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The Myth of Productivity


Who doesn't want to be more productive?

In pursuit of this elusive "productivity", I have read books, including David Allen's book, Getting Things Done; The One Thing by Gary Keller, and Essentialism by Greg McKeown. I have tracked my time. Since returning from a financial planning conference in mid-November, I have been using the recommended Timeular, an 8-sided dice that sits on my desk. Currently, I have flipped it to "marketing" as I write this blog.

That being said, I am well aware of the trap of making productivity the end goal, instead of the means to achieve something. Our society has fetishized the concept of productivity and efficiency. For many of us, each moment has an associated "to-do", and we feel guilty if we allow ourselves to be idle. Humans are so addicted to busyness that one study found people preferred giving themselves electric shocks rather than having nothing to do!

We are steeped in productivity-oriented thinking: 

  • getting stuff done is better than not getting stuff done
  • being in motion is better than being idle
  • striving is better than enjoying the moment
  • producing more is better than producing less

Iindset, adopt an anti-productivity mindset, disengaging from our bias towards action over activities that don't yield measurable results. Recent studies in psychology and neuroscience  have shown that taking breaks and allowing your mind to wander can help you re-focus, gain fresh perspective, and make new connections between ideas.

So avoid adopting that new, productive morning routine. Instead, learn to be "idle and blessed":

I don't know exactly what a prayer is

I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down

into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,

how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,

which is what I have been doing all day.

Tell me, what else should I have done?

Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?

Tell me, what is it you plan to do

with your one wild and precious life?

     - Mary Oliver