All the ideologies, from popular media to minimalists, accepted the assumption that what we want and need, or at least we should desire, is greater productivity. Being productive means to end projects quicker and then move to the next. Climb the ladder to success, as in self-development. In order to cook, clean up, wash the windows and, at the same time, oversee the renovation of a building eighty kilometers away. And conscientiously implement inscribed in the schedule jogging.
Wide media coverage teaches us to catch all the possible pies (each one is important and even more necessary than the other!) and chase our success running away from us. Slow living people, minimalists, essentialists and the like often give us similar life lessons, which is climb this ladder of success. But instead of taking a pile of tasks, take a handful at one time.
Look at Leo Babauta. I like him. A minimalist. But at the same time: task- and success-oriented. Maybe the guy is not boasting about his new home theater system in a set with a shiny car, but he flexes his muscles, flexes his diet and who knows what else. He employs a coach and achieves his goals. He ticks, crosses out, does his job, climbs up, works hard.
What being productive leads our society to
And what the world would that be if everyone wanted to achieve something, climb the ladder to success? Would there be anyone to sweep leaves from the sidewalks and bring cups back to the kitchen? If everyone achieved a widely understood average success – who would all those directors manage? Who would prepare sandwiches for all the business people relaxing on the beach?
And what if everyone stopped working towards their success? After all doing all the small things is important, and not – as many success people believe – disgraceful. Shoes, food, walls, floors, roof, music, good doctor – are there not the things we need? From time to time some new Edison which would come up with something genius to make us happy? Without the title of a professor from eighteen different universities. Without a dozen of creating unnecessary paperwork doctoral students.
Or what if everyone was creative. Another forced on us nonsense. What if everyone strained their brains to invent something new and original. Somehow we have been eating bread for thousands of years and it’s not bad. I know tomato soup since nearly a quarter of a century and I see no need to replace it with something else, something creative or – yuck! – innovative.
I can’t avoid this whole culture of being productive. Immersed in media – I absorb it. But it’s not mine. It’s not me. From now on I’m officially done with productivity.
Immersed in mass media I believed in being productive. I changed my weekly schedule, customized it as if to myself, but this has always been artificial, as a warrant imposed from outside. I was to be a little robot, a cogwheel, a square in the schedule with a task to do from hour to hour.
Last week’s schedule was cool. One major task for a day (except for the obligatory ones associated with the Son, home, and work). I was able to realize three-fifths of the schedule. It’s not bad for me because I don’t usually act accordingly to the squares in my schedule and there aren’t many artificially imposed schemes that I would stick to for longer than a week. And yet there are. For example, texts on my blog used to appear regularly on Tuesdays.
But that’s enough. This has also been a square in my schedule. Something artificially imposed on me. When I do something by force, it does not go well. Even if it is OK, I still remember the feelings I felt during this activity. And this is enough to make me look at a lot of successful things with a grimace.
I want to do what I want to do. Why not?! I can!
I’m a mother. A super mom. I like it. And sometimes not. And I’m not productive. Cleaning, washing the dishes, dressing children, putting away toys or clothes are not productive. These are the usual daily activities. What’s more, no matter how well you do them, you’ll have to do them over again soon. That’s life. It’s trivial. It can be simply accepted.
I do not want to be the type of success freak. I’m not (by my very nature, because I’ve tried hard) the kind of mother, who after a long day with their vigorous infant works till three in the morning. Or get up at four in the morning – this kind I must admit I envy a bit.
Being productive? No, thanks.
I just (from now on) let my life take me wherever it wants to take me. I can adjust its direction, but I do not change its course, I don’t experiment on the border of nonsense. I’m not passive, but I also don’t want to fight. The so-called success will find me sooner or later. A desire, plan, and some work. Just a little.
Being vs. being productive
Another cliché that can make you close the page – I would like to quote it anyway: life is everything that happens, in other words, that takes place or is often overlooked in between. Fun and not something like: that’s enough, as I said before, after this book mama goes to do the laundry. Cutting, washing, putting into and out of the drawer instead of eating something in front of the screen or standing up. Staring into space instead of going over a list of tasks. Three conscious breaths of fresh, frosty air (after all you complained that the winter hasn’t come) instead of: mommy’s cold, we should go there, not there! Looking at the sleeping child, looking at the playing child. Laying down with a baby put to sleep. Staring into space until the tea gets cold. Wasting time on trivial things done together with the family, cooking together and telling the same story for the seventeenth time. Sleep. Sleep, sleep.
This is all life and now I want to live. There are things that need to be done, but probably a lot less than we think (what is bravely proven by the minimalists). There is money worth earning, but probably a lot less worth than we think (what is bravely proven by the minimalists).
Isn’t it true that by nature we are what we are, we try to change for the better (to resemble the current determinants of the ideal) and then we go back to being ourselves because this is the best form, the only one in which we can do our business best?
I don’t want to be productive.
The article was originally published in April 2016.