Productivity: An Escape from Death?

Productivity is very interesting.


Some of us are of the belief, intentional or otherwise, that unless someone is being productive then they don’t deserve happiness. Mostly those of us in that category aim this belief at ourselves more than others.

Others couldn’t care less about productivity, and some even think it’s bad.

My own relationship to productivity is rather interesting. Sometimes, I’m addicted to it. Other times, I’m thinking I need to take a break from it but even that break becomes focused on being productively unproductive. When I think of spending an hour without it, my stomach turns into a cat and tries to escape through my mouth.

Why is that? Is it the culture, my parents, my schooling? Is it my inherent uncomfortableness with my own vulnerability,  my impermanence in this world? Do I secretly think that as long as I’m doing something productive, the Death cloak guy won’t notice me on his rounds?

I really don’t know.

The nonsense of the situation hit me yesterday when I was talking to a dear friend. He said that when he gets up late, he pretty much hates everything. It’s a feeling I can relate to. If I wake up late, my boyfriend and dog stay well out of the way because I am going to be grouchy. And why? Well, because I didn’t get anything done.

But while talking to my friend, I realized that even if I do get up earlier rather than later, all I really get done is more coffee drinking and dog belly rubs and maybe some more sleepy Facebook time. Nothing really productive there, and yet, I’m mad when I don’t get the chance.

Productivity is like many emotions and substances. It can be useful and it can also be a weapon we use against ourselves to play the shame game or otherwise divorce ourselves from the tenderness of the present moment.

For me, productivity hardly has any meaning. I feel “productive” when I make songs, when I write, when I make jewelry, walk, do Yoga, meditate, practice guitar, read an informational book or a fiction book with the intention of learning from it, and when I cook. But to cultivate inspiration for some of these activities, I need time to just dilly dally and do whatever feels natural. And when I feel like I “should be” working on music, then taking a walk won’t feel productive. But when I feel like I “should be” getting “more exercise,” a walk feels more productive than making music. There’s just no way to win unless I label the feeling and let it exist without taking over my entire moment of experience.

So here is my intention to be more aware of when I use my productivity or lack thereof as an excuse to make myself feel “less than” in the present moment.

Do you have an interesting relationship to productivity?

What does the word mean to you?

and, more importantly, have you missed me? 🙂 I apologize for lack of posts lately.

13 thoughts on “Productivity: An Escape from Death?

  1. To me, “productivity” means DOING …. What you wrote today definitely hits home with me. A couple of years ago I began cultivating a state of BEING (as opposed to doing). I remember reading a quote that we are Human Beings, not Human Doings. Ha! But I like thinking about who I want to be in the world and then allowing my doing to emerge from that, rather than the other way around (e.g., DO a lot to BE successful.) Very interesting topic to be sure!

  2. Interesting blog. I think I’ll follow. I have to slow down and relax to be productive. If not I’ll do twenty different things and never be satisfied. If I accomplish one thing a day that is really important to me I am more satisfied.

    • I agree, it’s funny, I get a lot more done when I don’t try as hard. One real solid thing is sometimes so much more fulfilling than a lot of teeny half-things 🙂 Thank you for reading, I hope you like what you find here!

  3. Yes, I have missed you and what your heart brings here…not that I’m insisting you be more productive or anything…

    Such a good topic to stir, I think many of us are driven by productivity, and others should probably be more driven to it. On a primary level, I think our culture is defined by increasing productivity, achievement, profit, etc. Most of us simply don’t know how to stop! And even when we do allow ourselves to stop and rest, it’s usually with the utilitarian goal of increasing our overall productivity. True “Sabbath” is stopping because we quite simply need to stop. Period. It’s simply part of a healthy human rhythm that each of us needs. Personally, I love to get up a little earlier than needed, not because I can “put the time to good use” by being “productive” but just so I don’t have to rush into the productive, active part of my day but can get up and stop. Sit outside if possible. Enjoy the cool and quiet (relative quiet sometimes) of the morning without having to do anything. Just for a bit. Does this make me more productive when I get going? Perhaps. Sometimes. But that’s not the point. In fact, I think that has it reversed. I think we are productive so we can stop – and hopefully as a normal rhythm of life and not just all lumped together in our retirement years.

