Productivity

August 11, 2011

I'm writing this at 11:52 PM mainly not because I have a particular burning desire to write a blog post or even that I have a strong passion on the topic of productivity, but more (fittingly) because I feel like I need to produce some sort of written work today. :)

Admittedly, I did spend a good portion of the morning emailing TEDxRedmond speakers (www.tedxredmond.com--the youth event I'm organizing), working on a document about TEDxRedmond for potential sponsors, communicating with organizing committee members, and taking a SAT Literature Practice Subject Test for fun during commercial breaks on the evening news broadcast (FYI, my scaled score was 760/800--hoping I can do better without the news as a distraction next time--and yes, to folks who disagree with testing, I was seriously doing it for fun), as well as taking a walk to the grocery store with my sister and mom. When I list what I've done today off like that it sounds slightly more "productive" but all the same I feel like I haven't done much, because not mentioned in that list are the minutes I spent skulking around after breakfast, how much time I spent just not really wanting to do much, etc.

My imaginary really productive day for me is one where I wake up early (well, my version of early is more like 9 AM), finish a speech, create a presentation, make a YouTube video, write a few short stories and poems, answer all the emails lingering in my inbox, do some math and science, write a blog post, and then sit back and relax and watch a movie or an episode of Arrested Development on Netflix instant play at night with my family, or read a new book. In short, cross everything off my to-do list and feel sufficiently accomplished to reward myself. :)

Of course, I've never had a day quite like that. I've certainly had days with elements of that, but most of the time I'll end up slacking off. I'll mark the email as important and then forget about it, or skip the math in favor of re-reading a Harry Potter book.

I joke to my mom that I envy kids who had to be coaxed into reading, whose parents give them treats for reading twenty minutes--my parents are the opposite. You see, I have to make deals sometimes (usually when I'm supposed to be preparing for a trip, going to sleep, or otherwise engaged) to read an extra chapter in a story.

It's been that way since I was little and my mom would try to coax me to go play outside instead of read yet another chapter book. When I was six my mom had to do the same in order to get me to stop typing up short stories on my laptop, and come eat dinner. A lot of my peers have parents shouting at them to do SAT practice when, yeah, I was doing the Literature practice test for fun (does that sound incredibly nerdy? I'm a big fan of literature and I'll tell you, the SAT practice subject test is better than mindlessly watching ads on TV during commercial breaks).

No, my personal definition of "productivity" is something closer to a ton of blog posts (I wish--I really need to update more), TEDxRedmond issues neatly squared away, maybe a masterpiece novel, and--this is really unlikely--me producing a properly shaded drawing (my tortillion-wielding skills need work). Other people's definition of productivity might mean de-bugging systems, making a certain amount of money, efficiently finishing homework, etc.

The really strange thing is that sometimes one person's leisure is another person's work (not quite a trash v. treasure thing, but I used the saying's structure). That is, my reading a couple novels--what I consider a break from, say, emailing people about TEDxRedmond or preparing a presentation (both perfectly enjoyable, just not things I want to do all the time) could be someone else's version of one-more-thing-on-the-to-do-list. It's an odd thought.

As I'm heading off to brush my teeth, now at 12:15 AM, somewhat satisfied with what I've done today, I have to wonder: should we be forcing ourselves to be productive in the first place? How far is too far? What's your personal definition of "productivity?"

---
PS, to everyone worried about my psychological health and about to comment that kids should totally have free rein over the summer, my version of free rein is pretty much exactly what I did today. :)
Yeah, I'm just really into organizing events.

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4 comments

  1. Oooh, fascinating question. Not sure exactly what my definition of productivity is...I do know that it's highly related to my focus. I am able to have more output (more blog posts, respond to more emails, follow up with more clients, etc.) when I am focused on the task at end, particularly if I can get in "the zone." =)

    I have also noticed recently that my energy is directly related to my productivity...when I am productive I tend to have more energy, even if I'm sleeping less, eating relatively worse, etc.

    Perhaps of interest is my list of email and productivity tools: http://playbillsvspayingbills.com/2011/03/13/email-and-productivity-tools/

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  2. Anonymous3:51 PM

    Well Adora, if you want to take advice from a lazy middle aged man who was a spelling disaster at school?

    Why not try the opposite and be lazy as hell and then see what your reaction will be?
    Will you feel anxious and worthless? or will you just feel bored?

    If you feel worthless then you have confused your self esteem with your productivity and buildt a false self esteem based upon your productivity.
    If you feel just bored, than go for it and be productive.
    But only be productive as long as you feel It`s fun and you really like it. You are not responsible for the world, the world has to take care for itself.

    As a teenager you start to shape your adult identity. But there`s a risk you build a false identity based on others appreciaton of you.

    Your true value as a human beeing is 100% real and something you were BORN WITH, no one can take that away from you, not even if they try.
    That insight must be the base in your self esteem.
    Your value in society (depending on your performance) on the other hand is a totally different matter, but is unfornately VERY, VERY OFTEN confuse with your value as a human beeing.
    This is a major fault in our society and many people fall into that trapp.
    So avoid doing the mistake to build a false self esteem based on your productivity or performance.
    your true value as a human beeing is something you already have from birth, but your value in society will always vary depending on your performance.

    So my answer to your question is: as long as you REALLY like beeing productive, go for it.
    But remember. You are the owner of your own life, because your own life is only yours and nobody elses.
    That`s why it`s so important to be a little bit lazy sometimes.

    Ops look! Now I have been creative too! :=)

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  3. Andrew Kewley10:29 PM

    Try to avoid joining the cult of productivity!

    Life is not a to-do list. When you are older, if you were to look back at your life in terms of a list of stuff that you did versus a list of stuff that you wanted to do, you are always going to be overwhelmed by the infinite list of stuff that you didn't do. No matter how much you have actually achieved.

    Looking at life in this way is mostly devoid of meaning and I suspect one of the reasons why depression is common in our society.

    The next bit is a bit hard to explain. In reality we are not separate beings from the rest of the universe and as such concepts like having a separate identity is just an illusion.

    Nonetheless, this relationship with the world is reflexive and shapes our experiences. In turn this shapes our identity and behaviour. How then are we 'supposed' to behave? The key for me is to 'be myself'.

    I used to find this paradoxical, if you are not being yourself, then who are you?
    But to be yourself you must first listen to yourself. This is easier said than done because you must reflect on all of your experiences, all of the voices you have spoken to and act to do what you feel is right independently of any outcome.

    Remember, that is not a mistake if you felt you chose the right thing at the time and the result was an unexpectedly failure.

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  4. Halloo :)

    Just read your profile on one of magazines in my country (Indonesia) and I'm curious about you. So, I'm here now, reading your blog... :)

    SAT practice for fun? Whoa, I do hope I can enjoy learning and studying like you..!!

    ..got some inspiration from you :)
    thank you...

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