Tips for the Unproductive

Sleeping on the keyboard is not advised.

Someone yesterday, after I reported having a good day based on what I produced to teach me my “anti-work productivity ways” and here’s what I said:

1. Take breaks when you need them and as you need them

2. Reward yourself for anything done that you enjoyed doing and/or had to get done

3. If you *don’t* get everything done or lose motivation *DON’T* beat yourself up about it or shame yourself

Now, before I say any more some of you may be wondering why I’m giving tips on how to be productive. Isn’t this site all about doing nothing? Aren’t I against work?

Well, sure, I value doing nothing at times. Sometimes I like to just daydream and stare out into nothing in particular and “daze off” (as I periodically say) while thinking about nothing in particular. Right now I’m starting to meditate which also contributes to the amount of “nothing” I do in a given day. And more theoretically I would generally appreciate a world where people took the time out of their day to do nothing in particular but slack off and relax.

But that doesn’t mean I think everyone should be like sloths (cute as they may be) or that I want everyone to just do nothing all of the time. I think there’s a difference between valuing productivity in terms of what helps us be better people than productivity in terms of serving other people’s interest. In the way I don’t think the sort of productivity I’m talking about here has very much to do with, say, capitalism’s demand for productivity.

Because, for instance, look at that numbered list up there. The first thing is a very radical departure from anything any normal workplace would allow you to do. Take breaks when you “need” to? Well who gets to decide that? For me it’s the individual person and not the boss. That doesn’t seem to have much to do with capitalism to me.

I elaborated on the first point soon after by saying:

1. You need to realize that giving yourself a break isn’t a form of “surrender” or “defeat”. Sometimes bad stuff happens, sometimes you get burnt out, sometimes you just get too frustrated. Whatever. Take a breather, watch a funny video and try to get back into it in a bit if you can.

This elaboration came from someone remarking that all of the things on that original list were easier said than done and that’s absolutely true.

To help it be, hopefully, a little easier, I expanded upon these three things. Here were my other elaborations:

2. The trick here is to not see the reward as merely a goal but also a means. Don’t reduce the rewards to merely an end goal but a means to want to *keep going* and get other enjoyable and/or necessary things done.

3. Self-hatred isn’t going to get you anywhere. It’s defeating at best and harmful at worst and all it’s going to cause is more internal strife. If you gotta feel shitty about it then write your shittiness out or talk to someone about it. But criticizing yourself and mentally self-harming isn’t going to be that effective in getting you to try again, odds are.

Lots of people like to see the rewards they give themselves for getting the job done (so to speak) as an end goal but I’m not so sure that’s right. The reward, to me, is as much of a means as it is an end. It may be an end within the relationship of doing X and then getting reward Y. But reward Y shouldn’t be seen in isolation from doing thing Z. After all, if you hadn’t done reward Y then Z may have seemed tougher to do or it may have been harder to see what the point of it was.

You also don’t want to see rewards as merely an ends because if you’re only doing something for a reward then you may be less likely to actually take pleasure in what you are doing. And if you have enough of these times then your days are mostly made up of situations where you go from an unpleasant thing to a slightly or way more pleasant thing and then back to unpleasantness and so on. Now, that’s certainly better than just doing unpleasant things but I think we can do even better than that.

The person I was trying to give advice to then remarked that their big problem was motivation.

And that got me, as the kids are saying these days, right in the feels:

Yeah, I hear ya.

Look, I’m going to give you the most cliche’, BS advice I can give you.


Just do it.

audience boos and throws tomatoes

Yeah yeah, I know. It’s shitty advice. But honestly? That’s what usually works for me. I just sit down (listen to music if I’ve gotta get myself more “in the zone”), picture what I want to write and what I want to talk about and then bam! Before I know it I’ve got a few hundred words under my belt.

One trick is just to write something, anything that is relevant to what you want to talk about. Or start in a place you know you can start. Like, if you’re talking about a recent event, you (presumably) know what happened and the details so lead in with that and then give one of your biggest thoughts first and then maybe react to some criticisms and build from there to a snappy conclusion.

But I feel ya. I’ve got mild depression and it can really be a drain on my motivation. I really love writing though and it’s something I have a passion for and something that makes my day more meaningful. If I hadn’t done that feature for C4SS then I honestly would’ve felt lukewarm about the day. I mean, it would’ve been *okay* but now that I wrote that feature? I feel great about it!

As for what all of this has to do with opposing work? It really doesn’t. Unless you define work as “any and all effort” or something similar then wanting to abolish work’s really got nothing to do with wanting or not wanting to be productive. There are different theories of productivity, what counts as productive and what doesn’t, what makes people productive and what doesn’t what the foundational reasons for valuing productivity are and what they aren’t or shouldn’t be, etc. etc. etc. And not all of that, I think, has to come from exploitative systems like capitalism.

I think all of this relates to Bob Black’s idea of “productive play” which I’ve mentioned before but just in case you missed it:

Activities which are, for the time and the circumstances and the individuals engaged in them, intrinsically gratifying play yet which, in their totality, produce the means of life for all.

What I’m talking about here may be seen in a similar light. Doing what you love and doing it well.

With all that said, I may have more tips in the future but I hope this helps my fellow creative creators.

Happy Productive Slacking!

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