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I Hate Being Unproductive

Heads-up: this post is frank about my mental health. I’m not sure it’s triggering per se, but it is pretty discouraging, so read at your discretion.

I’m having one of those days where I’m just not getting all that much done.

I have these days a lot more than I would like to. I’m not a hyper-productive person. I mean, yeah, I keep a calendar. But my calendar mostly has things like doctor’s appointments and major deadlines. Detailed to-do lists just aren’t my thing. I’m a moderately early riser–the latest I sleep in on the weekends is 9:00–and yet I often don’t get around to actually doing anything productive until around 11:00 or noon. Not even reading a chapter in a book or catching up on the day’s headlines.This is honestly partly related to my body-focused repetitive behaviors. I tried to write this post without mentioning my BFRBs, but I just couldn’t. It’s something I’ve lately felt compelled to be more open about here on the blog, especially since I follow a few awesome ladies on social media who are open about their BFRBs. I have had skin picking and hair pulling disorder since my teenage years, but lately it’s been worse than usual, so that a lot of my time goes into mindlessly fiddling with split ends and things like that. I’m super embarrassed to admit to having these disorders, but I’ve learned that it’s almost equally painful trying to invent lies and pretend it’s not a major obstacle in my life.

The internet doesn’t help. I have no qualms against reading blogs or catching up with the news–obviously, I write a blog and think they can be super-valuable. But the internet is set up so well to encourage mindless scrolling. There’s always another IG post, another YouTube video, and the notifications on social media are set up to tempt you away from productive work like twenty times an hour. Seriously.

Of course, there’s nothing inherently wrong with not being super-productive for a while. I wouldn’t shame anyone else for lazing around for twenty-four hours. But myself….ouch. I’ve been super down on myself about it lately, especially over winter break when I had a lot of days with a lot of open time.

When I’m not able to get much done, I find anxiety about food is particularly high. If there’s one “trigger” for my ED thoughts, it’s feeling unproductive. Suddenly all the things I’ve learned about normal/intuitive eating, like most people need food about every two to four hours or well-rounded meals include a main dish and a couple of side dishes or even it’s okay to eat whenever you’re hungry, go totally out of the window and I get all crabby and upset with myself for things I’d consider totally normal on a busy day, like, you know, eating a snack “too soon” after lunch. I’ll think: “how can I eat a snack if all I’ve done since lunch is…(check social media, nap, do my BFRBs, etc.)?”

Snacking on popcorn currently: the last of my edible Christmas goodies.

Today was actually an okay day. I did a few odds and ends: made hummus and experimented with a new Valentine’s day recipe (!), did a load of laundry, took a walk to deliver some mail by way of the bookstore. The owners of the little used bookstore by my house must think I’m the weirdest person. I always go in there and spend forever looking at books and then never buy anything. But I digress…

Tonight I’ll also go to swing dance and volunteer at the door. It’ll be okay.

But I feel terrible about all the time I “wasted,” that I could have spent reading a book or cleaning my room or cleaning the bathroom or cleaning the kitchen or stretching or organizing my tax returns or writing a letter to my grandpa or or or…

And I’ll be honest that I’m not 100% sure how to cope with this feeling right now. I think it would be good to be a little more organized with my schedule and a bit more “productive” on the weekends. Lord knows I’ll need to be when my students’ first major papers of the semester come in next week. But I also know from my experience recovering from an eating disorder that feeling the need to “correct” behaviors can be a dangerous path to walk down, and I want to learn to be more okay with having an hour or two of what I currently consider “wasted time.”


Sharing these thoughts with Amanda for Thinking Out Loud Thursday.


Do you get down and anxious when you feel unproductive? How do you cope?

Do other people spend long periods of time at the bookstore without even intending to buy anything?

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  1. Kaylee says:

    Oh my gosh Joyce YES to all of this!!! Unproductivity causes me to go down a shame spiral. I’ll waste time then get on my own case about how much time I’ve wasted which puts me into the mood of not being productive, not working at the best of my abilities and the cycle continues. It’s also hard for me to sit still so when I’m doing nothing mindlessly scrolling makes me at least feel like I’m being productive though it’s usually doing more harm than good. So, yes–all of this resonates with me. What I’ve found helps for me is at the end of the day if I’m feeling awful, I’ll mentally walk through my entire day and remind myself of all the little things I did accomplish from the time I woke up to the time I went to bed. It’s kind of silly but it helps. 🙂

  2. Cora says:


    Thank you for writing this – because yes, I struggle with the same thing. I think this could open up a really important conversation too. I don’t have answers, but together we can all keep asking questions. So again, thank you.

    The link between productivity and eating disorders. I think it must be a connection to our feelings of being “deserving??” It’s something I’m not consciously telling myself, but I know deep down that feeling – or that core belief – of needing to be “deserving” must be there somewhere, because if I don’t feel like I’m doing enough, I feel sad when I eat. I think the way our brains are wired, they are quite hyperactive and always needing something to focus on or distract themselves with, and so when there is more open or silent time, then they immediately look to something to “better themselves.” So then comes in ways of improving or feeling guilty around food.

    My need to be productive is, I think, pretty escalated so that even doing a “normal amount” makes me feel wasteful. Maybe yours is similar. Bringing in others has been my biggest help in all of this. Like when my brother was here visiting, I was totally able to just have a day talking and watching movies. I try to remind myself that we have a zillion days here on this earth. We can’t expect ourselves to be 200% productive in every single one of them. Or maybe, starting a journal where I write down just three simple goals for the day will give me something to focus. If I do more, bonus, but if not, I will still feel accomplished because I did those three things I wanted to do. I don’t know, just an idea I’ve been thinking on for myself.

    All this to say, I’m sorry you had all these awful crummy feelings throughout your day. I know them well. They feel like one big dark cloud. But we can relax. It is okay to do very little in a day. It’s how life is. Think back to them caveman days…… sending you love.

  3. I love having a to-do list to follow. I need to be kept on track! While I feel good when I’m productive, I have an amazing ability to waste time. Thank you, internet.

  4. Emily says:

    WOW. I know what you mean Joyce. I so struggle with the balance of being STRESSED busy but not being too unproductive. I love having a full schedule as it does keep my mind off of the negative body thoughts and negative body talk, but too much stress really sets my body off and disrupts my normal cycle. So…. I guess I need an in between?

  5. Ah, yes, feeling unproductive. Definitely something I can relate to and yes, also in terms of struggling more with food on those days. There’s still that weird idea/rule that getting things done equals deserving food while not doing much at all means needing less. It’s ridiculous.
    Don’t be so hard on yourself, girl. Yes, I know that’s way easier said than done [see above]. But when we think about it: Every human and animal needs to rest and be “unproductive” every now and then. We wouldn’t give the stank eye to a cat that’s lying around all day or a child spending hours playing. You do a lot on a daily basis so allow yourself this leisure time, even a full day of it. There will always be busier days or even weeks of barely any rest.
    Also, don’t feel ashamed of those BFRBs. While not positive, they’re a lot more common than you might think. You can be proud of coming so far in your recovery that these are the final few remnants of disorder.

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