The thing about productivity
What does it mean to be productive?
Productivity is like a magic formula of today’s western society. Everyone seems to be charmed by it, however, very few asks questions about products of this productivity. What is it, and what’s the consequence of being productive nowadays? Asking questions is generally dangerous thing. In many cases you can realize things about yourself that you might not like — reveal all the demons that you try to burry under your bed every evening. Nonetheless, it’s important, now more than ever. So, I’m asking — what’s that magic state of productivity we’re trying to achieve, and most importantly why?
When I was in high school I was a loner. Most of the time I was stuck in my bedroom reading books or playing guitar. I had no goal except doing what I like and spent as little time as possible socializing. Don’t get me wrong, I had many friends and sure I got drunk or stoned occasionally, however, reading books seemed to me as better thing to do. And it was definitely better and more productive than doing homework or any other stuff for school.
Most of my books were of Russian classics like Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, and Gogol. After them I went for more individualistic style and freedom of expression — Virginia Woolf, Marcel Proust, and modern philosophy. Spending time with those books was the most productive period of my life. With no other goal than just sucking knowledge and understanding the things around me a bit better.
Reading books gave me pretty good resumé when I was applying for the university. And while being there, I could pass any test easily. Sure, there were tons of things I’d had no idea about before but somehow, I could manage to understand their “pattern of functionality” and therefore pass the test. The thing that helped me was my previous productivity. While other kids were running around on a playground or getting drunk in pubs, I was at home reading books. I was a stranger — weirdo whose life must had been extremely boring.
My heroes were as much the authors that I read as the characters they’d created. Products of those authors’ productivity were fiction people. Nonetheless, we celebrate them and we’re forced to learn about them at school. We acknowledge there’s something important about them even though they’re mostly just rich people doing nothing except — ha — reading books and philosophing about life.
The question is: why do we value doing nothing beside contemplating when it comes to fiction characters and despise it when it comes to real life?
Because we don’t see it as something worthwhile — it’s not the sign of productivity. However, I’d been productive when I was reading those books. The important thing when evaluating our productivity is its outcome. And trust me, the more abstract it is the better or truthful it is. The outcome of my productivity was a knowledge of history, culture, psychology, logic, and aesthetics. Of course, at the time of reading I had no idea what I’d been indulging myself with but few years later I put all those thing in use. In fact, I’m still using them whatever I do.
The outcome of my productivity is knowledge and the outcome of that knowledge is a product of some kind. The only way of how to be truly productive is to have a knowledge and apply it.
The thing about productivity that’s been bugging me for a while is its social connotation. Few hundred years ago we had money to define who we are — to which social group we belonged, what interested us, and what should we’d behaved like. Now, when money is almost a scene fiction we have levels of productivity to define who we are. Are you productive? Did you spend last 10–12 hours in front of your laptop? Did you have at least three cups of coffees to go from Starbucks’s or any other busy looking café in town? Beware if you answered any of these questions no.
I have a feeling that we’re getting ourselves into circle of fake productivity — when no one’s actually doing anything but pretending to be busy to climb a social ladder. It’s not a surprise that people have a talent to find the most stupid ways of how to evaluate and label themselves but this way we’re not getting anywhere. A better future is not the one in which everyone is busy being productive but the one that allows us to a take time to stop being ꞌproductiveꞌ and think instead.
I’m a web designer and very least of what I do is sitting at the computer and sketching websites or coding them. Most of my work time is dedicated to reading, observation, and thinking. First, I need a knowledge base and just after that I can start building a product.
That magic state of productivity I try to establish is almost a sacred moment — it’s when my knowledge, creativity, and productivity are in synergy. That’s when I’m doing my best work and the outcome of that work is a product I can put my name on without fear of doubts.
So, I say go ahead and ꞌwasteꞌ your time doing what you love because it’s the most productive thing you can do. It’s the easiest and fastest way of how to suck in a knowledge and transform it into a great product of any kind.