The sinister side of productivity

Let’s noodle over these 3 statements:

  • I never have enough time
  • I have a futile fixation of getting it all done
  • I’m overwhelmed by the number of inputs in my life

I’m seeing a few heads nod as you scroll through this list. And here’s what makes the promise of productivity so compelling.

If we could just eek out more time, organize it all and get on top of things life would be so much better. Simpler. And we’d be happier.

But if you actually contemplate these statements, you’ll see that they all start from a place of fear. Fear of failure. Fear of not doing enough. Fear of irrelevance. Fear of rejection.

And when our fear receptors are on high-alert, things start to break down. Our fight-or-flight reflex inhibits creativity, leads us to poor decision-making and quietly eats away at our physical health.

This fear soaks our daily lives with anxiety, self-loathing and emotional detachment. Ultimately culminating in burnout.

But does the desire to be more productive always have to originate from a place of fear? Or can come from a wellspring of joy, levity and ease?

The origins of “not enough”

I want to propose that there are two modes of productivity: fear-based productivity (FBP) and joy-based productivity (JBP).

FBP’s starting point is that there’s not enough. It’s anchored in the scarcity mindset, a belief that we are fragile beings living in a fragile world.

We’re one mistake from being fired.

We’re one bear market from being evicted.

We’re one bad decision away from tanking our business.

From this fragility, comes the need to overcompensate. Work a bit longer, save a bit more and push yourself to learn new skills.

Now in isolation, these are all “good” activities. But there’s a bigger question (a $10K Question, in our parlance) at play:

Am I a fragile being?

This question can be evaluated through a few different lenses. Do I trust my skills? Am I healthy? Am I safe? Am I loved?

These (alongside much deeper questions like Who am I?) should anchor a reflective process. Yet productivity hurls us in a completely different direction.

Instead of asking “Do I trust my skills,” you run to download an app so that their Kindle highlights automatically synch into Notion. Instead of asking, “am I loved?” you splurge on the Superhuman app so that you can ensure that your always on top of your Inbox.

This fear of fragility drives FBP. Which has a second insidious effect, I’m not enough.

When “not enough” turns into “I’m not enough”

Have you been to somebody training? Do you want to be a somebody? In the game of identity (and status games) many of us seek the anchor of a “known identity.” According to the spiritual teacher Ram Dass, this game starts really early (ahem private tutors, coding apps, youth soccer leagues):

It’s interesting how subtle and yet how much we’re attached to our cards of identity. My name, social security number, my zip code, my address, my occupation—a whole set of labels that define who we think we are. When you and I are born, very shortly after we’re born, we go into somebody-training. We start to be trained to become somebody. And we’re trained by other people who know who they are, and they’re going to teach us who we are—very well-meaning, I mean—so that we can function in the world by being somebody.

I personally have gone through my fair share of somebody trainings. SAT Prep, Yale, Wall Street, Solopreneurship, being an Internet Thought Leader (eye-roll) and many more. Today, I desire to be a successful entrepreneur – yet another somebody.

But here’s the rub. If you desire to be a somebody, by definition your current state of existence is incomplete. You are not whole. You are lacking.

Even writing these words on paper gives me shivers. I’ll repeat it back to you (in fact, I said it out loud in this interview with my friend Andrew Taggart).

Because I desire to be a Somebody, in this moment I am not enough. (This is conditional self-love.)

Let’s bring it full circle, back to productivity. This time I’ll pick on our own $10K Work Framework. I try to do 1 hour’s worth of $10K Tasks each day. These tasks are like the super-food of productivity – densely-packed with nutrients and with lots of future benefits.

But why does $10K Work matter? Is my obsession with $10K Work a manifestation of FBP?

We’ve already established that I desire to be somebody. Therefore, I exist from a state of lack.

If I feel like I’m not enough (and by extension, unlovable, unsafe, and insignificant) let’s be honest: No amount of $10K Work is going to fix that.

What’s the other side of the coin?

Is FBP the only method of getting things done?

Let’s consider another question:

When do we operate from a place of joy (aka JBP)?

Some may call it flow, when time just disappears.

Others may call it living in alignment, when your activities align with your values.

And some may call it peace, when your mind doesn’t cling to noise of everyday life.

The path to JBP begins with deep introspection, accepting yourself unconditionally and understanding your true motivations.

It also begins with honoring that there is no lack. You are whole. You were whole. And you’ll always be whole.

Join us as we try to deconstruct the “why” behind productivity, with a like-minded group of ambitious and kind professionals during our upcoming cohort of Supercharge Your Productivity. We hope you’ll join us on May 3rd.

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