You Don’t Have To Be Productive

A black line appears then disappears, then appears and then disappears. Each appearance a taunt. Each vanishing act a prelude to the mockery. Are you blanking? Are you blanking? Yes, you are. Not much to say now that there’s not much to be said. The black line flickers on and I sit there without any words.

The last few weeks I’ve written about using this time to be productive, to build something. I said it’s a good opportunity to hone your craft. In theory, it is. I’ve also seen people online look down the slender of their nose. Talking like, ‘if you don’t work now then it was never the lack of time, it was the lack of discipline’. A lovely sentiment, without a whisper of empathy or understanding. The idealist in me says, yes, we should all be working on ourselves, right now. Many of us are. But that doesn’t mean that a person is ‘wrong’ for not doing so. The anxiety and fear and worry caused by the current climate can’t be ignored either. So if you’re feeling overwhelmed and can’t be productive, just getting through the day is plenty to be working on.

Being productive, getting work done, only happens normally if we make time to work. I’m not coming out tonight I need to do work tomorrow. I’m not drinking so I can go for that run. Productivity requires a degree of sacrifice. We sacrifice our time in order to build. None of us have made the decision to have so much free time right now. It was forced upon us by circumstance. We all have free time now because we have to have free time. So being in a productive mind-set at the moment, although impressive, isn’t mandatory. If you can only get through the day, then that’s plenty.

I’ve talked before about the toxic side of social media. It’s too easy to compare your life to someone else’s. It’s too easy to find yourself jealous of others because of what they post online. That’s as true now as it’s ever been. It’s easy to go through your feeds now and see people flexing about how productive they’re being, or how seemingly on top of their shit they are. It’s easy to feel bad about yourself because you can see people being productive while you sit and watch TV. It’s too easy to fall into this negative cycle. Social media will disrupt your mental health right now if you let it. We’re all spending more time on it now too, so we’re increasing the chance that we’ll fall for the comparison trick, and wreak havoc on our own mental spaces.

You don’t need to be productive right now. It’s fine if you are, it’s fine if you’re not. You need to tune into how social media is making you feel. You need to stop comparing yourself to others. You need to be aware of yourself when you do. Often, those who flex online are the ones who aren’t happy, because they need their productive habits to be validated by others, rather than enjoying that work for themselves. So when you find yourself comparing, remember that those you are comparing yourself to are pretending to be happy in an attempt to glean happiness from the jealousy of others. I’m fairly certain that isn’t a good formula for long-lasting contentment.

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