Productivity is like a dog chasing its tail. We believe we are going to catch it and reach the ultimate productive flow. Instead we find ourselves increasingly overwhelmed and overworked.
What happened to the promise of the four-day workweek? Technology provides us with an array of productive solutions like smartphones, tablets, wearables, and millions of apps to organize our lives. They allow us to look productive no matter where we are, and at all hours of the day or night, because there is no more nine to five. Our society views productivity as a sign of achievement, it’s social currency and defines our self-worth.
But this is only one view of productivity. There are two sides to productivity: functional and emotional. Companies value the functional side of productivity because it has a trustworthy process that is easier to monitor and control. According to David Books, author of The New Humanism, “reason, which is trustworthy, is separate from the emotions, which are suspect. This has created a distortion in our culture. We emphasize things that are rational and conscious.”
The challenge is tapping into emotional productivity, which is something that is much more difficult to control because it has no process. Emotional productivity, best defined as achievement and fulfillment, are crucial to living a meaningful life. In fact, it is so crucial that it is included as part of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. However, many of the things that bring about a meaningful life can be achieved through what society views as non-productive.
How do you create an environment that allows individuals to engage in activity that is unmeasurable and perceived as doing nothing? As founder of a creative agency I empower teams to do what it takes to allow them to be inspired by encouraging them to step out from behind their desk and approach challenges in different ways like taking walks or working in a different setting. There is a reason Steve Jobs had walking meetings. It encourages individuals to take mental break to clear their mind. The chatter and disruptions begin to dissipate and ideas and inspirations are seen more clearly.
I offer teams the opportunity to practice yoga in our office space for an hour out of the workweek. For those that participate, it helps refocus our minds and synergize ideas. We are able to clear our minds allowing for renewed and inspired efficiency. Our measured productivity increases and our emotional productivity is fulfilled.
For that hour we aren’t answering emails, taking phone calls and putting out our clients’ fires, but what we are doing is actually more productive. Together, we are refocusing our minds to give us fresh, big picture ideas and solutions whether they are personal, company related or client related. We are engaging in emotional productivity, a much more meaningful way to achieve more in the workplace.
Society is pressured into believing that if you aren’t engaging in something then you aren’t productive, but the secret is engaging in something that’s meaningful. The best way to be productive is to do nothing that leads to something.
—Steven DuPuis is founder and CEO of DuPuis Group, a design and innovation firm.