Why Productivity Is No Longer My Priority (but New Girl is)
Has anyone written King Lear 2 yet?
At the beginning of lockdown, we were all encouraged to hustle more. I received enthusiastic press releases reminding me to use this opportunity to master the guitar/write that book/learn a language. After all, Isaac Newton invented gravity and Shakespeare allegedly wrote King Lear on lockdown, so we shouldn’t be wasting a second of our time. However, as lockdown has progressed, the conversation has changed. Being stuck inside all day isn’t quite as inspiring and stimulating as some people might have imagined, and our priorities have inevitably shifted.
So many of us define ourselves by our work. It’s what keeps us feeling useful, creates a structure around which we can build our lives and ultimately gives us a purpose. Since lockdown, many of us have had the dependability of going to work every day disrupted, whether you’re working from home, have been furloughed, or been made redundant, as I have. A disruption in routine means a decrease in our productivity, as does being constantly surrounded by housemates or family members with only a small window of opportunity a day to take time to ourselves. Those with children or full-time carers won’t even get that. Before redundancy, part of my sense of self came from knowing that I was doing a good job and supporting my team, even if they were a little further away than usual. When those things are removed, the other ways in which we define ourselves is put to the test.
Since lockdown, productivity has taken on a different kind of meaning for me. A good day is not necessarily a productive one in the traditional sense of the word, and for the first time in a very long time, my hobbies have taken up the majority of my day. At first, it seemed frivolous to be amateur baking at a time like this, but I came to realise that it is important to make time for yourself. You don’t need to always be ticking off your to-do list. Once that internal pressure is removed and you allow yourself to move a little slower, you become productive in other ways.
Over the last six weeks my favourite moments have not been successfully pitching an idea at a meeting or delivering a marketing campaign. I’ve been teaching myself how to knit (which was harder than I thought and I have a newfound respect for all big knitters out there), reading in the sunshine, making a rhubarb crumble and watching all of New Girl from start to finish. I’ve also enjoyed spending time with my parents, at an age I never expected to be still living at home (although I did camp out in the garden one evening as a small break. Our parents will still annoy us, however old we are).
It can be a scary and worrying time for many at the moment, but it’s also a good opportunity to remind yourself that as well as being a good employee and a valued team member, you are a three-dimensional person with varied interests and passions whose value is more than the economic output you generate. The most productive thing I’ve done today is go for a walk with my dog, which was truly joyful, and I am just fine with that.
Sophie lives in London, UK, where she handily fuses her love of travel and writing in her day job, as a marketing co-ordinator for Lonely Planet.