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How To Be Less Productive

Updated on January 4, 2012
If this polar bear worked harder maybe the ice caps wouldn't be melting.
If this polar bear worked harder maybe the ice caps wouldn't be melting.

Humans do seem to have an insatiable drive to do, to achieve. That is why our species now spans the globe, not inhabiting niches, but carving them out, destroying the work of millenia to make way for our wide flat roads and lovely square boxy houses and all the rest of it. We get terribly upset when nature tries to reclaim any of our human settled areas with her tempestuous wildness. After all, this planet is ours, right? We're the dominant species, right? And if we work hard enough, maybe we'll be important enough to live forever - or not.

Humanity as a whole is on a mad rush towards its own destruction, each of us working harder, hoarding more resources, needing better things. Look at my new shoes! My new car! Look at me! At me! Oh my god I'm right here! I have a shiny thing! Look at my shinies!

We have put productivity before everything else. We have put productivity before family, before the environment we live in, the air we breathe, before our own lives. People will choose work over leisure, work over personal safety, work over the fulfillment of social needs. Why? Well, perhaps it's because work can be addictive in the same way video games can be addictive. Every time you put in an hour and get a monetary reward, the brain releases a little rewarding dopamine, in the same way as grinding from level 28 to level 29 and raising your HP, AP and MP results in a dopamine release.

We are very good at turning ourselves into rats, slapping at lab buttons in the hope that a little cheese or chocolate (rats love chocolate) comes tumbling out.

One of the first questions we ask other people is 'What do you do?' It's very important that we know what a person's job is so we can judge them appropriately. It's very important that we boast about our own jobs and how productive we are in them. It's very important that other people know that we are important. We are accomplished. We are smart. We are talented. We work hard. We play hard. We reject the notion that playing hard is just another form of work, mostly involving pointless posturing and posing.

Then we come home and feel drained, listless. We barely get to use the toys we've bought ourselves as rewards for all our hard work and proof of our super achievements because we're too busy preparing for another day at work. Eventually we get drained and sad and start feeling depressed, so we figure that something must be wrong with us. So we go to a doctor and he gives us a drug that allows us to ignore the fact that it is our lives that are depressing and stimulates our brains into being able to handle more dreary endless work. Some people really do have a valid chemical need for anti-depressants, however it is also true that some people's depression is caused by environmental factors that go un-adressed for years on end. Prescriptions for anti-depressants are handed out like candy. Feel sad? Take a pill and get some work done. Get a haircut. Get a job. Get a life.

Get a life. How ironic that the phrase has actually come to mean 'get in the same cycle of work and debt that I'm in and validate my lifestyle choices even as I actively regret them.'

Instead of looking at the modern lifestyle and questioning how healthy it is, we look at ourselves and find ourselves wanting.

Here are some ways to rid yourself of a little productivity. They are wildly obvious and they will not work for everyone, but some of them may work for some people and that's really the best any of us can hope for.

Give up a luxury. Odds are you're using it as a drug to numb the dullness caused by working too hard. Then take the saving you make by not having that luxury and turn it into free time. Use that free time to do something terribly unproductive.

Stop working overtime (unless you absolutely have to.) If you're working harder simply for the sake of working harder, stop. If you're working harder to impress the right people, stop. If you're working harder because you think you'll be able to work less hard in the future, stop. It never ends. Work begets more work.

Downsize. Move into a smaller place, get a smaller house, a smaller car, a smaller fridge. Wear smaller shoes. Pet a small cat. Have a little bit of chocolate.

Sacrifice status symbols. If you're working hard so you can have 'nice things' you're doing it horribly wrong. Nice things can only provide a temporary dopamine boost, which will then have to be regained by working even harder for even nicer things. First you get a nice car, then a nice house, then a nice mansion, then a nice jet, then you're Dick Cheney. Seriously. That's just a scientific fact.

Sacrifice status. You're afraid people might not think as much of you if you're not working hard. Fortunately for you, they're much more concerned with themselves, and you'll be making them feel much better about themselves in comparison, which is super nice.

Sacrifice statues. Okay not really. Unless you want to.


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    • ryokowaren profile image

      ryokowaren 6 years ago from USA

      Great article! Voted up.

    • jodieorcutt profile image

      jodieorcutt 6 years ago from Buffalo NY

      This is great! A message so many people are afraid to accept, simply because they've been told their entire lives that productivity leads to the ultimate reward - MONEY. Money before happiness, money before rest, money before everything. Search internally, satisfy your wants. Relax a bit.

      Definitely looking forward to reading more of your posts!