Productivity cannot always be measured by how much has been crossed off of your daily to-do list or the number of job ladders climbed in your life. Tallying tasks or goals completed will leave you feeling overwhelmed and frustrated on days when you simply couldn’t do all that you had anticipated, or after a year that didn’t produce the outcomes you had hoped for. We all have those days, and those years, but if you focus on what you didn’t accomplish you will miss out on all of the things you did right! Here are a few alternate ways to determine whether you have been productive:

  1. If you did something that will help you out in the future. This could include learning a new skill that does not apply to your current job simply because it interests you (who knows when you will need it!), or working on some aspect of yourself that is holding you back emotionally, physically, or spiritually. Do not discount what you accomplished just because it doesn’t have immediate results.


  1. If you did something that builds or strengthens a relationship that is important to you. Spending time with people we love or enjoy being around can feel like a distraction from our real work, especially when we are busy, but prioritizing relationships is highly productive and important to present and future wellbeing. You may not have gotten the position you wanted at work, but you have someone to lean on when disappointment comes your way. Another position will open up eventually, but that relationship will fade without due attention.


  1. If you spent some time on self-care. Taking care of your self might feel a bit indulgent at first, but in reality its positive effects spill over into all other aspects of your day! It will make you a better friend, partner, parent, co-worker, or boss – what could be more productive than that? Do things that make you feel content or centered, things that remind you of the joy of living or that make you feel more fully yourself.


  1. If you did something that reflects your core values. Taking time out of your day to do things that make you feel like the best version of yourself is equally important. If you value being a good friend, listening to a friend vent on the phone for half an hour is not a waste of time. If you value being kind, then taking a few extra seconds to hold open a door or to help a stranger carry something to their car is not ruining your grocery shopping schedule. Your values should not be abandoned for the sake of efficiency.


  1. If you conquered something that was causing you anxiety, or dealt with something that was stressing you out. Okay, so this one might be more obviously productive. It certainly feels good when we finally take our car in to figure out what that funny noise is or when we finally have that conversation with our co-worker that we have been dreading. These things are productive in a way that is more tangible to ourselves and others, and might even allow us to check something off of our ‘lists’. But what about the things that aren’t typically on your list, like taking time out of your day to write about a fear that has been overwhelming you lately, setting aside some time to meditate before you try to get the kids ready for school, or visiting a therapist to discuss coping methods? These small things may feel like they are eating up valuable time, but they are truly invaluable when you consider the relief they will provide. Have you been feeling self-conscious and socially anxious because all of your clothing feels outdated or uncomfortable? Then, YES – a shopping trip just might be the most productive thing you do today.

By Ariel Benwell