For a long time, my writing has been heavily focused on productivity. I love being productive, and it provides me with a sense of purpose and of balance. When I’ve accomplished things during the day, I feel like I’ve actually made the world a better place through my own industry.
In the first part of my life as an adult, I spent a lot of time learning how to maximize my productivity. This, in effect, was a way for me to get as much as I could out of life. The logic went that the more I can do, the more enriching my life is.
However, in recent years, that focus has started to shift. It’s not that I no longer value productivity — it’s that I value something else above it: balance.
We can spend so much of our time focused on productivity that we lose sight of the present. If we are no longer able to appreciate the moment at hand, what’s the point? Without an ability to appreciate what’s going on around us, it doesn’t matter how much we accomplish. Everyone else may gain from my productivity, but how fulfilling can I really say my own life has been if I’ve been unable to enjoy it?
We have become so focused on productivity. We’re always looking for new ways to squeeze more efficiency out of our employees, ways to accomplish more during our commute, ways to do more things every day and tools to help us manage everything that we’ve chosen to taken on. How often do we stop to ask if we’re doing what’s most important to us?
Productivity without balance is a vice, not a virtue.
If we don’t check ourselves and seek out balance by setting our own boundaries, how do we determine when enough is enough?
I know many people that are either unaware, unable or unwilling to set boundaries for themselves and allow the drive to be productive rule their day. The result? Their bodies set and create the boundaries for them when they won’t. Stress, illness fatigue and burnout are all ways that our body provides an indication that we need to re-prioritize balance in our lives.
Tragically, our working culture has evolved to the point that you can often overhear people boasting about how late they’ve been staying at the office, as though it is a badge of honour. It isn’t; it’s a sign of an unhealthy working culture. Employers should be seeking to imbue in people an appreciation and respect for balance. It means that they’ll get more out of their employees, hold better retention rates and have more satisfied workers.
Productivity without balance is a cancerous pursuit. Without taking the time to check in with yourself and prioritize the other things in your life, your own industry will be coming from a less meaningful place. Productivity that does not have a purpose behind it is like growth for the sake of growth. This kind of unhealthy focus on productivity can develop its own vicious cycle. The more out of balance you become, the easier it becomes to take on more stuff. With a myopic focus on productivity, you lose an awareness of the other demands on your time. Without a sense of balance, it becomes easier not to say no.
By making the effort to prioritize balance in your life, you will ensure that you remain productive in the greater sense. Think about it – if you’re living your life out of balance, worn out and tired, who’s really gaining from your productivity?
By prioritizing balance, you maximize your productivity
By striking a balance in your life, you’ll actually ensure you are maximally productive by attending to all of your needs, rather than just a few. These needs include things like:
- Your relationship/Marriage
The more out of balance you become, the greater your body and mind will subconsciously pull you back toward your centre. Your ability to sustain productivity, when done at the expense of balance, will suffer from diminishing returns.
Many of us respond to this reduction in productivity by attempting to push ourselves harder, staving off the inexorable return to balance as long as possible. We don’t realize that the longer we remain in a productive state, the longer we need to recharge our batteries. This isn’t a failing on our part (though we often treat is as such) — it’s simply a fact of life.
Imagine yourself as an elastic band. Our natural, balanced state is the when the elastic band is left at rest. When we push ourselves to be productive, we are tugging the elastic band from two ends. The longer we push ourselves to be productive, the greater this elastic band is stretched. We can attempt to squeeze more productivity out of our heads, but this requires stretching the elastic band even further. The longer we hold ourselves from a state of balance, the more effort it requires to stretch that band further. Hold yourself to a state of productivity for too long and the band snaps. Your body will eventually take over and forcefully undertake the return to balance. If you’ve pushed yourself too hard, that will often be via crashing into sleep, illness, or worse (Eg, your head could explode).
Here’s what we’ve covered:
- Productivity, when pursued to the detriment of balance, is not a virtue — it’s a vice
- A tunnel-vision-like focus on productivity is cancerous and self-perpetuating
- When you prioritize balance in your life, you actually maximize your ability to be productive
- If you think you can actually get more accomplished by cutting back on the other important parts of your life, you’re only fooling yourself