Amid this pandemic, it again becomes awfully clear that we, as people and society, have a disturbed and imbalanced relationship with productivity.
Have you seen the lists on social media that start with “if you don’t come out of this quarantine with at least …” (fill in the blanks)?
Here is an example:
If you don’t come out of this quarantine with either:1.) a new skill
2.) starting what you’ve been putting off like a new business
3.) more knowledge
You didn’t ever lack the time, you lacked the discipline.
Besides feeling annoyed about the ignorance of the statement, it also made me think about productivity. What exactly does it mean to be ‘productive’? Does it also include the mental rest we need to create? What about mental health? I think we can agree that the traditional notion of productivity doesn’t care about these things. It merely cares about how many boxes are ticked off the to-do list today.
“Getting it done”
The “getting it done” attitude that works well in some areas of life just doesn’t cut it for all our projects – or our relationships, for that matter. No, they require an entirely different type of energy—that of creativity and of a healthy rested mind. There’s a humility that comes with going through that progress, mainly because it makes you wonder: if it’s not about getting as much stuff done, then what is it about? Your brain might run 200 miles an hour digesting knowledge, but creativity demands something else. Our humanity, for one. In order to truly create, we need to show up as ourselves. Plus, creativity seems to have its own will. When it doesn’t feel nourished, cared for, or rested, it will simply not create anything at all.
The truth is that we can’t bring value to our lives, work, or relationships when we feel depleted. So why then, do we have such a limited perception of the word ‘productivity’? Because we didn’t define for ourselves what productivity means.
There are two components to productivity; active and passive energy. Most of us are familiar with the active part of productivity. It’s the tasks we complete on our to-do list, the number of calls/emails/sales in a day, or the progress we’ve made in learning a new skill.
Passive energy, on the other hand, is about resting. It’s resting with no end-goal. That means social media scrolling is excluded, so is taking a nap with the intention to escape. The point here is: it’s only restful if we’re truly resting. We all know what that is because we can recognize it by how we feel afterward.
What we really need
When we rest our minds, we improve the quality of energy we put into our work. We should stop chasing productivity for the sake of productivity, and start questioning if this way of living results in something worthwhile. To summarize: we need to look at productivity in a more wholesome way.
Above all, we should remember that this is the time to show compassion to ourselves. Explore any outdated concepts of productivity that you might have, and ask what no longer works.