Modern Day Confusions Around Productivity


I step outside at the end of the day to bring the laundry in when I catch my mind wondering how “productive” I’ve been on this supposed day of rest. The thought stops me cold.

And not because the thought is so off base given that I have hung laundry, made ghee, meatballs and sauce, planted garlic, closed the yurt for the winter, brought in wood for the week, and submitted an article for publication. But because it is such a modern day ailment/indulgence/obsession/anxiety to even be having a thought such as this.

At another time in history, or even now in another place on the planet, the idea of being productive enough would have been something real; an actual matter of life and death even. Needlessly making up ideas around whether or not I had done enough would not have been something I would have had the time, luxury or inclination to do.

I would have been far too involved in doing what I actually needed to do to keep myself and my family alive, warm, fed and protected. In other words, surviving. And maybe in some seasons, even thriving.

These days, we use the idea of productivity as proof of our worth, as something we judge ourselves by. As some kind of endless justification treadmill we get on to prove to others and ourselves that we are worthy of our existence. This as opposed to ensuring our existence.

And while there is only the difference of one word between these two phrases, they could not in reality be further apart.

At another time, we would have needed no proof that we were productive. We would just be doing what we needed to do. No prizes. No “likes.” No neurotic comparisons. No bragging rights. No fretting in some self-indulgent way. No “adulting.”

What am I saying here?

I guess I’m wondering if it is possible to live with all the conveniences of a modern day existence, while remaining simple and true to the reality of life on the planet in a human body. Grounded in what is actually necessary in the midst of all the pushing around what our “best lives” look like.

Detached enough to recognize when and where we are incessantly trying to live up to some standard that says we must prove and establish our worth by being recklessly and continuously busy.