The Productivity Trap



"The best and safest thing is to keep a balance in your life, acknowledge the great powers around us and in us. If you can do that, and live that way, you are really a wise man."

- Euripides


This world today seems to run on productivity. Everywhere we go, there seems to be people in a rush to go somewhere, do something, and see someone. And yet, we never get any closer to what we want to accomplish.


The question we must ask ourselves is not why we haven't reached our goal yet, but what kind of mindset we have while trying to get there.


A lot of us may get caught up in the destination and the big prize waiting for us at the finish line. We may sacrifice relationships, quality time with others and even our own needs to reach that theoretical "finish line". However, whenever we reach our goal, we are expecting to feel that elation of accomplishment and no longer needing to work so hard. Instead, our brain wants us to push further and work harder for the NEXT subsequent goal. THAT will surely make us happy when we reach that milestone, right?


Recently, I have taken an unintentional but much needed break from blogging. I would be lying if I would say all this uncertainty caused by the post-pandemic era and all this other economic uncertainty hasn't gotten to me. As I write this on September 24th, 2022, the world around us is changing and things are getting more uncertain than ever before.


Because of this, people are driven to finding new streams of income, increasing their wealth by any means possible, and saving their money for hard times to come. Unfortunately, in a way, this has become the new productivity trap.


As we start grinding towards being financially free and preparing for the future, we inevitably start forgetting about the present. In our urgency to prep for the worst, we lose sight of a lot of things in our present world that matter to us. We sacrifice time with family and friends, we sacrifice sleep, and we sacrifice time that we can allot to taking care of ourselves and our mental health. While we say that this is all in the name of achieving our goal of preparing for the future, a certain amount of balance is needed as well.


I have learned over the years that, no matter how good an idea sounds on paper, when put into practice, there is a lot more nuance behind it. One such example is spoiling your partner. When I pass by a bakery on the way home from work, I usually pick up a little treat for myself, as well as something for my husband. I do this as a loving gesture because I want him to know I was thinking about him. A lot of times when I brought home these surprise desserts, my husband was appreciative, but did not feel in the mood to eat the dessert that day, so it often went to waste or I just ended up eating it (not a bad deal either, I guess!) Either way, the gift was meant for him, and I used to be very upset with him, but the truth is that was my ego talking. I was expecting him to act a certain way and when he didn't, I was disappointed and angry. The truth is we cannot control how someone reacts; we can only control the way we react to a situation. When we get angry over another person's behavior, we are giving our power away to an uncontrollable situation. Instead, we must understand that the focus on that person's behavior brings us nothing, and we must not do anything for the praise and recognition of others, but rather for ourselves.


My husband told me that he enjoys spending time with me and that is all he needs, so instead of buying him something whenever I go to a bakery, I choose to spend more quality time with him and show my love and appreciation to him in other ways.


All this to say that, any idea may sound well-intentioned, but should not be carried out in its most absolute form. When we do this, we strip away the humanness of the idea and of life itself. Always being productive is one such unrealistic goal.


If our aim in life is to be productive, there is a way to do this without sacrificing the ones who love us. We do not need to become hermits and slave away at home or at the office to get ahead. Although nothing in life was ever accomplished without hard work, you still want to make sure you have people to celebrate with at the end of the day when you find success.


So my prescription for productivity is to take it in doses, and not to get some wrapped up in it that you forget about the other things that truly matter to you. If you need to take a break from your content creation, there is no shame in that. If you are someone who has put a lot of time into your side hustle, try to find ways to outsource some of your more menial tasks, so that you can focus on the more essential parts of your business.


All in all, do not forget that you are in control of your life, and that constant productivity is not realistic. When we choose to take a more realistic approach to our goals, then we can win on all fronts.