Carpe Diem Differently: Redefining Productivity in a Time of Crisis

This morning, you may have woken up and instantly opened your laptop thinking to yourself ‘now today, TODAY IS THE DAY I WORK LIKE I USED TO! TODAY IS THE DAY I GET BACK ON THE RAILS!!!’

I’m sure your ego will have kicked in and replied ‘WOW, how stoic of you, all this going on and look at you. You’re a boss, a queen, a maverick!’

You turned to your trusted coffee machine, and the whirring of it whisking your quadruple shot espresso electrified the room. You took that coffee in one gulp, and you told yourself ‘no time for delays today – it’s practically a free day to get ahead!’

You switched on the TV for some background noise but– oh no, you left the news channel on last night. ‘HOSPITALS IN THE UK AREN’T READY FOR…’ *you randomly changed the channel* Who needs that negativity right- you are on a roll! ‘WASH YOUR HANDS, STAY INDOORS…’ Oh dear, this isn’t ‘normal’ is it? You switched off the TV, but the messages of caution and panic lingered in the room.

You sat on the stairs thinking ‘This is bad, but I am STRONG. I can do this, I can be that person who can conquer all of this!’

But why not think in such a way? Your boss will be so proud that you’ve carried on BUSINESS AS USUAL. Your supervisor will be thrilled that you didn’t stop for breath. Less paperwork, less faff, less stress in the long run.

But stop.

Consider these images below:

In this time more than ever, the very word productivity needs some unpacking. The OED claims that it is ‘the rate at which a worker, a company, or a country produces goods’ but elsewhere the OED simply defines it as ‘doing or achieving a lot’.

The first definition is, of course, attached to capitalist producTION.

However, there is something we can all make of that second definition.

Once stripped of its capitalist meaning, productivity can encompass anything you wish that gets you through the day.

You spent the day resting and watching that show that makes you cry laughing? Productive.

You called your grandma to tell her how much you love her? Productive.

You watered your half-dead cactus? Productive.

You did 2 hours of work because YOU wanted to and stopped once you felt overwhelmed and needed some fresh air in the garden? Productive.

In these times of uncertainty and panic, looking after ourselves, caring for those around us, and sparing a thought for those who are suffering around the world are crucial and productive acts.

(I understand that some of us have no choice but to work as ‘usual’, the fears of being sacked or being made even more precarious force some of us to live by a different set of rules. Solidarity to all of you.)

*But to those of us who have a choice, please do not feel the need to seize the day by working on nothing but your thesis, but seize the day by being grateful, loving, and aware that business shall go on as UNusual for the time being.

[Disclaimer: this is not to offend those of you who are finding solace in doing your university work or any work for that matter. This piece is intended to offer a more inclusive way of looking at productivity that takes the current situation into account.]


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