Every Day is Saturday

Finding Joy in the Here and Now

Being Productive

on July 23, 2013

Yesterday I had one of those great days where I felt like I got a lot done.  In the morning I worked on a new project for a few hours, then took a break at lunch.   While I was working I got an email from a returning client with a signed proposal, so that really brightened up the day.

I spent the afternoon doing preliminary work for this client, which consisted of some email communication.  While that was going on I started working on part 2 of a project I have for another client.

In and around all of that I followed up on some outstanding business to do with the wind-down of an unsuccessful business venture.  That was a drag, but it had to be done.

So yesterday I would characterize as a productive day, and those make me feel really good.  They justify my continued pursuit of self-employment.  I enjoy those days because there are all too many where I don’t feel “productive” at all.

Which got me thinking about productivity.  When I was working in corporate real estate, the holy grail for people in the workplace design field was the accurate measurement of the productivity of “knowledge workers” (as opposed to workers whose output is easily measured, like in a factory).  Everyone wanted to know if their wicked cool new workplace was actually improving people’s ability to get their work done, and there was a constant stream of angles people were taking to determine how productive people were in their new environments.  Some people claimed that they could measure productivity, but I never saw it.

My own feelings about productivity are not clear-cut.  I generally feel productive only when I’m doing work for which I will get paid.  There are days I spend almost exclusively doing “house-work” – going to the grocery store, balancing the checkbook, doing laundry, running the dishwasher, etc., – that I feel I haven’t done anything.  Which, of course, is not true – but since in my mind I should be doing “work-work” instead (even if I don’t have any “work-work” to do), I’m not being productive.

I recognize that these attitudes are a holdover from the 9 – 5 days, where one is made to feel like every moment of the time for which one is getting paid must be filled with work.  There is a powerful collective guilty unconscious associated with anything that looks like goofing off when you work in an office.  People keep score.  You keep score.  It helps you justify your own lapses if you can say, “Well, yes, I took an hour and fifteen minutes for lunch today, but So-and-So spends all afternoon on Facebook!”.

I find that somewhere in my psyche, this sort of score-keeping is still going on, only I do it to myself now.  One part of my self is keeping track of what I get up to during the day and meting out either approval or guilt, depending on the perceived productivity of my actions.  As time has gone on it’s gotten better, but I still – even now, three years on – I STILL find myself saying things like “It’s OK to go to a matinee movie on Tuesday – I’ll work late tonight”.

I have yet to master the art of joyously blending all of the things I do in my days into a beautiful whole, free from judgement and guilt.  I can see in my mind’s eye what that kind of life that could be, but I haven’t figured out how to release my fear about not being “productive”.  I can’t seem to allow myself to just take it as it comes.  But I’m working on it.

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