The Problem With Productivity

Photo by Alice Dietrich on Unsplash

Whether we’re finding ourselves with more free time than before or we’re trying to perform our normal job duties from the new, monotonous, often chaotic home “offices,” we’re likely all feeling the pressure to be productive. Very productive. Just as productive as we normally are. Or, improbably, more productive, if only to prove that we’re not going to let this pandemic get in our way.

You know what? Maybe some of us do have the energy to do that. But for the vast majority of us, we’re struggling, we’re maybe even barely holding it together. How are we expected to be more productive if we barely have energy for our (new) normal lives?

Maybe the answer is to just forget about productivity and embrace the art of doing nothing. In this article by Connie Wang for Refinery 29, she explains the Chinese concept of wuliao. She explains that it,

translates to ‘the absence of conversation,’ and generally means ’too bored.’ It’s not just bored — the ‘too’ is key, describing the kind of extreme restless energy born from an overabundance of time and a scarcity of substance. In French, enfiler des perles — to string pearls — gets at this same idea. In Spanish, it’s comerse un cable (to chew on a cable); in boricua Spanish, pajareando (sitting around like a bird). Russians have duraka valyat and duryu mayatsya. But as far as I know, there’s no English word that adequately describes boredom as an art form, the specific mindset in which spectacularly chaotic, meaningless bullshit springs to life.

Wuliao, then, is the art of creating something out of nothing, creating productivity out of boredom — not out of a sense of obligation at being productive, but out of pure, mind-numbing boredom. Where could your mind take you if you just let it… do whatever it wants?

What I love about wuliao is that it treats the output of extreme boredom with the actual reverence it deserves, even when it’s wielded as a pejorative: the utter nonsense of a project, the sheer amount of labor in service of nothing really, the total waste of time and brainpower in the pursuit of a craft that’s only value is its tedium. Boredom is baking focaccia. Wuliao is creating a full Turkish meal in miniature, with kabobs the size of dates and a cheese künefe pastry as wee as a silver dollar. Wuliao is using every eyeshadow you own to paint your legs like a rainbow fish.

Give her article a read for more examples and see what you can do when you give yourself the space to just be bored!

Helping a Child Through the Grief of Losing a Loved One

An insightful article from The Doughy Center, The National Center for Grieving Children & Families, at

If you’re faced with telling a child or teen that a family member or friend in a hospital or care facility is likely to die soon, you might be feeling confused and overwhelmed. It’s never easy to share this news, and especially so when there might be factors that prevent you and your family from physically visiting the person who is dying.

We know it can be a lot to read through multiple sources of information, so we compiled this resource as an overview of how to support children and teens before, during, and after someone they care about dies in a hospital or care facility. Given the current COVID-19 global health crisis, we’ve included suggestions for what children, teens, and families can do when they aren’t able to visit or see the person who is dying.

Click here for the full article.
A lot of this information is sourced from Doughy’s full Tip Sheet collection which you can access here.

What To Do When You’re Bored

Here are some tricks I’ve found to help expose the real culprit behind boredom and get back to your normal self:

  1. Figure out what you really want to do. Boredom often masks a problem where you want to do a particular activity but something is preventing you. This could happen when you want to watch your favorite television show, but the cable is out. When this happens, the first step to killing boredom is to simply recognize the activity that you truly want to be doing.
  2. Nuke procrastination. Procrastination can cause boredom if there aren’t any distractions available to take your mind off your task. If this is the case, try one of these tips to eliminate the wait and get busy again.
  3. Get your compass straight. Boredom can just as easily be caused by a lack of direction. Spend a few minutes identifying your goals, desires or passions. Sometimes simply bringing up these can get you motivated again.
  4. Socialize. Get on video chat or the phone and talk to some friends, or join an online group and make some new friends. Boredom can often disguise a lack of social energy. Even in this time of isolation, we can still make important connections.
  5. Put off your boredom. Take a look at your to-do list. Commit to doing just one tiny task on that list before you find something fun to do. Often putting off your boredom for a few minutes by being productive can kick the feeling.
  6. Learn something new. Perhaps what you need is some mental stimulation. Here are some fast things you can do to start learning something new:
    • Read a book
    • Research a topic your interested in online
    • Write a short story
    • Pull out some paper and markers or jump on Photoshop and practice your artistic skills.
  7. Cut off distractions. Boredom can happen when you are doing a low value task, like random internet surfing or watching television shows that don’t interest you. Distractions can be a black hole, sucking you into a prolonged state of disinterest. Turn off the television or computer and start moving around until you find something better to occupy you.
  8. Fill schedule holes. Too much time is often worse than no time at all. It can be difficult to adjust to the boredom when you suddenly have a schedule vacuum. Stick to a schedule during this downtime to prevent boredom in the first place.
  9. Become your own cheerleader. I’ve been bored due to a temporary lack of confidence. Who wants to work hard towards a goal when you’ve been dealt an upsetting blow to your belief that you will succeed? Take some time to review your wins and high points so that you can restore some confidence and keep moving.
  10. Meditate. This has become my default activity in cases of extreme boredom. Check out apps like Insight Timer to keep you mindful.
  11. Journal. Open up a journal or a word document and just start writing. Don’t worry about who might read it. Just write.
  12. Add a new challenge. If you find yourself consistently bored, this usually means you have a section of time where you don’t have an activity that meets your needs. Add a new goal, challenge or hobby to fill up the time. Check out our daily challenges for some fun ideas.

These are just a few of the methods I use regularly when I have to combat boredom. But these are just suggestions. The best way to combat boredom is to understand why your bored.

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