Productivity in 2021

I had every intention to “hit the ground running” for 2021. I had a word of the year and a mandala ready to go. So were to-do lists, intentions and every productivity and planning strategy that felt authentically “me”.

Don’t break the chain

One of the more simple strategies I’d started was Jerry Seinfeld’s “don’t break the chain“. This is where you make an “x” on a calendar representing you doing to just doing “the thing” every day. You commit, act, and witness a chain of x marks throughout the year. For Jerry, it was writing every single day. I have four things on my list: singing, clearing, moving, and reading a fairy tale.
Why reading a fairy tale? The practical reason is to get more familiar with stories and characters for future Sleepytime Club bedtime kits. A better reason is because there is deep wisdom in these stories. Reading them is a pleasure. When I was a child, I found healing in fairy tales in a family environment that could be quite painful. I went through all six colors of Andrew Lang’s Fairy Books of Many Colors in our elementary school library.

Then came January 6, 2021…

…and I was reminded of the events of nearly 20 years ago. 

September 11, 2001 was the first day of what evolved to be a three-year commitment I made to walk a group of neighborhood children to school. We called ourselves “The Grizzlies” and even had a walking chant.

We are the Grizzlies.
We walk when its drizzly.
Our hair gets all frizzly
But – We Don’t Care!

The afternoon of that first day, the schools closed early. When I went to walk the children home, there was only a small group of three out of our morning walking group of nine. My 8-year-old was among that group. During the mile walk home, all the kids asked me why they’d been let out early. I assured the children their parents would talk to them about it when they arrived home.

And here we are again.

How to talk to children about the events of January 6, 2021

There are many guidelines about how to talk to children about the events of last week. They’re all similar.

  • Open up the space for questions.
  • Talk about bad actions instead of bad people.
  • Take Mr. Rogers’ advice and look to the helpers. Depending on your child’s age, you may choose to consider which helpers for them to look to. Capitol Police Officer Eugene Goodman’s courage, for example, brings tears to my eyes, but is a complicated story for children under nine.
  • Limit media exposure.

Talking to our families in a way that assures them you are there is one of the ways to be productive in 2021.

Be productive: Limit media exposure

That last bit of advice we can apply to ourselves as adults. While we need to know what we’re dealing with in our communities and in the United States, watching the violence may lead to fear, taking over our lives to the point where we cannot act. And when we cannot act, we can’t support our helpers let alone be the helper we aspire to be.

This is a strong statement, but it’s true: If you’re sleeping well and with ease, there’s something “off”.

And when things are “off” we’re given an opportunity to evaluate our habits, routines, and mindsets, remembering our connections with each other.

I’ve been “off” since January 6th. I’m not judging myself for that. If you’ve been “off” too, don’t judge. For example, right now, being productive after home and work tasks looks like me sitting in a tub listening to an audio book. Or calling my 90-year-old dad, 2,000 miles away to check in. Taking a stand and speaking up when you witness a micro-aggression. Listening.

Our children can look for the helpers, we can be the helpers. One action that calms me down is picking up my neighbors’ discarded Christmas trees, digging small holes for them in the back yard, and throwing bird seed on the branches.

…we’ve only space for two trees, btw. 😊

Right now, productivity looks like nurturing instead of racing through a to-do list.

Does productivity look like doing what you personally need to do to nurture yourself and your family?

I have two suggestions for the week ahead. The first is to sit down with your family and make a list of truly nurturing, happy practices. Walks in nature, sharing gratitude, reaching out to those you love, sharing something funny, cooking a meal together, sharing food with those who are hungry right now.

Productivity in 2021 includes a whole lot of sharing and connection.

If you’re like me, kicking yourself that you didn’t begin 2021 hitting the ground running, occasionally paralyzed by concerns, my second suggestion is this:

Choose your new year.

Maybe your new year begins January 13th, with the first new moon of the year. Or on February 12th with Lunar New Year. Or the first day of spring, or summer, or your birthday. Maybe you reflect on the past 4 or 5 months and decide you’re midway through Jewish or Celtic New Year (Rosh Hashanah or November 1st.) Maybe New Year’s Day 2021 is the day you get to hug someone you haven’t been able to during 2020.

Let’s reframe our understanding of what it means to be productive. And we might end up on the “other side” even more productive because we’ll do things with an eye to what’s most important.

FYI, The Grizzlies grew to include parents. Every school day we’d walk together, bonding with our children, making memories, and new friendships. Over the years we discovered starting the day with a family walk makes for a very productive day.

 © Brook Packard/Sleepytime Club 2021