The Dangers of Productivity

In the past twenty minutes, I have stapled 28 valentine cards to 28 bags, finished and scheduled the Wild Elephant post, glued wood to the backs of some encaustic pieces to prepare them for hanging, taken several sips of my drink, and mentally rehearsed what I'd write for this post.

I did this because I was multi-tasking.

Our computer often runs slow.  Instead of waiting for it, tonight I grabbed a bag, stapled, and repeated until the computer was ready again.  Then back I went to typing and sipping my drink until the next slow down.

Yes, I feel accomplished.  I am glad the post is done and the valentines ready to go.  However, I am aware of uneasiness inside that sits like a wise grandmother sadly shaking her head.

Some of you (and most of the people I know off-line) will probably disagree with what I am about to propose.  That's ok - just stay with me and at least consider the possibility:


What I did was not beneficial to a mindful, healthy way of living.

I suppose that keeping myself busy instead of just getting frustrated by the slow computer could be considered beneficial.  Productive, certainly.  But it is not in line with the way that I want to live.

By moving to another task, I reinforced to that monkey-mind of mine that being busy is good.  Constantly moving is good.  Productivity is good.  Go,, do.  (I said do-do.  Hah.)

The problem is that when I move into meditation or try to practice focusing on one thing at a time off the meditation cushion, my mind has already decided that it wants to move on.  My thoughts are jumping to what else I can do to be more productive or perhaps more comfortable.  Instead of "wasting time" by waiting, I could be planning ahead!  Instead of "wasting time" by listening to some pointless chatter that the person I am with is offering, I could be mentally constructing an art piece.  

Instead of "wasting time" by being right here, I could be two steps ahead.

See where this is going?

I am training myself to jump out of this moment when what is happening in this moment isn't deemed "productive" or when the moment is uncomfortable.  Whether I am stapling valentines while the computer locks up or letting my thoughts run wild when I lose interest in a conversation, I reinforce my inability to stay mindful.

The logical part of me really wants to fight this.  I THRIVED on so-called multi-tasking in my work environments.  (Yes, I know we can't really multi-task.  I am more so referring to the constant jumping from task-to-task while each one remains incomplete.)  Every ounce of my logical being wants to jump on the productivity bandwagon.  Look how fast they are going!  Look at how much they are getting done!  

You don't want to get left behind, do you??!!

And yet, the wise grandmother that sits within reminds me that there is no left behind.

By not being right here, with myself and the breath as the computer locks up, the only thing that is getting left behind is myself.

I leave this moment in pursuit of something else, something different, something more productive.

You might disagree with me.  (I know I do.)  But I ask us both to listen - underneath the noise of that which calls us out of this moment.

Take a breath.  Another.

In this moment of seeming non-productivity, in the possible discomfort that you aren't doing more...what do you hear?