As a self-proclaimed workaholic who measures my value almost purely on productivity, I tend to be incredibly hard on myself if I’m not getting enough done, and on others who I feel aren’t catching up fast enough or are getting in the way of my own progress.
That’s an awful tendency.
Why would I think the only thing I — or anybody else, for that matter — have to offer is output. It’s great to hear that my ideas and experiences with personal finance or sobriety have helped others, but that can’t be everything. I’ve got to be more than just my work. Right?
In a world where people like Casey Neistat and Gary Vee are idolized for their productivity, we’ve created that idea where the only thing worth celebrating is our work, and if you don’t have as much visible, measurable output as the person next to you, you’re falling behind.
Sure, it’s beneficial to see how hard work really can pay off, and being productive has been proven to give a sense of meaning and purpose, improve our ability to deal with stress, and increase self-confidence. But what happens when measuring productivity becomes counter-productive? Everybody has a different set of abilities and responsibilities; is it fair to compare a YouTuber to an accountant? A writer to a dishwasher? A carpenter to a stay-at-home parent?
Not only does how you make your living impact your so-called output, but judging somebody’s value based on their productivity is fucking dangerous. In theory, we could always do a little bit more, whether that’s publishing another video, scrubbing an extra set of pots and pans, or crunching more numbers.
But honestly, as much as we could technically get more work done, the work never ends. There’s no actual finish line to be crossed. We’ve all got an endless to-do list, and no matter how much you’re doing, it’s always getting longer.
With that, we need to realize and accept that at any given moment, everybody is always trying their best.
We’d all be better off if we kept that in mind, and offered support rather than judgement. We’re too quick to be hard on everybody — ourselves included — if someone isn’t carrying their weight. Yet, we do this without taking the time to consider elements of their life that demand more energy or focus at home, or that allow them to zero in and excel at work. They could have a sick child, be struggling with a project, or stressing about how they’re going to pay an unexpected bill.
Or maybe they don’t have any significant issues distracting them from work, but they aren’t inspired to constantly push themselves to do more for their company. Their boss might be a prick, or they’d prefer to do their job and save their energy to play with their kids or read a book after work.
Whatever the reason, it’s never our place to judge. In most cases, everything is more important than work. Yes, work enables other parts of life, and whether we like it or not, money is necessary in our society. However, that doesn’t make productivity the yardstick for success.
It might be cliché to say “be kind, everybody you meet is fighting their own battle”, but it’s true. We’re all dealing with our own shit and trying our best to not only stay afloat, but to swim through to calm waters.
So next time your co-worker doesn’t seem to be reaching their potential, or your friend is slipping a bit from their personal goals, extend a helping hand or words of encouragement. And if you notice that you aren’t matching your own expectations, take a second to think about why you’re coming up short. It’s definitely important to hold ourselves accountable, but we should worry more about the things that matter, like your health, happiness, family, and friends, and less about how much work you’re getting done.
Go easy on others, and go easy on yourself.
We’re all doing the best we can, and ultimately, we don’t deserve to be measured by our output.
We’re worth more than that.