This post is a part of my Personal Development Project for May 2016.
“I was so unproductive yesterday.”
“I couldn’t get anything done all week. What a waste!”
“Man, I didn’t do anything today!”
The number of times I’ve said or heard these things is too high to count. We (people in general) like getting things done. We like seeing the results of our labor, creating tangible things. We’re obsessed with being productive.
Clearing your inbox is productive. Finishing that assignment is productive. Cleaning the house, taking the car into the shop, uploading the pictures from that vacation you took two months ago, doing the write-up for that meeting, being able to check something off your to-do list — all productive activities. Productivity means producing something tangible, something concrete, something completed.
Unproductive tasks, then, don’t produce tangible results. Taking a walk, for example, is unproductive. Going to the beach is unproductive. Watching a movie, getting on the internet, hanging out with friends, reading a few pages of a book, taking a nap, brewing a good cup of coffee, sitting in silence and just thinking about life — all of these things are unproductive. You usually have nothing tangible to show after you’ve engaged in these kinds of activities.
Somehow, the word “productive” has come to be “valuable”. And by extension, “unproductive” has come to mean “not valuable”. But this is a huge shame (or rather, a huge sham!) because a lot of unproductive tasks are actually quite valuable. Taking time for yourself is valuable. Building meaningful relationships is valuable. Slowing down and enjoying and appreciating life is valuable.