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Book synthesis

No time to do everything? Don’t beat yourself up!

Does your life feel like a giant to-do list where you never manage to cross everything off? Does this bother you, and do you feel guilty about your inability to manage everything? Don’t panic; ease off the pressure and rediscover the forgotten benefits of so-called “spare time.”

Some days seem wasted: obsessed by everything you “must” accomplish, you seize up, lose your powers of concentration, and put things off until tomorrow. This vicious circle is exacerbated by hybrid working which leaves everyone faced with a problem that simply shouldn’t be one. Because the frenetic race for productivity makes us forget that procrastinating is a natural phenomenon that has its uses. If your life is one long, scheduled script of things to do in a hurry, it is about time you created space for a little freedom: room to enjoy what you’re doing again and become really efficient again. 

Based on
I Didn’t Do the Thing Today

I Didn’t Do the Thing Today by Madeleine Dore, (Penguin Random House, 2022).

Putting into perspective the social pressure to “do”  

Our society over-values being busy, and measures the merits of an individual based on their productivity. The innate desire for peer recognition encourages us to accumulate markers of success: status, salary, and material possessions. So, to feel happy and appreciated, you feel “obliged” to be constantly busy. However, because you don’t have enough time, that which you fail to accomplish turns into worry, doubt, and exhaustion. 

The phenomenon is accentuated by another modern trend: a desire to keep all options open by never committing fully to a project1. In a hyper-connected world, in which the field of possibilities seems endless, you thus stay in “infinite browsing” mode, constantly surfing from one activity to another. Following on from “FOMO” (Fear Of Missing Out), author and entrepreneur Patrick McGinnis created the acronym “FOBO” (Fear of Better Options) to describe this refusal to choose – something that creates stress, dissatisfaction, overloading and, in the end, leaves you stuck in inaction. You know the saying “you can have too much of a good thing”? 

Productivity, fickle by nature, cannot be “commanded” – you are not a robot. Nobody can just keep doing one thing after another constantly, even if media and social networks show the opposite, piling on another layer of pressure. 

In fact, according to psychologist Leon Festinger’s Social Comparison Theory, you adjust your opinions, abilities and emotions depending on who is around you. But, while social networks create way more comparison points, they offer a biased vision: what you are seeing is other people’s “dream lives”, not their reality. Just like you, your contacts have unproductive days – but they don’t post about them. 

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  1. See our article “Is it so difficult to commit long-term?” based on Dedicated, the Case for Commitment in an Age of Infinite Browsing, by Pete Davis, (Simon & Schuster, 2021) – BD31503, September 2021 
  2. Under way since 1942.

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Marianne Gerard
Published by Marianne Gerard
Marianne graduated from HEC in 1998 and is now a freelance journalist specializing in management and higher education. What really fires her up is the human dimension and she is c taking a psychology course at Rennes 2 University.