Working hard vs. Being productive

The Stoic philosopher Seneca stated that so many people squander their lives on wine and lust, greed and ambition. The problem, “is not that we have a short space of time, but that we waste so much of it … there is nothing the busy man is less busied with than living.”

There is nothing the busy man is less busied with than living. What the fudge-popsicle does that mean?

I don’t know. It’s philosophical mumbo-jumbo. You’re not meant to understand it. Besides, Seneca died a couple thousand years ago. It’s probably not even relevant anymore. People back then didn’t have iPhones or the internet…what’d they even do all day?

We do have iPhones and the internet. And we are, by all accounts, very busy.

Why?

Produce. Consume. Rinse. Repeat.

Produce. Consume. Rinse. Repeat.

Say it with me now.

Produce. Consume. Rinse. Repeat.

Feeling culty yet?

Produce. Consume. Rinse. Repeat.

Okay, I’ll stop.

We are busy because productivity makes the world go round. Oh… wait, no it doesn’t. Universe-type-stuff does. Never mind.

Fact is, we are busy. The reason, I think, is largely because we choose to be this way. We choose to be busy. We want to contribute to the world. The world wants us to be productive. Hence, we become productive (or in other words, busy). An overly simplistic take for sure, but whatever, bite me.

For me, productivity has always roughly translated into “do things as efficiently as possible to produce as much as possible in the time you have”. Use the present-moment to do shit to produce shit. For something to be productive, an output or reward must flow from one’s investment – if no output flows, it’s quite simply an unproductive thing to do: “You’re wasting your time!”.

Watching the sunset is an example of an unproductive activity. It doesn’t involve doing anything. And it doesn’t provide any tangible output or reward (tangible being the operative word). In fact, the other day when I chose to sit outside with a tea and watch the sunset my internal narrative decided it a good time to let me know I wasn’t being very productive:

“What are you doing you bum? Go make some money. Work harder. Do more. Be more.”

Prick.

This focus on productivity is a mindset I’m working to undo… I mean, productivity is great, but if you literally can’t stop what you’re doing to enjoy a cup of tea and watch the sunset, I think it might be time to ask yourself, why the fuck exactly is that? Sunsets are a big part of life bro. They happen, like, every day and shit.

I think part of the answer may lie embedded within the subtle distinction between productivity and working hard. These are two peas of the same pod, however the same pea they are not. It’s entirely possible to work harder than Hugh Heffner in a Viagra eating contest, while generating nothing more than a rampant stiffy. In other words, it’s possible to work hard as balls yet produce nothing of value.

Working hard involves working hard. Productivity involves outputs. Quite often I find myself blurring the line between these two. It’s very easy to think time has been wasted if work has been done and nothing has come of it. Very. Easy. Indeed.

The solution?

Forget about the outputs, which by connection means planning less for the future. Living more in the moment. Working hard, while accepting the possibility that nothing other than a rampant stiffy may ever come of it. Your hard work may or may not produce anything of value for anyone else.

Certainly, for me when it comes to writing, this is absolutely the case… an absurd % of the things I write sit dormant in the depths of my computer likely never to see the light of day. So, did I waste my time writing them? Maybe. Honestly though, I’m not clued up enough to make that call. And neither are you with whatever it is you’re doing.

Point is, Fuck productivity.

Work hard. Watch sunsets.

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