Thoughts on: Presence vs. Productivity

Thoughts on: Presence vs. Productivity

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the relationship between productivity and presence, and specifically at what cost of being present does productivity require. A big personal challenge since starting Tea Drops has been developing a balance between the two. I’m still learning and figuring it out.

A full schedule of tasks and meetings helps us feel productive.  But I’ve realized that busyness can be an addiction, and so can productivity.

I’ve been enjoying the thoughts and writings of Maria Popova of Brainpickings (site that houses a great selection of cross-disciplinary writings by Maria herself, spanning art, science, design, history, philosophy, and more). Her writings about Productivity vs. Presence resonated with me. She referenced the 2000 year old writings of Seneca's “The Shortness of Life,

“People are frugal in guarding their personal property; but as soon as it comes to squandering time they are most wasteful of the one thing in which it is right to be stingy.”

“Crises” are the most skilled squanderers of time. I’ll see an email notification flash on my phone’s display, which sits in my periphery while I’m in deep conversation with a friend. The subtext contains at least one or variation of the following words: “URGENT, DUE TODAY, DEADLINE, EOD, RESPONSE REQUIRED". A heavy fog descends and blankets the people and things in my present company, drifting me into singular focus to the “crisis” at hand. My ability to listen & process my environment ceases. My presence is robbed.

My urge to respond to a “crisis”, like busyness, is an addiction. Why? Well it deceivingly simplifies my priorities for me, gives me a false sense of productivity. In a state of uncertainty of what actions to take at times, it makes that choice for me. It's very lazy, it's very deceiving. 

One lesson I’m recognizing is that someone else’s urgency does not make my own. I’m trying to create more and more boundaries and utilize some techniques to protect my time, and my being present with others.

One routine theory that I’ve resonated the most with lately is Cal Newport’s Monk Mode Mornings approach. What is it exactly?

“The execution of the monk mode morning is straightforward. Between when you wake up and noon: no meetings, no calls, no texts, no email, no Slack, no Internet. You instead work deeply on something (or some things) that matter.”

I haven’t managed to fully cut out emails/calls/internet…So admittedly, I haven’t been able to fully implement it — but even that conscious awareness/intention to block out distractions until noon, has been helpful. It feels the most straightforward framework I've come across. 

As I hopefully make progress in this realm, my intention is to fully be present with the people in front of me and the environment around me. It’s my intention to pay attention, to listen, and to not get so easily swayed by the illusion of “busyness.”

Me and my late sweet boxer named Lutie. She's pictured here with me because she had a keen ability, as most pets do, to bring me into the present moment.