On different ways to be productive

09 Feb

A few months ago, I promised/threatened to write on my need for productivity. Part of the reason to do it now, versus earlier or later, is that my sense of what “productivity” means for me has been evolving.

It’s fair to say that I’ve been workaholic pretty much my entire adult life. Then, in December, I went an entire weekend without doing anything for work or what I term “personal business” (e.g., bill-paying, mundane business correspondence). I couldn’t remember doing that since finishing school. The world didn’t end, I didn’t get fired, spiders didn’t rain from the sky (too soon?), and it actually felt kinda cool.

It’s quite difficult for me to be idle — except when I’m bound, of course, which is part of the appeal. If I’m not working or doing personal business, I still think in terms of goals, achievements, and progress. For example, I’m “working my way through” a book or a season of TV on Netflix. That’s my base language for activity.

This, like so many other things, has been gradually changing. The prime counter-example is going to Friends’ Meetings (i.e., Quaker worship). I’m not consistent about it, but I try to attend fairly often. For those who are unfamiliar, an unprogrammed meeting consists of the gathered Friends (Quakers’ term for themselves) sitting in quiet contemplation. As individuals feel moved to, they might share aloud something that they have been considering: a personal insight, a thought on a social issue, sometimes even a song. But sometimes the entire meeting passes with no such sharing. In this situation, there is no “productivity.” That is not to say there are not goals — I have a purpose in going. But there’s nothing being checked off of a list. There is no end state.

Somewhat to my surprise, I’m finding that I’m ok with this. It also dovetails with Jalan’s rules for me on multitasking, on which I may have written before. In the past, I always kept myself on call for everything — work, personal business, leisure activities, whatever came in. Now, by rule, I’m doing one of those three things at a time (or cooking, chores, or such, of course). I set my IM flags to indicate what kind of interruption I’m open to, and I try hard to not respond to anything non-emergent that’s from one of the other domains.

And guess what? The world’s still here. Spiders didn’t fall. I sleep better and longer. I find time to go to the gym (more on that later, perhaps). I find time to just watch a movie with my wife, without doing three other things. And I’m both calmer and more energetic. A lot of mental resources went to the constant vigilance for incoming needs. Not so much.

I know this is kind of a brag-post, but that’s ok. For me, it’s more just marveling at my own progress.

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Posted by on February 9, 2013 in Daily Life


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