Mindfulness Over Productivity

Recently I wrote a guest blog post, Thriving Requires Letting Go of the Lies, for Sue’s Over Fifty and Thriving series. The idea for that post was inspired by the book, Girl, Wash Your Face, by Rachel Hollis (my review here). I have since decided to turn the subject into a new blog series: The Lies I’ve Believed. 

In the original guest post, I introduced Delilah, my harsh inner critic who constantly reminds me I am not good enough, brave enough or smart enough. Her loud, commanding voice tells me I am better off alone than out in the world pursuing my dreams. She is quite convincing.

But I’m tired of living this way. I’m merely existing rather than embracing an abundant life. It is time to replace Delilah’s lies with the truth.

This week’s lie: Multitasking is the key to productivity.

A few weeks ago I shared how I once thought I just don’t know how she does it all was the ultimate compliment. I erroneously thought efficiency was the goal of life. That is, consistently cram as much as possible into a 24-hour period.

I devoured Stephen Covey’s bestseller, First Things First, and immediately purchased a Franklin Covey Planner. I knew this system was the answer to a perfect life. If I woke up a little earlier, maintained a strict schedule, and squeezed in a few more productive minutes at the end of the day, I would be happy.

But I wasn’t.

So I tried harder. Multi-tasking was the prescription for a more productive life: Accomplish more in less in time. Find pockets of time where you can simultaneously accomplish two tasks. Don’t just empty the dishwasher, talk on the phone with a friend at the same time. Don’t just watch a DVD with your spouse, use that sitting time to complete next week’s lesson plan. Don’t run errands in silence, listen to a self-help book and learn something too.

But rather than feel happier and more productive, I felt like a failure. I discovered I can’t split my focus. If I called a friend, I wanted to give her my undivided attention. If I watched a movie, I wanted to be fully present. If I found a few minutes to be alone in the car, I wanted silence to sort my thoughts.

Some are wired for busy schedules. They thrive on the excitement of nightly events. They feel a rush each time they cross off an item on the to-do list. The more items on the list, the greater the sense of satisfaction.

I am not one of those people. My anxiety kicks in when I have more than three events in a single week. I find myself operating on auto-pilot just to get through the week, rather than truly enjoying each moment.

Delilah would have me believe that this is a flaw in my character. She calls me names such as lazy – selfish – irresponsible – unproductive. She urges me to get back on the hamster wheel and compete with everyone else. You’re not trying hard enough.

Fortunately, I’ve discovered a new buzzword in this stage of midlife: Mindfulness.

Mindfulness urges us to discard the distractions of multitasking. Instead, we need to fully embrace the present activity, such as washing the dishes… visiting a friend… embracing solitude.

I am currently reading a new bestseller, The Bullet Journal Method by Ryder Carroll. While I adopted this planner/diary/journal system about two years ago, I knew I wanted to learn more.

I love the adaptability of the system. If you want to use your artistic talents to create elaborate page layouts, this system allows for that. If, on the other hand, you just need a place to keep track of events and tasks, it is perfect for that as well.

I am currently working my way through the book and sharing my notes on Instagram via a friend’s weekly meme: #bujobdg

More importantly, however, the Bullet Journal Method is helping me learn to accept myself.

Delilah is wrong. I am not lazy nor unproductive. Instead, I am learning to live an authentic life that brings me peace.

The truth: Mindfulness allows you to find joy in the moment.


  • Jennifer Jones

    Mindfulness definitely is the new buzzword. I have been much like you where I tried to make sure every moment of my day is meaningful. Recently I’ve been trying to be more mindful as I complete a task. Sometimes concentrating on mindfulness works and sometimes I just slip back to the old habit of doing three things at the one time. I enjoyed your post #MLSTL Shared on SM

    • Molly Totoro

      Old habits are hard to break, aren’t they? Although I think just being aware of our multi-tasking (rather than operating on auto-pilot) is a step in the right direction 🙂

  • Janet Mary Cobb

    Molly – another great post. I tend to be somewhere in the middle of ‘loving the excitement’ and ‘fully embracing the moment’. I used to love to multitask – and I was pretty good at it — and I still do it a bit, but not nearly as much. And I know it is not my most productive time. I was also trained in various methods of mindfulness years ago – and it creeps in often. I’m glad you’ve found what works best for you!

    • Molly Totoro

      I’d like to study mindfulness a little more, Janet. I have a feeling I’m just skimming the surface and there is greater joy found a little deeper.