    Now look how long I’ve rambled. See what happens when you’re gone for so long? 🙂

    • Aw you are so sweet! I hope there was a belch! 🙂 I relate to that feeling you have in the morning- it is so very nice to get up and have that space and time. I find I mainly utilize it that way if I know there is something I need to do later, like work. Otherwise it’s not as sweet 🙂 But it should be!
      Also you are always welcome to ramble here, you know that 🙂

  4. i feel better when I do stuff because I get a sort of “look what I can do” pride from it, but I can’t say that, left completely to my own devices, I am always the most productive or ambitious person. I’m sort of happy to big loads of nothing for large amounts of time. My mind goes on trips and my body just vegs. I’m sort of the opposite of what this post is about. lol

    • hahaha that is awesome. I sometimes do that too! Just sometimes, I end up feeling guilty in anticipation of it sometimes unless I can find some strange “value” to it. I’m so weird. haha 🙂

  5. Well, I suppose that “productivity” can be a result of meditation, too. That is like when it is creational activity. For me journaling is meditation, and it often is very productive although the mind is enganged in unconciuss processes, so the products of the process are secondary, but afterwards you sometimes get suprised of the insights you have gotten.

  6. I completely agree with you Jen. When reading this I felt that you hit the nail on the head, especially at the beginning where you generalised that many people feel that productivity and happiness are intertwined. Sometimes when I haven’t accomplished much in a day I decide that perhaps I don’t deserve happiness – normally that means ‘I won’t have so much wine tonight’ – or none at all, to ensure that I try harder the next day.
    For me, productivity is not just the act of doing something, but doing something productive that can give back to society – going to work and either helping patrons at restaurants, putting out food in supermarkets, editing a manuscript for a revered company, working with a PR firm to develop a project, et al. I feel that if I do not do something that can help society, or do something that will eventually lead to me helping society (doesn’t have to be save the world ‘help’ – even the smallest thing like putting out vegetables in a store is contributing to the social mainframe) that I am failing. I don’t know what I am failing at – maybe at being human? At giving back to the world that I live in? I simply feel that if I do not do something productive that gives back to the world, that I do not have a proper place in it, and therefore do not belong. For instance, all those people who work almost everyday in jobs, etc; I sometimes think, both them and I breathe oxygen – but who deserves it more? Those that work, or me, who sometimes can go a couple weeks not doing anything related to work? If I am not contributing to the world, do I deserve to live in it? Do I deserve to steal the oxygen of people who are working in it?
    Maybe I have gone overboard? My apologies if that’s the case. I do that sometimes. 😀
    Also, I agree with you ma’am about that song that you wrote – it is simple, but it’s very effective. Sometimes the simplest thing is the best.

    • Aw thank you so much for your words! Wow, the oxygen thing is intense! There is no such thing as going overboard here, of course 🙂 It’s interesting, you made me remember that the feeling of offering something useful to the world at large IS such a nourishing feeling. It feels good to help others, no matter what form that help is in. I think carrying that intention alone makes you worthy of all the oxygen your lungs can possibly process 🙂 That’s something I want to remember, and that I tend to forget, is that realizing the ways in which I’m there for and adding to the quality of things in society is a wonderful thing to do! Thank you so much for your words, they made me smile and think, and thank you for listening to the song 🙂 🙂

  7. To me, productivity is being able to tick off items on a list–and I do love my lists. But I always allow some nonproductive dilly-dally time at the end. And sometimes I go ahead and scratch through items that I suddenly decree are not actually worth doing or can wait: Now THAT’s productive!

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