Go with the Flow: Thoughts on Productivity Culture
|The natural flow of the tides, Salem, MA.|
I remember my first planner. I was a Sophomore in college and bought a small, portable calendar from the school's bookstore. I was a full-time student and working 20-25 hours a week at a retail job in the mall. I was good at remembering when my schoolwork was due and when my classes were; however, since my weekly work schedule changed, I was having a hard time juggling everything. Plotting due dates and my school and work schedules in the calendar allowed me to get an idea of when I could study, research and write papers, do homework, and see my friends. It was a very simple system: whenever I wasn't in class or work, I did everything else. I used my commuting time and work breaks to read or work on homework. I got really good at scheduling all of my classes into 2-3 days so that I could work and see my friends. And let's face it, my younger self had tremendous amounts of energy! I was literally non-stop and I loved every minute of it because it never felt like work.
A big part of why I loved how I lived my life then is that I was able to effortless focus on a task. If I only had a hour or two to read or study, that's all I did. I made art all the time. I went to museums. I saw the people I loved and spent meaningful time with them. I was able to "get into the zone," or as Ed calls it, I "grooved," without much thought or effort. Everything I did felt natural and it fulfilled me to no end. I got pure joy out of sitting in class or researching for a paper. I loved writing those papers! I often wrote papers in longhand before I edited and typed everything using Word Perfect or Word. I never "digitally" wrote anything because I enjoyed the slowness of the writing process. I always used pencil and a yellow legal pad. I loved the sound of the pencil scratching on the page and the smell of the eraser rubbing out my mistakes.
Studying always consisted of lots of writing. I wrote reading notes and flashcards. I copied my class notes, adding information from my reading. I diagrammed everything. My study methods and notes were legendary. My meticulous methodology is what made me an A student. It's what earned me Summa Cum Laude. I continued these methods in graduate school with the same results. Again, it never felt like work. It was an utterly pleasurable task -- like a puzzle.
|Slow living means learning how to live slowly.|
Then something changed. I always kept a "to do" list with due dates. In grad school, that "to do" list grew as I started teaching, presenting at conferences, and juggling adulthood. When my Mom got sick and stopped working, I became her sole caretaker, adding an extra household to manage and another person to shop for. My simple calendar turned into a timed planner and my working methods became more and more compartmentalized. I scheduled time to write, time to take breaks, time to spend with my Mom, time to commute. This was the only way I could survive.
|Bijou is Flow.|
I bought into the whole toxic productivity culture ... and I was miserable. I hated what I was doing. I hated who I became. I hated everything I researched and studied. And I hated the people who pushed this kind of mentality. Colleagues, "influencers," and productivity coaches all said the same thing: I need discipline. I need to set out a schedule. I need to define my goals. Some "influencers" like Lavendaire, added a veneer of "mindfulness" and "holistic" living to all of this as they pushed their ever growing number of followers to make time for meditation and self-care. As if we needed something else to schedule and feel guilty about if we didn't do it!