“Have a productive weekend” I called to my friends, age fifteen, as I turned the corner to my house on the way home from school. Now, nine years later, the word “productive” sends a shiver of panic through my body. Those “inspiring” productivity quotes are not for me.
So when did productivity start ruling my life?
On some level, it’s obvious. We live in a capitalist society and productivity is at the heart of capitalism. Productive workers make companies more money. To be clear, I have nothing against productivity. It feels good to get work done and non-productive activities can be frustrating. But, as Tyler Kleeberger puts it:
“productivity has no intrinsic moral value — it is simply a neutral descriptor for how you use your time.”
My growing preoccupation with productivity has made it harder to come to terms with the inevitable non-productive hours, days or even weeks I spend. But these are a fact of life. Sometimes your computer breaks. Sometimes you spend hours researching to find only one useful paper. Motivating productivity quotes can only get you so far.
And what are the side effects of this obsession with productivity?
- Stress and anxiety.
- Lack of sleep.
- Less time with friends or family.
- Feelings of inadequacy/ that you’re not enough.
- Your sense of self-worth becomes reliant on your productivity.
When I started to feel these side effects, I knew it was time to make a change.
My obsession with productivity wasn’t easy to let go of. I feared being perceived as lazy. I feared wasting precious time. But being preoccupied with productivity didn’t even help me get more done.
Instead, I often found myself overwhelmed by the pressure to be productive and became paralysed by my anxieties. And even if I did have a productive day, I’d worry about keeping up the momentum or wonder if I had really done enough?
Now, I want to prioritise other ‘values’ such as balance and motivation and mindfulness. This is what is right for me. I don’t have anything against productivity and the many books, articles and videos about productivity quotes, tips and strategies. I just need to take a step back.
Has productivity been ruining your life too? Try simply using the word ‘productive’ less in your everyday language to see if it makes you happier. I’m slowly learning that I don’t need to justify myself if I take time off and that it’s okay to stop and enjoy life rather than constantly making or doing.
Do you struggle with the need to be constantly productive? Let me know!