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F**k Productivity (Thanks to the Flu)

I’m starting to think I can find inspiration in almost everything these days.

From a conversation overheard at a coffee shop to a song heard on Pandora, and now, Influenza B (which seems to be going around these days – you’ve been warned, people).

Last week I was knocked on my ass by the flu. It was the first time with the flu in my 25 + years of living so I guess I had a good run, but for those of you who have had it – it sucks, and it leaves you laying in a dark room, drinking orange juice, eating soup, and basically waiting until it decides to go away.

For the entrepreneur and overall go-getter that I am, a week of barely getting anything done would suck pretty bad, right?

Maybe not so much.

Last week was the first week in well, a lot of weeks that I was able to not work and not feel guilty about it (because I could barely hold my head up). I spent my time doing things I normally tell myself I don’t have time to do and now that a new week has begun and I’m flu-free, I’m already missing being “away” from the grind.

So what DID I do last week?

  • I caught up on my Google Reader without clicking “Mark all as read”.
  • I wrote (a lot).
  • I snuggled with my dog (don’t hate).
  • I cleaned our place from top to bottom and packed up a few more bags of stuff to give to Goodwill. Clean and clutter free, baby!
  • I drank tea instead of coffee (and didn’t hate it).
  • I listened to this epic 3-hour-long Saved by the Bell podcast.
  • I watched this incredible Saved by the Bell-inspired film.
  • I listened to the new Radiohead album.
  • I watched several less-than-stellar movies, including one called “Dolph Lundgren is the Killing Machine” (and loved every minute of it)

Most importantly, I’ve walked away from my inspirational flu-week knowing that I DO have time for myself, if I want it. I can relax more often and I don’t have to put as much pressure on myself to be working constantly. It’s okay to unplug. It’s okay to do nothing.

Odds are, if you’re reading this, you work, a lot – maybe at your nine to five, maybe with your startup, maybe both. We live in a society that praises being “busy” and celebrates who works harderĀ (which is a shame – but a discussion for another blog post) - and because of it, we’re tricked into thinking that trash-talking 12 year olds on Call of Duty just for the hell of it is a waste of time. Or that we don’t have time to go for a walk, or have coffee with a friend – that anything away from making money and doing work is time that SHOULD be spent being productive.

Well here’s to saying “fuck productivity” and instead, enjoying living a little more. Because life’s just too damn short not to enjoy Drago’s bad acting.

(Photo c/o manyfires)

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25 Comments

  1. good for you! Besides, you would never have gotten better had you not taken a step back and let the flu run its course. Great lesson, here.

  2. Dude… I’m right there with you. I woke up with a fever of 103 last Friday, and I’ve been fighting the crud over the weekend. It’s definitely not fun, but it’s given me some time to sort out a few of my thoughts. This has been the one time I’ve been okay with saying “to heck with productivity!” I need to practice this war cry more often.

    Thanks for the inspiration!

  3. Amen.

    The only thing is that, while you have the flu, it’s a lot easier to justify being unproductive because you don’t feel well. However, when you’re feeling good, what justification do you have to stop working?

    I’m interested to hear your answer because my conscience doesn’t accept any of the rationalizations I give it for not working… I always end up feeling a little guilty.

    • Exactly, that’s the trick, isn’t it – when you don’t have an excuse, how do you excuse yourself from working. It all comes down to self-discipline and forcing yourself to step away from the work. The overarching lesson from last week? The world didn’t end when I stopped working – my clients didn’t fire me, I didn’t go into debt or start living on the streets. I was knocked back from work for a week and, guess what, life went on.

      Here I am on a Monday making up for some lost time, but I think that too often we trick ourselves into thinking that if we aren’t working all the time, we’re screwed. Sometimes that might be the case, most of the time it’s probably not.

      That’s what I took away, and the message that I’m trying to share with you and everyone else.

  4. So I guess getting the flu isn’t all bad. It’s ironic, perhaps, that the people who overwork themselves are more susceptible to illness. If only they would take the hint.

    I, for one, am looking forward to your upcoming post (if you really meant it) on celebrating busy. We’ve all worked with people who felt they needed to stay at the office late just because the boss was still there. I truly feel sorry for them. Get your work done and go home. F*ck the haters.

    • I did mean it – it’s coming soon (later this week or early next). I wonder if that attitude is why I never think an office environment will be right for me – at my old advertising agency gig, it was like some sort of competition to see who got in the office earliest in the morning and who stayed latest at night – I came and went when I was supposed to, and almost always got shit for not over-working.

