Are You As Productive As You Think You Are?
Subscription escapism and the calamity of not getting true rest.
Our work culture demands workers jump into the fire. Without a safety net. “Get this, this, and that done, and, oh yeah, that one.” We get home exhausted and drained, unable to make the most of our off time. We build a life for ourselves we can’t appreciate.
Statistics are dismal when it comes to work/life balance. 46% of workers say they are underpaid.
Studies show U.S. employees overwork by 269 hours compared to the country’s economic output. There are many reasons, but I want to focus on two intertwined issues. Issues that answer the question: are we as productive as we think we are. I say, no. Why?
We aren’t resting right.
Rest and Work Productivity
This claim demands context. I think our current rest is not true rest. When we take work breaks, we submerge ourselves into problematic activity. To me, our productivity is proportional to the true rest we get.
No wonder workplace fatigue is on the rise.
What does productivity mean in this context? To me, the traditional definitions don’t apply here. Productivity once equated to producing more with fewer hours. We became automata, stuck in a loop of constant production.
With little regard for our well-being, we became convinced our work was more important than us. We didn’t see ‘us’ and our ‘work’ as intertwined.
Today, we know that mentality makes shoddier products. So, we promote attentiveness and care.
Thus, I define productivity as the balance between work and rest. By defining our output this way, we factor in ourselves as a key component to the result. We humanize the process and commit ourselves to self-improvement.
So, the question bears repeating: are you as productive as you think you are?
Issue 1: Not Enough Rest
In another article, I mentioned studies that show the flaws of the eight-hour workday. It mentions how workers, for half of the day, spend it on mindless activities. I even talk about how my current work schedule is more productive than my old office schedule.
That’s because studies continually show the most common work schedules are hurting us. But I will add that our approaches to true rest are toxic to our mental and physical health.
Cal Newport, in his 2019 book Digital Minimalism, says this about teenagers and social media, which applies here as well:
“When an entire cohort unintentionally eliminated time alone with their thoughts from their lives, their mental health suffered dramatically. On reflection, this makes sense.
These teenagers have lost the ability to process and make sense of their emotions, or to reflect on who they are and what really matters, or to build strong relationships,
or even to just allow their brains time to power down their critical social circuits, which are not meant to be used constantly, and to redirect that energy to other important cognitive housekeeping tasks. We shouldn’t be surprised that these absences lead to malfunctions.”
Cal Newport’s point, like the rest of the book, focuses on the need for our minds to rest from external stimulation. The point stands with work productivity. Our minds and bodies, no matter the profession or circumstance, needs invigorating rest. You don’t exercise the same muscle two days in a row. You let it heal. So too with our minds and bodies.
Burning A Candle At Both Ends
Constant work for eight hours harms our capabilities.
Our society encourages us to work beyond our contracted salary or hourly wages. We become pressured to give our health for company profit. We edge closer to the precipice’s edge until there’s no room left to give.
It’s a long and solitary fall
No wonder 23%-44% of the workforce report some form of burnout. It’s even worse for those working in the tech industry, where 60% of workers report burnout.
When we have true rest we return to peak awareness. We get through our work at a faster rate, with better results. A half-hour or hour break to split an eight-hour day doesn’t cut it.
What type of rest do I mean? It can vary, as can the work/rest period structure. What’s crucial, though, is to not overstimulate your mind or body. You need to let yourself reset and restabilize.
To be clear, true rest does not equate to laziness. Your boss will tell you otherwise, of course. True rest allows you to jump into that fire…with the capacity to get back out before you burn up.
Issue 2: Subscription Escapism
I’ve discussed at length elsewhere how much of our media is no longer owned by us, the consumers. Rather, it’s owned by corporations who hand us access through subscription services.
If you leave their services, all the media you bought through them disappears. Amazon, Spotify, Sony, Microsoft, Netflix, and countless more are like this. But subscriptions are not bad by themselves. Your subscription can provide you meaningful content, like here on Medium.
The issue comes when you are trapped in what I call subscription escapism.
Subscription escapism is the act of buying into more content than you can realistically consume.
For example, having subscriptions for Netflix, Disney+, Amazon Prime Video, and HBO Now. Having that much access to streaming content may seem nice, but it’s unnecessary. You can’t consume all this content to make the annual $551.52* worth the buy-in. You’re handing your money, time, and energy to a faceless entity.
But that’s the problem, many people do subscribe to more than is necessary. What’s the result? Lots of mindless browsing while stacking up a long list of ‘things to watch’ that will never be finished.
Just Press ‘Play’
The actual browsing itself counteracts your productivity. You end up spending hours of your life browsing for that next show. Only to place it, forgotten, in a ‘to-watch’ list. You build up anxiety because you’re behind on other things, and here’s the kicker.
When you add a ‘to do’ on top of a subscription-based platform, you are building a stress conduit. It’s understandable because there are so many options and you don’t know what to choose. But entirely avoidable.
So the nature of subscriptions is to keep you stuck to the screen. The more views and clicks, the better. It’s easy to think you’re not spending as much money or time as you are on subscriptions.
It’s designed that way.
A Downward Spiral
When we immerse ourselves in subscription escapism during rest, two things happen.
- Your mind and body are not resting. Your eyes, already taxed from working, are now assaulted by blue light emissions. They are not taking in information as much as it getting crammed in.
- Your break is more likely to well-exceed your needs. Your mind and body are not resting at a quick rate. The information or exertion taken is too much for true rest. This is why one episode becomes one more than one more after that.
Thus, the escape mechanism increases while your capacity for productive work decreases. You plummet into a downward spiral of self-deprecation and depression.
It’s a situation like quicksand; it becomes harder and harder to get out the further in you get in.
Photo by Hack Capital on Unsplash
So, how do we fix this?
The keywords are active and meaningful.
It is easy to get lost in our subscriptions, and easy to dismiss taking more rest periods during the day. Our work culture dismisses true rest as laziness, yet we need to be active in our self-maintenance. We need to look at how we rest with critical eyes. Are we letting our bodies rest or are we stressing ourselves out with too much external stimulation?
Our media consumption needs to be meaningful. The same critical eye needs to reflect on how we interact with our subscriptions. We need to approach content with intent, instead of relying on stacked up, forgotten lists. Ask yourself, “Is this something I will actually use/watch/do?”
When I started adding true rest to my workday my productivity increased exponentially. Even when I am energetic, I keep my routine. It allows me to step away and refresh. I now put out better work than I ever did before. Considering my situation, that’s incredible.
We owe it to ourselves and the work we are passionate about to have meaningful rest. When we are mindful of our needs, that attention redirects into our work. We produce at a higher level.
The only price is caring for ourselves.
Do you have a particular resting method you recommend?
How could this apply to your work?
Do you feel you need to add more rest to your day?
Freelance editor and writer. A top writer for gaming here on Medium. Writer for Superjump, The Startup, and The Ascent. For inquiries, contact at http://nathanielansari.com/