Productivity Is Mostly Bullshit
Over the past couple of months, I’ve been experiencing a deepening crisis of faith in productivity, a high level of brand-new doubt about my always-On nature ( reinforced by my training as Daughter #1 of 3 ➕ patriarchal conditioning ➕ entrepreneur hustle-worship ). Part of this new crisis is living, like all of us, with pandemic trauma, for which useful concept I wholeheartedly credit & thank Shulamit Ber Levtov. For sure, this is likely also a product of my on-going maturation as a post-menopausal elder.
Whatever the reason, I find myself newly & deeply distrustful of such things as “goals” & “achievements” in a way I never ever have been in my entire life.
This is coming from someone with a long history of doing all the homework early + every bit of extra credit work, along with all the extra reading even so much as referenced in passing. A long history of over-doing to earn my place, to establish my worthiness, etc., etc., which may sound familiar.
This is coming from someone who’s been a fan of productivity- and goal-oriented planners for YEARS, the evidence of which is lined up on a shelf over my desk, neatly-labeled quarterly planners marching back to 2018.
Something is so different for me now.
Earlier this week, for example, in the early afternoon on a Monday when I normally would have been crunching numbers for a client, I was instead — for the first time in 19 months — standing still inside an actual physical bookstore. It took every bit of discipline not to rush. It took so much awareness to slow myself down and truly savor everything about the experience.
This past July, for another example, I downsized from the beloved quarterly planner I’d been using for 3+ years to a smaller version, without quite so many pages requiring a weekly Sunday afternoon sesh devoted to reflection and scheduling. What had worked for me for years suddenly made me impatient, impatient to just have a whole freaking weekend off to rest, to garden, to stare. To not work.
To be clear, it’s not that I don’t want to do anything. I still love a To Do list as much as the next super-grounded Capricorn you know. There are still deadlines in my world, a seasonal calendar that rules not just the garden we live & farm in, but also the very important work with small business owners that I get to do.
But it’s dawning on me that there’s another way that may work better for me. I’m leaning strongly toward a goal-lite life for myself going forward.
Sure, I’ll still get stuff done, but I no longer want to devote so much energy to whipping myself along to slay the longest list of tasks. I’ve lost my enthusiasm for driving myself so hard, for serving as the world’s most demanding & hard-talking boss of me. Do I still want to grow my business? Yes, but not by working 7 days a week, hustling round the clock, modeling a behavior I wouldn’t want for anybody else. That I don’t want for anybody else.
Maybe productivity really is mostly bullshit, mostly just a way to push us along at a rapid clip producing for the benefit of a world order that is not truly the one we want, certainly not one that is sustainable or healthy for anyone involved? Maybe all those tasks on our lists are an imposition from without, designed to keep us busy at the expense of a true and personal fulfillment?
I don’t know for sure. But I aim to find out. Now in my goal-lite life in which I have more time to consider the big question of what I want, what makes me happy, what makes a good life, how I can serve others, how I can make a difference.