Why Trying to be Productive is a Huge Waste of Time

Most of the time, trying to be productive is pointless. In fact, it’s a big, fat waste of time. It’s kind of lame when time management (productivity techniques & hacks) ends up killing your time, huh? Here’s why this happens…

For a long time I’ve thought about why people are so crazy about productivity. I’ve wondered why I am so concerned with accomplishing and completing. I mean, when you get to the point of looking for more time-efficient ways to fold underwear, you might have a problem.

So why does productivity matter, anyway? What’s so important about achieving?

The answer… not much.

The feeling of needing to accomplish something stems from dissatisfaction with the present. With this mindset, the whole idea of achieving is to become something. On the surface, it may seem like you’re doing something positive, but there’s a subtle undercurrent of rejection of what is. Rejection of yourself.

Here are just a few of the things wrong with our definition of productivity:

  • Getting things done is associated with doing things you must do, out of a sense of drudgery.
  • Productivity is often related to filling quotas. It’s about how much you can do, not necessarily what you’re doing, or whether it really matters.
  • The whole notion of being more productive is doing more things in an equal amount of time.  Being too preoccupied with this makes it easy to lose sense of what’s important. It’s easy to have a productivity meltdown.
  • It’s completely time-based. It’s about measuring, quantifying and analyzing data. Productivity does a very poor job of taking into account things that can’t be boxed into time bubbles, such as relationships, quality time alone, relaxation, doing nothing (intentionally), and many creative-based pursuits.
  • Goals and being productive is strongly related to goals that are quantifiable. If you want to become a better write, you might make a goal to write 1500 words a day. This might help you become a better writer. But with goals like this, it’s so easy to get caught up in reaching the number and let obsession with completing your goal kill your initial passion.
  • Checking things off a To-Do list is rarely meaningful. Would you qualify volunteering your time to a worthy cause, giving food to a homeless person, or doing a good deed as “getting things done”?
  • Aiming to be productive usually doesn’t involve an inside out approach.
  • It’s associated with tolerating life, instead of living passionately. Getting by, rather than really living.

I know what you’re thinking… Does this mean productivity is bad? Does that mean following your dreams and seeking to accomplish is wrong. Of course not. It’s just that some things are really hard to schedule. And when you try to, it’s completely ruined.

  • Can you really schedule a time limit of quality time with your spouse?
  • Can you schedule following an unexpected route to solving a creative problem?
  • Can you set a timer for how much time you allow yourself to explore possibilities?
  • Can you program daydreaming and spacing out in your day planner? And if you do program it, doesn’t that completely kill it?

Aiming to be productive is the wrong way of going about it. If you follow your heart and align yourself with what you hold most dear, productivity becomes irrelevant. You’ll achieve, but you’re not wrapped up in it. Your identity isn’t caught up in whether or not you cross everything off your To-Do list.

Your happiness is based on how much you enjoy what you’re doing, rather than completing X number of tasks.

Where we got off track

Think about it for a second: Has checking a bunch of things off a list ever given you a feeling of intense, lasting joy? Or does it make you feel good for a little while until you feel guilty for all of those other things you have yet accomplish? Where we really get off track is by trying to use productivity as a tool for too big of a job.

Imagine building a house, simply aiming to get it built really fast. That would be pretty stupid. You’d neglect the reason for building it, the design of the home, location, and the purpose the structure serves. Aiming to be productive is fine, but you probably won’t have to worry much about that if you really love the blueprint and really love building homes in the first place. If you’ve got that part sorted out, you’ll naturally be highly motivated and productivity becomes irrelevant.


So what does this all mean? It means productivity is secondary. It’s the end result of doing what you love and living authentically. Trying to be productive becomes pointless when you live authentically. Things just flow naturally. Sure, you may have to eliminate distractions, develop focus, organize, etc. Those things at first glance seem like tools of productivity. But they’re really not. They’re just the static you need to remove to live authentically.

All these obstacles aren’t getting in the way of being productive. I saw life that way for a long time and kept getting mediocre results. It’s a broken model. What these obstacles are really getting in the way of is you doing what you feel matters; what you feel will make this planet a little better than when you got here.

When you really get down to it, the noise and distractions aren’t really obstacles at all. They’re actually there to help you see what’s true for you and what’s not. They are a means to contrast, something to show you what doesn’t matter, so that you might know what is truly important. Obstacles are there to help your spirit grow.

Being productive can be nice. It’s great to have something to aim for and a goal you want to achieve. But the achievement is always secondary. What matters most is that you are following the call of your heart.

In this way, you find that being productive doesn’t really matter at all. You don’t even think about it, because that’s just what happens when you you live authentically. You’re not preoccupied with how much you achieve, because you’ve stopped caring about that. You stop caring about always being intent on arriving. You don’t just bite two ends of a banana. You savor the whole thing.

You’re actually there when things are happening, instead of thinking about what you’ll achieve next.

Then something awesome happens: Actually being where you are, completely transforms your entire experience of everything. You realize that your dissatisfaction wasn’t caused by things being the way you wanted externally. It wasn’t the pounds you hadn’t yet dropped, the career you hadn’t yet landed. It was your resistance to what exists, right now.

If you’re fighting the universe, who do you think is going to win?

No more wasted time

So, what you do instead is follow your natural rhythms. You live in alignment with what you love doing. You’re there, completely.

Maybe being more productive isn’t the answer. Maybe what matters most is transforming not our resume but our consciousness. Deriving our joy not from arriving, but from moving in the direction of our heart. Finding satisfaction in each step, and beauty in the messy business of living. Bliss in the movement toward our dreams.

It’s kind of funny actually, like a cosmic joke. The very thing that’s supposed to save you time — being more productive and doing things faster — ends up being the biggest waste of time.

But it’s more than that…

In reality, the only reason we squeeze and strain ourselves to be productive, is because we’re afraid of being honest with ourselves. Living authentically is scary as hell. More often than not our hurry to get busy is a cover up for our inability to get real and stop living a lie.

It’s time to stop putting off liberating yourself.

Perpetual waiting is a serious illness. And I think it’s time to detox.

(Note: This is something that’s been on my mind for quite some time. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.)

For more ways to save time by killing it, get yourself a free subscription to Illuminated Mind.

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