Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Curse You, Productivity!

I received an unsettling email from James Clear yesterday. The author is a consummate blogger and self-made, motivational guru. He sends out weekly email posts blending insights from neurology, psychology, and biography. Like all self-made men, Clear also offers a plethora of online workshops promised to build my habits, hack my life, and increase my productivity. To date, I have not signed up for a single workshop, but yesterday he made an offer I could hardly refuse.
For 48-hours (and 48-hours only) James Clear will provide a fifty percent reduction on his Habits Seminar. The teaser for the workshop included a free tip.
Find one little habit you can accomplish within the first five minutes of waking up and do it tomorrow morning. Make your bed. Do 10 pushups. Meditate for 30 seconds. It doesn't matter what you do as long as you appreciate the fact that you are starting your day off with something positive. Don't let distractions rule your life. Inject some momentum into your day right off the bat. (www.jamesclear.com)
I am no stranger to good habits and routines. For years I've preached (literally, I'm a pastor) the notion that Christ-like character results from choices that determine actions that become habits that produce character. In this sense, Christian faith and self-help praxis align.

After reading Clear's most recent tip, I visualized my morning routine:
I shut off my alarm; roll out of bed; reach for my slippers and put on my slippers; reach for my hoodie and put on my hoodie; stumble to the kitchen; pour a glass of orange juice; creep down the basement stairs (gripping the rail with my free hand to account for the steep and narrow passage); migrate to my desk; sit and light a candle; lay my forehead against the wood; pray or return to sleep.
Physical discipline does not enter into my morning routine, save for the occasional scratch, stretch, and crack of the spine. I attempt to set a tone of worship, obedience, and gratitude for the remainder of my day. Some mornings show more promise than others. Some mornings I ignore the alarm and remain in bed.

Clear's tip caused me to reconsider my first five minutes. I questioned the use of my waking moments and tone for the day. I wondered if I should do pushups, learn a new vocabulary word, or chant Gregorian-style.

As I drifted to sleep last night, productivity options flooded my mind. I slept terribly, which is a productivity sin, according to Clear and others I read. Every time I awoke, an internal clock started ticking. What am I doing? What tone am I setting? What time is it?

After three false starts to the day, my alarm finally sounded. I shut it off. 6:15.
I lay still for a minute. Tick, tock. 6:16.
My day began to slip. I got up, groped in the dark for my slippers and sweatshirt. By the time I stumbled into the kitchen, two more minutes passed. Tick, tock. 6:18
I poured my orange juice, but had to open a second gallon. Another minute vanished before I descended the first step. Tick, tock. 6:19
Before finishing the journey to my desk, taking a seat and lighting a candle, the opening five minutes of my day had become history. Tick, tock...beep. 6:21: And I had accomplished nothing.

The productivity experiment dismantled me in a single day. It stole from my sleep and set a failed tone for my day. "Curse you, productivity," I shouted.

And with that idol off my chest, I pressed on to prayer.

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