We are living in a fast-paced world where everyone is always trying to do more. We are constantly bombarded with articles and self-help tips on how to manage time well and be more productive. The ability to get a large number of things done in the least amount of time is considered a quality that one should aspire to. This obsession with productivity, the repulsion to doing things slowly, or “wasting” time, and the perpetual need to prove oneself by what one achieves is a byproduct of the Capitalistic culture and attitude that we have imbibed. The worth of an individual is closely associated with how much she is able to contribute to society in tangible ways and the efficiency with which she does it. We often say that a person is not what they do but looking at how perceptions in society function currently, we are forced to reconsider if we really mean what we say.
One of the major factors that pervade this accomplishment-oriented culture is the idea of being productive. Productivity is supposed to be the ability to do more in less time, being focused on our goals, and always achieving what we set out to do. While these are good things in themselves, an obsession with being productive is detrimental to mental health and the quality of our lives as well. Many of the tips that we follow might end up being counterproductive as well. There are various myths about productivity that we hear and see around us; some of them in articles and blogs, others in books or videos. Again, while a few of these tips might work out, they do not generally function to make our lives better. In fact, many of us find that our inability to keep up with these advices make our days more stressful.
A common myth is that we are only being productive when we are doing certain kinds of things. Here’s an example: It is considered more productive to learn a new language or skill than it is to spend our time reading a novel. Being focused on productivity makes us feel like there are always “more” productive things we can do, when in fact the things we are doing can be considered good and productive things themselves. We tend to grade our activities and give those which do not fulfill certain criteria, such as new knowledge or public appeal, as lesser productive. We forget that rest and leisure is often much more needed for our well-being than stressing over learning something new. Another myth is that we can look at successful people and copy their habits to be productive. Some say that we should read one book a day because someone famous did so, or that we should wake up at a specific time. While this might be good habits in themselves, we are not to discount the individual personalities and circumstances of people. it is not just habits but a collection of events that made someone who they are, and many of these things are outside our control. This often leads to comparison which almost never brings contentment.
Another important point to note is that being productive should not mean continuously being occupied with a specific kind of activity since that would just lead to burnouts and even repulsion after some time. People who tend to take regular breaks, spend time with themselves, and even “waste” time by doing nothing or engaging in seemingly irrelevant activities, are able to direct their energies better when involved in their actual work. It is not a better use of time but a better use of energy that lets them accomplish what is to be accomplished. Obsession with productivity is also closely linked to a culture that is becoming increasingly self-focused to the point of being egotistical. It can lead to us being so focused on getting things done that quality is sacrificed for quality, in order to have the feeling of having done more in lesser time than having done fewer things but of better quality. We must always keep in mind that taking rest itself is sometimes more “productive” in the long run than indulging in and spending our energies on anything that comes our way.