Cal Newport: Productivity and the Deep Life

Personal and Professional Productivity

From the blog of Cal Newport: Productivity and the Deep Life
Read the blog here.

Many of us are working from home at this time, and that can come with several upsides. We are spending less on gas because the “office” is the next room over. We don’t have to go out for lunch when it’s right in the fridge. And so on… A work day is still a work day, though, and it’s important that we maintain a level of consistency in our quality of work and the time we put into it. We might define that as “productivity”. In Cal Newport’s blog Productivity and the Deep Life, he touches upon this sometimes ambiguous word and how important it is to us (especially during these trying times) by dividing the term into positive and negative perceptions.

There is a strong connection between productivity and what Cal calls the “deep life,” or the focus of energetic intention on the things that truly matter to us at work, at home, and inwardly. Productivity plays a massive role in a meaningful life due to our innate desire to do things well, regardless of the size of the task. You could say that this goes for both the smallest and largest tasks we face in the work day.

Cal says it quite succinctly: “There are two sides to the productivity coin: minimizing the shallow and amplifying the meaningful.” In other words, productivity is fully intertwined with the development of a “deep” lifestyle.

Now for the negative: Cal recognizes the increasing distaste for the term “productivity” as we fall into this stretch of working from home and combatting the disruption in our routines. He says that it’s largely soured by being looked at as an “enduring Marxist critique of exploited labor”. When it’s put that way, it makes sense that productivity is causing some unease. When hard work is seen as reducing the quality of an employee’s life by forcing outputs to increase capital, it takes away from the heart of what productivity truly is!

To have a meaningful life is to have a productive life. To live productively, Cal says, we must tune into our instinct for getting things done. These instincts arise in us wherever we’re working, no matter what our schedules look like, and through whatever is happening outside our front door. It’s okay to recognize that our routines have been changed due to current events, as it won’t take away from our drive to get things done and do them well. Our lives are meaningful as long as we keep this in mind, and rely on our instincts to remain organized and work with intention.

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