When you think about carving out time to do the small things that light you up — taking a leisurely walk, reading fiction, drawing, painting a rock, watching a sunrise, or anything else that today’s world would deem “unproductive” — how do you feel about it?
Personally, I can feel a sense of low-grade anxiety: surely I’ve forgotten something extremely important and I must sit at my computer until I remember what it is. Playing Sudoku or surfing social media for an hour somehow feels more productive (“See? I’m at my computer!”) than walking away from the screen to play with paints or meeting a friend for coffee.
Others describe a feeling of guilt, having picked up the belief that being a grown-up, whatever that is, requires us to put everyone else’s needs before our own. There’s a voice that’s constantly whispering “You should be doing _____” that never shuts up, and is never satisfied.
Where did we get this idea, anyway?
(Scrolling scrolling)… “Four Reasons You’re Not Being Productive.” “Improve Your Productivity At Work.” “10 Productivity Hacks.” “The Best Productivity Apps for 2021.”
Argh! Stop the madness already. These messages are everywhere.
Sure, it’s helpful to get more done in less time. Who could argue with that? But we’re not machines.
Productivity is an idea we’ve borrowed from the Industrial Age in which value was determined by factory output. The greater the output, the greater the value creation.
This, of course, is the fundamental premise of most workplace cultures today. It’s the premise that fuels the relentless busyness in cities like San Francisco, New York, Tel Aviv and London. It’s the message that’s been drilled into us since our first jobs out of school.
Somewhere along the line, we’ve equated our own personal value with outputs and forgot what it means to be human. Is it any wonder that depression, stress and anxiety are at all-time highs?
It’s high time to accept that we simply can’t live like this. We do have biological limits and vulnerabilities that require downtime, white space, sleep, and healthy boundaries.
It’s time to say NO to the idea of toxic productivity in order to say YES to the best of being human: experiencing the joy that comes from Life and Freedom and genuine Connection and Creativity and all those juicy feelings that naturally emerge from the care and feeding of our souls.
And not just occasionally, not just for a “special treat” for doing such a good job being productive. Gawd, that’s another huge misconception: I’ll treat myself only if I achieve this list of goals. Hogwash. That’s how we train dogs… it’s not how we live.
You deserve joy, dear reader. And I’m sure you’re overdue to give yourself permission to unapologetically create it for yourself on a regular basis. If you don’t do it for yourself, who will?
Living your truth begins with saying YES to those small, seemingly inconsequential things that represent the essence of who you are. Pretty soon those small things start to snowball into a more authentic, confident, happy version of yourself. You feel seen and heard for who you are because you are seeing and listening to yourself.
Being unproductive can be life-changing.
What will you say NO to this week so that you can say YES to what lights you up? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.
PS. We’re exploring this topic in the Intentional Rebels group coaching program right now. If you’d like to learn more and get on the list for the next cohort, click here. Or if group programs aren’t your thing, you can book a call directly with me here.