Papercut and colored pencil art by Sheryl Aronson X 5

Monday, August 2, 2010

Finding Your Productivity Capacity

Everyone is different in their endurance and capacity for productive activity. This weekend I have been working on cleaning up a path that I made several years ago on our cabin property. I have been pulling weeds, scooting along the path on my butt to try to squash those I don’t pull. I did about 3/5ths of the path yesterday, so logic would say that I should be able to finish the job easily today.

However, it is hotter and more humid today (I feel like a nauseated wet noodle when I get too hot). Part of the path that is left to clean up is in the sun, so not only would it make me sick, the weeds are thicker and hardier in that section, so are harder to pull. On top of that, my right arm feels sore, the same arm that had tendonitis for 7 months, until a shot of Depomedrol cleared it up 2 months ago. Actually, all of me is a little sore, but miraculously less than I would have expected after the work I did yesterday. (I am not sure how to go about counting how many howevers this is.)

While I am doing the path, my husband is digging a drainage ditch and shoveling and relocating 10 tons of stone. Compared to what he is doing, I am having a picnic. One big difference in our capacities is that while he gets sore and recovers, my body doesn’t recover as readily. I tend to get tendonitis and other soft tissue damage from seemingly minor injuries, and it takes months of therapy, meds, ice and injections to get rid of it.

I decided to work on the part of the path not in the sun, where I would be cooler, and the weeds are weaker and easier to pull. The rest I would leave until another time. Watching my husband continue to work, it would be easy for me to feel guilty, like I am not doing my fair share, but I don’t. I know that if I continued to do more physical work today, I would pay for it for months to come. I know that I have worked to my capacity, and that is enough.

I know there are many people whose capacity is decreased like mine, and others whose capacity is extremely limited. If this is your situation, how do you come to accept that what you do is sufficient? Take inventory of what you can and cannot do. This can be difficult, because there are many factors that may affect your ability each day, including weather, how well you slept, what you did yesterday, etc. How much does it cost you to do more than your capacity? Are you out of commission for a day? A week? How much is too much to pay for what you want to do? There may be some things that are worth it to you to push yourself past your capacity, but most things are not worth it.

One area of difficulty for a lot of people is appearance. What will others think? Will they think I am lazy? If ‘they’ are strangers, it is none of their business, why should you care what they think? If ‘they’ are friends and family, you can try to explain this to them. Some people will understand, others will not, no matter how many times and how many ways you explain it. It is up to you how much you let it bother you. You can’t change other people, but you can change how you respond to them. You are the only one who really knows what it is like living in your skin. You are the only valid judge of your capacity. That said, you may be selling yourself short because of fear of pushing too far. Try experimenting a little. You may be able to increase your capacity by tiny increments.

Remember that you don’t have to be physically active to be productive. There are many activities that are productive that are easy on the body. Writing this blog is productive, as is writing anything that transmits information or ideas. Rocking a baby to sleep or reading to a young child is productive. Calling a sick friend or listening to a loved one is productive. Any time spent learning or teaching is productive. There are likely many things you do in a day for which you don’t give yourself credit.

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