Productivity Can Be the Enemy of Relaxation.

Vlad Nov • January 19, 2021

Productivity can be the enemy of relaxation. A while ago I noticed that when I worked, I was often distracted by tasks and plans and feelings, but when I ostensibly “relaxed”, I was also trying to be productive. On weekends and vacations, I’d be tense with thoughts of what I hadn’t finished, whom I needed to call, tasks that needed doing the next morning. To-dos crowded out other to-dos in my mind.

When I really need to get something done, like a work project or a paper or proposal, I set an alarm for forty-five minutes and lock myself in my office. It’s not just because the house is distracting—kids playing, kids arguing over whose turn it is on the tablet—though that’s part of it. The key to productivity may be getting rid of distractions altogether.

This is the full text of an article about how productivity can be the enemy of relaxation. It discusses when you might be productive, and that if you’re like me, it’s hard to stop things from bleeding into each other when infinite distractions are available. If you’re me, you might be writing while you’re thinking about travel plans and worried about whether the puppy’s sick and you need to call your mom back and you’re meeting a college friend for dinner later. It’s hard to stop things from bleeding into each other when infinite distractions are available. But I’m not alone in this predicament: there is a long tradition of people who have tried to find ways to compartmentalize their lives- whether by working at night or building mental blocks - in order to take a break from work.

In the 1980s, for example, Calvin and Hobbes creator Bill Watterson negotiated with syndicate Universal Press Syndicate that he would only produce a certain number of cartoons per year so he could pursue personal projects like drawing children’s books. And Pixar Animation Studios has famously had what is now called their “Rule of 18 Months,” which mandates an 18-month time period between when they complete one film and start production on another. But we’re not cartoonists or animators. And, frankly, if we’re not careful about where and when we work-relax time can become a trap.

When you take a break from the computer after hours of getting everything done, it’s not always relaxing to jump right back into email the next morning because there’s nothing better to do. What I need is more downtime: for some reason I don’t think less of myself as an efficient person if my weeknight reading doesn’t involve. That is the way to be productive.