Some days (like today) I am not very productive. I get one or two things done, but more often than not, I wander around the house (or the internet) rather aimlessly without any real focus. Often those days come right after I’ve had a particularly productive day (like yesterday).

Today, the whole concept of productivity is annoying me. Why do we focus so much of our attention on productivity? Why does it seem to be the be-all and end-all of success?

I just received an email about a workshop on innovation that had this opening line: “Increase your odds of success with tools that generate new product ideas using systematic processes. Build your world-class framework, blah, blah, blah.” For one thing – UGH. Gobbledy gook. For another thing, do our “tools of success” have to be wrapped up in “generating new product ideas” and “systematic processes?” I tend to be more in the organic school of creativity, so that language doesn’t really work for me.

Sure productivity is a valuable thing, but some days it’s okay NOT to be productive. Some days we’re much better off in contemplation mode rather than productivity mode. Some days, just wandering around the house is accomplishing exactly what we need at that time.

Recently I read an intriguing fact about Chinese bamboo plants. When you plant a Chinese bamboo, you have to be very patient. At first, nothing happens. There are no green shoots or any outward signs of growth at all for the first, second, third, or fourth year. The fifth year, a shoot pushes out of the ground, and suddenly it grows at astonishing rates – up to 40 feet in a year! (Credit to an article by Jean Shinoda Bolen for that tidbit.) Though nothing seemed to be happening at first, the bamboo plant was developing its root system and preparing itself for its year of productivity.

The same can be said for all of us. Sometimes we need to let the seed germinate. Sometimes we just need to be content with the process of putting down roots – for years if it takes that long. Through it all, we just have to trust that the day will come when we will sprout and remarkable growth will happen.

If you haven’t been productive today, don’t worry about it. Perhaps wandering around the house is just your way of making sure you’re well rooted and ready to blossom.

(Photo credit: Mike Lowe, Flickr)

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