How To Be Too Productive

woman.reading.tablet1-282x195Productivity. Just the word makes me smile. Yes, I admit it. I’m a productivity junkie. When the other women at the nail salon are watching Ellen and reading worn-out beauty magazines, I’m on my tablet reading productivity blogs. “You’re kidding me. There are blogs about productivity? OMG, yes! I think productivity is an attention-grabber second only to porn on today’s internet. Well, maybe it’s third, behind losing weight. But it’s up there!

Why Do I Try So Hard?

“You got the gold ring of chronic illness: SSDI. Why are you killing yourself over trying to be ”productive“?” It’s just hard-wired into me. I’m not planning to be on SSDI forever; that’s just not my personality. I am determined to control my Bipolar Disorder so that I can have the things that are important to me in life. One of those things is the ability to contribute. Establishing this blog was one of my first steps in that direction. And if I’m going to contribute… Of course, I want to do it… Productively! Efficiently! Powerfully!

The Concept of the MIT

One concept I’ve gotten from many of the blogs and books I’ve consumed (oh yes, I have read many books on productivity!) is MITs. MIT stands for Most Important Task. The idea behind MITs is to, each morning, make a list of your three MITs for that day. If you do that and you stay focused on those MITs throughout the day, you are more likely to get them done. If you get three MITs done every day, five days a week, that is going to result in your accomplishing a lot of important things over time. Lots of productivity. Lots of accomplishment. Of the right things. Good job! I’ve used the MIT concept, or some bastardized version of it, pretty much every day for years – whenever I perceive myself to be “working.” But not when I feel I can take the day “off.”

New Opportunity for Less Stress Leads to More Self-Attack

Lately, I’ve been doing some self-judging because of a new arrangement my husband and I made, and reframing MITs turned out to be the answer. He saw that my help in the law office was becoming stressful and contributing to depressive moods. So he proposed that I not see any clients for awhile and I focus on non-client tasks, which are less stressful because they rarely have deadlines attached to them and they don’t have personalities attached to them. In fact, most of these non-clients tasks are things I’ve been wanting to do for the firm for years but haven’t had the time or energy to do. So, I started blocking out two days a week when I would not be at all available to the office: I would work from home, not check email (or at least, not promise to check email…), and not take phone calls except in case of emergency. Today is my third “Focus Day,” and you can see that one thing I’m doing with it is blogging for After my second Focus Day, my DH came home expecting to find a relaxed, refreshed wife but instead he found a ragged mess of tears on the floor clutching a thin list of “accomplishments” for the day. I had slept on and off for about 8 of the day’s hours and not accomplished much toward my overflowing list of goals or any of my three different task lists (don’t even ask me why there are three, that’s another blog post in and of itself). He comforted me as well as he could, reassuring me that I must have needed the sleep and that there was no harm done.

My Husband’s Insight to the Rescue

But it was the next morning that he had the insight that seems to be slowly changing my life. He opened the conversation with: “You agree with me that if you don’t have your health – including mental health – then that’s your number one priority in life, right? To get that health back?” I replied that I agreed. He continued, “You have to think of the things you need to keep your moods healthy as your MITs. What are they?… Enough sleep. Exercise. And… Nutrition, probably.” I was stunned. He had caught me with my own productivity logic and values. I love it when my mind gets bent that way. It’s such a pleasurably disorienting experience. Has that ever happened to you? If it has, tell me about it in the comments. I’m so interested in these experiences! Being stunned, I was silent, mouth slighly open. (Maybe drooling, I hope not.) He looked at me expectantly, obviously proud of how he’d used my own logic to create his argument (yes, this is what lawyers do for fun at home). Although, I’d been stunned at first, it only took a few seconds for me to see what he had done – the power of the argument for me in particular, as well as the sheer ingenuity of it – and to laugh. He’s a genius! And he pulled me right out of that way of thinking about myself as lazy and worthless because I had slept a lot the day before.

A Life Changer

© Bipolar Reality.

Elizabeth’s New MIT List. © Bipolar Reality.

In fact, now that a few days have passed and my next Focus Day is almost over, it looks like he may have immunized me against ever thinking negatively again about taking time for anything that helps me be a more stable, happy person. That’s what I meant when I said it was slowly changing my life. Today, on the next Focus Day after that all-day nap one, I did nap quite a bit (about half as much as last time), but because I didn’t feel guilty about it, I was able to get up and move on afterwards. I even feel a sense of accomplishment for napping! That’s one MIT taken care of. Now I need to deal with exercise and nutrition. THEN, I can take care of the rest of my task list but MITs come first. Every day. Even on office days. (With the modifying fact that appointments can’t be slept through.)

What About You?

I hope this concept will help someone out there who, like me, expects too much of herself or himself and then attacks herself when she can’t be WonderWoman or SuperMan. If it resonates with you, please share that with me in the comments. It will be so encouraging to me to keep writing articles like this if I hear from someone who has benefitted from one of them. So, if you relate, please… Relate! This content first appeared as a blog post at All rights reserved.