Years ago, I had an awful epiphany: Nearly everything I thought of as an accomplishment, in the day-to-day sense, wasn't really an accomplishment at all. I could check things off my to-do list all day long, and at the end, instead of having created any sort of lasting change, all I would have done was reset the counters to zero.
The situation hasn't improved since then. If anything, it's gotten worse.
Here's an example. This was a productive weekend for me: I did laundry, I cleaned out and reorganized the pantry and fridge, I went grocery shopping and put everything away, and I washed the grotty interior of the microwave. I feel as if I've accomplished a lot, but have I really? Hell, no. By next Sunday, all the clean clothes will be dirty, the food will be eaten and the microwave will be crusty with spaghetti-sauce splatters. It might take a little longer for the pantry and fridge to get cluttered up with half-empty packages and old leftovers and spilled cereal, but it will happen. And it's not just household chores; probably 80 percent of what I do falls into this category. Fueling up the car, paying bills, filling out reports - all of it is an attempt to get through another day or week or month before I have to do it again.
Of course, this is mostly just the way life is. Except for a tiny fraction of the population, everyone has to do these essential-but-endlessly-repeating chores. (Even really rich people do at least some of them, or else you wouldn't see so many paparazzi photos of celebrities pumping gas and loading groceries into their cars at Whole Foods.) The actual tasks may vary depending on what part of the world you live in, but everyone's got them - I'm sure there's some poor woman in Africa right now who's preparing to make the daily five-mile trek to the nearest water spigot to fill up her bucket. I just wish there were a way for all of us to spend more time on the things that do make a lasting difference, and less on all the other stuff.