Today I thought I would talk about something that I think plagues all of us at least some of the time: productivity.
I think as creatives we are constantly feeling both outside pressure and the pressure we put on ourselves because of our own skewed, impossible standards. We get into this mindset that we have to always produce as much as we always have or just more, more, more in general.
But if quality suffers, is having the highest productivity rates worth it?
If we learn to dread our work with this mentality of churning out content constantly, is that really feeding our creative soul? Is that helping our creative work or our businesses in the long run?
These are some things I’d like to discuss today as I encourage you to find a happy medium and take a rest during the holiday season that is already approaching…
What is productivity?
Productivity is about creating something in order to produce end results. In manufacturing, productivity is defined as “the ratio of output to input in production.” Basically, it puts emphasis on how much is produced (rather than how well crafted it is made). Productivity is all about efficiency. How much is made in any given time.
This may be a really important thing to measure in the manufacturing world, and for good reason.
But here’s the thing: we are not machines, we are human.
Why are we so obsessed with productivity?
It is so easy to get wrapped up in being productive. Especially if you’re a creative.
We often think if we slow down or take a week (or even a day) off, we’ll miss an opportunity.
Then on the other hand, even if we are keeping up with our own defined production standards, if we don’t produce exactly what others expect we fear a drop in traffic, clients, or income in our creative businesses.
As humans we get so wrapped up in constantly staying busy. The quote “idle hands are the devil’s playground” comes to mind in particular…
As we grow into young adults, we’re told that to rest is to be lazy. As a society we’re expected to compete with our family, friends, and neighbors at all times. Constantly improving. Constantly producing. Always trying to prove our worth. We’re expected on any given day to be able to list out the million different tasks we’ve tackled each day, in our work and our personal lives. It seems that we aren’t ever allowed to just be and exist in a state of calm and contentedness. And just appreciate what we have and what we’ve already accomplished.
Sure, we might stop to have a celebratory dinner somewhere special to celebrate a recent success. But then it’s immediately back to the drawing board to concoct the next best thing. All in the hopes of outdoing our peers and ourselves all over again and again.
This is a problem, though.
Even engines lose steam and require regular maintenance and rest.
I think once we start to question all of this and realize what is at the root of our own individual high expectations in regards to productivity, we can slowly unlearn these toxic things we tell ourselves.
How can we combat an obsession with producing constantly?
It is so important to unlearn this toxic obsession with perfection, first and foremost. I think that is at the root of a lot of what we struggle with today as a society.
Learning to let go of others’ expectations and the expectations that society often imposes on us is vital for self-growth. We need to remember that we are human, too, and that we need to extend the same grace to ourselves that we often extend to others.
Furthermore, rest is paramount to long-term success. You are literally doing yourself (and your creative work/business) a favor by taking time for yourself and friends/family when needed. (And while we’re on the topic, please remember that rest doesn’t necessarily mean laying on the couch all day–it just means taking a break from the usual day-to-day grind to do what you truly enjoy at your own pace.)
When we are on this constant hamster wheel where we don’t ever stop, we lose sight of what’s important to us. Our values, our heart, our soul of the creative work gets lost. It gets muddled with all kinds of other nonsense and in turn our creativity suffers.
If we don’t learn to rest, we risk quitting. We risk burnout and health problems and losing our love of creating. I don’t know about you but that doesn’t sound very enticing or productive to me.
Rest is essential. Rest is conducive to success. Rest is productive.
Please, remember that when you find it hard to rest.