Do You *Do* Productivity?

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I have a secret vice: It’s productivity self-help literature. I read everything about it because I secretly believe that there’s some elusive–but ultimately accessible–method for producing more and more and more and more.

I’m here to say there is definitely a method for producing more. In fact, there are many methods. It turns out they aren’t so elusive, nor are they particularly hard to implement. Many of them work very well.

But I recently realized I’m asking the wrong question. Yes, I can be more productive, but the bigger question is should I be more productive? And if so, at what? All work isn’t good work.

I wrote an article about my new anti-productivity mindset for The Ascent. Here’s a snippet:

When we talk about productivity, we lack the language to even interrogate the concept because we’ve built virtuousness right into the definition. We can’t examine, critique, or even question productivity without accidentally endorsing laziness, a cardinal sin in our culture. Questioning productivity is like trying to make an argument against generosity or kindness.

Anti-productivity is all about questioning what we are doing so that we can ensure we’re doing the right things.

What anti-productivity look like? Well, let’s talk about it. It’s about time.

Traveling While Being a Curmudgeon: My Case Against Carry-on Bags

woman walking on pathway while strolling luggage
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I’m back on a plane again, and while nobody has reclined their seat in my lap, I’m wondering how much ire I’m allowed to have for carry-on luggage. Hear me out.

I get that checking luggage is a giant pain. It takes longer upon arrival, not to mention that the airlines charge an arm and leg for our privilege of traveling with clean underwear.

In the past, I have traveled with just a carry-on bag, but I usually check my bag because I enjoy being able to shut the door in the tiny airport bathroom stalls that aren’t meant to accommodate luggage.

Now that everyone brings the largest carry-on possible, it takes three days to board the plane while people stow their steamer trunks. Upon landing, you have enough time to knit your own suitcase while you wait for everyone to find their overhead compartment and pull out their luggage filled with gold bricks.

I fully admit to being irrationally (and quietly) annoyed with people pretty much 132% of the time, so my latest rant about carry-on luggage should probably be filed along with my other public policy proposals to legally enforce silence in grocery stores and pass laws making small talk on planes punishable by immediate ejection.

Nevertheless, I propose that anyone who doesn’t have a carry-on should be allowed to exit the plane first. Anyone with a giant carry-on should be strategically placed in some kind of labeled area that we checked-bag-people can file past with superior smirks on our faces.

I know, you’re probably wondering why I haven’t been consulted by the airlines yet to discuss my amazing ideas. It’s probably because some fat cat airline CEO is flying on his private jet, fully funded by my checked bagged fees.

If I ever get a hold of that guy, though, I have some flowcharts I’d like to share with him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bad Hair Day

brown wooden table with chair
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I have bad hair. I’m fine with it. But I haven’t always felt that way.

Here’s a piece I wrote  for P.S. I Love You about how I accidentally got a haircut that makes a radical statement about me. I didn’t realize that until I walked around in the world with short hair!

It turns out, though, that what people say about your hair says a lot more about them than it does you.

What does your hair say about you?

Fake News Isn’t Going Away, so We Have to Be Smarter

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Ever wonder why people believe in fake news? I used to believe it was confirmation bias, which is the usual explanation. Confirmation bias says we tend to believe what we want to believe based on what we already believe. In other words, if you have an abiding hatred for networking events, as I do, you’d be delighted to read a news story that says networking events are the leading cause of all natural disasters and were actually invented by Hitler. You and I would very much like to believe that story.

But it turns out that confirmation bias is only part of the problem. The real issue is that some people just don’t like to think. And it’s the lack of critical thinking that is keeping fake news from dying. We believe fake news because we don’t have enough energy, desire, or ability to think our way through it.

If you want to read more about some research in this area, check out one of my latest articles for ArcDigital.  It’s called “We Aren’t Too Partisan to Spot Fake News; We’re Too Lazy.”

The Toxic Workplace: When Work Blows

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Have you ever worked in a toxic workplace? In some cases, a single toxic person can make going to work every morning feel like descending into the depths of hell.

Did you know that incivility is the gateway to toxic culture? The uncivil behaviors that we all learn to live with–like the co-worker who is perpetually rude–build up and then create a culture that’s so toxic, nobody wants to stay in it. And those who do are burned out and do less work.

We’ve become inured to incivility because we just expect it. For instance, a million years ago, I worked in a shoe store on commission with a person who would tell customers that the rest of us were “new” and “didn’t know much.” She used that as a way to build her credibility so customers would ask for her. That’s incivility.

In another job, I had a senior co-worker who regularly asked me for personal favors (outside of work hours). If I said no to a request–like the time she asked me to take her to the airport at 4 am–she would pout and tell me that I “owed” her tasks at work to make up for this. That’s incivility.

