The Motivation to Not Do Anything Else

“But how do you find the motivation to just… write?” 

This seems to be a golden ticket question on every writing forum, at every book signing, in every writing workshop. Motivation.

I never really got that question. How do I find the motivation to write? How do I find the motivation to breathe? Things may stand between me and my writing goals, but motivation never seemed to be the issue. 

Lately, I’ve run into various speedbumps and found myself questioning my motivation. I felt motivated to write. Yet writing time didn’t seem to happen, pushed off until I was right up against deadlines I’d set for myself, other things taking its place. I wouldn’t say much in the way of breaks or procrastination was happening, either—it was events and appointments, health issues, more urgent deadlines, and generally putting out fires. In fact, I felt agitated by my lack of writing time. It seemed like every time I sat down to write, something else occupied my time or my mind.

For a minute there, I thought the issue—despite constantly running up against my own deadlines—was that I was actually not being ambitious enough. I knew I could afford to push writing off, so I did. I was aiming for ten thousand words in a month then, which for me seemed low. Yet I was constantly running up against my deadline. Not because I’d been working hard at writing all month and was still failing to meet my goal, but because I was running around doing other things, then sitting down to whip out the words in the last day or two or three of the month. And I could. If I just need to get words down, a fifteen thousand word day isn’t out of the question. Given that I was only counting words I was posting to the Internet—words that needed to be typed, edited, formatted, posted, promoted—a five thousand word day was about my max. Three days right at the end of the month seemed an almost generous timeline. 

So I upped my goal to fifteen thousand. No dice. In a relatively rare instance, I didn’t hit my word count goal—or even my previously lower word count goal—at all. I only posted five thousand words. 

So what gives? I thought. The motivation was there—and I tried framing that issue a thousand ways. Was it my energy? My focus? My creative spirit? But nurturing all of those things failed to address the issue. 

Eventually, I realized that if I really wanted time to write—and to really enjoy it, not crank out words as the clock ticked down—I had to make time. I wasn’t really carving out time, just setting a word count goal—a goal I knew I could ignore for twenty-eight days or so at a time to prioritize other things. So I changed tactics. I decided that for at least fifteen minutes a day, I would write. I was also very familiar with the kind of results that can produce. If we’re just talking getting words down, over a thousand words was common for me in a focused fifteen minute period. If anything, I expected actual output to go up even though this goal, too, seemed small. But there were many pros to it. I got to do it every day—and I really did view it as a get to. On the flip side, like my other daily tasks, it was automatically excused for certain reasons—like travel, which had eaten into my time to see to monthly goals the month prior, without forgiveness. 

My productivity—writing wise—exploded with this method. Truthfully, once I’d been in the flow for fifteen minutes, I didn’t want to stop, and somehow, extra time seemed to appear. Even if I stopped putting words on paper, my mind kept going. By visiting with my writing projects every day, and therefore having them constantly in my head, I was having ideas faster than I could write them down. Productive ideas, not just my characters begging for scraps of my attention by spinning up interesting, but implausible, storylines. Besides just words getting posted, I was doing other important work I now realize had been neglected. 

If not my motivation, and if the time kept appearing, what really changed here? 

I wasn’t just being dramatic or arrogant with my opening questions. How do I find the motivation to write? How do I find the motivation to breathe? Of course, you don’t need motivation to breathe. But how often do you just sit and breathe? Many people find this seemingly simple task very difficult. And why? It’s certainly not about their motivation to breathe. It’s about their motivation to just breathe. In reality, it’s about their motivation to not do anything else. 

My issue wasn’t my motivation to write. That felt luxurious, the way that just breathing can once you train yourself for it. My issue was my motivation to put down everything else and just write. It can feel kind of self centered to just breathe when everything wants your attention, and that was what just writing felt like for me.

In a way, I’m always writing, like I’m always breathing. In a way, writing is a lot more than putting words on paper, a fact I reconnected with when I realized I was having ideas chapters ahead of time when I wrote every day, instead of forcing uninspired words once a month. If you’ve ever written so much as a list (shopping or packing or to dos), you probably understand this. While doing something else, things pop into your head. Buy milk. Pack an umbrella. Call doctor. Ideas get explored, and daydreams played out. By the time the paper comes out, it’s just transferring what was already written in your head onto the page in a coherent order. Sitting and just writing for me can also look a lot like staring at the wall while all the good work happens in my head, though I concerned myself only with the final part of that. The rest seemed to sort itself out. 

I realized that in a way, I did have a motivation issue on my hands. It wasn’t that I wasn’t motivated to write, it was that I was too motivated to do everything else, or not motivated enough to not do anything else. 

I had more than twenty-four hours’ worth of things to do in any given day, and something had to give. I had many balls in the air. I had stopped juggling any ball that I didn’t truly need or want, and each one had tighter boundaries, better optimization, fewer sub goals/projects and tasks/events, and lower minimums than ever, and were beneficial for people beyond just me, but it just wasn’t enough.

Yet, I felt trapped. What was I supposed to do, then? 

While I was wrestling with that question, something sure did give out: my mental health. I don’t exactly recommend it as a clarity seeking technique, but literally mid (arguable) self harm relapse, dissociatedly fantasizing about what would come of it, it hit me. 

