Do You *Do* Productivity?

alone bed bedroom blur
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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.

Digital Distractions Will Keep You from Writing

If you want to publish in magazines and/or with mainstream publishers, you have to do one thing first: write

But finding time and energy to write is really hard when there are just so many easy and accessible distractions.

Exhibit A: I sat down to write this post and proceeded to first do the following things:

  • Scrolled through news headlines on my phone;
  • Chatted with my excellent friend Anita on Slack;
  • Checked my email;
  • Responded to a text from my excellent friend Danielle;
  • Saw that a story about a unicorn puppy was trending on Google and immediately clicked on it;
  • Checked out an ebook from the library; and
  • Slacked my husband (who is literally across the hall) a Parks and Rec gif…for no reason.

So how long has it taken me to write this post? I honestly don’t know because I keep interrupting myself.

My digital distractions are out of control. So I did some research on just how bad those digital distractions are on writing output. It’s pretty bad, you guys.

I have some tips for managing digital distractions in an article here. A lot of getting published is just putting in the time. You have to write to write!

How do you manage digital distractions and actually get writing done? Taking all advice!

The Tyranny of Meetings

Executive Boardroom

My reading schedule has suffered this week (already) because it’s the first week of school. If you are a professor–or a human being with a job–you probably get invited to a lot of meetings. A lot of soul-sucking meetings.

For that reason, I decided to return to my regular and impassioned rant against meetings. A well-run meeting with a clear agenda and defined outcomes can be useful. But many (most?) meetings are not just a waste of time, they are a waste of money and energy.  Let’s look at three ways meetings may be costing you more than you realized.

  1. If you spend an hour in a useless meeting, you’ve just wasted an hour of energy and time. Was it worth it? Meetings drain time and energy that could be spent in creative work that’s far more valuable than the meeting itself.
  2. Given that half of any workforce is likely introverted, meetings may very well be making half of those in attendance stressed out, more distracted, and less likely to use their non-meeting hours productively. Extroverts like meetings because they need the stimulation. Introverts die a little inside
  3. Meetings beget more meetings. Meetings are a habit, and just like any other habit, the urge to meet may overrule our critical thinking skills. How many meetings are absolutely necessary? How many meetings could be an email or a post on office discussion app, like Slack?

So let’s all try an experiment right now. Go to your calendar and select one meeting this week. Cancel it. Don’t reschedule it. Just cancel it. Ask yourself how much you—or anyone else—will miss if you don’t attend the meeting. 

If the sky doesn’t fall, take your message to the streets. Make meetings a strategic choice, not a habit.

Now let’s go read a book.