Happy Living,  Mental Health

Here’s To Low Stakes Productivity

To say that 2020 has been a challenge is an understatement for almost everyone. I’m optimist though, so here’s the way my thinking has been going. When I heard about the coronavirus back in January, I assumed it probably wouldn’t make it to the U.S. Then, as we started hearing terrible stories about it, I was just hoping we could avoid big outbreaks. Once it did come here and life got turned upside down, I thought it would be a short lived problem. For example, it took me weeks to accept that big events like Becca’s graduation and a summer trip abroad were destined to be cancelled as well. Far worse, of course, are the hundreds of thousands of lives lost so far, as well the many people who have lost their livelihoods.

Then came the disturbing police brutality stories and too many needless citizen deaths, and the world again seemed to be crashing. Add an election year in a very polarized USA and it seemed the icing on one very bad cake. But here in Colorado, we have our latest challenge with at least 6 wildfires burning. California has even more wildfires raging out of control. Two hurricanes are in the Gulf Coast after ravaging the Dominican Republic. Instead of feeling like tomorrow will be better, it’s starting to feel more like the apocalypse.

Tomorrow, Tomorrow, You’re Always A Day Away…

And yet, regardless of what tomorrow brings (and I’m still holding out for brighter things…), we need to live today, and find meaning and joy as well. With the stress of a pandemic and world matters, and for many trying to juggle work from home with kids schooling at home, accomplishing “big” things may be a stretch. Most of us feel accomplished when we nail the big project at work, or get the new account, or ace the mid-term, or get a personal record in a road race. But maybe 2020 is the year to find new ways to measure success.

Celebrate the Small Wins

Sometimes it’s hard to think of crossing off 5 out of 8 “to-do” items as success, but it’s important to realize that IS success. You were productive, and you accomplished several things. In a study looking at happiness and job satisfaction in over 238 workers, researchers found that the most common event triggering a “best day” was any progress in the work by the individual or the team. The most common event triggering a “worst day” was a setback. The important thing to note here is that it wasn’t finishing a project that led to satisfaction so much as progress towards the goal.

In 2020 especially, I think we need to look for that progress everywhere we can. It’s important to briefly celebrate the small wins to feel successful and good at the end of the day. True, making your bed isn’t a huge accomplishment, but it is one small thing that can be added to other small goals to show progress in your day. Maybe you didn’t make the perfect pizza, but if you got a (reasonably) healthy dinner made for you and your family, that’s a win. If you exercised today, that’s a check mark. You get the idea.

Most of these small wins are likely not things you will be posting on social media, but that doesn’t negate their value. If we only judge our value and self worth on the big wins, most days will seem like tedium at best and failure at worst. But even in the best of times, most days are not punctuated by huge accomplishments. In these more troubled times, celebrating the small wins helps us be more positive and joyful.

Take a moment to reflect on the small wins you have already accomplished today. I cut up the cantaloupe that was starting to go bad (and it was delicious!), watered the parched plants outside, and sent off an email I have been postponing. Woo-hoo!

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