Glass half full being filled with water


One definition of productivity is "the effectiveness of productive effort, especially in industry, as measured in terms of the rate of output per unit of input." That sounds like a judgment on one’s effort in completing or doing a task. How fast do we complete a goal? How well? How much energy did we expend?

I mean, it’s right there in the definition. In order to be productive, we must be doing something.

My life slowed down drastically

I was always a hard worker, always going. If I wasn’t doing something, I was being lazy or well, unproductive. Nothing was getting done and I wasn’t finishing anything. There was always something I could do and, in order to fight boredom, I was always...well, productive!

Then, rheumatoid arthritis hit, and my life slowed down drastically. I tried to keep going at the same constant, fast pace I was used to but (as you can imagine) that did not work out. I flared and ended up less productive than if I had actually taken extra time to complete my tasks.

I felt lazy and incompetent

It was a hard transition. I felt lazy. I felt incompetent. I felt unproductive. And, it was even worse because my peers were still moving at lightning speed. All I could do was watch them rush past me. I felt like I was at the center of a hurricane. Everything in my life stood still while the world whirled past me. It was hard to cope.

I was diagnosed with RA 10 years ago. I spent about half of that asleep (yes, I did the math). It’s a hard pill to swallow when I think about how much I could have gotten done in five years. And, that doesn’t include flare time when I was awake.

I couldn't do things at the pace I wanted

I struggled for a long time with my RA self-image. I beat up on myself because I couldn’t pursue life at the pace I wanted. How could I when my body was screaming in pain and disability?

Sitting in self-loathing while I napped or while I had to take a break before, during, after, and in between tasks was easy, especially since I remember life before RA. The comparison game is brutal.

I couldn’t stay in that headspace. That headspace caused more flares and more disease activity. If I wanted to feel better, get better, DO more, I had to focus on my mental well-being and give. Myself. A. Break.

Re-defining productivity

It was only about two years ago that I turned over a new leaf and re-defined productivity. I don’t have to be completing a task to be productive. Everything I achieve is some sort of productivity.

Yes, great, if I can get through all my laundry. Awesome if I can take my dogs out on four separate walks (two dogs, two walks a day). But, I am still being productive even with the smaller things, even when I am not doing anything. It’s a great thing when I take a nap and wake up feeling refreshed and able to get some work done. It’s awesome when I give my hands a break from note-taking so I can study for a few more hours than if I had not taken that break.

I am not taking a full course load at school (yet, or maybe never) because I probably couldn’t manage it with the pets, etc. That’s okay. I still completed a semester. I completed it well with frequent breaks and rest times. That’s productive! I have a handful of classes under my belt with good grades which may have suffered if I took more than I could handle.

Productivity comes in different forms

I’ll be honest, I don’t always see the glass half-full. I still struggle to celebrate my simple goals and tasks, but it’s been helpful in knowing that productivity is not all about the grind culture. It comes in different forms that are all valid.

What are you proud of right now? What was your productivity for the day?

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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