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Productivity is a concept with a cult-like following, promising to help you lead a better life. With our lives being as busy as they are, it has truly found fertile ground. It is a fire trend that, for better or worse, is sticking with us.
But is productivity simply doing more in less time? It would be if we were machines, which we are hopefully not… So, what does productivity look like, really?
Be warned, the answer will not be your typical productive girlie POV. My relationship with productivity has been bittersweet, to put it kindly. But I do think we can use it constructively to live more balanced lives.
If you also need to redefine productivity (before it redefines you), follow along. We are going to dissect what it is and what it should look like.
What Does Productivity NOT Look Like?
Productivity and I have had our fallouts. Why? Because there are so many unrealistic and unhelpful expectations around it, it always made me feel like I was chasing the impossible.
I used to think that productivity was a goal I should achieve. Indeed, there is a very thin line between using productivity as a tool and living life to be productive.
This makes it all the more important to begin my “What does productivity look like” article like this by listing all the things it does not look like:
Do you know that productive girl on TikTok? I am sure you do. Well, that girl has a name and a life, which, I am pretty sure, is not productive 100 % of the time. Productivity is a way of living life, not something that defines you.
When you adopt productivity as your identity, you suddenly take on “huge responsibilities.” It becomes a daily obligation instead of a choice you can opt for or not.
You can easily find a lot of productivity tips online on every single topic. Let’s say you adopt a good bunch of them, and you can proudly say you are now *productive*.
So, what, my friend? What did you do all that for? Is there a specific reason or an area of your life you may want to improve? Productivity without purpose is pointless because it is not a goal in itself but a means to achieve it.
The trends of our times have a way of imposing themselves. If you are not following them, you get a feeling of missing out. Yet, they are not all suitable for everyone. The same applies to productivity.
At the end of the day, productivity should make you feel good. If it does not, maybe this narrative is not for you, and that is okay!
We don’t all need to study using the Pomodoro technique or wake up at 5 am to live our best lives. Maybe you have your own little ways of effectively going about your days. Stick to what works best for you, whether that is dubbed productive or not.
Something To Compare Yourself To Others For
Our materialistic society has ingrained in us that quantity is better than quality. This means that prizes and praises go to the person who works more hours, gets more things done, has the tightest schedule, etc.
You can see now how productivity can easily become a race. However, we are all unique beings with different expectations, goals, and ways of doing things. Follow your plan at your pace, not worrying about what others’ lives look like.
What Does Productivity Look Like?
YouTuber and productivity guru Jade Bowler (Unjaded Jade) defines productivity as living life well. I like this definition so much because it makes it evident that productivity cannot possibly look the same for everyone.
This means that my answer to the question, what does productivity look like, might not be just right for you. However, receive my hot take, and you will. Here is what productivity looks like to me:
Productivity Looks Like Intention
There are a gazillion productivity hacks, techniques, tracking apps – you name it. With just a few clicks, you get overwhelmed by the “do this to skyrocket your productivity” clickbait content. Yet, there should be a reason for you to become more productive.
I always choose to be mindful of why I do what I do. I try to infuse my actions with intention. This motivates me to seek more effective ways to accomplish my tasks. I choose my purpose, and productivity comes into play as a tool to help me achieve it.
So, always ask yourself, what do I want to achieve and why? For example, I wish to be productive, have a more effective workflow, maximize my free time, make sure that all my tasks are tackled on time, etc.
Productivity Looks Like Organization
We all have so many things to do and so many different roles to fulfill that it is sometimes impossible to keep everything in check. Organizing your time is a life-saving skill that also happens to be a basic principle of productivity.
I like to make weekly plans, schedule my calendar, and stick to my daily to-do lists. Is that productive? Probably yes. But I only do it because otherwise, I would be completely lost and anxiety-riddled.
In this logic, productivity helps me keep track of my tasks and do everything on time. It prevents me from wasting my time figuring out what I have to do and when. I hold onto it for dear life because it keeps me sane.
Productivity Looks Like Listening To Your Needs
Have you ever needed to get something done so badly, but your brain or body was in complete denial? Well, it happens to the best of us.
Our to-do list can be endless, but our energy resources are not. There come days when we have low energy, bad mood, or poor health. On those days, the most productive routine you can follow is to accept how you feel, shake off any expectations, and listen to your needs.
Dragging your feet to juggle something challenging will be ineffective and extremely draining. Instead, make your favorite tea, get some extra sleep, or catch up with a friend – anything that fills your cup.
Productivity Looks Like A Balanced Life
It might be marketed this way, but productivity is not just meant to optimize your work-related routines. Instead, it promotes the idea of holistic well-being by improving all aspects of life.
My current goal is to practice productivity by maintaining a balance between work and play. I try to complete my tasks more efficiently and struggle-free so I have more time for the things that matter to me.
I also try to incorporate activities that support my mental and physical health. Talks with friends, going for walks, preparing more home-cooked meals, and getting an extra hour of sleep are no longer a “waste of time” but an absolute necessity to me.
Productivity Looks Like Feeling Good
We must stop viewing productivity as the office police. There is no point in being productive beyond the point where it feels good. If your productive routine is causing you anxiety or discomfort, then you should seriously consider changing it.
I want productivity to relieve the pressure on my mind, not add to it. Therefore, I try to use it in a way that makes my life easier, creates a sense of security, and adds extra time for quality activities that nourish my soul.
In my reading list: In his new book, Feel-Good Productivity, Dr. Ali Abdaal reveals that the secret to a productive life is joy. He urges the reader to find play and satisfaction in their everyday routine, and productivity will follow.
Productivity Looks Like Motivation
Contrary to popular belief, motivation is not an external thought that encourages you to push forward. Motivation stems from realistic goals, consistent progress, and constructive feedback.
Productivity helps me stay on track, and this keeps me motivated. I know what my goal is, and I also have a reliable routine that will steadily get me there. This creates a sense of security and confidence while diminishing my anxiety.
Productivity Looks Like Adaptability
Life rarely goes as planned. Adaptability ensures that you won’t be thrown off balance when the rug is pulled under your feet. You will be able to let go of old expectations, pivot, and stand upright again.
Circumstances change as well as we do. Our plans should follow the ebbs and flows of life and not the other way around. Therefore, productivity shouldn’t be clinging to a rigid routine but be adaptable and resilient.
Productivity Looks Like Self-Improvement
Lately, I have been focusing on how I can practice productivity to become a better version of myself. By consistently seeking ways to enhance our skills, learn new things, and refine our strategies, we integrate a growth mindset into our approach to productivity.
The journey towards being more productive becomes a journey of self-discovery and development. This way, productivity contributes not only to the achievement of our goals but also to our evolution as individuals.
Alright, this wraps up what productivity is and is not for me. I hope I have restored your faith in its misunderstood aspects.
Productivity can truly be an ally for improving your life and doing more of the things that you love. Use it in a way that matches your life and personality and makes you feel good. After all, it is a useful tool, not an obligation to fulfill on top of your tight schedule.
I’ll close with this: productivity can have many faces, but ultimately, it is what you make it to be. So, go ahead! Ask yourself: What does productivity look like to me?