5 Uncommon Activities that are Perfectly Productive

Leah O'Daniel

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For years, I prided myself on being put together. My house was always clean. Chores completed. Meals healthy. Workouts accomplished. If you called or text me, I answered or responded. Usually, immediately.

I thought this made me a for-real adult. Believed it made me a good friend. Showed others that I was dependable. Displayed my worth.

I believed that through a perfectly kept house, constant availability, chasing professional achievements, and lack of sleep I was accomplishing something.

Accomplishing adulthood. Maturity. A put-together life. Success. I don’t know what I thought I was proving.

I was ‘on the grind’. The poster child for productivity. Hustle for the muscle. Sleep when I’m dead. Chasing dreams of success, kind of vibes.

What goes up

Must come down. You can’t stay firmly planted in a fragile, glass mirage — not forever.

That’s what I lived in — a fragile, glass mirage. What appeared true on the outside was anything but. Sure, my house was clean. I never skipped the gym. I never ate a meal that wasn’t healthy. My marriage looked perfect from the outside. I never ignored a phone call or text. Never took a day off or called in sick.

It’s embarrassing and shameful to admit now that it was all one big fat lie. An unsustainable way of life that I was hushed about.

I was exhausted. Never felt good enough, perfect enough, successful enough. I believed I had to earn the right to rest, and even then I didn’t really rest. If I stopped, if I rested or relented even a little, I’d never build the life of my dreams. People would judge me for not hustling hard enough.

When I fell, I fell hard. My son was stillborn late in the second trimester for no identifiable reason.

The grief, the pain, the depression, the fallout — was so intense that I barely noticed when a global pandemic chained the rest of the world to their homes. Life had quite literally knocked me on my ass. There were no choices except to sit in all my emotions, pain, and grief.

Then I had to face a mountain of trauma, mental and emotional health issues I had been avoiding with productivity — masking with busyness — for years.

My “put together”, was actually run ragged and in denial about it. My productivity poster, my grind, my dream chasing hustle — it was a lack of boundaries, self-worth, & self-love.

Tragedy and trauma force you to reprioritize, rethink, and reframe.

Enough with the productivity porn

What fueled this deep-seated belief for me? Grind culture, largely.

I am sick of seeing and reading list after list of recycled ways to increase your productivity. I fell victim to this mindset for far too long and it left my life a dumpster fire for a while.

Can you relate?

We exist in a culture that praises the almighty production. We’re confusing productivity with busyness. How quickly, how efficiently, how perfectly we can churn out results. Whatever the results may be. Education, marriage, children, a clean home, workout routine, perfect body, professional achievement.

Humans are not machines. Worth is not measured by the volume of productivity we cram into one day or one life. Taking in all the messaging about hustling and believing it, is damaging us in ways we aren’t noticing.

Prioritizing productivity is and has skewed the perception of most things. We place a moral value on production, literally and figuratively. We use productive busyness as an acceptable way to avoid anything and everything.

But what if, we slowed down? What if other activities were considered productive without tangible results?

Consider these 5, perfectly productive activities.

(I like to call them still-productive).

Resting

In a world hyperfocused on productive busyness, it’s difficult to feel like you can rest. But, resting is an activity. Resting is productive. Full stop. Period.

I don’t mean sleeping and I don’t mean the self-indulgent, sometimes damaging idea of self-care either. I mean taking time out of your day, week, month to simply exist. Netflix binge, Tik Tok hole, a quiet coffee on the porch.

Reading

Sitting down to read a book for however long you’d like. On a lunch break, before bed, after dinner, on a Sunday afternoon.

I used to devour tons of books. Sometime mid-hustle and grind, I stopped. I didn’t have time to sit down and read a book, I said. I did, but viewed it as non-productive and didn’t give myself permission to.

(Of course, I know not everyone is a little bookworm like me. Substitute this with a hobby or activity you find relaxing.)

Connecting

A few weeks ago I met up with a friend for lunch. We spent the whole afternoon together laughing and catching up. After 3 hours, she came to a sudden stop, “Oh my gosh, I’ve wasted my whole day just sitting here with you”.

Connecting with others is productive. It’s an activity that all humans need. Including me, an extreme introvert that loves solitude. But too often, we neglect this basic need for fear of losing hours when we could have been busy instead.

Creating

For the hell of it, not for any specific result, rhyme, or reason. It doesn’t matter what it is. Planting flowers, a craft kit, cooking — whatever.

Creating/inventing something new can stimulate the same release of feel-good endorphins as alcohol or drugs. Why? Because it activates your natural reward system. That’s pretty productive, huh?

Unplugging

If you feel a sudden panic when you don’t know where your phone is or fall into the majority of adults that are addicted to their smartphone, try unplugging. Even a few hours of toggling over to Do Not Disturb or leaving the phone in another room.

Again, we exist in a world that overvalues productivity and availability. We’ve blurred the lines between professional time and personal time with social media and smartphones. It creates an alarm type of panic when we hear a ding from our phone. Unplugging is a great way to reset this alarm response that can make us feel like we must be available at all times.

This season of life is about being still

It didn’t matter how clean my house was. How much money I had saved. How successful, put together, or what a great friend I had been when my son died.

None of the things I had been chasing were enough to save his life, sit with me in my grief, or make anything feel like a worthwhile accomplishment.

This season is about being still-productive. Taking the time to implement these 5, uncommon ways to be productive. It’s about so much more than being productive. It’s about taking a knee. Prioritizing what matters. Taking in life and being grateful as hell for it.

Again, tragedy and trauma (hello, pandemic life!) force you to reprioritize.

While for me, this came with the death of my child, we all have trauma. And I invite you to have a season of stillness, too.

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Freelance writer. Adventuring military spouse sharing my favorite local spots across the US.

El Paso County, TX
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