Last week was the first week in which my entire Google calendar lay bare and untouched. Every day for the last 6+ years, I’ve religiously filled out my calendar with a multicolored tapestry that served both as a recording of what I did (an hour for lunch here, a mind-numbing 3 hour Netflix binge there) and a forecast of what I was about to do (gymnastics on Wednesday mornings). The obsessive tracking was part of an elaborate system I refined to make me more efficient and productive. Being a long-time follower of Tim Ferris, James Clear, and similar others who spoke in terms of habits, lifestyle design, and a constant stream of quantitative data, I took pride in carpe-ing even the sleep part of my diem.
I’m wondering lately who/what exactly I’m producing for and if productivity is measured by the ability to produce a large amount of goods/products/commodities, is there ever a time when being unproductive is desirable? And no, scheduling some app-optimized, Apple Watch-tracked, polyphasic sleep routine followed by some Wim Hof ice bathing does not count as unproductive, intentionally restful as it may seem. I’m talking about the complete abandonment of any structure or system to “do something” for an unspecified amount of time. In doing so, you may find yourself automatically switching from “Producing” to “Consuming”, thinking these are the only two options one has especially in a society like ours. But what if we can be neither? Is Surviving in an age of aspirational Thriving enough?
I realize that an intentional choice not to produce especially when rent is due in a few months is a privileged one and not participating in a consumptive economy assumes you have other ways of self-actualizing. I also get that in these times, hyper productivity could really just be a coping mechanism designed to keep us from falling into the abyss of our unexplored psyche. But given the choice, would you choose a high level of productivity for productivity’s sake? And if you chose it but can’t seem to find the energy to make the gears turn, perhaps it’s because your focus on just weathering the daily anxieties requires an enormous amount of energy that increases the further down Maslow’s hierarchy you are. It’s still spent energy worth acknowledging.
I am now on day 43 of quarantine and in that time, my roommate has fastidiously worked out twice a day, finished ten books, and broken several personal running records. All this while continuing to produce for his high-profile day job and connecting with friends on countless Face Times and Zoom calls. I eat, sleep, drink, and occasionally find some words worth writing down. Perhaps making it through sans magnum opus is the best thing many of us can do right now and if we’re not living our Best Life, at least it’s still a Life.