Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Productivity Trap

Big article in the Globe & Mail this morning about how many families don't have time to eat and play together, but are constantly running from work to soccer games to caring for aging parents - they quote statistics about the low number of times a family sits down with a teen son or daughter to eat dinner.

Wellbeing is the rubrique it falls under, in the report to come out Tuesday from the Canadian Index of Wellbeing called Caught in the Time Crunch: Time Use, Leisure and Culture in Canada.

"Canada has become a society operating 24 hours a day and, as a result, more people are working odd hours – weekends, nights, rotating shifts. That has cut into the time they would normally spend with their spouses and their children and doing the things they really like to do. And that can lead to burnout.

“If we are on this treadmill, we will end up being less productive, less contributing to society, less knowledgeable,” said Roy Romanow, the former Saskatchewan premier who is the chair of the Index of Wellbeing’s advisory board. “And therefore, not only is our well-being being affected, but so might our productivity be affected.”

One in five Canadian adults reports being caught in a time crunch, with slightly more women than men saying they feel like they are perpetually under the gun."

Women are often the caregivers in the family, and so their workload is the highest, and their leisure time the lowest. Of course, we women are sometimes bred into this role and see it as natural. We have a hard time taking time for ourselves on a regular basis.
Down time, slowing down time, self-care, time to do nothing at all and just veg, this is what prevents burn-out and in the end increases our productivity. All farmers know (or used to) that letting a field lie fallow for a year was necessary to allow the earth to rest and recuperate from all the nutrients going into a crop, and rebuild the soil quality for next year.  Creative artists also know that there is a cycle to creativity, and fallow times or 'off times' are needed to foster it. Creative loafing is a term that speaks to this.  Sometimes the best thing you can do is play with your blocks, a sand-pile, playdoh, or get into your right brain a little and stop thinking. Sometimes brainstorms come to you while you're just waking up from a nap in a hammock or staring at clouds.

Why don't we allow ourselves this down time or loafing time?  The productivity trap catches us all in its snare.  We are constantly running to catch up, to get everything done in one day.  We get addicted to the adrenaline rush of being busy, always reachable by phone, email or blackberry.  We keep running on the treadmill like rodents to keep up with our house payments, education bills, repairs on the car, and we tend to value less activities that feed the soul, like art, music, poetry, picnics. We see them as extras that are the first thing to go when life becomes too busy.

I think our world is being pushed to the edge of this productivity mode.  Don't wait until illness or burn-out forces you to take a break. Schedule a break into your agenda today. Give yourself more time off, time to be unplugged, time to appreciate the little moments of peace that come your way.  Summer is here, in the northwestern hemisphere.  Time to play, time to get outside, time to lie on the grass and count clouds. Just for a little bit. 

Play catch up with your soul, listen to its longing for peace, tranquility, its desire for recognition.  Slow down to the slowest part of you for at least part of your day, every day.

You'll be doing your family a favour, your community a favour, by being less likely to fall off the treadmill.


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