Striking the Balance
… between Productive and Consumer parts of your life
Pandemic left many of us aimless, with a lot of free time on our hands. The way we work fundamentally changed; suddenly, we have several hrs daily, previously occupied with other tasks/chores. Some people even lost their jobs, thanks to it. They had to reinvent themselves, starting from scratch, trying new professions, a new way of earning living. Regardless of whether you have a job or not, there are hrs to fill during the day, and how we go about it matters.
Productive vs Consumer tasks
Essentially, there are two types of tasks one can engage in.
Productive tasks are those where we utilize our skills, creativity, etc., and may or may not have a tangible outcome (e.g. product). Building something, learning something, practicing, anything that actively engages us should qualify. These tasks bring joy and excitement to people engaged in them. Work could be that, but, unfortunately, for a variety of reasons, most often isn’t.
Consumer tasks are the opposite. Binge-watching TV, aimlessly browsing social media, playing games, etc. would qualify as those. What underlines them is that they are sheer consumerism: they create addiction and leave one dissatisfied unless engaged in it. The overall aftertaste is emptiness.
The ratio of these two broad task categories is what contributes to our overall satisfaction in life and happiness. The goal should be to increase the number of productive tasks in our daily lives and, correspondingly, to decrease the number of consumer tasks. It is a zero-sum game, the proportion of these two task categories.
Importance of structure
A structure is another word for discipline. Most of us know what foods are good for us, that we shouldn’t be smoking or overindulging in anything, yet, only a few have the discipline to live by that knowledge.
That’s when structure comes in handy. If you have structured your life so the productive tasks are reinforced, it becomes much easier to abide by good habits, whatever they may be. E.g. I’m not reading the news anymore: I used to spend hrs sifting through them, only to get annoyed and disgruntled. It affected my overall mood and health. These days, whatever gets to me through a few media channels that I follow — so be it. I’m not seeking news items anymore.
Judging by people I know, and also by my personal experience, the ratio between productive and consumer tasks should ideally stand somewhere in 80–20 percent in favor of the former. It all depends on your starting point: if your productive daily tasks percentage is close to zero, you should seriously consider taking up on any activity that you may be interested in. Take up a hobby, anything that can get you off of addictive consumer tasks. Then gradually increase the time you’re doing productive tasks, while trying to decrease time allocated for consumer tasks. Once you form a habit of it, it will become much easier.
Need for control
Why is it so important to be productive, to do something?
Without an intention to over-generalize, I believe that being productive (i.e. being engaged in a productive and creative process) brings balance and joy to people’s lives that they cannot achieve only by being sheer consumers.
Another factor is the need to control something in our lives, when most of the factors that it is comprised of are outside of our control. Being productive gives your that absolute control over something, however small it may be. One feels fulfillment and pride in one’s achievements. Also, doing something continually brings welcome discipline and structure into our lives, so tackling other, more challenging and complex, tasks become easier. Practice makes it perfect, as the saying goes.
Being able to focus and not be easily distracted is yet another benefit that continuous engagement brings to the fore.
Need to be proactive
As humans, we need to be proactive. Our body chemistry requires a certain amount of activity, in order to maintain an optimal level of functioning. In nature, if you don’t run/swim/fly fast enough, you get eaten. We’re not designed for endless sitting, staring at various screens, but rather for running, for being active. Our big thighs give that away. Yet, we rarely run.
Being a passive consumer is probably what’s good for business, but not for consumers themselves. After a while, if your life is predominantly consumer-oriented, you feel dissatisfied, you feel the need to break free, to do something of your own accord. Being mindful of this ratio between productive and consumer tasks in one’s life should help to bring back balance, and skew the scale towards fulfillment and happiness.
So, instead of starting to watch your fourth Netflix series this month, maybe it’s time to get off the couch and do something instead. Take your time, start slowly, but definitely start, sooner rather than later. It doesn’t have to be anything big: what’s important is to keep you actively engaged, and to gradually replace that nasty binge-watching habit. It will do wonders for your well-being, and life’s satisfaction will drastically improve.
“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”
— Chinese proverb
Start walking! 😃