be doing. Paralysis.

I have been introspecting and meditating on this for a while. I’ve been trying to figure out why it is that I feel so guilty all the time, why I feel like I need to do things in a specific order or I’m doing it wrong. The answer is convoluted, but ultimately I have found that I hold myself to an impossibly high standard. The need for order in a mind that is predisposed to chaos is another way that I can move the goalposts and never be satisfied.

In light of that, I have decided to set some simple goals for myself. The individual tasks are irrelevant, because they all center around the same thing: forgiveness. I need to forgive myself. Since I’ve started forgiving myself, I have actually gotten things done. I’ve figured out the things I like to do and the things I’d rather not do (there’s always the stuff you have to do regardless of whether or not you want to, but that’s irrelevant here). And I have on the whole felt better.

Forgiveness also means removing the “should” from my internal dialogue and focusing instead on the “want.” Forget what you should do, I tell myself. What do you want to do? The answers didn’t surprise me, but the way I have felt after acting on them was certainly startling.

This is still hard for me. I am still trying to navigate using this new compass. But I’m hoping that with some work, dedication, and practice, it will lead me to places previously thought unreachable.