The book, I Didn’t Do the Thing Today, by Madeleine Dore, has the subtitle of Letting Go of Productivity Guilt, but really the subtitle could be along the lines of “Not Stressing Yourself to the Breaking Point. It’s a deep, good-hearted advice book, full of thought provoking ideas that challenge our cultural focus on getting more and more done in less and less time. Instead of providing you with life hacks that could get you through your to-do list faster, it provides you with questions about whether you really need all the things on the to-do list, and, more importantly, whether you should judge yourself on the basis of how much of that to-do list you managed to accomplish in a day or a week. Speaking as someone whose daily journal entries tend to revolve around beating myself up for what I didn’t get done, I found this book refreshing and powerful.
It’s not a quick read (so maybe it wasn’t the best thing for me to be reading during the Adult Summer Reading Game, when the emphasis is on page count, an unanticipated issue with the game which I’ll try to fix for the next time). It’s the sort of book you read slowly and carefully, and put down frequently to contemplate the ideas that are being presented. It’s not that the language or the thoughts are complicated or difficult to understand. Quite the contrary; Dore writes simply and clearly and frequently quotes people she’s interviewed about these issues in an interesting way. I found I had to read it slowly and stop frequently to think about it because I was surprisingly resistant to the ideas involved. Think of your life as something other than a collection of achievements? Think about time differently? Slow down? Change expectations? Consider limitations as a good thing rather than bad? These are all ideas in the book, and all things that are counter-cultural in the best way.
Even if you’re not someone who reads how-to books and especially doesn’t read self-help books, you’ll probably find something to love in this one. It’s the equivalent of having a conversation with an incredibly kind and generous friend who happens to have thought a lot about the big questions and is willing to point you in a direction you might not have considered before, without pushing you in any way.
Will reading this book change your life? Maybe. Dore would never make that kind of claim (she’s too modest and open minded for that), but I definitely feel I look at my life and the world around me differently as a result of reading this book, and it might do the same thing for you. Check it out.