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The Cost of Productivity

The predominant lesson I have been learning in 2019 has been the power of rest. The value of rest. This has come with learning about the cost of productivity. The consequences of being busy.

Brené Brown discusses how exhaustion has become a status symbol, with people feeling perpetual inadequate while simultaneously doing more than ever and feeling more exhausted then ever. And this conversation is one I have had with so many people in my life. A descriptor I have shared for how I am doing with many a passing acquaintance and friends-busy. I have assigned value to being busy. I have created worth in having a full schedule. I schedule brunch with friends a month in advance. I schedule time to have a bath in my day planner. I say this without a hint of irony and with a layer of shame and complete awe. I have created a life where I shame myself when I am not doing things that are productive, when I am not working. This is a life I have perpetually created for myself because it is supported by society and society's values.


So what is it about resting that is so challenging? I think, for me, the challenge with resting comes from the value I have ascribed to being busy. I have come to associate being busy with being successful. I associate being busy with being fulfilled. I associate being busy with creating a difference. And this is supported by society and it is affirmed by the media over and over again through interviews with leaders who credit their success to hard work and giving everything their all. I also think that the challenge of resting for me has to do with the guilt I feel when I do activities that are not deemed productive in my mind. This guilt that has been gifted to me from me, due to the ideals about productivity and self-worth society has created for me through socialization.

I view resting as a differential form of laziness. I feel shame when I watch Netflix. I feel guilt about using my time to watch a film or lose myself in a television show. So much so that I often attempt to do additional activities while watching Netflix. I will watch Netflix while I process data, while I create content for social media, while I spend time with my partner, while I am in the bath. But rarely do I intentionally sit and watch Netflix. I feel guilt about what is not getting done when I sit. And this is just one activity, one example of resting that I struggle with.


Brené Brown recommends creating and establishing boundaries as a tool for moving away from busyness as a strategy of disconnection. So often, we as individuals within our society use busyness as our armor in moving through our day-to-day life. Busyness protects us. It stops us from having to feel. It stops us from having to slow down. It prevents us from having to consider where our self-worth is coming from and examine the metaphorical external baskets we are putting all of our eggs into. So often, I use busyness as armor. It protects me. It stops me from having to feel and consider the path I am currently on and whether it is serving me. It prevents me from having to slow down and examine my values and my actions. It prevents me from having to consider where my self-worth is coming from.

How do I begin to re-frame and re-establish my relationship with rest? How do I take guilt and shame out of the activities that I enjoy but I do not classify as productive? I believe that it begins with acknowledging the differential values I assign to different activities, witnessing my self-talk when engaging in different activities, and becoming intentional about the activities I am engaging in, when I am engaging in them. Brené Brown also suggests finding value in rest and play. She recommends self-discovery and diving into what lights you up, what you enjoy, what creates satisfaction. It is also important to create other sources of worth and value myself, regardless of what activity I am or am not doing. And boundaries. Boundaries. Boundaries.


All of this is easier said than done. And I will forever be the first one to admit this: the practice of un-busy-ing myself is a journey I continue to find myself on.


In darkness and in light,


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