It’s OK to be Unproductive

It's OK to be unproductive

Updated: February 23, 2024

***Elephant walks into the room***

Unproductively is OK

There I said it!

Life likes to get in the way of productivity – and there is nothing wrong with that.

I was reminded of that yet again today when my little one who has been sick the last two weeks straight, was finally well enough to go to school today. Until he wasn’t.

See, the thing was that he wasn’t emotionally ready, and so it derailed our entire morning…and day. Tears, snot, the whole 9 yards.

And this isn’t the first time our morning has gotten derailed lately.

We’ve had nearly two straight weeks of some level of derailment with this latest cold bout.

Life happens and it saps up your mental energy and your productivity.

And that is OK.

Far too often in our society, hustle is rewarded, and slacking off is looked down upon like the plague.

Well, guess what? We’ve now been through a real-life plague, and I think if there is one thing we have been reminded of over and over again. Life is too short.

It is okay to NOT be okay.

And it is completely okay to be unproductive.

You Can’t Sustain Productivity 24/7

Hustle culture and the “work hard play hard” mentality of Corporate America confuse us into thinking that it is possible to work harder than your competitors and win, win, win.

Well, guess what? It doesn’t work.

Your competitors work just as hard as you!

In the long run hustle for hustle’s sake doesn’t work.

Being “on” 24/7 can lead to a number of physical and emotional health effects. This can include stress, depression, fatigue, body aches, and it’s making your heart work overtime. As a result your productivity stalls.

Why taking time off increases your productivity –

Sustained work without periods of rest is simply not good for you and can lead to:

  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Body Aches
  • Stress on your heart
  • etc.

I used to have to force employees to take time off. That is how bad of a state some of us are in when it comes to being productive.

Being Unproductive is an Art

I’d even go so far as to say that being unproductive is an art. A real art.

This includes embracing the weekends, using all of your vacation days, and living life the best you can.

But as much as I always have embraced The 4-Hour Workweek mentality, too many don’t.

And that is why being unproductive is an art.

You have to learn to embrace the unexpected obstacles in life.

Usually, my spurts of being unproductive come from an outside force like my kids being sick, an unanticipated problem at work, a computer problem, a health issue, or a random call from a friend in need – the list goes on and on!

And that is ok because being unproductive is part of life.

You can’t always plan your unproductively out like a vacation, but you can realize that it is part of the process.

Productive Days Don’t Come Without The Unproductive

Realizing that productivity cannot come without the opposite side of the coin is really important.

You can track your time with my time tracking spreadsheet, you can create lists to stay organized, and plan to be as productive as possible.

But at the end of the day, you need the unproductive days to reset the mind. And you should find a way to harness them into your routine.

You could consider turning off work emails on the weekends.

Completely clear your mind on your days off.

Take time to do nothing. Absolutely nothing.

Use these times to clear your mental space for the other times when you do want and need to be extremely productive.

But also try not to sweat the small stuff.

If you have an unproductive day for whatever reason. It is okay.

You probably needed it!

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  1. I worked hard in spurts of creativity and succeeded far past what I thought I could achieve. When I wasn’t in those zones of focus I was pretty lazy and unproductive. Didn’t matter, the things I got done that made our shareholders many millions in profits only took maybe ten hours a week, the rest of the week was doing mindless busy work. And you don’t get ahead by being the best at busy work, you win the corporate game by hitting home runs. I also had all kinds of fun hobbies while working, I tried to have at least one really fun thing planned after or before work every day. I think the fun time and idle time fueled my surges. In retirement I have busy days and some where I do nothing useful. Pretty much like my working life, and even more fun. I think you’ve captured the concept very well in this post!

    1. I like how you termed zones of focus. Because, to have really great focus, you do need to have the periods of non-focus. Every time I came back from a long trip, I was extremely productive and especially if I was able to get to the point of missing work, which was quite often. But you can’t be in the zone of focus all the time, so you gotta know when to back it off, as you did!

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