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How to overcome productivity guilt

During this lock down period I initially found myself suffering from a case of “productivity guilt”.

What is productivity guilt or the Zeigarnik effect. Wikipedia defines the Zeigarnik effect as follows:

In psychology, the Zeigarnik effect occurs when an activity that has been interrupted may be more readily recalled. It postulates that people remember unfinished or interrupted tasks better than completed tasks.

Have you seen on social media that there are a number of people cheerfully displaying their lockdown achievements? These achievements include; taking up painting, baking fresh, homemade bread, cleaning and sorting out craft rooms and getting to those “to-do someday lists”

To be honest that was my initial expectation too. I mean, with no extra murals, school runs, cooking classes, daily running to the shops I would have loads of free time to work as well as be creative and get to my “to-do someday list”

There was however a huge gap between my expectations and what has turned out to be my reality. My reality isn't bad at all! it is just different to what I thought it would be. I have actually loved spending more time with the kids and having everyone around more. I can’t remember ever spending so much time with my three children and hubby all together, like ever. But this reality also includes:

  • People in the house more, meaning a general increase in the cleaning and tidying required.

  • People in the house more, meaning a general increase in the food consumed and associated cooking and food preparation. No matter how much you enjoy cooking let’s be honest it gets to you some days.

  • More interruptions to the tasks I am doing both for home and work meaning it is taking me longer to complete them.

  • Needing to spend more thought, time and energy to keep family harmony.

  • I volunteered to run a charity soup drive, which is exceptionally fulfilling however take a HUGE amount of preparation, planning and cooking. This is turn increases the volume of cleaning required.

So how did I overcome this?

  • Changing my mindset - I have accepted this isn't a time where I will get to the activities on my "to-do someday list".

  • Alter my daily to-do list structure - during an normal average week. I will write up around three - four key items for home and work I want to achieve each day. At the moment I am putting one - two key items down, but I am being much more realistic about what I can achieve in a day with everyone at home and having to support the kids at home online learning, cooking and still trying to make money.

  • Being grateful - I have switched the way I see the many, many interruptions I have to my days from being something that is having a negative impact, to an opportunity to spend one on one time with the kids. I am grateful that my children have the opportunity and have willingly assisted me with my charity soup drive. These restrictions will pass and the kids will go back to their usual commitments and social activities and I won't see them as much. I want to enjoy having them about more while I can.

All of the above doesn't mean that I don't crave some solid hours in front of the computer to work without interruption or the fact I would love to run an inspiring cooking class and share my passion face to face with my clients. But I am no longer feeling so frustrated by it nor do I feel disappointed that I haven't touched one thing on my "to-do someday list". I have significantly closed the gap between my expectations and reality and that has done wonders for my own sanity levels and sense of happiness.

I encourage you to do the same. Look at your “new life” in the current situation we find ourselves in. Priorities your daily activity and enjoy the extra time you have with your family in your home.

I am here to talk and give guidance should you need.

Yours in Health,


Health Coach and Wellness Chef


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