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The past two years have been crazy. In 2010, I graduated from college and my now-husband and I purchased our home. In 2011, I started a master's degree and we got married. This year, I started a business and I'm in the process of finishing up my master's degree program (which will be completed in December).

The problem obviously isn't my need to be MORE productive, as I continue to accomplish things on a daily basis. My problem now is that I've gotten so used to this lifestyle that I find it hard not to obsess over my to-do list items, and I actually find myself getting angry if I don't complete items at the end of the day. I often find myself not fully experiencing life because all I'm doing is thinking about what I have to do (for example, I'll forget entire conversations because I was thinking about other things).

Not to mention the fact that between my undergrad degree, my master's degree, and starting my business, I feel that my husband has been severely neglected. I know that snuggling on the couch watching TV is considered "quality time", but considering the roll that I'm on, I also consider that "wasted time". We go out almost every Saturday night, so I feel that we do still have fun together. I just feel bad when I'm doing things on my laptop and he's simply watching TV. Maybe the problem is that I'm over-productive and he's under-productive, and it makes me feel guilty. I don't know.

Does anybody have advice on how to stop this madness?

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READ: Creating a Charmed Life: Sensible, Spiritual Secrets Every Busy Woman Should Know by Victoria Moran, I am a men and I've read it! Good book, i think you need it! Also, try to relax! :)) – Davidenko Oct 23 '12 at 19:05
Jeff Atwood had a post on this topic recently: Coding Horror: Todon't – John Oct 23 '12 at 21:08
I think this is off-topic. This is site for increasing once's productive. – user221287 Oct 24 '12 at 15:58
I wish this question can stay. Yes, it is not about increasing productivity but it lays out some key issues beyond when productive goals are achieved. Many advices provided in the answers are applicable to people struggling with productivity. Especially on balancing with relationship in the earlier stage. – Penguin_Knight Oct 24 '12 at 17:32
Thank you @Penguin_Knight!!! – nickelpickle Oct 24 '12 at 18:35

Schedule "relationship time" as one of the projects that needs to be done, and include it in your lists. Create metrics that allow you to track the time you spend investing in the relationship, and make sure you achieve whatever goals you set for those metrics.

In GTD (Getting Things Done) terms, make sure you are allocating your time appropriately across all of your 20,000 foot areas of focus, and that you aren't neglecting the 40,000 and 50,000 foot levels of life planning.

Being highly productive is great, you just have to make sure you're being highly productive at the right things. I wouldn't worry about "obsessing" over the to-do lists, as long as you have everything in your life on them.

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I think that you have already done the hard work here. You have identified that a problem exists and now the only thing that is left is for you to fix it.

This is not a productivity issue, but rather a priorities issue. You have to decide what your priority is at different times during the day and throughout the week and then make good decisions based off that exercise.

I don't know you personally, so this may sting a little, but it also might have a hint of truth.

You enjoy more the thought of checking something off a list than you do the thought of sitting and spending time with your spouse. You characterize it specifically as "wasting time".

The issue is not that you might not want to watch T.V., because that is very much a time waster and adds little to your overall happiness in the end. The trick would be to find out something that you and your husband could do together that you would both enjoy that isn't considered "productive".

I disagree with the poster above adding "quality time with husband" as a to-do item. I think that is demeaning and a little neurotic to pencil in time with the man you have dedicated to spending the rest of your life with and who I am sure loves you dearly.

For what's its worth, I wish you and your husband the very best and if you can find it within yourself, I would definitely consider meeting with a counselor or close family friend to get a little perspective on the matter.

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While to do lists have their place, there are some things which need to be more human, and one of these is your relationship.

It sounds like you and your husband have very different goals and while you may see your successes in your career, he may see you as failing in your relationship.

You need to look at how you can make all aspects of your life a success, with your husband! I have seen too many high powered Execs destroy their marriages through too deep a focus on work. They ended up successful in business but miserable in life.

Build unstructured time into your plans. Time to work towards joint goals or to understand what your husband wants out of life. It may be that he would like to achieve some of his own goals but without a structured approach like yours he may just feel like he it's simply supporting you.

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I can very much identify with this feeling. I love spending time with my girlfriend, but I sometimes have to forcefully push that anxiety of productivity loss to the side.

My solution has been around boundaries. Let's face it, you could try to work for 14-16 hours a day, but I'm assuming that you don't. Why? Well burnout for one. But in addition, at a certain point, you feel that you've accomplished enough and have earned or at least can tolerate a break. If I get home at 6PM and have 4 hours of productivity penciled in for myself to accomplish, I'll be working right up until bedtime. And if I'm somehow only able to complete 3 of those 4 hours, I go to bed dissatisfied. But if I schedule 2 hours of work to do and knock it out of the park, I feel fulfilled even though I could have done more. And then I enjoy that open time doing "nothing" because I already feel accomplished.

My point is that there will always be more to do. The key is deciding how much you want (or need) to get done and then feeling satisfied that you accomplished your goal and the rest of the time is free for whatever. And yes, I completely understand the feeling that you're not really doing anything when you're just snuggling on the couch. But hey, you finished what you defined for yourself, so what does it matter? Bonus productivity isn't worthwhile because there's no upper limit to what that bonus could be.

In summary, learn to set reasonable limits on what you need to complete to feel productive and leave the rest of the time open to enrich your life in other ways.

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I know it might sound weird, but here it is. When I feel overwhelmed, I would say "ok, in the worst case I will get it done in my next life"

and suddenly everything looks much brighter ;)

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Haha! I will have to try that Steve, thank you :) – nickelpickle Oct 24 '12 at 16:34
you are welcome! If I am not mistaken, it's an example of reframing (very powerful NLP technique) – Steve V Oct 24 '12 at 17:49

The purpose of the to do list is not to actually force you to do it. It's to keep all those things out of your head so that you can stop worrying about them. If you are obsessing about them, then you're not storing the information in a manner in which you can trust your list.

Have you tried reading Getting Things Done? It is practically 200 pages on how to organize a to do list.

To take some of the important points from the system which may help in your situation:

  • Keep a scheduled calendar type list, but don't try to schedule everything. Only schedule actual timed things that you are going to do that day, like calls and appointments.
  • Keep a "Someday/Maybe" list for things that would be nice to do, but what you can't/won't actually act on.
  • Review your lists weekly. You need to have full trust in your lists and not be constantly checking if they're updated.
  • Split up lists into when you can accomplish them. E.g. some things like calls, documents, you can do at work, so have a Work list. Some things, like painting your house, plumbing, curtains can only be done over weekends with a lot of empty time, so have a Home Improvement list.

Get a context for every list, and don't worry about the lists that are no longer in context. So, when you're at home, stop obsessing about the Office list and stuff.

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