April 20, 2020

Productivity Isn’t Working

A captivating essay about the ways in which a crisis reveals flaws in the workaholic way of life

I’m likely not the only one who’s been revisiting the changing nature of what it means to make valuable use of our time.

In this wonderful essay for Wired, Laurie Penny cuts to the core of what and how this virus is teaching us about our so-called productivity”. It’s really workaholism and the modern cult of the hustle that she’s discussing, though the line between them seems awfully thin sometimes.

I appreciated her depiction of how this effort is a fear response:

It’s hardly surprising that so many of us are processing this immense, unknowable collective catastrophe by escaping into smaller, everyday emergencies. A crisis you create for yourself, after all, is a crisis you might be able to control. Frantic productivity is a fear response. It’s a fear response for 21st-century humans in general and millennial humans in particular, as we’ve collectively awoken from the American dream with a strange headache and a stacks of bills to pay. My whole generation learned relentless work was the way to cope with the rolling crisis, with the mood of imminent collapse and economic insecurity that was the elevator music of our entire youth—the relentless tension between trying to save yourself and trying to save the world, between desperate aspiration and actual hope.

She’s not at all shy about skewering workaholism, though it’s a gentle, self-deprecating wound she inflicts—one that comes from someone who is, herself, a victim of the faith.

It’s a wonderful piece, well worth the read.

Making breakfast, making the beds, making sure your friends and family aren’t losing their absolute minds is work that matters more than ever and will continue to matter in the coming decades as crisis follows crisis. It is not productive,” in the way that most of us have learned to understand what that word means, but it is work, and it is worthwhile…right now, we have a finite opportunity to rethink how we value ourselves, to re-examine our metric for measuring the worth of human lives.

link productivity

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