I have always been one of those people who is constantly making lists of to-do’s, goals, things, to achieve and accomplish. If you’ve been following me for a while, you can probably tell by the posts on my blog; I am very into lists, and very into achieving, checking things off, marking as done. Life, to me, often seems like a limited chunk of time I am given to accomplish as many things from a list as I can. Life can seem to be about getting things done, about productivity, either in the sense of accomplishing tasks or having meaningful experiences.
Today, I invite you to think against productivity. I have to ask myself, and you, is that what life is really about - just checking things off a bucket list? Sure, there are things I want to do before I die, but I will still die anyway. Sometimes, I think, what’s the point of doing those things? What’s the point of the list?
I want to challenge the belief that life is about output, that your life and identity are comprised of what you accomplish and achieve. What if we could stake our identities on something else, like how we treat other living things, or how we are content in our being? I think the tendency to associate identities with actions, output, and professions is a very capitalist tendency. It coincides with the old adage of “Time is money, money is time.”, but time is so much more than pieces of paper, and you are so much more than your achievements and your profession. I have a friend who works as a restaurant cook for a living who told me, “I never want to be anything. I never want to be a cook, I just want that to be something I can do and am good at. What I do doesn’t define me.” I find this to be an inspiring statement, and one of the many reasons I chose to write this post.
I think productivity is a rat race. People are in a rush to do more, and to be more, including myself. But sometimes it’s important to stop and think, “What is life really about?”. That’s a hard question to answer, but I don’t think the answer is output, or finishing everything on your to-do and bucket lists. It’s also important to be present, to appreciate the moment, to think about how you are alive, and to nurture your senses of zeal and wonder. It’s important to create, to be with others, to be kind to others, to explore, to learn, to feel. There are so many things that life is about, that have no place on a to-do list. They come just through the wonderful experience of being alive.
I believe being goal-driven is good, to a point. I am happy and proud of all the things I’ve been able to accomplish in my short 20 years on Earth. But I am also happy for the spontaneous moments and good memories I’ve had, with others and on my own, as I’ve experienced the process of living, discovering, and growing.
You don’t have to do away with your to-do lists, but I encourage you not to measure yourself by them either, and to put them down frequently in favor of allowing yourself to be present, see what happens, and roll with it. Ultimately, I believe a balance between productivity and presence is what makes life whole and well-rounded. Remembering that the human experience extends beyond your computer, phone, and day-planner can do us all a bit of good.
What are your thoughts on productivity? How important do you think it is? Do you agree or disagree with me? Let me know in the comments :)
As a parting word of wisdom from Mary Oliver, I want to ask you, “What are you going to do with your one wild and beautiful life?”.