a sip of productivi-tea
I have a pretty ambivalent relationship with the notion of productivity. There’s no denying its essential relationship with capitalism; the necessity to produce in order to profit. Yet it finds its unmasked way into almost every facet of 21st century life. When I searched for productivity on Insight Timer, the meditation platform, I found a treasure trove of Conscious Productivity, productivity exercises, and productivity boosts. Meditation for productivity? Please forgive me for believing that the entire point of meditation is to disconnect from the imperatives of the world around us and reconnect to ourselves. Surely then, the message of what I’m now referring to as productivity meditation is that we are (or should be) hardwired for productivity. That, when all is said and done and we have swept out the cobwebs of our souls, productivity is a remaining pillar of consciousness. Kill me now.
This week, I held my breath while the world watched a significant moment in American history play out in slow motion. By Thursday morning I’d remembered to breathe, and yesterday I remembered how to think again. Between Halloween and a conclusion to the endless counting, an entire week had passed where I’d done nothing but drink coffee glued to Twitter and various news media. All whilst being plagued endlessly by the spectre of productivity and the toxic mists it comes wreathed in: those of guilt, self-loathing, shame, procrastination, and ________ (go ahead and fill in the blanks with the name of your own demons).
A week is a long time in freelance land, where notions prevail such as “hustle until you no longer have to introduce yourself”, #girlboss, and the law of attraction – where if you’re not materially successful you’re just not working hard enough because everyone deserves wealth if they work for it (it’s probably clear where I’m going with this…). So let me take this moment to say, for myself as much as anyone, productivity does not equal wealth/success/wellbeing/happiness. The underlining tenet of productivity is the belief that what exists right now is not enough. It is antithetical to wealth or health or joy.
Time we spend with our family (be they biological or community), 100% in the moment and meeting them where they stand, laughing at their jokes or listening to them share the details of their day that matter to them, none of that is “productive” but it is making us all richer. Slowing down to savour our food or favourite song, taking a break from multitasking to allow specific sensations to wash over us and connect with any emotions they trigger, none of that is “productive” but it is making us richer. Sure, we all have to work to pay our bills (most of us, at least), but once the bills are paid we don’t get richer by stealing the one thing from ourselves and those we love that we can never get back: time.
Save your time. There will never be another moment like it.
Recommended: If productivity guilt is something you struggle with, Sensei Paul David’s Undoing Productivity Guilt meditation may help you let go (y’know, of that voice at the back of your mind that says you need to do more and more and more).