A friend told me about a time she’d sent out an organization-wide email about the death of a colleague. She’d accidentally included a very small typo in the email that didn’t change the meaning of it. A co-worker called her and told her that she was unprofessional and should be ashamed of her shoddy work. That’s incivility.

So what can we do about incivility? We can kill it. We can refuse to stand for it. Here’s an article I wrote about how to do that.

What incivilities have you encountered? Have you been uncivil? (I admit that I’ve been guilty of incivilities.)

 

An Open Letter to Kevin, the Trick-or-Treater

adult celebration child costume
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Dear Kevin:

You came to my door on Halloween, dressed in an unidentifiable costume, and I proffered you candy as requested. We’d never met before, so you might be wondering how I know your name. I know it because your friend or sister yelled, “Kevin!!!” at you several times.

You asked me what my costume was. I was wearing jeans and a sweater. I told you I was dressed as myself. You made a scared face and sarcastically said, “Wow, that’s a scary costume.” I wasn’t offended. You aren’t the first smartass kid I’ve met before. I even laughed a little. Then you grabbed a handful of candy and ran off while your friend/sister yelled at you: “Kevin!!!” and apologized to me for your behavior.

I’m going to do you a solid here, Kev, and give you some advice. I know you are only fourteen, and you probably won’t suck so much in a few years, but right now, you suck pretty hard.

Let me give you some advice from the perspective of someone dressed as myself.

That sad little mustache isn’t doing you any favors.
At first I thought it was part of your costume, and then I realized it was tragic facial hair. That scraggly little line is traumatic for everyone. Just shave it off. It won’t take you long.

You might be too old to trick-or-treat. 
I’m not one of those scrooges who refuses to hand out candy based on age.

But you, Kevin, in spite of your obvious immaturity, should probably sit out Halloween next year. A general rule of thumb, as you’ll find out soon, is that anyone with a mustache must buy his own candy.

If someone offers you candy, don’t grab a handful.
That’s just rude, Kevin. You’re the reason we can’t leave a bowl of candy on the porch and invite people to help themselves. You’re exactly the sort of person the world doesn’t need more of.

Stop making your sister scold you. 
She was clearly younger than you, but already she was playing the role of your mother. Don’t act like a jerk. Let her have some fun without worrying about you and your bad manners.

Being a teen is tough, Kevin, but you’re not making it easier on yourself or anyone around you.

Next year do yourself a favor: Go dressed as the new you (minus the mustache).

In return, I’ll agree to hand out candy to anyone who asks, laugh at anyone’s dumb jokes, and forget what a jerk you were this year.

 

 

If You Recline Your Seat on a Plane, You Are a Monster

White and Red Plane Beside Clouds Low-angle Photography

I’m currently 20 minutes into a four-hour flight from Nashville to Los Angeles. The people in front of me have just reclined. Not just a little. They have full-on reclined. They have nested.

They’ve left me about three inches of leg room and a seatback screen angled in such a way that only my boobs could comfortably watch TV. My traveling companion is only slightly better off, but only because her legs are shorter.

Look, I understand that airplane seats are capable of reclining, which seems to suggest some sort of invitation. I don’t buy it. My speedometer on my car goes up to 160 miles per hour. I don’t think Nissan is inviting me to drive that fast. I’m certainly capable of eating an entire bag of fun-sized Snickers bar. I shouldn’t, though.

If we want to live in a civilized world, I think we all need to agree that there is only one appropriate circumstance in which you are okay to recline your seat: When the plane is going down.

I’d also accept reclining a seat on an overnight flight (when everybody is reclining). If you recline in other circumstances,  it’s polite to ask the people behind you. I would have said yes. But at least I’d know these degenerate humans had some basic decency!

I should have known these two were going to be Recliners. I could tell by looking at them. They are in their 60s. He’s wearing jeans and a Patagonia sweatshirt. I didn’t see the title of the book he was carrying, but I’m positive it was The Art of The Deal. She has blonde highlights and a Louis Vuitton tote. She is currently using a cashmere scarf as a pillow. I know this because she casually left the tail end dangling over my seat screen. I’ve named them Milt and Mitzi.

They sleep like babies, waking only to order cans of LaCroix. They might be nice enough people off this plane, if you can get past the undeniable fact that they are heinous.

In a plane of 150 seats, they are the only Recliners. Even the guy wearing middle school gym shorts seated next to me has managed to stay upright.

In addition to felony reclining, here is a list of other things you should never do on a plane:

  • Have excessive body odor.
  • Take off your shoes (unless you are wearing socks).
  • Cough without covering your mouth.
  • Be surprised when your steamer trunk of a carry-on doesn’t fit in the overhead.

We are somewhere over Oklahoma right now. Mitzi has just dropped the arm of her sweater on top of my tray table where I am attempting to drink flat Diet Coke. I’d like to write on it with this pen in my hand, but I have more consideration than that.

I plan to shut it in my tray table.