There is a big secret about productivity: most people are lazy, or, rather, most people think of themselves as lazy. Many of us look for ways to be more productive, to waste less time, or to generate more output.
It seems that our culture is fanatical about productivity. A simple Google search of “how to be more productive” pulls up article upon article proclaiming to break down the key to success and productivity. Sources range from Forbes to Good Housekeeping. Much of the advice is banal and frighteningly obvious, such as getting more sleep. Nevertheless, such coverage on the subject indicates a deeper obsession with our own collective work ethic.
Writing for Forbes, entrepreneur Ilya Pozin tackled the demanding question of why exactly productivity is culturally overemphasized, hypothesizing that “in this digital age, staying on task and avoiding distraction is harder to accomplish than your actual work.”
He also added, ridiculously, that “The feeling of a productive workday is somewhat euphoric.” Getting a lot of work done does feel satisfying, but this satisfaction comes from the relief of eradicating tasks that previously caused stress. Needless to say, the experience falls considerably short of being ‘euphoric.’
By ‘productivity,’ what I and these articles are referring to is economically viable output. I have no doubt that people feel genuinely compelled to contribute to the world in whatever way speaks to them, but this is not necessarily productivity.
In my experience, productivity actually discourages genuine creation by forcing people to work harder than they can emotionally or energetically afford to, thereby encouraging apathy even from people who would otherwise care about the quality of their work.
However, productivity and laziness don’t need to be diametrically opposed — although laziness has a taboo that proves difficult to overcome. But when we speak about balancing productivity and laziness, we are really speaking about how to best exist in society, and how to navigate the world we occupy in a satisfying way.