The true meaning of being ‘productive’

Yesterday, I found myself stumbling onto this Quora thread about what it really means to be productive. 

Here are the answers that stood out to me: 

Productivity is not how much stuff you get done, or how efficient you are… it’s simply: completing what we want to do in a given time frame. 

So my main point:

There’s a pressure that we should be busy doing things with all this spare time at home – which at times I find myself believing too. 


Relaxation is also productive! If your goal is to relax during this iso period, then you’re being productive. 

And on the other hand, if you do heaps of random tasks in iso that you don’t even want to in the first place, that’s unproductive. 

Productivity is specific to each person, and only depends on whether we do things unrelated to our goals or not. 

Interesting example, not quite what I imagined to be used for this question…

First to address this answer:

I don’t agree that Mussolini wasn’t productive. Ethics aside, he was. He knew what he wanted to do, and ultimately got it done, despite it hurting others along the way. 

But what caught my eye was this quote:

“Productivity must be considered relative to goals and values”

Which got me thinking…

If we do heaps of things that aren’t also aligned to what we value, then that’s also unproductive! 

Sure it’s not realistic to always achieve our values with everything we do. But if we consistently indulge in activities that aren’t meeting these values, then certainly, 2 things happen long-term. We’re not fulfilled, and we’re not being productive. 

If my value is balance and I consistently find myself getting swept up in one activity per day (despite my dislike), then I haven’t met my value, hence, being unproductive. 

So to make sure I get this balance in the day, I pick and choose activities to do in certain contexts, and also prioritise time to relax, read or exercise. 

Ie. I have a list for ‘creative’, with activities I could do when I’m feeling creative, like watercolouring or earring making. 

So again, productivity is personalised. There is a pressure during isolation to do a lot of things – but if you want to relax and keep activities minimal, then that’s productive!


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