      I call bullshit. As a manager, I will expect others to do their work, but I’ll also fully expect and demand for them to have a life, away from work. If your work is done, by all means, go home and stop thinking about work.

      The celebration of being busy has got to stop. Life’s too short to work until your dead.

  5. Yes yes yes! I experienced this same miracle the past week. I have never in my life been so taken down by being sick, and I hated being so unproductive. It is highly unlike me to not wake up with a to do list already in my head. But, I succumbed and rested and relaxed for the first time in years.

  6. It’s funny how sometimes a good bout of illness can bring it all into perspective, hmm? I had H1N1 last year – I went through the same thing.

    Hope you’re feeling better, ma’am!

  7. I don’t think you had the flu. Because if you did, you wouldn’t have been able to read Google Reader, write and clean your house top to bottom. Is anyone else thinking it’s bizarre Matt listed how productive he was when telling us not to be productive? ;) Just sayin’…

    • Don’t you know I’m all super-human like.

      I cleaned yesterday, day 7 of the flu, the same day I wrote this post. So let it be known that the height of my productivity was when I was nearly free of the sickness. The rest of the time was mostly for Saved by the Bell/video games/being a bum.

      My wife, who now has the flu I had last week, can vouch for my sickness. I didn’t leave my 500 square foot apartment for days.

      • Phew. I am glad to know you’re human :) It does make sense you cleaned on the last day of flu-dom. It’s a great test to see if you feel better. If I can clean, I know I’ll be good enough to go to the gym the next day.

        • Haha, and let it be known that cleaning our very-small place is far from a great feat of productivity and it was by far the most productive thing I managed to do over the last seven days. :)

  8. I’m with ya, Matt! While it is dangerous to get caught up in the cycle of doing nothing all the time, it’s important to define what will make the day a success, do it, and then enjoy the rest of the evening or whatever just recharging the ol’ batteries. Too bad you had to be sick while doing it yourself. (Although thanks for tweeting the Belding video – cracked me up to see Rod Belding again!)

    • That Rod Belding video is epic. So well done.

      And agreed – doing nothing all the time isn’t smart, but it’s equally important not to feel like you HAVE to be doing something all the time just to be doing it.

  9. I actually had something similar to this today, I wasn’t feeling well this weekend & then stayed out later than usual last night. So I woke up really late today, and started the day off badly – but I decided to just take the day off. My husband, who works nights & usually doesn’t get up until 3-4 in the afternoon, went to bed early last night & woke up before noon, so we went and got lunch together and then did some shopping. And I feel MUCH better now than if I’d stayed at my computer all day, trying to get work done. Sometimes, the most productive thing you can do is take a day or a week off!

    (And honestly, I find that if I don’t schedule downtime & stick to it, then I end up getting so burned out that I have to take a week off anyways…so I might as well do it when I want to!)

  10. I’m glad you are feeling better. After I decided to hire you guys, I kind of walked away from my work for about 2 weeks. I only did my podcasts. Outside of that, I hung out with my roommate and his son when they got home from school and work, I pondered some stuff for Proof Branding, and pondered my bigger picture. I also watched fun episodes of Pushing Daisies and other silly shows on Netflix.

    Last year, I had time for nothing but work. This year, I realized there is plenty of time for me AND my work.

    Cheers to taking a damn break for the Type-A personality. Glad you’re feeling better, homie. Looking forward to making some great stuff happen together.

    • I feel like you and I as individuals have embarked and are embarking down very similar paths, and we’re at very similar stages of realization right now. You said it best when you said last year was all work and this year is about realizing that work isn’t everything.

      Whatever is in store ahead of us, I have no doubt it’s going to be exciting!

  11. You can’t do this when you’re sick since you’re so out of it, but when you’re well, I’d also recommend spending time just talking to people. Call your mom. Go hang out at a bar with your best friend. Whatever. I also feel the most drained and “out of it” when I let my personal time with family and friends go to the wayside in lieu of “getting one more thing done” for work.

  12. I had a similar experience in January. I came home from christmas at my folks and was completely floored by a flu/cold whatever. I only had enough energy to read. And read I did. And I rediscovered my love and need of reading and when I got better I missed it. So I decided to keep reading. The world didn’t explode while I was laid up for a week. It won’t explode if I read for an hour a day. It had been years since I really read a book just because I wanted to and actually finished it. Now I’m finishing about a book a week and I’m much happier for it.