Why I hate the tyranny of productivity

I wake up at 5am every day.

It’s not a choice — I don’t sleep well, I’m often plagued by nightmares, and my body wakes up whenever it f**king pleases.

But I wake up, and I lie in bed, and I toss and turn, and I scroll through twitter on my phone. I go running, particularly when it’s raining. I write. I read. I watch TV. I hit the office early and work in the pre-dawn dark.

I don’t feel like a productive, well-oiled, podcast wielding machine. I don’t feel like an achiever. I don’t feel like a winner. In fact, I feel bad about myself.

There’s an inner voice that criticises and tears me down, and makes me feel like crap because I’m not doing something productive with all that extra time.

I am plagued by the tyranny of early morning productivity that tells us that we need to “rise and grind” and we need to push ourselves to be working, working, working.

I wonder sometimes, where that constant drive leads us. Where do we go, when we feel the need to be maxed out, at all times, where do we go when we’re told that there’s no room for kicking back, there’s only from for #GettingShitDone?

I know that I’ve burned out in the past. It’s what happens when you push too hard for too long, it’s what happens when you don’t think you deserve, or have earned, time to yourself.

The best thing I’ve started doing is putting time in my calendar to do absolutely nothing productive. Every damn day.

I literally block out time and schedule it in where I’m not going to do anything. Where I’m not going to do jack s**t. Where I’m not going to write, reply to anything, or even read a damn blog post. And in that time, I watch Gordon Ramsey on my phone, while literally sitting in the shower. I play Diablo. I nap like it’s going out of style.

It’s a way to try and escape from the tyranny that our obsession with productivity is placing on us. It’s a way to try and remember that I don’t always have to be producing something in order for my life to be valuable in some way, and I know that’s important.

There’s a Hemingway quote that digital nomad grifters and LinkedIn gurus seem to have completely adopted as a mantra.

“Never mistake motion for action.”

When they spread that quote around, their interpretation is that you need to be working on the right s**t, in the right way. But I have a different take. I interpret it to mean that always being productive doesn’t actually mean you’re doing anything of value.

I think there’s value and action in just letting it all go, being a mess and being allowed to have a bunch of wasted time to yourself, whenever you can.

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Joan Westenberg is an award winning Australian contemporary writer, designer and creative director. She is the founder of branding and advertising firm Studio Self. Her approach to messaging, communication and semiotics has built her reputation as a writer, and she has been named as one of the leading startup voices in Australia by SmartCompany.

Her writing has appeared in The SF Chronicle, Wired, The AFR, The Observer, ABC, Junkee, SBS, Crikey and over 40+ publications. Her regular work can be found on Pizza Party, a blog about creativity, culture and technology. Joan is the creator Transgenderinclusion.com, an open-source workplace inclusion hack, and the author of the book #DIY, a manifesto for indie creativity.

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Chaotic good. Award winning creative director & writer, ft. in Wired, The AFR, SF Chronicle, Junkee. founder tinyspells.xyz / thisisstudioself.com ✨ She/Her.

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