Michael He

March 13, 2022

Rethink Productivity

I don't like how mainstream culture and media define productivity. It's narrow and somewhat perverse.

In my opinion, creating things you enjoy (which doesn't have to be of value to others) is inherently productive. It's not the mere action, which can be passive, but the process of making something new and often profound. Productive is active by definition. This is one subset of productivity that society often neglects, but matters incredibly to our psychology and collective well-being.

When we say "I'm not productive", what are we actually talking about? Taking a step back to examine this ridiculous expression can be helpful. 

We rarely lament about being unproductive on things we find meaningful. It's always homework, deadlines (without buy-in), and mundane s**t (the curse word is intentional). We don't complain about the novella you are dying to write just for creativity's sake, a ceramic vase you cannot wait to shape, or precious memories made with your loved ones, which is the most productive use of time.

A big part of this productivity dialogue is what and to whom we are doing this for. I don't have to prove my writing ability nor my music taste to anyone, yet I am super productive in those arenas given my definition.

When you are trying to prove by being productive, you are probably not productive.

Therein lies the paradox of productivity. Productivity is assumed to be quantifiable, yet in our personal lives, being productive is (and will remain) mostly qualitative. It's a state of being. We will never say "productivity increased by 42% month-on-month". We just know. 

And that is enough. 

Perhaps it is time to think a bit more broadly when it comes to the productivity question. This is by no means a complete or thorough examination on the topic, but I hope it's a start.