Archived from the week of 7/23/18 @ The Guilde:
How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.
-- Annie Dillard
Last night at The Guilde we took on the subject of women’s productivity with Erin Falconer, Author of How to Get Sh*t Done. Yes, even a topic as seemingly unsexy as productivity can be viewed through a fascinating, feminist lens. And you know if there’s a will, we will find the way . . . .
If you think about it, conversations about productivity in our culture generally have to do with output, doing more, and specifically doing more, more, more in less time. Women are good at this game. In fact, it seems to us that women have cornered the market on it. We get a lot of shit done on our average day. We cluck to eachother about just how busy we are . . . seemingly all the time.
Last night, we turned this kind of productivity on its head: we talked about women learning how to stop doing everything so we can start achieving what we really want, a.k.a. anything. Not just career-wise, but in a holistic sense – in terms of our cherished relationships and life goals.
Erin’s bold goal with her book is to reposition the way we as women think about ourselves at work and at home; to understand the rules of productivity as we have inherited them, and then do away with them altogether to fashion lives that are truly our own.
The rules as many of us are currently living them?
On the average day, women spend a ton of energy and effort proving our worth by pushing forward other people’s agendas. We spend one to three more hours each day working than men when you take into account unpaid work on the homefront. And, we are often at the mercy of a host of invisible habits — saying yes when we really mean no, “should-ing” ourselves, and apologizing, constantly apologizing. Worrying about who might be judging us; judging ourselves; perfecting the imperfectible. Women are busier than ever but not necessarily getting anywhere — or at least anywhere we want to be.
The confusing thing, of course, is that relationships are our lifeblood, usually at the very center of our universe, and it feels oh so right to show up for everyone, at every hour. But the minute we give up being the subject of our own lives and rather act as the object in another’s, is the minute we inch away from our personal goals and agendas and into the unconscious realm of busyness.
The busyness trap is a seductive and hypnotic hamster wheel of doing that allows us to completely forget our most meaningful goals and our own creative spirits. Erin writes, “It’s one of the cruelest traps that our culture has laid out for women in forcing them to do so much more than men; we become the Jills-of-all-trades, masters of none."
Our brains take a hit, too. “The reality is that the very structure of our days — in which we rush from task to task cramming in as much as we can — not only reduces our ability to be creative, it also takes away our ability to know our own minds.” Erin goes on to explain that when we are always in the doing / taskmaster side of our brain, the creative part of our brain — the part that make us truly and originally ourselves — goes quiet.
Erin argues that the stakes are high, and we agree. We’ve said it many a time, and we’re going to say it again now: we as women are sitting on a goldmine of resources, intelligence, and value to offer the world, and the barriers to entry have never been lower. If we have too many plates spinning in the air, however, we might just blow our chance to take full advantage of it. We might never become the "masters" we are meant to be.
Of course, that begs the question — who are we meant to be? This is tricky business, getting women to focus on who we are meant to be. Knowing what we want might just be the question we are avoiding beneath all our busyness. But once we do know what we want, the exciting thing is that we have a radical power – the power to reorder our time and energy so that it truly serves us. It’s actually pretty simple.
If you're game, Erin’s book will guide you through an illuminating process. The cheat sheet for the rest of you? Be honest about who you are and what you want to achieve in this lifetime. Assess where your opportunity lies at this moment in time. Then choose your goals, not too many (ideally 3), and from that place, create a definition of productivity that will satisfy and serve you. Do everything in your power to spend your time, energy and focus on those 3 goals.
In terms of your daily habits: outsource where possible, without guilt or apology. Delegate. Give up on perfectionism. Focus on one thing at a time. Take care of yourself. Rest. Play. Love. Eliminate the word "should" from your vocabulary, replacing it with "choose" or "value" or "want." Say no often and easily. And if it makes it easier, say it the way the French do, “non!”
Stevie Nicks has this wired. Her friends repeatedly beg her to visit them before a gig when she lands in their town, but she knows it will zap her energy and screw with her performance. The mantra she tells herself again and again to focus on the goal she cares most about? “Don’t endanger my show.”
We love that. It’s your show. Don’t let anyone endanger it. Even, especially, you.
XO, Dana & Kristan