More Time Being, Less Time Doing

woman relaxing with dog

Have you ever wondered what would happen if you spent more time being, and less time doing?

It’s hard to picture for most of us. ADHD women suffer with a lot of productivity shame.

Productivity isn’t a measure of self-worth. Or at least it shouldn’t be. But yet we spend our days DOING. And no matter how much we do, it never feels like enough.

Many women I talk to cannot relax if they don’t feel “productive” enough at the end of the day.

When I ask what would make them feel better, most tell me they need to get more done. But the list of things they want to do is not realistic for anyone, let alone an adult with ADHD, and a career, and a family.

Someone asks you how you are and you say, “busy.” Because that’s what you’re trained to say.

Many “coaches” are selling programs around making you more productive.

We look at their instagram pictures and assume they have it all together.

 “If I could just be more like her I’d feel so much better about myself. I’d be more in control of this ADHD thing.”

We need to reframe how we think about productivity, because it’s not a good measure of self-worth.

ADHD Inspiration Porn

I’m actually working on an article about inspiration porn as I write this. But here’s the gist:

Posting pics of yourself and writing captions about how you’ve hacked your ADHD and you’re getting a ton of shit done is like saying, “Do more. Work harder. Then you can be like me.”

I find it ableist and annoying.

Mostly because I’m so tired of scurrying around. It’s exhausting. If there’s one thing this pandemic shown me it’s that I don’t want to go back to the way things were in the before times.

I don’t care how many pictures you take of yourself smiling in your power pose, I don’t want to be like you. Because you’re a big fat fake. There I said it.

All day we flit around from task-to-task, most of it totally meaningless. And most of our time is spent comparing ourselves to others, which also isn’t helpful.

This, “busyness” is our attempt to show the world and ourselves that we deserve to be here and take up space.

Measuring Productivity

In western culture we measure productivity by these metrics:

  • likes/shares/follows on social

  • social approval from peers

  • relational approval (people we love)

  • money

  • tangible/measurable results and products

What I find most interesting is how we fill our days with stupid little tasks because we THINK that the busy work makes us productive. It’s a weird “fake” sort of productivity.

Instead of measuring how we FEEL, we’re measuring ourselves against the metrics listed above.

Did you get likes on your post today?

Do you have something to show for your time today? (money or tangible outcome)

We are looking for proof that we’re doing enough stuff, and we’re doing it fast. 

Speed over efficiency

The faster you can do the thing, the more you are seen as a successful human.

Think about all the overnight success stories we read on the internet. We love the idea of someone hustling their way to the top in record time.

When you have a baby, people compliment you on how fast you lose the weight.

There are lots of articles about how to get more done in less time by harnessing your ADHD superpowers.

None of the hacks actually solve a problem, they emphasize SPEED OVER EFFICIENCY.

Time management. Using our time wisely.

So we default to multi-tasking.

Multi-tasking does not work. When you do it your already finite attention has to be shifted multiple times – and the quality of your output decreases.

I spent the first 30 years of my life thinking I was great at multitasking. And I’ve heard ADHDers say they are great at it.

But think about it – how often are you focused on say, just being with your kids?

You’re not. Because while your child is in the room you are also making dinner and looking at your phone at the same time.

Because you’ve been trained to think multitasking is efficient or a better use of your time.

Real productivity has nothing to do with managing time, and everything to do with just BEING.

More being, less doing

I did an experiment with myself as the test subject.

One Wednesday morning I decided that instead of getting caught up in doing my usual big three tasks for the day, I would choose my tasks but allow myself to do them at my own pace.

Normally, I prioritize my three tasks above all else.

On this day I took a walk with my dog. While on the walk I decided I didn’t feel like doing the laundry right away so I came home and hopped on my treadmill for a bit. (didn’t check email.)

After my 2nd walk I took a shower. Then I felt hungry so I ate.

I didn’t start the laundry until 11:30am. While the laundry was going I wrote this article. And I didn’t check my email until after that!

By 1pm I completed two out of three tasks for the day.

No pressuring myself, no worrying about time management or pseudo efficiency. And no taking pics for instagram.

I prioritized my own needs over my fear of being judged for my lack of productivity. I had nothing to show for four whole hours. (7-11am)

Sometimes we need to just BE.

It doesn’t hurt our productivity, it increases it.

I felt so calm and motivated, I broke my own rule and did four things that day.

Productivity is not the measure of how many tasks you check off your list every day.

Productivity is adding value to the world in your own way and in your own time.

More time being, less time doing. That’s the new flex.

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