Why I'm Starting An Anti-Productivity Movement

Lately, everywhere you look, you're surrounded by productivity "gurus" telling you how you can "do more", "fit more on your plate", and "get more done."

Everyone promises to make you more productive, whatever that means. They claim you'll be better at work, and better at home, and better at life, and blah blah blah, and then before you know it, you're scheduling your whole life into a calendar, and living on a strict schedule, fitting everything and everyone into cold, impersonal slots of time, marked off by timers and clocks and buzzers...

And I think it's a bunch of bullshit. We're not robots. We're not machines. You can't keep doing more and being more and expecting more, without eventually burning out.

Sure, don't get me wrong, there are also a few pretty smart people out there who understand the importance of relaxing, spending time with friends, forgetting the punch-clock and the workload, and the manufactured stresses of modern life. But if you pay close attention, you'll notice that even these people admit to being overloaded.

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine excitedly invited me to attend a seminar that was making her more productive. While there, I remember the speaker saying that people "have too much on their plates", but that he could help you to "make your plate bigger" so as to better manage the load you've taken on, and even make room for taking on more. That was when I had to leave.

We don't need bigger plates. And we certainly don't need room for more. We don't need to get more done. When quantity is a problem, the solution is not to add more.

Do less.

We need to do less. The most valuable resource is not money, or oil, or gold, or diamonds. The most valuable things any of us have is time. Once time is gone, you can't get it back. You can always get more money, more power, more work, more whatever. But you can not get time.

These days, most people think about how limited their time is and they try to compensate by filling up every moment, so they won't miss out. They think the answer is to do more. The think that if they work harder, work longer, they'll create some magical time-filled future where they can relax. But that never happens. Adding more means that you always have more, like an avalanche.

Imagine, you add a pet cat to the household. But with that cat comes the responsibility of feeding it and providing a litter box. And the extra house cleaning to remove the hair. And then the cat has kittens, and now your responsibilities continue to grow. "Yeah, but I love my cat," you'll say. I know. But you've lost your time.

You buy a tv, so then you need a tv stand, and a DVD player, and a surround sound kit, and a satellite receiver. Then you have to work overtime to pay for all of it. And in the end, you spend every remaining moment watching tv, out of some internal need to justify all the money you spend on it, and before you know it your life is over and your time is gone.

Your boss asks you to "take the lead" on a prestigious new project that will get you huge points, and you'll finally "get the recognition you deserve for how hard you work". So you overcommit your time at the office, and make up for it by cutting your time at home, your time with your family, your time with your friends, and most of all, by sacrificing all those things that matter to you.

Do better.

Quantity is only half of the problem... there's also a problem of quality. All of these things that are stealing your time are meaningless.

In the blink of an eye, you wake up and you're 50. Then, it seems like a week later you're 60. With some luck, you reach 70, and 80, maybe even 90, but definitely faster than you expected, and always before you were ready.

And one day you'll be sitting in a rocking chair, or laying in a bed, or wherever it is that you find yourself, and you'll think back to all the time you spent watching television, all the time you spent playing xbox, all the time you spent reading emails, or refreshing Twitter, or playing Farmville on Facebook.

You'll think of the incredible number of hours you've spent sitting in an office, or sitting in a car, or sitting in front of a television, and I promise you won't feel very good about it.

There are going to be things you wish you'd done, things you should have done, things you could have done, but for whatever reason you didn't. Those are things you should be doing.

Get out and live!

Stop feeding your television. Stop working your life away to pay for things you don't even need or want. Stop trying so hard to get more done, make more time, fit more in.

I recently watched a video in which Tim Ferriss said, "I'm comfortable with death. I know that if I were to die tomorrow, I would feel like I lived a full life." How many of us can say that? How many amazing experiences are being put off until some day every time you waste a day trying to "get more done"?

