Being Unproductive in a World that Glorifies Productivity

by | Jan 5, 2022 | 0 comments

Category: business | Inspiration

It’s the time when we choose words for the year. It’s an extremely valuable exercise – one that allows us to choose an intention and stick with it. There are no real rules around the process, of course, and many words are intentions that are chosen in order to set a tone of growth and change. We are able to become more productive,

I notice that there often seems to be a direction these words take – we oftentimes choose words that give us more to do. We choose words that will, if taken seriously, increase our productivity and make us more efficient and effective human beings. That’s good, right?

When the Pandemic hit in 2020, there was no shortage of posts and pictures and reels and memes telling us that if we didn’t do something powerful and practical with the time we had in lockdown and social distancing, something was wrong with us.

This, thank goodness, was met with opposition from mental health professionals from all over, reminding us that we are experiencing collective trauma, and trying to “be productive” was foolhardy at best, damaging at worst.

Still, when someone who has been conditioned to think that they are worthless if things are not getting things done, that they aren’t managing their time efficiently enough because their kids are on screens two-thirds of the day, or that the reason their revenue is slow is that they aren’t working smart enough – these folks hear that “be productive or be a failure” message loud and clear.

I call these thoughts “streaker thoughts”. Just like a naked dude streaking across a serene town square grabs all the attention and cannot be unseen, these thoughts of equating productivity with self-worth cannot be unthought.

So what is one to do, here in 2022, when the number of productivity software and planner options increases day by day?

Productivity as an Addiction

If you search for “productivity addiction” on the interwebs, you’ll most likely come across the work of journalist Jessica Mudditt, and the studies done by cognitive neuroscientist Dr. Sandra Chapman from the University of Texas at Dallas or by Dr Mark Griffiths, distinguished professor of behavioral addiction at Nottingham Trent University.

While I would assume that most of us are not in the 8% prevalence rate to have an addiction to work, I do think that our culture has done a superb job of equating work with worth and that being productive has truly become one of those things that people use to measure their effectiveness at living successful lives.

I see recurring themes in the work we do with clients in and out of The SpeakEasy Cooperative:
– learning to let go of the inability to rest without guilt
– the CliftonStrengths theme of “achiever” is only applied to work-related tasks
– a deep mistrust of taking breaks
– fear that stepping away will cause great harm to a business

So, musicians, performers, teachers, and coaches all over the music scene are forever hustling, forever working, in hopes that the next gig or student appears… all due to how productive one has been.

The trouble is, as Chapman remarks, that “the brain can become addicted to productivity just as it can to more familiar sources of addiction, such as drugs, gambling, eating or shopping. A person might crave the recognition their work gives them, or the salary increases they get,” says Chapman. “The problem is that just like all addictions, over time a person needs more and more to be satisfied and then it starts to work against you. Withdrawal symptoms include increased anxiety, depression and fear.”

When I read this, I must admit to feeling a little too called out.

When we realize that maybe we’ve become too focused on “productivity” much to the detriment of the actual product – our offers and services – there’s something we must do: redefine productivity.

Word of the Year: Unproductive

(This is where I go rogue.)

I know I’m supposed to come up with some incredible advice on how to give yourself grace, and manage your time, and tell you all about how important it is to be unproductive in this section. That would make for great SEO, and have you see me as smart and, well, productive.

This is the part I am supposed to tell you that I am enlightened and all you need to do is listen to me because I’ve traveled the road of inner soul searching and came out a better human.

I know I have the ability to link to studies and reference books that teach us that downtime is absolutely essential. I even wrote a little bit about that in the last newsletter that I sent. I am able to do this because I have gotten really, really good at being productive.

2021 did a number on many of us, and I am here to tell you that it did a number on me. I am one of those people that in the midst of grief and pain, like many others, I became dangerously close to a “productivity addiction”, so I’m doing something outside of the box in 2022, before things take a turn for the worse. I am choosing to be unproductive.

My word of the year is “unproductive.”

HOLD ON! HOLD ON! This in no way means that the team will not produce! Far from it.

After all, when you work with us, you become part of a down-to-earth, full-of-sass, whole-helluva lot more transformative alternative to things like expensive (and may I add 5 years behind the curve) MBA programs or celebrity entrepreneur-based self-guided business development programs – so it’s important that we keep on top of keeping our incredible programs gussied up and ready for you to partake! (I do offer a self-guided option, too, if that’s your jam.)

Let’s see…

  • We’ve got the new year of SECOVipers starting in a few weeks
  • We’ve got the 2021-22 How to Run Your Voice Biz Without Hating Your Boss Accelerator program finishing up
  • We are just about ready to take applications for the 2022-23 H2RA cohort
  • We are even in the planning stages of SECOLIVE 2022, which will happen in Charleston, South Carolina, in October.
  • I’ll be speaking at the NATS National Conference in July
  • We’ll be finishing up writing the mini-book on the Inquiry and Onboarding process for independent music studios.
  • We’ll continue offering free business trainings
  • We’ll be writing emails to our loyal and honored email list

In short, the team and I will be producing A LOT.

This is why it’s important we reframe the need to be “productive” and insist that instead of simply cranking out awesomeness from a place of anxiety, we continue our pattern of producing high-quality products and services.

It’s taken me a while to put my finger on it, but I’ve learned that when people get into a pattern of “productivity” – a pattern of doing for doing’s sake, they lose joy, big time.

When running our business becomes more about cranking out as much as possible, with goals attached to dollar amounts than about living mentally healthy and clarity-filled lives, everyone loses.

Calling for the Reframe of Productivity

Now, I’m not calling for a giant sloth-fest. If you’ve been in The SpeakEasy Cooperative sphere for any amount of time, you know how much we talk about achieving goals, being productive, reducing stress, and plain ol’ getting sh*t done. We have a deep affinity for lists.

Yet, in a world where “productivity” has become a multi-million dollar industry, enticing us to try to DO ALL THE THINGS, I’m calling for us to become the change agents that demand we BE MORE.

Be more present.

Be more mindful.

Be more ready for healing and growth.

Be more ready to receive what the universe is whispering to us.

Be more at peace with exactly who we are, while creating incredible things that bring ourselves and others joy.

And maybe, just maybe, we become more of who we are by reframing productivity – and having it become the joy of creating, rather than the compulsion to produce.

All My BeastyBoss,

Michelle Markwart Deveaux blog signature

What is your relationship with productivity? Let me know!

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