Redefining Productivity

From A Place Of Personal Value

``We have become a society in which people feel constant pressure to work and to be productive, even when we are theoretically resting. And that's under normal circumstances. The push to be productive whilst sheltering in place during a once-a-century global catastrophe was the latest sign, critics argued, of capitalism corrupting our minds.``

Constance Grady

Whilst we endeavour to be productive during a pandemic, the psychological and physiological effects of our increased time online are taking their toll.


The loosening of our usual work/life constraints within an overarching enforced constraint of staying home, is creating a disorienting state of flux for our mental and emotional health.

Productivity is about more than just outputs and deliverables. It’s also about what you are able to put in.

There is an opportunity here for us to reflect on and redefine what productivity means for each of us. And how we can carry out our responsibilities in a way that is more supportive of our wellbeing and our values.

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Zoom Out

We need to understand the bigger picture. Being online as our primary form of communication doesn’t mean we should be spending more time online. Bottom line, it’s having hugely detrimental effects on our health.

“Zoom Fatigue” is draining our brains.

Every online interaction (be it social or work-related) now feels like a meeting. Talking with groups of people in a video conference creates cognitive dissonance and saps our energy. If people sit too close to the screen they invade our personal boundary space, which can trigger our fight/flight response, raising our anxiety levels and messing with our hormones.

National Geographic – Zoom Fatigue Is Taxing Our Brain

BBC – Why Zoom Chats Are So Exhausting

Technology Review – Lockdown Was Supposed To Be An Introverts Paradise


We know being in Zoom meetings all day is not a productive use of our time. What can we do about it?

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Create Space

We need to factor in room for recovery. That means setting boundaries for how available we are.


We need to create regular time away from screens between online engagements, so that our brains are able to reset and process what we’ve been taking in. Without time to synthesize, we deplete our cognitive reserves, making us less creative and productive in the long run.


If you work in a team, it’s also important to define supportive boundaries, individually and collectively. Reflect on what is an effective work rhythm for you (and your team), and how that might fit within the larger requirements of your team’s output. How can you collaborate and communicate better as a team?

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Know Yourself

It may be that when we no longer know what to do, we have come to our real work. And that when we no longer know which way to go, we have come to our real journey. The mind that is not baffled is not employed. The impeded stream is the one that sings.

Wendell Berry

Sometimes being productive is about overcoming self-sabotaging internal narratives.


If we can better understand the origins of our patterns of response, and work on expressing our emotional responses more clearly, then we’re better placed to avoid reacting to our current situation from an unhelpful historical context.


When we redefine how we respond, we inadvertently redefine our approach to productivity.

Brene Brown’s “Unlocking Us” Podcast – Emotional Literacy with Marc Brackett 

Allbright Edit – How to Stop Self-Sabotaging

Rest Up

It turns out we process our experiences through dreams. Many of us are getting more time for REM (dream) sleep due to changes in our routines. So it’s natural for our out-of-the ordinary experiences and accompanying anxieties to give rise to intensely lucid dreams.


As Rubin Naiman says, “When waking life is more real, so is dream life.”


If, like me, you’ve been having radical dreams, this article might put your mind to rest.

LA Times – Quarantine Dreams

What does all this have to do with reframing productivity?

We have the opportunity to define better ways of working that support different outcomes. Ways of working that tie in with what we value. Outcomes that tie in with what has meaning for us.


If our responses to our situation are supported by knowing ourselves better. If we can give ourselves the space to think about things differently by setting healthier boundaries.


Then we can deliver in a better, more meaningful way, that is productive for us.

Start by considering what’s important to you?

I’ll leave you with this quote from Shane Parrish’s Farnam Street, about wrapping our struggles into our values.

``... what we value only has meaning if it’s important when life is hard. To know if they have worth, your values need to help you move forward when you can barely crawl and the obstacles in your way seem insurmountable. In the face of a crisis, what is important to us becomes evident when we give ourselves the space to reflect on what is going to get us through the hard times. And so we find renewed commitment to get back to core priorities. What seemed important before falls apart to reveal what really matters: family, love, community, health.``

Farnam Street

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Photo by Joe Yates on Unsplash