Is Productivity the Precursor to Enjoyment?
I had a great big to-do list set up for this 3 day weekend. I was ready to take advantage of time off, full free days instead of the few free hours a day I can collect on an average day. I typed up my list in the “notes” section of my phone (because I’m like that), and guess what? It’s Tuesday morning and the list is still there.
I crossed 1 thing off all weekend, and admittedly, I feel terrible. I feel guilty. I feel unproductive and lazy. I had nearly 3 entire days of freedom to get things done, and what did I do? I watched movies. I talked on the phone. I cleaned my house. I took a nap. I scrolled through my phone way too many times.
And I hate this aftermath feeling because it brings guilt and anxiety through every one of my pores. It makes me want to work double time to “make up” for all that “wasted” time. I should have been writing more. I should have taken more pictures, posted more to Instagram. I should have responded to emails. I should have finished all the projects I’m in the middle of. I should have researched the things I said I wanted to sit down and read about.
But, alas, it’s Tuesday morning, and I didn’t do those things, and the easy thing, sadly, would be to continue down that path of un-productivity. The momentum is there. The comfort certainly is, too.
Instead, though, I choose something much different this Tuesday morning. I choose not to stick with the current momentum, nor to fight it. I choose not to “double time” it and caffeinate myself to push out more product, more content, more ideas.
I choose to do the oh-so un-American thing: to enjoy my un-productivity.
I say this is un-American not as a joke or a figure of speech, but as a true reality. From having spent time living abroad and traveling abroad, too, I’ve seen our culture right next to that of many European cultures, and while it’s a broad generalization and I’m sure you’ll find the exception if you look, it seems to me we are the culture that overvalues productivity and undervalues enjoyment.
Only in America (and maybe China?) do we feel like enjoyment must be earned. And only in America do we have standards for our enjoyment. In Europe, life is enjoyed everyday in the smallest of ways: a stroll in the park after work with friends, a glass of wine at lunch on a cafe terrace (actually though, the obsession with les terrasses is unreal in France), stopping in a store on the way home from work for a small gift, a 1 euro rose from the peddler on the corner. These enjoyments don’t need to be earned, they're simply parts of life.
In America, we tend to believe, “If I work hard, then I can enjoy my life,” but never one without the other. No enjoyment if we haven’t worked hard, and certainly no point in working if we can’t enjoy ourselves after. It’s so backwards, so saddening, and so idiotic considering WE are both the predator and the prey in this situation. We’re chasing our own tails here.
In Europe, the lifestyle seemed much more “I’ll work hard and I’ll enjoy myself,” and the two were completely independent. Work was what you did, but enjoyment was the point of everything. Europeans don’t seem to believe work is some key that unlocks enjoyment. And why do we? Why can’t we just enjoy life, because it’s life? Why must we be so productivity driven and thus so obsessed with the times we’re “allowed” to enjoy life, like vacations and weekends and random holidays?
I’m sick of that. I think I’m going to enjoy life whenever I want. I think I’m going to have drinks after work with a friend ON A WEEK NIGHT. I think I won’t wait until vacation to roll the windows down and turn the music up. I think I’ll treat myself even when I haven’t “earned” it.
Productivity is great and all, but it’s robbing us. It’s brainwashing us. It has already brainwashed us to believe it is the single pathway to enjoyment. We work, then we enjoy, the latter being contingent upon the first.
I am so over that. Aren’t you?
If you’re not, don’t you want to be?