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More thoughts on productivity, and a counterargument

Unbelievably, we were hit by another round of a stomach bug on the weekend. This one was the real deal as well. I changed the sheets to the baby’s cot a total of 4 times – 3 times in the night and once more after we thought the danger had passed, during his morning nap.

Nursery fun. Being able to put him into a box would have been helpful this weekend too.

I hate cleaning up vomit more than I hate vomiting myself, and I really hate vomiting.

I keep processing the complicated feelings I have about planning and productivity in the aftermath of my husband’s bombshell revelation about his opinion on it. One counterargument I have come up with so far is an analogy with email.

Organising email is certainly a good way to waste time in the ‘busywork’ sense that I think puts Cal off personal productivity. Creating folders, tags and colour codes can feel important, but given that you can almost always find the email you’re looking for with the search function, it really isn’t. Classifying and transferring emails takes a long time and the value is close to zero.

I mean – let’s not pretend I never do any of it, but I don’t do much. I tag emails by project names at work, because I often want to look through all the emails about a particular project, and the project name may not appear in the email. The other thing I do is Inbox Zero. Everything gets tagged with project tags and then I have a handful of other more general tags, which, come to think of it, may not add much value. I could probably bulk-archive everything that’s not about a project.

So if you equate personal productivity with email colour-coding, you’re assuming that the reason it’s a waste of time is that there is another, simpler way to get the results you want. This I don’t think is the case. Take keeping a to-do list – the alternative would be to just remember things in your head, or rely on being reminded by external factors. Risky approach if you ask me, and one with definite capacity limits. You would probably swan along fine most of the time, and then be hit by rare but catastrophic ball-drops.

What about… forward-planning? The alternative is happy-go-lucky drifting. Maybe you will manage to book a holiday every now and then if you really need one and the daily grind reminds you of it. Seeing family and friends can work out pretty well on its own weight, if the others are keen enough to see you and will make it happen.

But personally I worry about missing out on bigger things in life. Allocating mindful resources to things you want for your life – for example something like taking on a house renovation project – where the payoff is a long time and many steps away can’t be done without forward-planning. I think systematically eschewing it may result in medium-to-high short-term happiness, but you will never be able to make any larger projects or changes happen.

Still, there’s got to be a happy medium between drifting and death by Post-Its. TBC.

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