I think there's a reason why people like Benny Lewis, Karol Gajda, Sean Ogle, and so many others are building a huge, popular web sites by doing nothing more than write about what they do: it's not just because they're sharing valuable information, it's because they're out there, living. They're using their time as the precious commodity it is, rather than wasting it working their lives away to buy a bunch of meaningless things. I've never asked any of them, but I'll bet all of these guys would answer similarly to Tim Ferriss about having lived a full life.

Anti-productivity

I think we all recognize, whether consciously or subconsciously, that we want less. I think most of us have felt that voice in the back of our heads trying to tell us that there's too much coming in, too much going on, and too much trying to get out. So, I'm starting an anti-productivity movement.

I'm committed to doing less. I'm committed to spending less time looking at calendars, less time sitting in offices, less time working, less time being a "productive member of society", and spending more time with friends, more time meeting new people, traveling more, skydiving, bungee jumping, seeing more art, trying more new foods, having new experiences.

My goal is to do things that are crazy. When I'm 80, my grandkids won't care about how many Facebook friends I had, but they'll all be interested in how I learned a new language every year. They won't care if I've seen every episode of House, but they'll want every detail about the people I met in Uzbekistan. And yours probably will too.

So let's give it to them. Let's do less. Join me. Let's do it together. Let's all stop wasting our time, and start being unproductive.

Author: Yearlyglot
I'll lead you through a 12 month journey from knowing absolutely nothing about a language to having professional fluency.

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  • You don't have kids yet, right? Kidding aside, I grew up in the Quaker tradition where less is more and everything in moderation. Life is a balancing act and there should be room for reflection and contemplation, so as not to miss life as it goes by. But, I also think there is room for many things, and you don't need to exclude things from your life, like FB, blogging, film/TV, caring for children, pets, houses and having busy jobs. Sometimes I tend to be most productive and creative when I have many things to do at once. Then again, the well runs dry if there are no moments to take a walks and think and contemplate and be quiet with yourself. It is all about finding a balance.

  • Kids are a convenient excuse. And people love excuses.Anyway, my new philosophy is: do Facebook when it's fun, not when you're worried about missing something. Do email when it's convenient, not because you're afraid you'll miss something.Meanwhile, I own no pets, I cancelled my cable service, shut off my phone, and threw away my alarm clock, and these last two weeks I've been super happy. :)

  • In my opinion kids are never an excuse. They are a joy... (a pain sometimes) but still well worth the effort expended... And I'd have to say I'm pretty happy and having a great time too, while still having a cell, an alarm and my beagle under my feet while I work at the computer.But, people are ultimately going to make room for what is most important to them and they will fill their time accordingly. In my experience there are pretty much two kinds of people in the world: Those who do what they way say, and have an amazing time while doing it, and those who whine or complain about not knowing how to go about doing something or having the time to do something, and instead fill their time with fluff stuff, as a means to avoid what they said they were going to do in the first place.

  • I saw that interview with Tim Ferriss too and I was struck by that same comment. Pretty freaking cool. And I think looking at it from the perspective of what your grandchildren will think of you is an excellent idea.

  • That interview was really long, and the sound was horrible, but it was worth sitting through 90+ minutes of that to get to the 20-or-so minutes of really good material.Thanks for the comments!

  • I have learned a lot from Randy Pausch, from his "Last Lecture". He promoted productivity, but in a sense that find out what you really have to do, get it done as fast as you can, and then enjoy life.

  • Yeah, that "Last Lecture" thing was really inspirational.

  • Without expanding on my argument right now I would have to say that some of your points have a very "first world feel" to them.

  • I think it goes without saying.You know... whenever I get away from the "first world", I find life makes much more sense.

  • I think this is one of your best posts yet :)Also, I'm with you on the schedule-hating, I absolutely despise hard schedules, I've found that they make me less creative, less productive, and more miserable, I can't stand it.Also, I haven't used my alarm clock in about 2 years now--I go to sleep when I want, I get up when I feel like it--you should try it, it's awesome :DCheers,
    Andrew

  • Actually, I already did. https://bit.ly/behx3x

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