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Work Harder, Not Smarter

If you’re like me, you’ve gone through a phase where you’ve decided you’re not productive enough at the moment. You’re not dedicated enough. You’re just not working hard enough and getting the work done, or you’re not moving quickly, or living up to your potential, or making the most of every second of your day, or whatever else you want to call it. BOOM.

Motivation. Energy. #Inspiration. Let’s do this thing.

If you’re still like me, the motivation and productivity and rush of working non-stop fades within the week.

Somewhere along the line I got it into my head that being productive, working hard, and giving it everything I had means that I’m throwing myself into everything non-stop and adhering to a strict work scheduling that means I’m always doing something. The itch to get back into that kind of boot-camp mindset hits me every so often and, inevitably, the first half of the week goes great.

Sometimes. Sometimes I don’t even make it past Tuesday.

Here’s a thing I’m learning more and more: this concept of working smarter, not harder.

Utilizing the small spaces of time I do have instead of trying to force myself to cram everything into one day. Setting small goals with small deadlines I can easily accomplish. And, more than anything, letting myself take breaks.

Being productive and working hard, or even just getting your life together and getting crap done for once in your life, as you might be calling it in your frustrated head, isn’t about how much time you’re spending, or how you’re not sleeping. (It’s cliche but self care is important, y’all.) It doesn’t matter if you spend all day slaving over a project or rushing to stick to a half-hour by half-hour schedule if you’re exhausted, worn out, high-strung, and having no fun.

When you burn yourself out fighting to feel like you’re never wasting your time and you’re working “as much as you should”, you’re just not going to be producing your best work.

At least, I won’t be, anyway.

Sometimes it’s necessary that I work on a tight schedule and don’t take breaks. A lot of the time it’s good that I force myself to sit down in the chair and work instead of playing around on Pinterest like I really really want to. But the guilt-tripping isn’t helping me either. The constant “you should be working you should be doing something constructive” voice in my head beating me to shreds on an hourly basis isn’t healthy. The guilt and shame I feel from taking a rest day where all I do is read isn’t good for me, it isn’t motivating me, it’s just self-deprecating and fueling the idea that I have to be churning out something, regardless of quality, or I’ve wasted my time.

That, as much as I don’t want to believe it, just isn’t true.

The time I spend writing is valuable. It’s even more valuable when I force myself to sit down and write for an hour, or even half an hour, rather than watch a few more episodes of The Office.

The afternoon I spend reading when my brain thinks I’m wasting a Saturday if I don’t spend all of it doing extra writing isn’t bad. It’s restful. It’s healthy. It’s productive in its own way.
A day of work and errands and schoolwork and writing and very little time for a break is good. If I’m tired at the end of those days it’s usually very satisfying, in its own way.

That isn’t any more valuable than the time I spend playing with my little sister when yes, I technically should be writing.

Time management is important. I have difficulty with that; it’s something I could stand to work on. But time management, to me, isn’t just about learning how to manage my time so I’m always working more or getting more done. It’s about forgiveness, cutting myself some slack, and allowing myself to sit back and breathe every so often without feeling like a lazy failure who isn’t as motivated as the people around me.

Work smarter. Work in the times you have, work intentionally, work with forgiveness, push yourself.
I’m pretty sure that the more I learn how to let myself rest, the more work I’m going to finish, anyway.

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