On Productivity and Presence

For the longest time, I was obsessed with being more productive and fell into the productivity trap.

I felt I needed to get more done in less time. My pain denied me the luxury of spending a long time on essays or problem sets, so I made it my goal to learn how to make the most of my time. Which I think is a perfectly fine goal and I still hold it. The problem I want to focus on arises when productivity is reached to the detriment of presence and being mindful.

There’s a slight divide between living with presence and productivity. The former is often lost in the latter.

What’s the point of all this productivity? Why am I so interested in the next thing rather than what I’m doing now?

We shouldn’t be so focused on what will happen next and don’t do what’s in front of us.

Nor should we be so focused on completing a task that we forget to experience it.

When I started read about self-improvement, I came across meditation and adopted the practice. Mindfulness meditation places an importance on being focused on the present moment alone. When thoughts come into our head, we let them pass like clouds moving through the sky.

We remain in the present which helps free us from anxiety about the future and regret from the past.

The difference between presence and productivity can be seen in everyday tasks.

Discarding productivity when reading means we aren’t concerned about when the book ends so we can start the next one. We’re just enjoying the dialogue, the story, and sometimes, the absurdity (I’m looking at you, Catch-22).

When we eat food, we enjoy how it tastes rather than inhaling it to get back to work.

And so on.

This divide definitely isn’t a strict one. I don’t want to mislead people into thinking that being concerned with productivity means we are unconcerned with presence and vice versa. There are a million and three qualifications one can make to this general idea of aiming to be more present than productive. For example, an employer may not care so much about how mindful you are if you’re always missing targets. But that’s a discussion for another time.

Leading a productive day can be much more fulfilling if we go through it mindfully.

It’s easy to ask how to be more productive while forgetting what it means to be productive and then forgetting why you desire productivity. When we get to that point, it’s an apt reminder for us to slow down and become aware of the present moment once more.

The moment we can be the most engaged in.

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