Is Productivity A Virtue?

Wednesday, February 1st, 2012

Do you believe you are what you do? Is your self-worth hinged on whether you accomplish your to-do list?

As our ego is our self-identity based on external things such as possessions and achievements, it often leads us to believe that we are what we do. And out of that main belief comes thoughts like “I should be busy….all the time.” “If the house is clean, the errands are done, and the emails have been sent, then I’m a good person worthy of love.

Have you ever uttered such thoughts or ones like that in your head? Lord knows I have.

There’s a popular bumper-sticker that says, “Jesus is coming, look busy!” The number one rule in comedy is that it’s funny because it’s true. The truth is, if word got out that son of God was dropping by, I think most people would heads down it and throw in a few grunts for extra measure.

Admittedly, in the past, I have chosen to do laundry over going out to see a movie with friends, so I can avoid hearing my ego whisper with disdain, “There you go being lazy again – good people get jobs done first and only relax if there’s time left over.” Oh yes, there have been many times that I chose to do something productive over spending time relaxing, rejuvenating, or playing so I didn’t have to spend my entire day obsessing about what I should have be doing. Have you ever suffered from a bad case of the shoulds? You finally make time to relax or have fun and then you spend the whole time feeling bad – there you are trying to JUST BE and shoulding yourself. God bless us – we try desperately to enjoy yourselves but so often we just end up in a state of self-loathing because our almighty to-do list isn’t going to-do itself.

As the CEO of Yahoo, Carol Bartz, once said at Maria Shriver’s annual women’s conference, Let’s be very clear – the issue isn’t about balance, it’s guilt.” Can I get an Amen?

Here are some secret thoughts that you may or may not have had that indicate a belief that be busy makes you a good person…

If I’m not busy, others will think I’m lazy.” (most of the time people are too busy and too busy thinking about themselves to really care what you’re up to)

The busier I am, the cooler I am.” (do you ever get the feeling that some people are just showing off?)

I don’t know how not to be busy.” (and you’re too busy to figure it out)

Hey, everybody else is busy.” (it’s like the peer pressure to wear Ralph Lauren button-downs, Bass penny loafers, and acid wash jeans all over again…sigh…)

If you are busy due to thinking it’s some kind of virtuous act and makes you a better person,  please consider that being busy is nothing more than being busy. Being busy doesn’t create self-worth, however, it can create fatigue that can compromise the quality of your life. Please consider that times of stillness, laughter, and play are actually essential if you want to be truly productive and achieve quality in your work.

Think of your energy much like a bank account. Being productive and being busy are the withdrawals. Rest and play are the deposits. Have you ever experienced  over-draft???

You may have had the fleeting or not-so-fleeting thought that being busy equals success. Well, if being busy leads you to lying spread-eagle on the floor gasping for air, can you really call that success? I mean, come on, isn’t it a real bummer when you finally make it to the end of a busy week – it’s Friday night – and there you are at home fast asleep on the couch by nine o’clock? Yeah, that’s sexy.

Do you want to have more rest, relaxation and fun in your life? It’s not really about better time management and making charts, it’s about having the courage to turn your back on a voice that has made you believe that productivity is virtuous like being honest and being generous.

It’s about creating a loving, supportive voice within yourself that allows you joy.

You won’t be as busy if you silence that chatter in your head that has made you believe that relaxing and having fun is right up there with lying and telling those kids with those UNICEF boxes at Hallowe’en to buzz off because you’re keeping our pennies for yourself, damn it.

Big Love,