The Productivity Trap: Why Selling Your Soul To Productivity Is Unproductive

I’ve been quite the productivity nazi as long as I can remember. Even when I was younger and had a very distorted version of reality, I was wired in a way that focused relentlessly on productiveness. In elementary school I’d do strange things like run home after school rather than walk so I’d have more time to play Pokemon, but my obsessive inclination to do whatever I deemed “most productive,” was there nonetheless.

After the removal of video games from my life I’ve spent the past few years in personal development mode. This has been a good change for the most past, but it’s also had its own fair share of negative effects.

I’d spent the first couple years of high school so focused on personal development that I’d actually stunted my personal growth.

I fell into this strange reality where I believed socializing was a waste of time so I proactively avoided attending any social events. I had this fucked-up belief that there was something wrong with taking a relaxing walk through the park, and taking time to smell the flowers. In short, I sold my soul to productivity, and doing so wasn’t even productive.

I’d begun to plan each moment of everyday so meticulously that if I had any setbacks, which are only inevitable, I’d have to frantically rush around the remainder of the day half-assing things just so I could complete my todo list. It was stressful, and it was killing me.

I alienated the few friends I did have, and I ended up having nervous breakdowns almost every weekend. At the time I didn’t understand why I was feeling so run down, but I knew I needed a change.

There never was a big epiphany for me, rather I learned from others’ mistakes and from my own setbacks. The biggest change for me, however, came last summer during my 90 day social challenge. I realized that as a nearly universal truth the more I socialized the more work I was able to get done each week.

If I’d only gone out 1 nights in a given week I’d have trouble writing more than 1-2 blog posts, but in the weeks I went out 5+ nights I was able to write a blog post almost everyday, and sometimes more than one per day!

I also found that the more I socialized the less prone I was to mindlessly wasting time. If I’d been a hermit it wasn’t uncommon for me to lose several hours a day to random web surfing, and although never perfect, I was much more disciplined in the usage of my time while maintaining an active social life.

Why Being A Productivity Nazi Isn’t Productive

I think the biggest reason being overly obsessed with productivity is ultimately unproductive is because living that way inevitably causes the accumulation of stress. When you’re so focused on being productive, to the point of ignoring your own happiness levels you begin to resent your work.

Human beings have a natural hierarchy of needs, and if you’re not fulfilling your basic animal level needs you simply won’t be able to function on a higher level. When your brain recognizes that the reason you can’t go out and have fun with your buddies or meet girls is due to your work it’s going to sabotage you.

Remember, your brain doesn’t care if you’re a 3/10 or a 9/10 on the happiness scale. All it cares about is that you’re able to prolong your existence, and ultimately pass down your DNA.

The Solution

The road to the greatest level of productivity lies in balance. You need to meet your low level animal needs, but not focus on them in excess. In other words, eating high quality food, but not making gourmet meals the central focus of your life. Maintaining an active social life, but not needing to be with your friends every second of every day. Taking a period of relaxation after a stressful work project, but not spending your whole life in autopilot.

Life’s all about balance. Those who produce the best results are the most skilled in maintaining that proper equilibrium. Periods of expansion need to be followed by periods of contraction.

I initially hesitated on writing this post as I still need a lot more work in maintaining a balanced life, but it’s a journey, and one I think you’ll greatly beneift from committing yourself to.

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