Yesterday, when scrolling through ‘productivity’ subreddit, I stumbled upon a couple of posts from different people, sharing approximately a similar idea on what is productivity. They questioned if spending time on something we enjoy (like, playing video games) can be treated as ‘productive’ or not.
I got curious – what is ‘productive time’ exactly, and how to stop beating yourself over doing something that isn’t considered to be productive sometimes.
The common perception of what is Productivity
To understand what we consider to be ‘productive’, I did a tiny experiment. Open Google Images, type ‘productive time’ and press search. Heaps of images that you see tell us about the common way we use to perceive productivity topics.
We can see work, office setup, a laptop, a clock. Related searches provide us some light on what are the ‘similar’ topics people google: time management, work, office, management, efficiency, etc.
This proves a simple idea: most of us think of ‘productive’ time as the one we do some work. Be it working at the office, or studying at uni – these activities we label as ‘productive’.
The danger of ‘work-based’ productivity
Now let’s think about it a bit further. What happens if I want to have a ‘productive weekend’? If ‘productivity’ means doing some work in our minds – I probably have to spend my weekends working, delivering some output for my career.
I guess you see the dangers of this idea. As someone who tried skipping a few weekends in a row and kept working on my regular daily stuff – I can tell you it’s not a good idea.
In short, when following the same weekday ‘productive path’ during weekends – you risk burning out quickly. This can be losing interest in your work, losing motivation, feeling anxiety and apathy.
Don’t mix sprint with marathon
The example above shows: narrowing down ‘productivity’ only to the work-related activities is a bad approach. Life goes beyond our work and careers, and we shouldn’t forget about that. In my opinion, the idea of productivity should take both ‘work’ and ‘life’ areas of our existence.
Our life is a marathon, a continuous journey. It has different areas of its route, with different complexity levels. To keep going, we need to allocate our resources in an appropriate way.
When we say that productive time is the time spent in work or study only, – we treat a marathon as a sprint. Yes, it’s possible to do so – but for a short, limited amount of time only.
What is productivity then?
To answer this question, let’s ask ourselves: what is the goal of our marathon? What’s the goal of our life? For everyone it’s different: someone has a short goal of starting a business, someone has a long goal of being happy and healthy.
No matter which goals you have, I suggest treating time as ‘productive’ if it helps you achieve these goals.
This approach helps you stay focused on your objective
‘Productive’ means something that helps you. Examples
Imagine you want to start a side hustle, that’s your current main goal. At the same time, you have a day job that you work full time, from Monday to Friday.
It’s Sunday, and you decided to do some experiments with your side hustle: message potential clients, write a few posts on social media, schedule some meetings. At the same time, you don’t do anything that helps you with your fulltime job. Would it be productive?
Your boss wouldn’t think so – but it would be productive for sure. You do something that makes your side hustle goal one step closer, so why not call it productive?
Imagine your goal is to spend more time with your family. You work hard Monday to Friday, and it’s Sunday morning. You are trying to decide, what would be a better activity for today: picking a favorite book, or going for a picnic with your loved ones?
Although reading a book might sound more attractive to you right now, – you remember your goal. To make sure that you are actively working to reach it, the more productive activity might be going somewhere and having a fun time together.
Imagine that your goal is to start your TikTok channel. You have an idea what your channel should be about in general, but you’re struggling to find inspiration. You open the app and spend another hour scrolling the relevant channels, taking notes on ideas you find.
Was it productive? It’s hard to imagine someone saying that scrolling social media might be productive, but in our case – yes! You have a goal to do something, and checking what others do in this area is helpful a lot. In fact, I worked in the past in a company producing content for Facebook. Scrolling through top social media outlets and taking notes was part of my daily routine back then.
Conclusion – why ‘Productivity’ is well beyond our work
These examples might sound too simplified, but I wanted to make it as clear as possible. Just like there are no ‘good’ and ‘bad’ habits, there is no way to identify something as productive or not without a context. By ‘context’ I mean the overall goal someone has – and the kind of activity they select to reach it.
Next Sunday, when you wake up in the morning, think about it. Don’t blame yourself for being non productive, don’t rush to do your regular daily work routines just to pretend. Think about the goals you have, and pick the right activity to make it an inch closer.
That’s exactly what I did today, by writing this blog post. Thank you for reading!
I started this blog as an attempt to improve my writing skills and to establish a proper writing routine. I share notes and tips about productivity, products and routines. I believe that this blog will keep me accountable and (hopefully) will help someone else too.