• Rose Smith

Fake Productivity: Working Without Working

Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons

Working to achieve your goals can be daunting. The bigger it is, the more insurmountable it feels. Many of us, myself included, tend to procrastinate before actually settling down to work. That can include getting a drink, checking your phone, and suddenly becoming interested in what’s going on in Lithuania right now. Of course, those are the classic forms of procrastination, but believe it or not, you can procrastinate while being seemingly productive to the point of tricking ourselves into thinking that we’re getting things done. This is the essence of fake productivity.

Fake productivity can come in many forms, but in essence, it is the act of procrastinating on your larger projects in favor of doing only superficially productive things. For example, imagine you’re in an office and that you have to finish a big paper project at the end of the month. It can be really overwhelming to get started on it. Now, the first thing we think of when it comes to procrastinating is something like playing on your phone or taking a larger lunch break than usual. Fake productivity entails something like suddenly spending more time on checking your email than usual, doing more paper planning than actual writing, or sweating about making sure that the paper is perfect instead of making sure it’s done. Now, of course we do have to spend time on making sure our work output is good, and we should check our work emails, but the problem arises when you end up only doing this. In the end, we just end up having done a lot of busy work, and our paper is barely started.

So, what do we do with breaking the cycle of fake productivity? The first thing that one can do is to become aware of your habits. Knowing your personal flavor of fake productivity will help you spot when you’re falling into the cycle of fake productivity (my personal favorite go-to is spending too much time on outlining my projects before actually getting into them). If you’re the type who spends too much time planning or avoiding large tasks, a great way to stave it off is to break your big goals into small, actionable ones and sticking to them. Rather than seeing that paper like an insurmountable beast, think of it in terms of writing a page or a couple paragraphs per work day (Tech Advisory). If you are the type who tends to obsessively checks their email or phone, take a chunk out of your day to close it down and focus on your big projects. When I’m working from home, I like to keep my phone in an entirely different floor or across the room to keep myself from checking my messages. Now, obviously you can’t just not answer emails for an entire day, but if you know that obsessively checking your email is a big false productivity trap for you, taking that 30 minutes to an hour to just focus without distractions can go a long way.

Procrastination is common for all of us. We get overwhelmed by daunting tasks and struggle with taking them head on. One of the ways we go about it can be fake, or false, productivity. We’ll do tasks like checking our email or making giant to-do lists, but we don’t actually get things done. Then, after all that, when we don’t get our work done, it only serves to stress us out more. While I’m not perfect at managing my procrastination (after all, who really is?), I’ve found these tips personally to be really helpful in staving off the false productivity. Just a small implementation of these tools can go a really long way.

Rose Smith is the blog editor of Twenty-two Twenty-eight. When she isn’t writing about the world around her, she is often found listening to music, watching movies, and going on walks with her dogs.

You can find her on Instagram here and on Twitter here.