Is it time to change our meaning of productivity?

Something that has struck me during lockdown is the amount of productivity advice appearing across the media. It is understandable too. When you spend lots of time at home, the temptation to stay in your pyjamas and binge-watch TV shows all day is real. It comes as no surprise therefore that blog post titles seem to be things like 10 Ways to Keep Motivated During Lockdown and How to Lead the Ultimate Productive WFH Lifestyle. You know the ones I mean. Recently though, I have been wondering if it is time to change our meaning of productivity?

How are we currently interpreting the meaning of productivity?

While it is true that being productive can entail producing a large amount of things or completing work in a relatively short amount of time, have we taken this to be the only definition. What about our wellbeing and our mindset?

I saw an interesting quote on Pinterest which got me thinking and in part inspired this blog post.

In our society, the concept of productivity has been swallowed whole by a culture of performance that is often detrimental to our wellbeing.


I won’t lie, I have seen so many people posting their daily to-do lists on Instagram stories recently and the amount of tasks included scares me. I could never include 10+ things on my to-do lists everyday.

Naturally, I know that when we have jobs and work full-time, we do not always have a choice in this, but nevertheless, even during furloughing or time off, the number of tasks is overwhelming.

Has productivity become so performance driven that we are cramming a huge number of tasks into our days without thinking of our wellbeing?

Let’s not forget that productivity is also about having positive results (Cambridge Dictionary).

Quality over quantity

When our task list is never-ending, can positive results truly be had though? Will the things we are doing be to the best of our abilities when our mind is thinking about the next job?

Something I have noticed is that my wellbeing benefits when I focus on just 2 or 3 things in a day, so that I can ensure I am spending the right amount of time on them, but also giving myself space to look after my mind and body.

You may think I need to x, y and z today, but before you start making to-do lists and setting yourself tasks, think about how much time is needed to produce the best results per job. There’s no point in making a page long daily to-do list if each item on the list takes over an hour to do.

Likewise, it is important to remember what I am calling ‘transition time’. It is not healthy to immediately jump from task to task. Once you have finished something, give your mind a break and a chance to reset and refocus. I like to go for a walk, or do some yoga or meditation during my reset time. Anything which lets your mind and body have some relaxation time is ideal.

Self-care is productive

To ensure we are producing quality in our work, we need to give time to our wellbeing.

Productivity should not solely be about how much work you get done.

Being productive is about incorporating things in your daily routine which help you to achieve your goals. We need to be more grateful that our minds and bodies enable us to live and work. Give yourself that self-care time, enjoy a good night’s sleep, look after your body through exercise, rest and a good diet to refuel and energise.

Live in the moment

My goal is no longer to get more done, but rather to have less to do .

Francine Jay from Miss Minimalist

This quote by Francine Jay sums up my thoughts on productivity perfectly. We have reached a point when we should live in the now. We need to live more mindfully by having less to do, rather than being glued to our to-do lists.

Alan Wolfelt, author of One Mindful Day at a Time: 365 Meditations on Living in the Now, explains Francine’s quote and expands it well. These are a few key sentences to think about.

Overscheduling and overcommitting ourselves is mindless. We can’t truly live in the now when we’re constantly consulting to-do lists. We can’t appreciate the many wonders of celebrations, friends, and family when we’re stressed out and overloaded.

More living in the now for less “shoulds” and “have tos”. More breathing room for fewer trappings.

Better to do a few things mindfully than do a whole lot of things mindlessly.

Alan Wolfelt, One Mindful Day at a Time: 365 Meditations on Living in the Now, Day december 14

Pin for later

To finish off

The next time you make a to-do list, think about why you are doing it and what you are putting on it.

Be mindful and intentional with your actions. Life should not be a series of checkboxes. Enjoy living in the now and looking after yourself.

What do you interpret the meaning of productivity? Let me know if you enjoy this style of blog post and want to see more.