Against Productivity in a Pandemic


That is normal, now. That is the experience I am sharing with my friends and cousins and family and neighbors. While I’m still reading emails and scanning my drafts for revisions, my mind is miles away with the people that matter most to me. For those with the privilege and ability to conduct their work from home, the coming weeks should be a time to focus on ourselves, our communities, and our loved ones. It should be a time to do nothing and produce little without the accompanying feeling of guilt or panic caused by a ping from a higher-up that you should be doing more as the rest of your world slowly cranks to a halt.

The work of care, of real meaning, is what we should be concerning ourselves with now. It is not optimized, or “disrupting,” or any of that. It is just essential. Reaching out to offer support to the soon-to-be overworked nurses in our communities, contributing to local funds and efforts to feed and adequately compensate grocery workers, restaurant workers, and others who are working at great risk and may be struggling to put food on the table. We should be offering to make shopping runs for our elders and other at-risk neighbors. This is the essential work that demands our attention now, too.

For all the other stuff? The nonessentials? It will not vanquish your fears and stressors to churn out a spreadsheet any faster than usual. Some of us, the fortunate among us, have a kind of time now that may feel new. It can allow us a second to be true to ourselves and our emotions, or to turn away from ourselves and toward care for others, or both at the same time. You don’t have to write your novel. You don’t have to reorganize your closet. Burying yourself in mindless busywork is not the solution. So, go ahead, turn the video function off when your boss calls.

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