Productivity. It’s the buzzword on every entrepreneur’s lips nowadays, and has been for a number of years now. I’m guilty of using it too. I even have a category on this blog dedicated to productivity and a Pinterest board where I collect information about it. And I try to be as prolific as possible on this blog and beyond. Even so, I still believe that really, productivity is overrated.
We are so obsessed with “getting things done” that we forget that rest is also important. We’re so busy with “do” that we forget to “be.” We eat lunch at our desks and sit for hours a day to “get things done.” We skip exercise to “get things done.” We brag about how busy we are, setting aside feelings of overwhelm and refusing to deal with our feelings that just maybe, being this productive is harming other areas of our lives.
I get it. When you’re an entrepreneur, especially if you’re just starting out and still have a traditional full-time job, you often don’t have a choice but to hyper-focus on productivity. This is also true for primary caregivers who don’t work for pay outside the home but are trying to start a business. But we have to remember that if we don’t have our priorities straight, being “productive” can come at a high cost.
We forget to put our families first, don’t practice self-care, and burn out within a year (or sometimes less). Then, our businesses go the way of the dodo bird, because by that point, we just can’t handle any more stress. And yes, an obsessive focus on productivity does cause stress, no matter how much us entrepreneurs try to hide it. It can also cause friction in family life, too.
The whole focus on productivity really harms primary caregivers, especially mothers. There’s this huge pressure for us to be “supermoms,” and words like “mompreneur” don’t help. Some of us (yes, I’ll confess I’m one of them) sometimes (or often times) feel guilty when we’re not keeping up with the status quo of raising kids while doing a gazillion other things. Granted, I’m a polymath who actually enjoys doing 5,000 things at once, but I’d be lying if I said there’s not a bit of societal pressure to continue doing those things when I’d rather take a break.
Stop the obsession with productivity: you are not your work
Want some proof that we’re far too focused on doing and not enough on being? In the US and Canada, we lose our personalities to our jobs. When you meet people, the first thing they ask is, “what do you do?” And the expected response is that you’ll tell them what your job is. This is such a weird expectation. And some people have hilarious responses to the question when they’re out of paid work or doing work where they don’t get paid (like being a primary caregiver).
Why do we define ourselves by the work we do for pay? Because we have an obsession with “productivity,” and that’s not the worst of it: this productivity with which we’re obsessed is very narrowly defined. Think “productivity,” and people think “paid work” or “building a business.”
Primary caregivers who spend hours doing laundry, cleaning homes, cooking, breast- or bottle feeding, and generally loosing sleep to make sure humans stay alive aren’t always seen as productive people. We’re so fanatic about productivity, we’ve forgotten what it even means. It’s time to step back and start wasting more time so we can remember who we are.
It’s time to rein back the productivity obsession before we all burn out and can’t produce anything at all.
Don’t get me wrong: being productive is important as a citizen of the world. Contributing in some way to the world in which we live is not just worthwhile, it’s necessary. I’m not suggesting you quit everything and sit on the couch for hours a day while your business goes under and your kids starve.
What I am suggesting is that we slow down our obsession with productivity. We do need to get things done, but we also need to learn to waste some time. Wasting time is not a terrible thing. In fact, it’s an essential thing.
Watching a show you enjoy that’s simply for fun is not a bad thing. Surfing the Internet once in a while is not a bad thing. Sitting with a nice cup of tea, a glass of wine, or your beverage of choice while relaxing is not a bad thing. Taking time for yourself is not a bad thing.
If you have a hard time taking time for yourself, re-establish the Sabbath. Even if you’re not religious, taking a day completely off of everything is important for your mental health. Call it your day off if “Sabbath” makes you uncomfortable, but for the love of all that’s good, waste some time this week.