We’re all interested in how to be more productive, but not enough attention is paid to the why of productivity. There can have both good and bad reasons to increase your productivity. Your motivations behind your productivity will determine how much value you actually get out of your efforts. Let’s explore some of the common reasons for being more focused and effective, highlighting which reasons ultimately serve you and which ones only end up holding you back.
Virtuous Reasons for Being Productive
Achieving Personal Goals
If you have some personal goals you’d like to achieve, then it makes sense that you’d want to work toward them as efficiently as possible. Life is short, but goals can be plenty and manifold. Part of leading a fulfilling life involves trying to achieve our highest priority goals. With limited time available to do this, it’s important to know how to use your time wisely, which is a central aspect of productivity.
Making a Positive Impact
Another part of a meaningful life is being able to make a positive impact on the lives of others. You can do this through work or volunteering. But doing good in the world lies on a spectrum of effectiveness. If your motivation to be productive is to maximize your impact, then you will be able to improve the well-being of others to a greater degree. These improvements in effectiveness can feel personally rewarding as well.
Poor Reasons for Being Productive
To Avoid Feeling Guilty
Modern society, no doubt, venerates productivity. Many people view “laziness” (which often just means relaxing and enjoying oneself) as wasteful. It is common to feel guilty for not actively working on something. This kind of thinking is misplaced, however. There is nothing inferior or shameful about having downtime. If the reason behind your productivity is just to avoid feeling guilty, then your motivations may be more about living up to societal standards that aren’t serving you. Productivity feels most rewarding when you base it on standards you choose for yourself, not those pursued by others.
Maintaining an Image of a Productive Person
Because of the pressure to be productive at all times, you may only feel content and confident when you live up to the image of a productive person. When you have days that you are less productive, you may be hard on yourself (even if these quieter days benefit your mental health). Trying to be productive for egotistical reasons – to impress others – will simply leave you with an unstable sense of self worth.
It will also mean that your efforts and actions in life are inauthentic, since you will be acting in a way that has the opinions of others in mind instead of your genuine needs and preferences. It’s vital to ask yourself: is your productivity motivations to boost your ego or to feel a stronger sense of meaning and enjoyment in life?
There are many other good and bad reasons to focus on productivity. But with the above points in mind, you’ll have a sense of how to distinguish between different types of motivations for your productivity. It’s always better to have the “why” figured out before the “how.” Read on to learn about the things that impair your productivity and decision-making.