Is There a Purpose to Productivity?

During these times of a global pandemic, I have never been so aware of the focus on productivity. It ranges from the economy to how you are spending your personal time or how well we are performing at working from home. I have never been so aware of the constant mentioning of constantly doing more, making more, going to the next level. We do yoga and aim for the hand stands, we work out in the gym and add more and more weights, we run and strive for marathons, and after one marathon another and another. We aim for increased pay, a title promotion, more savings, a bigger house, a fast car, more interest rates, to buy more to have more to leave more for the next generation. I am not saying this is wrong, I am just wondering – what is the purpose behind it?

Why are we always so focused on the next thing? Is it perhaps a human instinct? An instinct that has ensured our survival? And if so, why don’t we think we have survived enough? Looking at the developed world, we all have plenty in our lives. Our survival to the greatest extent has been guaranteed. And yet, we continue to progress, to have a better standard of living or to be better at a certain activity. Better doesn’t have an end to it. It’s a constant. A constant occupation.

The focus on production may be a way we turn our perspective away from the inside towards the external. Who wants to deal with childhood traumas? I sure do not even though I preach about my personal growth. If I can avoid it I will. So I would rather spend my day baking a cake and worrying if it rises rather than dealing with my past to figure out why I keep worrying about little things in the first place. In a way being productive is a distraction. Your focus is invested largely on something other than yourself. It gives us a feeling of accomplishment when we have been productive, when we have run that extra mile or renovated our front porch. A feeling of success that talking about our internal distresses won’t. You will not be awarded for dealing with your issues but you will for being able to show that you made a chocolate walnut cake that has risen in the oven.

Which bring me to another point. It is encouraged. People encourage productivity. Companies will reward productive employees. Why wouldn’t you aim to receive rewards and praise? It feels really, really nice to be complimented and acknowledged. At the same time, I vow for people to start applauding one another for doing nothing. Many of us don’t know how to sleep in anymore, how to relax, how to be bored or procrastinate. All things that are vital actually for productivity. A friend of mine once said: “If you want to have a productive morning, have a lazy evening the day before”. I tried it out. She was right. Instead of encouraging the means to enable productivity, we just encourage the results.

I don’t think being productive is a bad thing at all. And I don’t think striving for the next thing, improving your skills, growing and learning is a negative either. But I do think we have centered our focus on the result, instead of making sure we enjoy the process and that we are happy while doing it and that that is not ideal for our well being. I would advocate for more balance between understanding your needs at that moment and producing. For being grateful for what you have and appreciating how much you have done rather than looking at how it can be better. The idea is right, but the focus is off. As we focus on doing better, I often find one thing is getting lost. On being better people. Unfortuantely another item we do not get rewarded for. But it is a reward in itself. Its much easier to sleep at night and watch your cake rise in the oven with a feeling you are the best you can be. As you do better, focus on being better.

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