Productivity Tuesday: Never finished. Never happy. Never mind.

By Kel Weinhold, TPII Productivity Coach

Welcome to the Productivity Post and Podcast! Each Tuesday, I post a short blog post and recorded coaching session.

One of the unifying characteristics of the writers I work with is their general unwillingness to be pleased. No matter what they manage to do, when they meet a goal and I acknowledge the accomplishment, the first response is invariably the same:  “Yeah but…”

Me: Congratulations on finishing your introduction draft!

Yeah but, it’s still really rough.

Me: Well done on getting the article submitted!

Yeah but, it took me forever.

Me: How exciting that you got a book contract!

Yeah but, I am lousy at time management. There is no way I can get it done by the deadline.


It’s my theory that “yeah but” is wired into you all as part of the PhD process. How do you prove that you are the smartest kid in the room? Find the error. How do you get ahead in your field? Figure out what the last person failed to do. How do you show that you belong at a conference? Point out what the presenter missed.

The problem is that you quickly come to point that failure-seeking gaze directly at your own work. Slowly, steadily you move from the joy of discovery to the “yeah but” of never enough. (Not to mention frozen in fear as you imagine the next smart kid discovering a flaw in your work!)

The result: In the daily personal relationship of creativity and productivity, you become the very definition of the shitty boss. You are endlessly unhappy with your performance. You “encourage” yourself with put downs and demeaning language. You offer little or no acknowledgement for your effort and in all honesty maybe even less for your accomplishments.

Seriously, it is no wonder you avoid working. I wouldn’t want to work for you either.

The first step to improving as your own boss is not time management or scheduling or any of the other organizational tools that so many of the productivity apps and journals offer.*

The first step is to be in better relationship with yourself.

Pay attention to how you are talking to yourself. Make the conscious choice to be for yourself what you keep hoping your mentor or chair or PI will be for you. BE NICE! Give yourself a pat on the back now and then. BE SUPPORTIVE! Acknowledge what you HAVE done instead of harping on what you haven’t. BE IMPRESSED!

I am not going to lie: It takes work to rebuild the relationship. You have a whole mountain of mistreatment to heal. But kicking “yeah but” to the curb is a good place to start.

*Don’t get me wrong. I am all about small manageable tasks, but they aren’t particularly helpful if you won’t do them.

Listen here as Kel walks you through a creativity cycle that actually works (and is a helluva lot nicer):

Join the next session of Unstuck, starting Monday!

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Productivity Tuesday: Never finished. Never happy. Never mind. — 3 Comments

  1. Hello Karen, I totally agree with you. Unless and until we work on our relationship with ourselves nothing else can fall in place.We get so engrossed in impressing our mentors thaat we start judging ourselves as per their thoughts about us. Thanks for sharing this, really helpful.

  2. Kellee this is a great post, I took me YEARS to discover and accept that this was holding me back. It is really hard to really accept it and work on it. The hardest part is avoiding the remorse and regret cycle that comes after acknowledging that you are dragging yourself down.

    I want to add that it becomes really hard to be kind to yourself and recognize your own achievements when you are always comparing yourself to your peers. The academic world works largely on peer pressure which encourage a lot of bragging and big egos. How can you value your work fairly when your colleague has achieved the double of that in half of the time!

    It is a process, thanks for the tips.

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