The Productivity Trap
Just for fun, type “productivity quotes” into Google and see what pops up. In case you were not already aware, this provides one more piece of evidence that our culture is completely obsessed with “productivity.” We are all constantly under pressure to produce stuff, anything, to prove something to the world. What we forget it is that the process is just as, if not more, valuable than a precisely finished product.
A perfect example of this is taken from my observations when I table at events and Farmer’s Market. I always have an abundance of various art and craft materials for kids to use while I engage their parents in conversation. I used to bring examples of projects – craft stick puppets, etc., but always told the kids they are free to use any of the items to experiment and play. Oftentimes, the kids were happy to examine the resources and start randomly creating whatever struck their fancy. However, in most cases, their adult immediately latched onto the example and stepped in to “help” the child produce a reasonable facsimile of the craft. They wanted the child to have something to show for their efforts while the kid was happy to let the process be the product.
What we don’t quite understand is that being productive does not necessarily mean anything, besides the appearance it provides of being occupied or competent. Busywork looks productive. Homework looks productive. Sitting silently and staring into space does not, nor does play.
You see, we are actually confusing productivity with progress. Just because you look busy does not necessarily mean you are doing anything beyond spinning your wheels.
Progress, on the other hand, sometimes, at first glance, appears to be stagnate - like a whole lot of nothing, or even extremely messy. One step forward and two steps back. What we forget is that the process of making mistakes, examining the outcomes of those errors, and adjusting our approach are all essential parts of learning – or making progress.
Progress can be quiet and contemplative, or it can be playful and fun. It can be infinitesimal to the point of not being noticeable, except by those who are paying close attention. Or, it can be giant leaps that seem impossible until you conceive how much invisible effort and time it took to get there.
As human beings, we are all making progress in our own unique way. To judge someone’s productivity based solely on what you see and what you believe to be necessary for advancement or success, only means you are missing the amazing progress that is happening on the levels that are not clearly visible.
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