What Is Productivity, and Why Should You Care About It?

Do you consider yourself a productive person?

I guess it’s not really fair to ask you this question right off the bat, because it relies on defining what we each mean by “productivity.” The basic dictionary.com definition says: “the quality, state, or fact of being able to generate, create, enhance, or bring forth goods and services.” In this case, though, what I’m trying to get at is more about the connotation. What does productivity mean to you, in your life?

We live in a world that values being busy. In order to feel like you’ve had a productive day, you might want to get a lot done, check off items on your list, or have something to show for what you’ve been up to. You might even feel like you’ve been go-go-going all day but you haven’t been truly productive at all. This can take a toll on your self-worth.

We are what we do, after all, right? It can certainly feel that way, but that’s not the whole story.

rp_lists-300x2251.jpgA friend of mine, someone I’ve known for a long time, gets a kick out of teasing me about how in recent years I’ve become more Zen in my attitude.

“How’s it going with being Zen?” he asked on the phone last week. “It must be hard for you as a Virgo, with all those goals and lists.”

We both laughed, and a reply sprang to mind immediately. “Not at all,” I said. “I still have lists of things to do, but I’m not attached to them.”

It’s true. My relationship with “being productive” has changed radically. Sure, I still enjoy the feeling of checking things off my list. But it’s no longer tied in with my basic self-worth. On any given day, being “productive” means, to me, that I’ve worked towards my larger goals, been helpful to my family and others, and had fun. I’m more attuned to my attitude and how I feel. Productivity has become less of a focus.

On the other hand, you don’t necessarily want to get rid of productivity entirely. I recently came across the surprising statistic that only 4 percent of people write have written down their goals, and only 16 percent more even have them. That’s 80 percent of the population who haven’t set goals for themselves. Really?!

Going with the flow is one of my mottoes, but still, I can’t imagine not having life goals that I’m working towards. It might just be me, but I’m imagining that without dreams to pursue, life could feel aimless and eventually, full of regrets. Being productive can help get us a bit further along the path each day. Big goals can motivate us, but it’s those small steps we take toward them, the ones that add up over time, that allow us to achieve success on our own terms.

That’s why it’s important to define productivity for yourself. You could be productive by picking up acorns in the park, but what’s the greater purpose? If one of your goals is to learn to make acorn flour pancakes, then your acorn-gathering has a meaning.

What would be a healthy way to be productive, in your life? Think about how your daily actions serve your biggest goals. Do the things you do bring joy to you and others, enhance your creativity, increase your knowledge, make the world a better place, or in some other way help you live the life of your dreams? If not, how can you start making changes so that your personal productivity lines up with your intentions?

I’d love to hear your feedback on what productivity means to you, and how you use it. Leave a comment below. Thanks!

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