Redefining Lack of Productivity During COVID-19

There’s an old adage by Viktor Frankl that recently came to mind and has stayed with me during the duration of this crisis:

Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.

In a world where we had long groomed our day-to-day decisions over a lifetime of adulthood iterations, it felt unfair to see all these decisions unlearned over a period of weeks.

The simple unconscious wiring behind commuting to work, taking long meetings, preparing dinner, or even having casual conversations with friends was now replaced by a world of overthinking, anxiety, and simple neglect.

Like many others, I struggled with productivity during the early days of the crisis. In a world where people were overjoyed to find time to read, hustle, and find new lightbulbs around their life purpose, I found myself mostly paralyzed — if I wasn’t working, I was scrolling Twitter trying to find the next forecast in San Francisco or watching “Dave” on Hulu looking for any opportunity to shut my brain off for a few minutes.

While productivity eluded me, I did find solace in the number of Zoom calls, authentic relating activities, and spontaneous hangouts by friends in San Francisco.

I was mainly looking to fill a social void that had grown like a parasitic surprise over hours of remote work — but the outcome of those calls surprised me.

In one session, we played a game around sentence stems, specifically focused around gratitude for others and gratitude for self: “One thing that has gotten me through this week is… x”, “One thing that I wish I was more appreciated for is.. x”.

In another session, we played a game where we had to list down all the things that frustrated us and the person listening then had to articulate needs based on the inventory of needs.

In yet another session, a friend of mine led us through the Pixar Story Spine where we made up stories for fun and then made up a story related to a specific struggle of ours.

It was fun — a small but surprisingly cathartic past time.

As I count the 30 days or so I’ve been quarantined, I’ve read far less books than I’ve hoped, abandoned my daily writing practice almost immediately and haven’t started any businesses or chipped away at some larger abstract life purpose.

But I slowly realized that some of this other work — identifying emotions, dissecting situations, finding emotional fulfillment, and finding gratitude — was all productive in its own sense.

Even sitting still and avoiding news or giving people the benefit of the doubt was work. It was all emotionally productive.

An old colleague of mine, Manny Hernandez shared this piece on his blog about moving from a Fear to a Growth Zone during the pandemic — I was excited to see that the growth zone came on a spectrum.

On one hand, you could use your skills, donate, or find a purpose.

On the other, you could simply live in the present, practice patience, and show gratefulness. That was all it took to grow during the pandemic.

The piece and that chart gave me a fresh reminder — that we are not obligated to react to breaking news if we’re breaking. It’s ok to step away from the fight. It’s okay to step away from creating and producing in the traditional sense — even a pause is growth.

I saw this tweet recently that helped reframe a lot of the pandemic on my end — that we are not working from home — we are at home trying to work during a crisis. There’s a difference.

The only obligation we have in this time is to forgive ourselves more often than usual.

Kushaan is a growth associate at Livongo based out of the Bay Area and enjoys sharing insights around Growth, careers, and personal anecdotes. He also likes meaningless controversies (check out ranking of the best fast food fries) and spending his days finding the best Super burrito in San Francisco. All opinions are his own. Get in touch here or via @kushaanshah on Twitter.

Growth @Livongo • Bostonian • Fan of sports and quirky theatre • Marketing Nerd • Weekly reads ✍️

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