I think my relationship with productivity is changing.

We all have a relationship to work, work culture, and productivity. What motivates us to work? What do we enjoy about it, and what feels draining? How does our work impact our relationships? How does our sense of vocation impact our work? Do we feel free in that work, or do we feel weighed down by the demands of others? Does it seem that our work is in alignment with who we are, or not? Do we have time for rest, or do we feel as though the work never ends? Do we have the material resources we need to do the work we feel called to do, or is that a challenge in some way? How does our work affect larger communities?

In an American context, it is virtually impossible to avoid being influenced by such questions, whether they are expressed consciously or unconsciously. Above all, it is virtually impossible to avoid being influenced by the culture of American capitalism itself. The drive of this system often indicates that productivity and human worth are linked: The more you produce, the more worth and value you have as a person. But of course, this is a lie. It can even be a dangerous lie. It puts stigma on some. It may cause us to question ourselves.

In a context where all of these questions swirl around culturally, I don’t think we ever fully arrive in any particular relationship to work. We are always asking such questions. We are always being shaped by such questions.

So, in the midst of this, I think my relationship with productivity is changing. I’ve been especially productive over the last two weeks or so. (For the record, this doesn’t make me any more worthwhile than other weeks I’ve experienced.)

And here’s what I notice: I don’t feel like my productivity is about busyness. I don’t feel like I’m working in order to keep anyone’s criticism at bay. I don’t feel like the goal of my work is to conform to a great deal of others’ expectations (There is immense privilege in this statement, by the way — that is, to rejoice in directing your own work, rather than being directed by others. There’s also some limitation too. In order to do it, I have no salary support. Working on that!)

No, instead, the shift is simply this: I have been especially productive lately because I am really and truly enjoying the act of creating. I am enjoying the creation of new possibilities, and some of those other cultural influences are fading. I’ve gotten into more flow.

This isn’t an arrival point, again because all of these things are in flux. But I am enjoying this, and I am grateful for such a shift. Productivity is feeling fun and meaningful, rather than stressful or coerced. This is a gift.

What about you? How are you feeling in your relationship to work?

Renee Roederer


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