The Productivity Trap


Productivity TrapHustle culture tells us that we should be running, sprinting even, at an all-out pace…all day, every day. It tells us that if we aren’t where we want to be and don’t have the job, wealth, lifestyle we want (maybe I should say “think we’re supposed to have”), then it’s simply because we’re not working hard enough. 

Hustle culture tells us that sleep is for the weak, lunch is for wimps, we should be up before the sun, never leave the office before our boss, burn the midnight oil and do, do, do!

Have you fallen into this productivity trap? This place where if you aren’t doing SOMETHING (and a lot of it), you’re clearly doing something wrong. 

The productivity trap leads us to a place where you assume that every second of every day should be about accomplishments, crossing stuff off the to-do list, creating something, making an impact, doing the laundry, washing dishes, saving the world, making money, all before the lunch that you don’t even need to eat (you know, because you’re not a wimp). It’s exhausting to write and even more exhausting to try to live. 

When I first became a real estate agent, I remember reading Fredric Eklund’s book The Sell. He was one of the agents on Million Dollar Listing, and he was killing it in that game. In a section of his book, he listed out his daily schedule. It was basically 4 a.m. to midnight with every single second scheduled, including emails he’d send from the bathroom. If I had read that section and thought that that was the ONLY way to be a successful agent, I would have walked through my days feeling like a complete failure. Feeling like I wasn’t doing nearly enough to ever find success. Feeling like I was wasting my time or wasting my life. And then I realized that that schedule wasn’t for me. That was not how I was going to prove myself every day. 

The productivity trap tells us that we have to prove our worth, prove our value and prove that we’ve done enough – over and over and over. It tells us that our existence is validated by DOING. If you live this day and have “nothing” to show for it, were you even living? 

The answer is yes. The answer is, you don’t need tangible proof that you’re enough; you don’t need tangible, approved by others, evidence that you adequately contributed to be worthy and valued. 

What do you do?

What are you doing?

What did you do today?

These may seem like bland and innocuous questions – mindless small talk. But they can pack a serious punch if you believe that your worth comes from what you produce and what you’ve accomplished. They can feel like judgments and assessments on who you are and your value in this world. 

My husband used to ask me the last two questions when our kids were younger, and I was home most days with them. The questions felt accusatory. They weren’t. They were just questions, yet they brought to the surface every insecurity I had about what I should be doing in the hours between him leaving for work and coming home. I felt like my answer, my productivity for the day, would determine my contribution to my family and the world. 

And then, one day, I stopped. I’m all for getting stuff done, crossing items off a to-do list – especially those silly little things that HAVE to get done (laundry, food to eat, bathing children), so I did what needed to be done, but I also napped. I read during the day. I wrote in journals and on my laptop. I even [gasp] watched TV sometimes. And I didn’t view any of those things as making me less valuable or less worthy. 

My productivity stopped being the measure of who I was, and I finally saw myself as a whole person, not simply as the sum of my production. 

Friends, take a nap. Stop trying to do, do, do because you want to have the best possible answers to those questions above. You are more than what you produce.

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Lauren Schwarzfeld
Lauren Schwarzfeld was born and raised in Yorktown, and aside from college in Boston and a few months living in New York City, she has spent her entire life in Westchester. She has lived in Mt Kisco with her husband Karl since 2006, where they have three kids, Mia (2008), Jacob (2009), Abigail (2012), and two dogs, Edna (a four-year-old beagle) and Felix (a one-year-old pitbull-lab mix). Lauren is a writer, coach, and leader in community engagement. She helps women rediscover their strengths, passion, and confidence to reclaim their spot in their life and step outside the box of perceived expectations. Her goal is for women to create a future that is authentically and unapologetically their own. As the Chief Operating Officer at (914) Cares, a local non-profit, she combines her business background with a passion for volunteer work and desire to care for the community around her. Connect with Lauren on Facebook or through her website!