  • Sue from Sizzling Towards 60 & Beyond

    Hi Molly, I’ve been resisting even trying to understand what a bullet journal is so you may have convinced me to actually try to get an idea of what it is. I’m procrastinating about things at the moment and have quite a bit going on in life so maybe a bullet journal would help. I always love your ideas and advice and thank you for sharing with us at #MLSTL. Have a beautiful week. xx

    • Molly Totoro

      Sue… you have inspired me to write a post about bullet journaling (maybe at the end of the month):) What I love most about the system is that I can design it to suit my unique needs. And I find having everything in one notebook is far more convenient.

  • Candi Randolph

    I’ve always been the type of person who can multi task in certain situations, and it feels good. But I agree with you that (for me, anyway) it is not the secret to success or happiness. I think we all have to find that balance between productivity and peace, and it is unique for everyone. I have been using a time blocking system for my work days recently, and that has helped me focus on one thing at a time, and not feel scattered or pulled in another direction. So far, so good! #MLSTL

    • Molly Totoro

      I just recently heard of time blocking, Candi (or I think some call it batching?) I am going to a goal-setting workshop this morning where I hope to learn more about this method and perhaps learn to incorporate it in the New Year.

  • Pat

    I’ve always struggled with multi-tasking and felt like a failure because of that. No, I cannot take a phone call in the car driving to work. (Not a good employee, are you?) No I cannot listen to a Podcast on a walk. (You’re not being very productive, are you?) When I try and do something while on a phone call, I loose track of the conversation. Or while watching TV, I don’t enjoy what I’m watching. I’ve been so happy that mindfulness is becoming a “thing”. Focus on one thing at a time and enjoy that! Yes!!

    I’ve heard of bullet journaling but have not explored it. I have a few different journals I use – a morning journal that is completely the Morning Pages. A notes journal for inspiration to write blog posts. And a “to-do” journal, that has my lists, my weekly calendar written out, notes about phone calls….and yeah, some random thoughts. That might be closest to a bullet journal. Hoping you’ll write about the topic and your learning about adaptability with it…. you always bring things to a practical working explanation!

    • Molly Totoro

      Pat… we have SO much in common! I don’t like to listen to a podcast on a walk because I want to fully enjoy the sights around me. And talking on the phone while driving is just not a safe practice for me.

      Sue inspired me – and you convinced me – to write a blog post about bullet journaling and why it is a system that works well for me. Look for it at the end of the month 🙂 Although I will say, your “to do” journal is a good adaptation of the bullet journal method.

  • Leanne | www.crestingthehill.com.au

    I used to be a great multi-tasker when I was younger. I could do several things at once without dropping the ball. Then I got older and I think my mind just got tired of all that juggling and said “enough!” Now I do one thing at a time and I do it well – I cross it off my list and move onto the next etc etc. I’m really enjoying being able to slow down a little and that there is enough time in my life these days to do things one at a time and not be so rigid in my expectations of myself. It includes my blogging too – as I cover in my post today on the changes I’m making.
    MLSTL and I’ve shared on my SM 🙂

    • Molly Totoro

      “not be so rigid in my expectations of myself.” This is a life lesson I still struggle with, Leanne. But I am inspired by your ability to remain true to your convictions and not allow social expectations to dictate your calendar. My goal for 2019 is to say “yes” only to those things that feed my soul and learn to say “no” to those things that no longer serve my life.

  • Christie Hawkes

    Thanks for sharing this, Molly. I think so many of us fall into the trap of believing productivity is the measure of our worth. While it’s nice to accomplish things, it’s also important to be in the moment–otherwise, what’s the point of all the “doing.” I love starting each day in solitude, with no distractions. I write in silence–no television or music. Then I meditate, and I start with the mantra “No where to go. Nothing to do.” Sometimes during the day, I get caught up in the planning, multitasking, list-checking mode, but I reset again each morning. I’m slowly learning. #MLSTL

    • Molly Totoro

      What a serene mantra, Christie. Do you mind if I adopt it? I love the idea of starting each day in peace rather than reviewing the long to-do list that instills instant panic.

    • Molly Totoro

      That’s a lovely point, Mary Lou. Rather than lament the slowing down that comes with age, we should be grateful for the opportunity to add mindfulness to our lives. It’s all a matter of perspective, isn’t it?

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