Productive isn’t my word anymore. Don’t get me wrong, it feels good when I accomplish a long list of tasks in a day. But the word just doesn’t fit anymore. I don’t want to measure my life by its productivity. I don’t want that to be my source of pride. It’s an outdated notion created by the Industrial Revolution. How many widgets did I make today? Am I a faster cog than everyone else? I’m not sure productivity even applies to work that we do with our brains. How fast did I think today? Or work that is primarily comprised of connecting with people. How many hugs did I administer?
I’m working on an alternative measure for my worth.
Let me paint a different picture for today: I intended to wake up an hour earlier this morning, but the glass of wine I had last night has affected me more than I would like to acknowledge. I don’t want to get up and go to yoga. Does that even count as productive? In between snooze buttons I contemplate whether I should (a) not go to yoga, because I don’t want to, or (b) get my lazy butt out of bed and go, knowing I will probably enjoy it when I get there. I chose option (c) go later. The change in my intended schedule is probably considered more productive: writing this blog. I decided to get myself a cup of coffee (mmmm) and my computer, resist the tantalizing email inbox, and start typing. I’m still in bed, snuggled up in the gorgeous homemade quilt my mom made for me. I’m stockpiling some blog posts so that I don’t feel pressured by the daily grind. I don’t want to be a slave to productivity.
A quick detour:
“Daily grind” was first seen in print in this context in 1853, defined by Oxford English Dictionary as:
“A daily routine of work or activity, especially as considered to be dull or tiresomely repetitious; the usual day’s work or routine, regarded as unremitting and laborious.”
I’m going to assume that the daily grind was also a legacy of the Industrial Revolution. (Thanks to The Word Detective for enlightening us on this topic.)
Sometimes, to live a happier life, we have to #IgnoretheRules.
Productivity is one of those rules. I want to enjoy my work and some days just aren’t writing days. I want to be present with whatever I happen to be doing or not doing. I want to be deliberate about my life. I want to be able to structure most of my days with the ebb and flow of natural cycles. I want to allow room for a late night glass of wine with a girlfriend once in awhile without beating myself up for not being productive until 10 a.m. the next day instead of 8 a.m. I want that for all of us because I think we are capable of creative restructuring of our lives and our workplaces in a way that fits our humanness better than the word “productive."
Some of our most cherished days are the least productive. Grief or other life circumstances may interrupt our productivity. Then we layer productivity guilt on top of our cherished days and our humanity and this guilt creeps in and steals our presence. We may choose to not show up for the important stuff OR we may choose to be physically present but not mentally, emotionally, or spiritually present. I believe both choices are equally damaging to our spirit.
What is my new word if I let go of “productive”? At the end of my day today, I hope to say something like:
Today was great. I was very _________________ today.
If I can say any of these things about my day, I will be proud of myself. What's your word today?
Please share, ask questions, leave comments, suggest topics, and tell stories! I want to hear about your moments of magic, miracles, and synchronicity.
Dare to be immortal.
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