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  • Lusi Austin

THE PROBLEM WITH PRODUCTIVITY



#hustle #align #dailgrind These are hashtags that I'm sure we have all seen in recent years. Heck, I remember using them when I first started Instagramming. These tags reflect the push and pressure that our fast-paced society seems to value.


We are all geared towards productivity from the time we are small and are still trying to find our place in the world. We live and operate in a society in which being driven is rewarded, striving is admirable and slogging our guts out is synonymous with success.


From the earliest of years, we are told certain activities are a 'waste of time' and are cautioned to spend our energy wisely. Being productive admittedly does come with its perks: it gets us out of bed in the mornings, gives us a sense of purpose and definitely makes us feel useful.


The problem with productivity though is that it becomes so ingrained within us that we forget that we are also programmed for other important things. We need rest. We need to socialise and celebrate. We need to withdraw and regroup. We need time to be bored. We need space to recalibrate. The catch? None of these things just mentioned are looked upon as being valuable, or as 'productive'. Not only is it not valued but it is not taught to us as a skill. Resting is not something that we grow up learning to do (unlike the way we learn to work). We have chore charts and laminated sticker charts with gold stars to teach our kiddos to do their jobs. However, we don't usually teach or even model what rest can look like. Rest is often left sitting off in the wings of life, reserved only for the time after we have had a breakdown or are completely burnt out.


As a young teen, I vividly remember lying in bed one school morning dreaming about the day I wouldn't have to wake up to my alarm sounding either for school (or work and sports on the weekends). I was well into my 'training' to becoming the person to whom the concept of rest would be 'foreign', and who was used to pushing themselves even when their body was crying out for sleep and recovery time.


The next step in my journey towards the never-resting-always-doing-life came in the form of extra curricular activities. Dance and drama classes, representative basketball team, playing in the school band, being on the SRC (student representative council) and helping to choreograph Rock Eisteddfod were all not just allowed but encouraged. There were certificates awarded each year for extra curricular involvement. Somehow 'looking after yourself well and maintaining good mental health' weren't categories for awards back then at school. {Are they now? I think they should be if they're not.} I'm not blaming my school. Or my parents. Or even myself. I'm not really blaming anyone. I'm just making an observation about my life. The society I was raised in valued and encouraged productivity but spoke little about rest, relaxation and recovery.


When we are 'productive' we help to move the economy forward (and of course help to earn money etc). I'm not saying productivity is evil. Far from it. Productivity is necessary.


So if I'm not saying productivity is a problem, what am I saying? I'm saying that we need to stop viewing rest as wasteful and start seeing it as an investment. From the beginning of time, work has had to be balanced out with rest. God rested on the seventh day. He blessed that day, set it apart and made it holy. This is not an invitation to battle which day the Sabbath is, rather, it's an invitation for you to intentionally and unapologetically think about the benefits of engaging yourself in rest.


Rest allows us to feel grounded and present in the moment. It allows us time to observe, to feel deeply and to connect with the One greater than ourselves. We engage with nature around us and surrender to the simple subtlety of contentment. I'm not saying this is easy. I'm saying it's rewarding. It is worth it.


Intentional rest definitely goes against the tide of popular lifestyles but in choosing to balance our lives more evenly with activity and rest, we give ourselves the opportunity to be undone in the deepest of places. This undoing, this humbling, can lead to us experiencing life in new, more satisfying ways. Rather than trying to keep up with others, we get back to the root of ourselves . Rather than keeping up with others, we learn to unravel and to embrace our fragilities and imperfections. In learning to savour the quiet, we learn to silence the noisy excesses and become grateful for purposeful pause. We accept the messy and magical moments and how they can intertwine in the most unusual of ways. We set aside time to say no to work and yes to pleasure or to the nothingness of closed eyes, waiting in silence.


Learning to view rest as an intentional act of rest from work is completely radical. It has been met with opposition from people who want to remind me not to be legalistic but it's hard to express to others that being free from work one day a week has nothing to do with legalism and everything to do with self-preservation and joy! In our home, we all look forward to our weekly day off. Yes it was hard to begin with and to get our heads around (having been raised in a family in which my own father worked 6 days a week and Sunday was full of church activities). But now, 12 years in, we see it as the loveliest gift God has given us and that we can give to ourselves.


Sabbath here looks like having a day that is different to other days. Sleeping in. No rushing. No appointments. No pressure. No work. No having to be anywhere (unless we want to go for a swim or a bushwalk etc. I usually sit for a few hours sipping coffee or tea under our liquidambar trees in the backyard. In the afternoon, we sometimes watch a movie as a family or sit around having (often a very lively) discussion about the ancient truths we find in the Scriptures.


Regardless of how you choose to rest, I hope that this might encourage you to think a little about it. To pause and to find space to set aside time to just be. To breathe deeply, to let God be God and to just be.


Lusi x


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