I have a strange relationship with work at the moment. Most of us do.
My generation entered the job market during the Great Recession. I started my freelance writing career in 2008, which meant trying to pay for meals and rent making $15 per article. No wonder I’m obsessed with productivity — I need to force myself to write multiple articles a day. High yields are not an option.
This was the early 2010s when Lifehacker was one of the fastest growing on the web and people watched TED talks ironically. We all want to enjoy more of our workday, so we spent a lot of time thinking and reading about it. I think many of us have internalized the idea that being more productive is the most important thing in the world. The regular answer to “How was your week going?” as “Didn’t Work”, which seems confusing if you think about it.
But you know what? Productivity is not the problem. It was never like that. I’m trying to teach myself this, but it’s not easy, and that’s why I think my relationship with work isn’t as it should be.
Means to an end
I’m not saying you shouldn’t want to get everything done, or that you shouldn’t try to get more out of your day if you want to. Achievements are good, and there’s nothing wrong with wanting to be a better version of yourself. But productivity isn’t the point – it’s a tool. The means to an end.
You probably get a lot of satisfaction from your work — satisfaction is key. Maybe you’re trying to grow a business — business is key. Maybe you’re just trying to get enough work done to keep earning your paycheck — paychecks are key.
Productivity is never the bottom line.
I’m having trouble remembering this context. I have a full-time job at Zapier and writing isn’t the only thing I do here. But I have the reflexive instincts of a freelancer. I used to only get paid when one of my articles was published on a website, and that meant the days I didn’t write still felt like days I wasted.
But it is not true. For example, the time spent building relationships with my co-workers isn’t “productive” in any tangible sense, but that doesn’t mean I spend it badly. I’m happier when I connect with people, for one thing, and strong relationships within a company benefit in every invisible way. So while attending meetings, or spending time in small talk isn’t “productive”—at least, not in the narrow sense that I define productivity—it’s not the same. waste my time.
And this goes the other way. I could write more if I lost my hobbies, friendships and marriage, but that would be a terrible way of life. For me, the point of being productive is having time and resources to devote to other things. This all sounds obvious, but it’s an easy one to overlook. There is so much cultural pressure to be a “productive member of society,” that other aspects of life can be considered secondary.
But that is starting to change.
The culture of hustle is canceled
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