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!

This Neighborhood Has Been Staying Connected During Social Distancing With Creative ‘I Spy’ Game

The first surge of rapid response to the COVID-19 pandemic has receded and left necessary social distancing, self-isolation, and quarantine in its wake, with no definite end date in sight. Millions are now facing the effects of loneliness, cabin fever, life in too-close quarters, and asking how they can still find community when told to stay apart.

One neighborhood is responding in a creative and uplifting way: an interactive game of “I Spy” in which people of any age can participate.

Emily Nelson, a resident of the Sunnymede neighborhood in South Bend, Indiana, created this game for St. Patrick’s Day using the neighborhood association’s Facebook group.

She asked residents to tape paper shamrocks to their front windows or draw them in chalk on their driveways—anything that would be visible to kids walking by on the sidewalk—for a shamrock scavenger hunt. Neighborhood kids could tally up how many they spied and post to the Facebook group.

The neighborhood response was tremendous, so Nelson drew up a calendar through mid-April with other themed days, including Disney characters, Mario, hearts for health workers, dinosaurs, and a bunny hunt. To make the outings even more fun, Nelson encouraged the walkers to embrace the themes by dressing in costume.

For any neighbors who didn’t have themed objects, decorations, or chalk to use, another neighborhood resident put together packets of coloring sheets that she could drop off in mail slots as requested.

Participation has been high. According to Nelson, she and her family saw more than 28 Disney characters posted around the neighborhood on the most recent day, March 21st, including princess dolls and a King Louie from Junglebook.

Even the mailman, according to one resident, took notice and asked about the sudden appearance of Disney items in windows.

Kids are not the only ones who have been excited; neighbor Carolyn Evans wrote to Nelson on the Facebook page, saying “We had a blast looking for characters today! What a fun thing for all of us to do! THANK YOU for putting this in motion and THANK YOU to all of our neighbors who are participating!”

Visiting on front porches, chatting on sidewalks, and playing impromptu football games in the nearby school’s baseball field are some of the usual ways this neighborhood stays close. Now thanks to Nelson’s “I Spy” hunts, grateful community members are a little closer to finding new ways to stay in touch.

Click here to read more stories from Good News Network.

Ten-Year-Old Seeks to Empower Other Kids During COVID-19 Pandemic

Like many kids who are stuck at home during the COVID-19 pandemic, ten-year-old Sydney was beginning to feel hopeless. But, instead of letting the feeling overtake her, she and her mom took action.

Sydney knew that she had information that would make a difference if she got it out to other kids her age. So, the pair set out to produce videos giving out valuable information.

From their living room they wrote, recorded, and animated Kids Coping with COVID-19 using Story Maker, an educational software that her mom, Melissa Dilling, uses in her classroom at Eisenhower Middle School in Everett, WA.

She hopes that when kids see her series on YouTube they feel like they can actually make a difference in their community—and the world—by following safety guidelines and seeking to help where they can.

Click here to read more stories from Good News Network.