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On productivity

© aNadventures

“I hope you’re having a productive day and that you’re getting everything done that you planned to.” This statement by a dear friend triggered me today. In fact, it was the word “productive” that triggered me. 

“How’s your day been?”

– “Good, actually, I’ve been very productive today.”

The above is just a random conversation I encounter on a regular basis. 

Uggghhh, whenever I hear the term “productive”, I feel blood rushing to my head. I feel a little punch in the stomach. My hands turn into fists and I have to take a very deep breath. It makes me feel like I’m only good enough if I get stuff done, if I achieve things. If I’m being productive. I get the feeling that my self-worth depends on productivity.

What does being productive even mean? Producing something? Turning myself into a product? A product of whom? Of society? Of myself?

I just looked up a definition of productivity, in terms of it being an economic and business concept: Productivity is “the rate at which a company or country makes goods, usually judged in connection with the number of people and the amount of materials necessary to produce the goods” (cf. Cambridge Dictionary).

Part of what puts me off this term is my assumption that I need to get things done just so that I can get even more things done. At least, that’s what first comes to mind when I hear the word: That I’ll never have accomplished enough. That there’s always more and more to tackle. 

I’m well aware that this is a personal aversion and that there might be other valid definitions or associations with being productive. Author and entrepreneur James Clear, for instance, is of the opinion that “[b]eing productive is about maintaining a steady, average speed on a few things, not maximum speed on everything.” I guess, it’s all a matter of perspective

One of the many things I enjoyed about my life back in Turkey is that I didn’t feel the pressure to constantly be productive over there. During the day, there were many occasions for me to just sit and be. There was time to sip coffee or tea with friends and to just immerse myself in the present moment. Sitting is socially accepted in Turkey. There is no need to be doing anything in particular at all times. I’ve described a situation with my flat mate in which I was taught to take my time over here. I’ve also written about “Six habits of a mindful life in Turkey” here

Why don’t I allow myself to “sit” in Berlin? It’s a relaxed city, after all. But somehow, sitting and breathing and just being don’t count as actual activities here in Germany. Whenever people ask me what I’ve been up to, I feel the urge to come up with something big, something equally important as writing a best-selling novel or winning a nobel prize. Why can’t I just say I watered the plants, I had a cup of tea, I just sat?

Just the other day, my dear friend Trixie admitted that she’d given in to a 1.5-hour nap in the middle of the day. On a weekday. The expression on her face seemed concerned while she made her “confession”. 

I’m dreaming of a world in which nobody feels bad for taking a nap. A world in which I can admit I’ve been sitting and that it will be perfectly fine.  

How about YOU? What do you associate with the word “productivity”?


From → Random

  1. I’d like to just be … there is no room for this in Berlin …

    • In Berlin, I’ve noticed there’s so much life on every corner that sometimes there’s a fear of missing out on things. I tell myself to set priorities (including time to just be) on a regular basis. It’s a process. But it’s definitely easier if the surrounding culture accepts such a slower pace of life.

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