Blog, Mental Health, Minimalism

Anti-Productivity

Anti-Productivity.

I was watching a YouTube video on morning routines yesterday. The general gist of it was that anyone who actually pressed snooze on their alarm clock is a heathen, and if we hadn’t crammed most of a work day into the hours before breakfast time then, well, what’s even the point of existing. The presenter laughed and said they got up at 2am to start the day. I giggled and waited for the punchline. It never came. They actually got up at 2am to start the day. 2am.

Did they go back to sleep? Did they finish the day at 10am and live a nocturnal life? No. After finishing their morning routine at 8am, they went to work, for a full day. I had a little trouble computing this.

After a little reflection, it’s not their routine that’s a problem. I mean, do what you want – if you can sustain this routine and it make you happy, great! The thing that nagged at me was the insistence that anyone who hasn’t got an entire, productive early morning routine in place is lazy, or not dedicated enough to their goals. The focus on ‘productivity’ as the be-all and end-all of life. Achieve more! Achieve better! Cram more things into your day because this is the only way you can be successful as a human.

I am absolutely not a morning person. My brain mostly comes to life in the afternoon, followed by another spurt of vague comprehension around 11pm (bedtime! damnit, brain). I like to think that one of my ancestors was up late guarding the campfire and watching the stars, followed by being brought a mug of some sort of breakfast-y bone broth in their cave-bed the next morning. In fact, whether we get up early in the morning or function better later at night is influenced by our genes – but the fact that our society runs on 9-5 time means early risers are given a step up here.

But it’s ok! You can be productive late at night, too! Just shift that routine back a few hours. You can still do more, cram more in, highly prioritise your time for things like ‘habit stacking’, ‘goal setting’ and ‘time blocking’. Ew.

There is a limit on ‘more’. The recent revelations regarding working hours at Goldman Sachs echo the way in which achievement is defined in our world, but there comes a point where ‘more’ really just isn’t. At a point, things break down. People break down, quality of work breaks down, meaning of life breaks down. The cult of productivity fuels the viewpoint that more is better, which translates into all areas of our lives. Doing more is better. Buying more is better. Spending more is better. Our planet is filling up whilst our people are breaking down.

I think we need to wonder where all this is going. Spending hours working to make a larger corporation even more money and hurting yourself in the process – does this have meaning beyond that idea of ‘busy-ness’? Can we still find meaning within this structure beyond making more and more and more?

I get that living in our society means we need to do a bit of ‘toeing the line’ to get by (jobs, bills, and so on), but forgoing everything that makes life good to slave away at the alter of productivity seems sad, to me. Does achievement have meaning outside of the company? Or is it all just make-believe…?

I’m not against morning routines (honestly). In fact, I think it’s really helpful to have that little ritual, comforting, beneficial and familiar. What I wonder about is the rise of routine as a way to feed into the greed of society. When a morning routine doesn’t benefit you, and instead focuses on the ways in which you are lacking – mainly, by needing to be more productive.

Anyway, I’m going to saunter off and productively make another coffee now, whilst chunnering to myself about early mornings and the possibility of starting an anti-productivity movement. Now there’s multitasking.


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6 thoughts on “Anti-Productivity

  1. Absolutely agree – any optimising I do is to create more space and time for rest and connecting with family or nature. Productivity, like all things I suspect, is best in moderation hehe 🙂

  2. So much yes to all of this! When my fibro got really bad, I had to reassess what was important and accept that my goal posts had moved. My life was going to be smaller and what I could do in a day was going to be reduced. Throw in an anorexic child and more goal post moving, and the thought of morning routines other than brushing my teeth and getting dressed exhaust me! I do make a list on the mornings I work to remind me what I need to do to make sure I don’t forget anything because all of the above makes my ADHD so much worse! Fun times 🙃

    1. Yes Clare – accepting that goalposts have shrunk is even harder when so much focuses on this ‘productivity’, I think. And yes, some days getting dressed and brushing teeth is a major achievement!

  3. You brought up some great points here. I think you’re absolutely right people going completely overboard in this strive for ultra productivity. You mentioned that you weren’t really a morning person. Have you read “When” from Dan Pink? It’s a really interesting read and the early part of the book talks about how some people are larks while some are owls (most are in the middle). But for everyone, their ability to be successful and productive is impacted by the time of day that it is.

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