The (Over) Productivity Problem

We can do more today than we ever could, and it’s not slowing down. I remember when the personal computer was becoming more attainable for the average person. Technology seemed to be moving at a break neck speed. By the time you walked out of the store, your computer was obsolete. Still, these computers ran similar programs. They were basic, but they were helpful.

I remember in college, before the popularization if the smartphone, having to wait until after class and work to go home to check my email. I remember fighting my friends’ insistence that I needed a Facebook account. I remember thinking, “I don’t need a smartphone.”

Things were simpler then. Don’t get me wrong, I am fascinated by technology and very much like my phone. However, with instant access comes two dangerous things that work against each other almost constantly – instant gratification and an expectation to always be productive.

Being so connected to everyone all of the time brings expectations. One expectation is to get more done faster. This brings us to the point of burn out, and it arguably has created and is creating a generation that doesn’t understand boundaries or sustainability. We go, go, go and then get tired, tired, tired. In some ways, this is expected with the tools we have.

So, it’s crucial to learn how to put the phone away and say, “No.” I struggle with both of these things. I especially struggle with the distraction of instant gratification when I feel overwhelmed. When I am feeling overwhelmed, my tendency is to try to escape. I start searching YouTube and Facebook. I check for app updates. I play Punch Quest. Sometimes, the distraction allows for a break for me to process, but too many times it is little more than a brief escape from reality.

It’s a dangerous cycle – we become overwhelmed with other’s expectations of us (or even our own expectations) then spend hours on Netflix binging on Daredevil and the things on our list still don’t get done. The answer is something that I’m learning slowly but surely – boundaries.

It’s important to know when to say no. It’s important to know the difference between a break and an escape. It’s subtle, but there is a difference. Breaks can refresh us and help us hone in and focus on what needs to be done. Taking a moment to breathe can allow us to collect our thoughts and move forward. Escape, on the other hand, is self-medication. Escape leads to complacency. We become addicted to escaping, whereas breaks take work.

That may not make a whole lot of sense, but breaks are intentional. It takes work to come to a place to notice where your limits are. I’m still not very good at it. Escaping just kind of happens. Escaping looks really appealing a lot of the time, too. Breaks get the shaft because they are like Escape’s nerdy little brother.

I think this might be because we all know that breaks end. When you go on lunch break, you know that you have to go back to work afterwards. Escaping technically doesn’t have to end, and that is what makes it dangerous. A person can live a life of constant escaping. This life is just as draining as being overloaded.

So, the trick is to be a life long learner of ourselves. We need to know where our limits are, and be willing to say both yes and no at the right time.

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