You have done enough

Battling productivity dysmorphia and perfectionism

Ximena Vengoechea
5 min readOct 26, 2023

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A quick programming note: In my last newsletter update, I mentioned a special project coming up. My initial plan was to share it with you today, but life had other ideas; I’ve had to put a lot of things on hold these past few weeks for health reasons, but I’m hoping to be back in fine form again soon. In the meantime, here’s a piece that feels particularly relevant to me on a day where I’m feeling less than 100%. I hope you connect with it, too. More on my special project update in the next missive!

selective focus photography of brown leaves

Photo by Timothy Eberly on Unsplash

A few months ago, I was reading Craft Talk, ’s excellent newsletter on writing and creative living, and a line caught my eye. She was talking about that feeling we get that there is always more to be done — that we can do more, work harder, accomplish more. It’s a feeling I’m intimately familiar with: when I worked in the corporate world, as soon as I’d been promoted I’d start thinking about what it would take to go up the next rung. Now that I’m self-employed, as soon as I finish one project, I’m onto thinking about what comes next. What is my next book? My next project? I think a lot of us (especially Americans) are familiar with this brass ring thinking.

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Yet it is exhausting to think this way. It can skew our perspective and make it feel like we haven’t done much of anything when we have actually achieved so much. , who I interviewed for Rest Easy, and who writes the excellent A-Mail newsletter, calls this “productivity dysmorphia.” It’s the gap between our objective achievement and our subjective experience of it. It’s what happens when we can’t really see or internalize all that we’ve achieved.

Despite having done my research on the topic, I still need reminders to pause and appreciate what I’ve done. (What can I say? I’m human.) I have to remember to stop and notice how I spend my days and what they’re all adding up to.

So I especially loved this exercise from Jami, which serves as a reminder of what we’ve accomplished and gives us a moment to acknowledge it. (I love a good list!) It also helps us to see what more we probably actually couldn’t have done. Sometimes we really have done the best we could. She writes:

First I made a list of everything I’ve accomplished this year. I took a quick minute to steep myself in pride for what I was actually able to accomplish. Then I looked at what I wished I had written this year. The gap between the two was interesting to consider. I did not think I could have worked any harder and yet I remember always having this sense I did not do enough. And yet certainly I had, I could see that, sitting with my pen and my notebook that morning.

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It’s so easy to beat ourselves up for what we haven’t accomplished, whether that’s getting a promotion, publishing another book, or just doing the week’s household chores on time. This quick-list making exercise helps us show our work and appreciate it. Whatever you’ve achieved, it’s enough.

  • 🇬🇧 Today Rest Easy is available in the UK! Happy pub day to my UK readers.
  • ⭐ Rest Easy received a starred review from Library Journal! Thank you, librarians everywhere. Here’s what they say about it:

“This thought-provoking book is highly recommended for anyone needing better rest habits.” ―Library Journal, starred review

Did you know that if your library doesn’t have a copy yet, you can reach out to request one? Most libraries have purchase request forms online, or you can make a request in person.

  • 📚✍️ I’ve had a blast visiting bookstores and signing books in my local area. If you’re in New York, check out Kinokuniya by Bryant Park, McNally Jackson’s Soho location (you can buy a signed copy from them here), and Community Bookstore in Brooklyn for signed copies. More soon!

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🔗 Links I loved

  • For anyone who likes a peek behind the writing and business side of being a novelist, check out this episode of the Bad On Paper podcast, featuring co-host on the nuts and bolts of publishing her debut novel, The Christmas Orphans Club.
  • I also loved this profile on Lauren Groff, one of contemporary fiction’s most prolific and celebrated writers. Groff has a very unique writing process. I love this detail about how she sets the work aside before returning to it:
  • When Groff starts something new, she writes it out longhand in large spiral notebooks. After she completes a first draft, she puts it in a bankers box — and never reads it again. Then she’ll start the book over, still in longhand, working from memory. The idea is that this way, only the best, most vital bits survive. “It’s not even the words on the page that accumulate, because I never look at them again, really, but the ideas and the characters start to take on gravity and density,” she said.”
  • It reminds me of the research I discovered on the benefits of pausing and taking breaks — for yourself, and for your creativity — while working on Rest Easy. But also! She writes the same book multiple times! 🤯

🎧 📚 What I’m reading

  • Between Two Kingdoms, by Suleika Jaouad. The number of times I got teary-eyed during this one! It’s a beautiful memoir about a life interrupted by illness that is neither sappy nor forcefully cheerful but honest and open-minded about the ups and downs of living with leukemia. I listened to this on audiobook, narrated by the author, and found it very moving.
  • My Last Innocent Year, by Daisy Alpert Florin. A coming-of-age story set on a college campus in the late 90s, Florin tells the story of an aspiring writer and the relationships that turn her life upside down.

💸 Currently coveting:

💌 Thanks as always for reading along and supporting my work. If you like what you see, hit the heart button, drop a comment, or share this with someone you think will love it, too. You can order my new book or book me for a speaking event here. 💌

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Ximena Vengoechea

Writer, UX Researcher, Author of The Life Audit ('24), Rest Easy ('23), Listen Like You Mean It ('21). ximenavengoechea.com/books