you don't need to be more productive

Published on April 3, 2020

I like to set goals for myself. Every new goal gives me something to strive toward accomplishing. When I set out to write a blog post, I give myself something to think about. So, if I ever have a free moment, there’s something for me to do. When I finish work for the day, I know I can make myself feel even more accomplished by writing a blog post.

However, during this crisis, I have felt a growing pressure to be more productive. On Twitter, I have seen posts from many people who are hoping to use this crisis as an opportunity to reset. These people share their stories on the new exercise routines they are going to develop, and all the big projects that they are going to complete. Evidently, they did not have the time to work on these projects in the past.

I understand that a great deal of us now have more time than ever to work on new projects. We’re all mostly at home. But after seeing so many people talk about what new projects they are going to take on, I have decided that I am not going to be setting major new goals during this time. Instead, I am taking a step back.

I think there is a world in which I could fit more into my day.

I know that if I take away 30 minutes of family time in the evenings, I’ll be able to hop on another call with a friend. I also know that I could spend that time building the reading habit I have been wanting to cultivate for the last few months. Despite this, I find that I am happy with how things are going right now.

I am not productive every moment of the day, but that makes sense. We are in the midst of a crisis which we are all still trying to comprehend. It may seem like, in amongst what is going on, there are silver linings -- you can paint your house, and so on -- but the reality is that, for most of us, these are the toughest times we have faced.

During tough times, thinking about how you can be more productive is not a good investment of your time. Over the last week or so, I have found myself thinking about new habits and routines I can try out. I have been thinking about how I can squeeze more out of every single day, so that, when I look back on this time, I’ll be able to say that I accomplished so much.

My mind has been thinking about productivity because I do have more spare time in my schedule, which I could technically use to do more productive things. And I think that I have also been looking to become more productive so that I can distract myself from taking the necessary time to think about what is going on. Indeed, even “productive” tasks can be a distraction from a task in which you should invest a lot of time: thinking.

I am not saying that I do not want to improve. Rather, I do not see this as a major opportunity for me to grow into a much better person. My main priority right now is getting through each day, one by one. When I go to bed, I want to be able to say that I conducted myself well, and that I accomplished what I set out to do.

I do not aspire to massively improve my keyboarding skills, or read for 30 minutes each day, or spend more time coding. These are things I would like to do, but I realize that this may not be the right time.

I am not saying that there are not many people out there who will not be able to use this time productively. But, at least for me, this is not going to be a time of massive self-improvement. I need to spend time processing what is going on. I need to double down on the routines I have already built, and focus on sustainability.

If I were to strive toward becoming more productive, I think I would quickly reach a point where my days were no longer sustainable. One day, I may wake up to some unexpected news, only to realize all the systems I had set in place are too overwhelming when times get tough. I need to build consistent systems that keep me going -- ones I know I’ll be able to uphold when times are both good and bad.

There is no need to make every moment of each day productive. I like spending extra time with my family in the evenings. It provides me with a source of comfort. I may not be able to look back in a year and say “I achieved X result from this”, but that misses the point. I cannot quantify the impact spending time with family has on my life.

I would much rather spend time with my family -- even if it only means being in the same room as them -- than work on an extra side project right now. I am not sure if I can take on any more work. During uncertain times, it’s important that you do what you can to get through each day, and more work would only make it more difficult to keep going.

This is likely to be a temporary position. In a few months, once this has blown over, I may see myself taking on many more side projects. But right now I am doing what I can to keep myself happy and productive to a comfortable extent. If that means I need more leisure time, that’s what I am going to do. Who ever said that you had to be more productive during a pandemic?

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