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  • Writer's pictureJen Kapral

Productivity is Overrated

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Just no. 


We all seem to be obsessed with productivity. How can we maximize our limited hours? How can we get more done more efficiently? What else can we cram into our over-scheduled days?

And, in the middle of a global pandemic, how can we take advantage of all this “free” time we have?

I find all this productivity noise incredibly exhausting. It was annoying before the pandemic, and now it’s not only annoying but completely out of touch with the reality of the day-to-day lives of most people.

At my home, we’re definitely in survival mode. My husband and I are fortunate enough to be able to work from home. Our toddler is home with us and we ping pong her back and forth all day. On the best days, we plan fun crafts, join pre-school Zooms, and work on letters. On days where we’re both slammed with meetings and deadlines, she watches Daniel Tiger and Muppet Babies and plays on her tablet for hours.

There are many days when I feel like a shitty parent and/or a shitty employee. We’re up late trying to make up for lost work hours during the day, emailing at 1 AM, preparing presentations for meetings. Or googling child development milestones,  ordering pre-school packets online.

At the beginning of the pandemic, I didn’t write at all. I binged K-dramas and tried to keep my anxiety about the pandemic under control. Frankly, I also enjoyed not having a packed schedule. I didn’t want to be productive. I wanted to focus at home with my family. Mornings were so much calmer. Mealtimes were much less rushed.

I jumped back into writing in July, finding I was missing the quiet, alone time that writing typically is for me. I ended up having my most productive month of writing since NaNoWriMo, clocking in nearly 40K words and making substantial progress on my novel. This was during one of the busiest months of my day job.

Want my productivity hacks? There are none. What works for me doesn’t work for everyone. What worked for me in July isn’t working as well in August. I was productive because I needed writing, I craved time and space just for me and my creativity. It gave me more energy for work and parenting. I love getting lost in a story, problem-solving plot issues, writing emotional moments between characters. It feeds me in a way that nothing else does.

This month, I’m having a harder time with consistency. Am I beating myself up over it? Hell no. We’re in a pandemic. Even a few words a day are great and do the job for me.

Utilizing timers, downloading apps, and setting goals- they can all be great or completely unhelpful. There are times in my writing career when I relish these and use them, and times when I don’t.

The ONE thing that has kept me consistently getting to the keyboard is community. I’m a part of a critique group that meets monthly. We’ve been working together since 2012 and we have strict rules for submission deadlines. I’ve only missed one submission in my entire eight years with them.  Knowing that I have a monthly piece to submit forces me to write, in the very best of ways.

Yes, writing is hard. But why do you do it? It should be fun and joyous. Productivity is not the most important piece of your writing. So remember why you write, find your community, and share that joy instead of going crazy about your word counts.

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