Do you steal a few minutes to sneak some glances on your break from work?
Does the dim light of the screen dominate your sleepless nights?
Then you may be a victim of productivity porn.
Productivity porn is an addiction to the self-help section of the internet. Contrary to a healthy approach to self-improvement, productivity porn puts the addict in a perpetual state. For freelance bloggers, productivity porn translates to a pretext for procrastination that ultimately handicaps us from doing the thing that we do best: writing.
Instead, productivity porn paralyzes its addicts with the idea that they are not good enough and that they need a new fix before they can be a good writer. This habitual insecurity will easily kill the most beneficial habits.
You procrastinate on productivity porn.
When you’re reading about all the latest productivity trends, you’re not really getting anything done. While it may seem productive to learn about boosting your productivity, if you never get around to actually working then what exactly are you boosting?
Productivity porn is dangerous for this very reason. It convinces the best of us that what we need to do is read this or that article before we get started. What usually starts as one innocuous read often devolves into tabs upon tabs of click bait in your browser. You may even forget that blank Word document that’s open behind all those windows.
Productivity porn divides your attention among many approaches.
The trouble with many of these productivity articles is that they confront their readers with a hundred different ways of doing one thing. Every one of those methods may work, but the victim of productivity porn faces the dilemma of choosing between them — or worse, trying to combine all of them.
This noble effort will inevitably drain the energy and willpower that should have been directed toward the project.
After all, these productivity methods are supposed to save time and energy, not demand more of it. The addict of productivity porn, however, will go through this process every project. The cycle never ends.
With your attention divided you are liable to hesitate.
Productivity porn separates you from the task at hand. This distances you from the problem and its solutions. When the most important thing for you to do is to just start that project. Productivity porn will have you second guessing yourself. “What’s the best way to begin this project?” “How can I perfect my workspace?”
Please don’t get me wrong. I’ll be the first to point out that it’s crucial for you to be organized and to have a system — especially if you’re a freelance blogger — but color coding your sticky notes is not getting you any closer to finishing that project.
Productivity porn teaches false expectations.
It worked for them. Now they’re carefree, rich, successful, and they vacation in Thailand twice a year. Why shouldn’t it work for you? Because you’re not them. You are a very different person with very different inclinations and very different circumstances. Just because this new super habit system worked for them does not mean that it will work for you.
Productivity porn creates a false expectation for the same kind of success that you read about. When you don’t meet this expectation, for whatever reason, you are liable to become discouraged. This discouragement is one of the most detrimental forces to your motivation and momentum, and it perpetuates the cycle of procrastination on productivity porn. You find yourself thinking: “It didn’t work for me so I must be doing something wrong. There must be another article that explains what is wrong with me and how I can fix it.”
So… When are you going to get started with that assignment?
Productivity porn focuses on the means and distracts from the ends.
Do I value productivity more than the goal? Am I focusing on the means and forgetting about the ends? In this dilemma we can see why productivity porn can become so compelling. It allows us to not worry about the ends, that intimidating word limit or that scary deadline.
For a moment this may be OK. Sometimes it’s helpful for freelance bloggers to distance themselves from the idea of a finished article essay so that they can focus on the process of writing at hand. After all, aren’t we always improving as writers? In focusing on means, we allow ourselves the space to hide our craft.
By no means do I I tend to discount this crucial practice. Deadlines, however, have the nasty tendency to remind us of the reality of time and the expectations of others. If we distance ourselves too far from the finished project we may never arrive.
There is no end to productivity porn.
The Japanese word “kaizen” carries the idea of perpetual improvement. You are never done improving. Every writer, even if they have never studied a word of Japanese, should be familiar with this concept. This is a noble concept, and we would all do well to remember it and practice it in our daily lives.
Productivity porn, however, preys upon this positive disposition. It turns humility of well-meaning, hardworking bloggers into insecurity.
This insecurity drives bloggers to turn not to their own experience or their own craft but to that of others. What starts as the reverence for the wisdom of others becomes a crippling codependency on the latest tidbit or trend. Don’t let productivity porn rob you of your own artistic integrity!
So when you find yourself in that familiar situation with that familiar feeling of desperation I hope that you will remember something of these words. If you must read (and yes, if you’re any form of writer or blogger you must read!), don’t look for tips and tricks. Look for inspiration. Maybe turn to long form works. Learn from how others write. Don’t let them tell you; let them show you. And don’t think that I’m a Luddite here. I’m not telling you to ditch your blogs, pick up a dusty tome, and write with quill by candlelight.
I only ask that we all be more mindful of what we read and how. Create an information diet for yourself and stick to it. Limit how long you will spend reading it, and always write afterwards. It’s OK to read, but remember that you have your own writing waiting for you.