OPINION: Medium is filled with problematic, workaholic articles.
Medium is flooded with articles on maximizing one’s day and creating the ideal, successful life. Although this can be beneficial, obsessing over constantly progressing in one’s work and success can be detrimental to simply enjoying life.
The Article in Question
I recently stumbled across the article “41 Things You Should Say “No” to for a Happier 2019,” and although it’s a well-written and well-meaning article for improvement-driven people, I strongly disagreed with a few items on the list and the overall focus of the list.
Happier = Productivity?
Nearly 30 out of the 41 items on the list dealt with productivity issues and ways to squeeze the most out of one’s time, which I believe is not the main path to a happier year (although it is definitely part of it).
The article did touch on philosophical and social points, like avoiding gossip and being a giving person. However, even a fair amount of these points kept coming back to the drive to succeed and improve, such as the point on not “Talking Shit About Yourself:” “Be positive. Don’t seek loathing, seek improvement.”
Or in the point on “Partying Every Night, which was listed under the category of ‘Health and Sleep’:” “Enjoy a party, but don’t forget your goals, and resting of course!”
Why must everything tie back to goals? Personally, I’m tired of relating everything to self-improvement and careers.
These are the specific points I felt strongly opposed to:
1. Make Your TV and Couch Uncomfortable
“Make your environment uncomfortable so you can focus on the things that matter.”
Personally, I will never sacrifice coming home to a comfy living space for the sake of productivity. Arguably, maybe the article meant “Don’t fall asleep on the couch so you can focus on the things that matter, like family,” but even if this were the case, a family can enjoy a comfy couch and TV together. Home is for relaxing. The office is for work. Avoid comfy couches and TV’s in the office, but make home a happy, comfortable place to rest in.
2. Say No to Things That Don’t Work Towards Your Goals
“Question the things you do. Better yet, question it before you start it.”
When my grandma asks to bake cookies with me, I’m not going to say “no,” provided it’s a weekend, or I’m home from work and have the energy. When my friend asks me for help editing her college application essays, it does not work towards my goals. Regardless, I will help her. Granted, when it comes to projects, I still consider what works towards my goals. However, this is not the case for daily life. The “things I do” in daily life are decided by many facets, like my relationships, joy, creating, and curiosity. Every now and then, I reevaluate where my time is going. Largely, however, questioning every minutia takes life out of the moment. Taking a detour from your goals to do a crossword puzzle is, in fact, okay.
3. Delete Social Media
“Uninstall the Facebook, Twitter and Instagram apps from your phone. BAM! I gave you back an hour of your day!”
First, if you truly are a workaholic and want to further your career, it’s probably a better idea to sustain well-managed social media accounts to network, increase a following base, and maintain connections. Having the apps on your phone makes it easy to do so.
Secondly, even if the former is meaningless for the field you’re in, keep social media if you enjoy it and find it a meaningful way to keep in touch with people. Social media has been a phenomenal development in keeping up with old friends and should not be tossed aside lightly. Once again, a better recommendation would be cutting down on mindless scrolling. Keep the apps on your phone. You’re not a monkey. Just control and check yourself.
4. Waiting For Things You Don’t Need To
“Coffee machine? A traffic light when there are other options? A file upload? Just do something else!”
This point is emblematic of the rat race mentality: work 24/7, and don’t let a drop of time fall down the drain. Studies show that downtime boosts creativity, benefits health, and is much needed by the human brain.
If a file is taking an hour to upload, of course, find something else to do (I doubt anyone would sit staring at the computer screen for that long in the first place though). However, if your panini is in the toaster oven for two minutes, don’t race back to your work desk to answer a couple emails. Waiting for the coffee machine or a traffic light can be excellent times to let your brain do nothing and wander where it wants.
5. Ditch Unhealthy Food
“The more you eat healthy, the tastier the food gets.”
This point is mostly spot on. I honestly didn’t vehemently disagree with it. Healthy food is amazing; it powers the body and generally improves well-being. However, I must note that I will never completely give up unhealthy treats though unless they disappear from global culture. I’d rather say “yes” to a delicious, instagram-worthy milkshake with friends once or twice a month than live a couple years longer. My key concern here is “what are we spending our years doing?” For me, in some cases, health risks in moderation are worth it.
6. Your Cellphone
“Top productive people set their phones on Airplane mode for most of the day.For me, it has become a brick of sorts.”
Instead of turning your phone on Airplane mode, just turn off notification sounds, or don’t have it out in the open. Phones are such useful tools that rendering it to a brick for most of the day may be a hindrance, depending on your career.
Acknowledge when phone usage at work is being spent mindlessly scrolling for entertainment or responding to non-urgent messages, and look to correct it. However, phones can be great for being the first to respond to a coworker or boss that needs help, reading helpful articles, and doing research. Phones should not equate to being unproductive.
Strict changes don’t work.
Sharp changes to our lives, like deleting social media or going on harsh diets, often don’t work. Our bodies and minds aren’t ready for the surprise. Baby steps work far better. For instance, begin cutting down social media usage by 15 minutes every week. Say “no” to having dessert most days, but say “yes” to dessert at dinner with friends on Saturday.
Work is still important.
Work, goals, and success are important to the human experience. They give us a sense of purpose and liveliness. Many retirees even cite their working days as some of their happiest times, even though they were the most stressed. With the standards for success rising higher as society progresses though, people, particularly in America, are working longer hours. This can snowball into constant stress. Nevertheless though, work and purpose remain important.
But so is enjoyment.
60 hour, productive work weeks may be great for standard of living in the long run, but think of what the opportunity cost is. You may be working incredibly long hours to retire at 30, but you shouldn’t let your 20’s pass you by. Don’t always sacrifice daily joys for the sake of productivity. Enjoying life and fostering relationships year-to-year are needed traits of a life of sustained satisfaction and happiness.
This is not to say that people should keep everything in their lives that they enjoy, as that is mere hedonism. A person may enjoy hard drugs, but the ramifications from the substance are arguably greater than the derived joy. However, consuming media, film, and commenting on friend’s posts can add to life’s experience. Limit “enjoyment” only so much as pursuing enjoyment is severely detracting from furthering your goals in life. Finding where that line is, however, is a complex question for every individual.
When the original article is taken at face value for its absolutist statements, it’s an unrealistic way to view life. However, when taken in the mindset of “Consider this most of the time, but there’s room to live your life,” the article becomes much more reasonable, and I would follow a decent amount of the advice.
Overall though, Medium readers and individuals constantly concerned with productivity and success should check if they’re developing work tunnel-vision and take time to just enjoy, live, and be.