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Why We Need to Redefine Productivity to Live a More Fulfilling Life

October 10, 2019

Curation diary open on the ground

This post is written by Alex Phillips, Co Founder of Saint Belford.


For the longest time, being “productive” to me meant cramming more work into my day and it did not serve me well. 

It’s not far from the technical definition of productivity which feels more appropriate for machines that it does for humans...

Productivity is the ratio of output to input. It’s the efficient use of resources. Being more productive means accomplishing more with the same amount of resources or achieving higher output in terms of volume and quality from the same input.

The problem arises when we subscribe to the idea of doing more , believing that it’s the recipe for accomplishing more. It becomes problematic when we view productivity exclusively in the context of work and begin to neglect other areas of our life in favour of increasing our output.

That’s why I’m redefining it and I encourage you to do the same—challenge the traditional school of thought.


Resting and recharging is also productive

This doesn’t mean sitting on the couch all day, every day of the week and calling it “self-care” because you and I both know that’s leaning into the forces of self-sabotage.

What I’m talking about is being honest with yourself and honouring the needs of your mind and body. It’s about respecting your threshold. That is a version of productivity you should become comfortable with.

Contrary to what we’ve been fed, productivity is not about stretching your time and your limits. It’s about respecting your time and limits. It’s about prioritising what’s important to you. It’s about doing the select few things that add meaning and value to your life. 

We need to erase the idea that “doing more = productive” and accept that slowing down, resting and recharging IS productive. 

All because there is no immediate tangible output from the time you’ve invested in working on yourself and honouring your self-care needs doesn’t mean that it’s not a productive use of your time. 

Not everything is going to generate an immediate return or an immediate output. You need to consider the long-term impact and the long-term benefits. You need to consider your future self, your happiness and sense of fulfillment when judging what is and isn’t productive. 

Resist the urge to add. Try subtracting. 

It’s easier to add than to subtract. It’s probably why we entertain the idea of “squeezing” things into our schedules instead of simply “subtracting” to free up space. 

The thing is, it’s not about doing all the things, it’s about doing the right things. Striving for the former just isn’t sustainable because everything you do comes at a cost. As much as we want to play superwoman (or man), we need to accept our human-ness. That means, finite time, energy and resources.

So, how do you resist the urge to do it all?

  1. Accept that you’re human
  2. Consider what’s important to you and lock those things in. Those things, along with your health and wellbeing are non-negotiable. Everything else can be subtracted.
  3. Be comfortable with having less on your plate. Celebrate it and know that you’re allocating your finite resources in a way that allows you to live a fulfilling life.