Is your Saturday morning routine pretty productive, involving you ticking off a list of tasks from your “to do list”? Or do you like to have a lie in, and have a relaxing weekend, where you unwind from that seemingly long week that had just gone by, even if it has not been that busy?
Well chances are you fall somewhere in the middle of this, where sometimes you find that you are having to work hard. But at other times, maybe subconsciously, you find yourself heading down to the park for the afternoon, just to sit on the grass and watch the world go by. Or maybe you intend to meet a friend for an hour or so for a morning coffee, yet you find that you are still together come the evening. Or perhaps you wish to get up early so that you can achieve a significant number of tasks before most people are up, yet you still manage to sleep through your alarm about 10 times. Chances are, if you are one of these people, you tend to feel a bit bad about your less productive times, thinking about what could be done with the time that you had seemingly been wasting. Because with it seeming that pretty much everything and every one is giving you tips on how to be more productive, it is rather difficult to aspire to doing less…
Pretty much everywhere on social media, we are being bombarded with influencers throwing tips our way on how to be more productive, making it seem harder for us to provide a legitimate excuse to counter this. Which is obviously going to make us feel worse! However are any of these tips, or even what they are about, the key to success?
Just by having googled “productivity tips” for 10 minutes or so, I am confronted with so many of these. Now there are loads of these which I could list, but a few which stuck out were telling us to; “do the work constantly”, get frequent exercise, cut out the distractions, get the hardest task done first and always write down what you aim to achieve the night before. Now I am sure that many of us are likely to go into overload just by looking at these tips. Though think about what can be achieved if we stick to all of these! Yet as helpful as they can be, can we seriously be living our best life if we are constantly sticking to such a strict regime, rather than living a more carefree lifestyle?
We also hear of many “successful people” saying that they stick to certain habits to ensure that they are more productive. For instance, business man, Ben Franklin, would ask himself “what good should I do today” each morning and then in the evening (around 10pm) he would ask “What good have I done today”. But exactly what does this entail? It makes sense that people who do have strong aspirations are going to take whatever advice they can get in order to advance toward their goal. However firstly everybody does need to have a rest whilst why should we all feel obliged to strive for a super busy, and constantly stressful lifestyle? Yes you are going to get more done and this may well make some people feel happy if that is what they want from life, but is it not natural for most to want to enjoy a little peace? Surely for a happy lifestyle we don’t need to be constantly working to the most sharped edged version of ourselves? Though I am sure that some of these are genuinely very helpful, given the right person, situation and circumstance. But not for all the time…
For a start I think that being productive in the short term can bring about many costs and benefits? For me I must admit there is certainly the feel good factor, not to mention feeling as if I am in control. While common reasons why people feel so positive around being productive, is due to the feeling of having achieved something when ticking off things on a to do list, having greater esteem when working toward goals, and finding purpose within productivity. However if we become as obsessed with it as some if these lifestyle bloggers do, then surely it cannot be healthy for us. Now let’s compare it to having a diet consisting solely of fruit salad and nothing else. Because some people love fruit salad, however it isn’t for everyone. While consuming too much of it can make us feel ill in the short run, while depriving us of essential nutrients in the long run. Because I feel that although being productive can very beneficial for a wide number of reasons, it is simply not healthy to be “constantly working”, while others naturally prefer a more tranquil lifestyle. In the short run, people often face the choice of having a nice night out (or in) or revising for an exam/doing paid work. And often, if we choose the former, we tend to feel bad about ourselves for doing so afterwards thinking that we would have been far better advanced if we had stuck to what we knew we should have done. As clearly this would benefit us in the long term? Though imagine if we never chose to do the thing that we enjoyed most. None of the memories plus, well no primary enjoyment. Furthermore these effects also penetrate into the long run. Because it is not only grim that we are missing out on this enjoyment and these connections, but I am sure we have all heard about burnout. Being a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It occurs when you feel overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to meet constant demands.” While even if we don’t burnout, it has been proven that being “constantly busy” cannot have a good impact at all on our mental health. That’s because it can lead to chronic stress, suffering relationships and even for the workplace to become less productive! Therefore I hope that from this you can see why leading a productive life cannot always be the best for you, in-spite of what everyone else says!
I am sure that you are aware that the emphasis on productivity isn’t just a fad that has recently been impinged on us, but for a very long time there have been people feeling pressured into living an overly productive lifestyle. Which often begins in the home as I am sure that many of you have faced the extra burden of pressure on us from parents.
Now to me this seems a little toxic, because not only can this have a poor impact on the young person’s mental health, but it can batter the relationship between them and the parent. Which I find extremely sad, but when you think about it, it is understandable why a parent would feel that they need to encourage the child in this way; simply because in this life, unless we happen to be born rich, we do usually have to work pretty hard in order to earn a living, let alone achieve anything else…
I think that collectively we do need to question the importance of productivity more than what we do. Though it is more than reasonable to suggest that this is very difficult, considering how society almost impinges this kind of lifestyle upon us, whether we want it or not. But put it this way. First think about what we would achieve if we put aside an extra 5 hours each week to focus on doing something productive? Maybe we would be earning more money, getting a higher grade or whatever else. However lets put this a different way round. Imagine what else could we be doing, learning or simply getting out of life if we took this the other way around and set aside 5 hours instead for leisure? And what we could get out if it. This Could be hiking, socialising, reading or anything really. And often though we may better ourselves in career and wealth prospects by working harder, we actually become more rounded people by engaging in other activities too. And most likely, we are also finding life more enjoyable. How could this not be important?
Therefore I will acknowledge that productivity is important on varying levels, however it is fair to say that there is certainly a point where it becomes too much. When we are less productive than what we feel we ought to be, we therefore need to stop feeling bad about ourselves for it and to instead feel grateful that we are able to relax and do other things .
Side note: When I was writing the draft for this post, I couldn’t help but think about my own “productivity” and how I wish that I was “more productive”, even though I know how important it is to wind down. Therefore it shows that it is important to tell ourselves that being productive isn’t all that it is hyped up to be, but also that it is an issue which is so embedded into our way of life.