Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Definitions of Productivity

We all have our own definitions of productivity.  For most of us, I would imagine, these definitions are developed most strongly when we become part of the workforce.  The word "productivity" becomes synonymous with "results that can be measured quantitatively".  This may even begin when we're in school, with students who get high grades being considered productive, and those who get low grades considered to be unproductive, no matter how much work either student actually puts into getting their grade.  Any way that it is instilled, however, by the time we reach adulthood we all seem to have pretty solid ideas as to what that word means to us personally.  Changing that definition is not an easy task.  But it appears to be a change that I am currently involved in trying to make for myself.

I am in the process of shutting down my business for a hiatus.  At least, I hope that it is just a hiatus.  I really do want to come back to it at some point because I love my business, I love what I make, and I love selling what I make to my customers.  Sadly, with the national stress levels so high due to the unusually rancorous elections last year, people were hanging onto their money very tightly.  I worked twice as many markets and made half as much money.  This did not give me enough of a margin to pay all of my overhead and keep buying raw materials to produce or to pay booth fees for the coming year.  So...the hiatus, which will ideally give me time to pay off what my business owes and to re-establish my financial cushion (and to make it even bigger this time to prevent another such occurrence).

In the meantime, I am looking for work, preferably in the form of a work from home job, and taking the time to continue gleaning through our household, getting rid of excess "stuff", and organizing the remaining items so that there is less clutter.  I am also spending time on craft projects, a number of which will end up being holiday gifts this coming December, and continuing my personal form of education via reading a multitude of books and taking as many free online courses as I can.

What I have found, however, is that I am battling my previous ideas of what is productive and what is not.  Despite knowing how reading a wide variety of books expands the mind and the knowledge base, in the back of my head I find myself fretting about wasting time when I'm reading.  There is a part of me that seems to feel that if I am not actively doing housework, then I am being lazy.  This same thought pops up when I am busy with craft projects.  Somehow, at some point in my life, I relegated reading and craft projects to "relaxation" rather than considering them to be productive uses of my time.

This is a foolish point of view, however.  Creating beautiful things for people to enjoy is not a waste of time, nor is increasing my literacy.  These are both activities that serve multiple purposes, and yes, one of those IS relaxation, but they do so much more than that as well.  Crafting keeps my dexterity sharp, lets my mind rest for a bit while I focus on the physical, or even lets my mind focus on learning if I am listening to an audiobook while I craft.  Reading not only gives me more information about the world in general, but sharpens my imagination and my creativity.  It increases my eloquence, it expands my vocabulary, and it helps me formulate thoughts more quickly and coherently.

Can these various skills be measured by numbers?  Possibly.  Should they?  I'm not so sure.  While physical chores like housework, organizing, and simplifying have their values, so do other parts of life.  Beauty, creativity, and knowledge are all worthwhile goals in and of themselves.  I know this in my rational brain.  Now I just need to get the part of my head that houses my ingrained American Puritan Work Ethic to understand and accept that qualitative productivity is just as valid as quantitative productivity.

That, my friends, is the hardest part of all.  But I plan on continuing to strive for this achievement.  It is important, and important things are worth the effort.