What It Feels Like to be Unproductive – Part 1

17/5/2013 |

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At Think Productive UK, one of our values is “we walk our talk”.  It has two benefits: Firstly, it means we talk with authorityand credibility when we’re running workshops and in sales conversations organisations can see the benefits by observing how we work as the role models for all this stuff.  But secondly, since people expect the guy with “Productivity Ninja” as a job title to answer his emails and follow through with clarity on actions, it becomes the biggest accountability we need to keep ourselves at the top of our game.  It creates an expectation that we need to be uber-productive, every single working day.  Even the ones when you’d rather crawl underneath the desk and hide, or have a little kip.

I love this accountability.  I love it because I’m naturally pretty lazy, and I love the momentum it sweeps me along with, especially when I’d rather be under the desk.

But this month it’s been different.  I’ve abandoned all of my usual systems.  I have no Toodledo acount, I’ m acting on instinct, I’m spending more time in my email, yet conversely piling it up rather than keeping it at zero.  It’s actually been really hard to undo good habits.

I don’t think I’ve achieved very much this month, but what’s been interesting has been my reactions and feelings as I’ve lived in the chaos.  I think there’s a bit of a narrative arc to how I’ve been feeling, but some of these thoughts are sporadic and return every few days.  So here’s a little list, in a semi-narrative arc of an order:


The relinquishing of the accountability syndrome, even for just a few short weeks, has actually at times been quite lovely.  With internal expectation levels lowered, if I’ m honest, it’s been great to be my own, flaky self at certain times.  I’m a pretty “all in” kind of guy: if I’m focussed on something, I really focus on it.  But that means you have to have periods of letting the field go fallow.  The rest and recuperation, the space to recharge and refill the creative well, is naturally compromised by an expectation of constant high standards of delivery.  Perhaps the western working world needs to view sporadic, high energy delivery as the yardstick for success, rather than expecting us all to be on top form, all of the time.


I’ve found it so hard to concentrate.  I know there’s important stuff to be done.  I just can’t fully remember what it is.  And it makes me feel so bloody guilty some days.  Everyone else is expected to be working really hard.  Because that’s the Think Productive UK way.

I get it.  I hear you scoffing.  “I should get everything out of my head and into a second brain that I trust”.  Yes, I wrote about all this stuff and have spent the last four years banging on about the importance of it.  But deliberately ditching all of this was my conscious decision to see how it affects me.  Turns out I was right all along. Interestingly, I hadn’t been valuing my lists that much this year (I’ve missed a few reviews, gone a few days without needing or wanting to ‘check in’ with my lists), but a little bit of absence and my heart is growing much, much fonder.  I can’t wait to get into some semblance of control – which, unlike my early career years, is my definition of normality not nirvana.


Read Part 2 of this post
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