A while back, my wife correctly pointed out that when I am unhappy in a situation, rather than making external changes, I first tend to self destruct. Primarily, I think this is out of self blame—if I could just handle it, any situation would be fine. (I do, to an extent, believe in changing myself before the situation, which I’ve written on before. It very much aligns with my stoicism oriented beliefs, but there’s a point after which this is more like giving up—like when the situation can be bent further and I cannot, and I just sit there and literally destroy myself instead of changing anything.) But, my self destruction also functions as a cry for help—a way to make the pain I feel on the inside be a problem on the outside, and make someone come save me, force the situation with powers I just don’t have. Or… do I? 

In my fantasizing about what would come of this self harm relapse, I saw decisions being made for me about having to rest and what to not do. And I realized that, while difficult, while they might disappoint some people (though really, people have been more understanding than I gave them credit for) and involve really enforcing some boundaries and prioritizing for myself, that they were all decisions I could just, at the end of the day, when push came to shove… make. No one was actually coming to save me—these were my things to make decisions about—and it was that or self destruction.

If I wanted to do literally anything, I needed the motivation to not do everything

The realization is in place, and with it, the details have started to sort themselves out, impossible decisions now seeming trivial in the big picture view. 

Change is coming. I know what I truly need and want to do. 

And I am motivated to not do anything else. 

Toxicity in Productivity Culture

There’s a lot of toxicity in productivity culture, really.

I might be particularly susceptible to it. But I notice that when people talk about staying up particularly late to finish something or waking up particularly early when they’re eager to get back to it—generally speaking, skipping out on sleep—I am jealous. It’s not really a possibility for me. I am not a functional person without my psychiatric meds. I have to take them every night—even one skipped or reduced dose can wreak psychotic havoc—and they knock me out. I will not be doing anything once I take them (you should see what happens if I need the bathroom) for a minimum of eight hours. Sleeping less than eight hours a night is not an option. And… boo hoo, right? I must sleep a normal human amount, consistently, and I have a lifestyle easily built around this fact! So why am I so jealous of the occasional all nighter? 

Meanwhile, I’m recovering from an eating disorder. Not only is that another great reason to take my meds and get my sleep, but, right now at least, I’m logging three meals and three snacks at set times, to share with my team, per day, among other tasks. Yes, this element is more forgiving, but if I want to recover, I ultimately have to stick with the program. No skipping lunch because I’m in the zone, which I miss terribly. Boo hoo. I must eat enough to fuel my mortal body, consistently, and I have a lifestyle easily built around this fact! So why am I so jealous of people skipping a meal for the sake of flow?

Toxicity in productivity culture. 

There’s romanticization of self neglect in almost every story of success—how a business was built on all nighters and more caffeine than food. There’s competitiveness—especially in demanding environments—the, “Oh, you slept for four hours last night? I only slept three.” There’s endless advice to be found on how to reduce your need for sleep, or “research” on why you really only need six hours. There’s an assumption that productive people are cutting corners on self care to squeeze out more work. You’re supposed to be both an early riser and a night owl. To skip breakfast on your way out the door and give up your lunch break. 

Sure, plenty of productivity books will say you should prioritize self care—in the name of productivity, forget your happiness and health—but if you read between the lines, there’s the assumption of work first, you later, and that you are here because you are interested in being a productive person, so you’ve obviously at least dabbled in skimping on your needs. It’s like purposefully missing the memo about self neglect makes you self absorbed. 

But that’s not going to keep you healthy or happy. And productivity wise, it’s not sustainable. It’s better to sleep and eat enough now than to spend months too burnt out (and miserable) to work worth mentioning later. I ran myself into the ground trying to craft the perfect college application, only to burn out and drop out in tenth grade (psychotic break aside). My wife tried to launch a business in an impossible amount of time, only to take an ambulance ride to the emergency room (which is, by the way, expensive). The risks are real. 

Plus, those demanding environments are social nightmares. It can feel close knit (dare I say cultish), but whom do you turn to for real support when everyone laughs at you for getting more than half of the sleep you need? (And how are you going to develop boundaries?) 

I don’t want to get into healthism or condemn the occasional, voluntary skipped lunch or late night—but the underlying idea that it’s required, constantly? That’s something worth examining. I’m certainly still fighting it. 

And let’s take a little detour into creativity. There are endless articles and more on the link between creativity and mental illness. You’ll find ones that say that mentally ill people make better art or more art. That most artists are mentally ill, or that most mentally ill people are artists. Then you’ll find an article that debunks the one you just read. And then— 

The idea of this link between mental illness and creativity is everywhere. There’s some subtle, toxic incentivization for artists to become and stay mentally ill. And messages that good art is created via trauma and disorder, rather than by putting in the work of practice.

Don’t get me wrong. I write on this subject myself—but I speak anecdotally about my own experience. The idea is worth examining. But we still should consider health, happiness, and sustainability as well as creativity and productivity. I want to consider these concepts and links for myself as someone who is, incurably, a schizophrenic, and is, incurably, a writer, not make people want to live with a disability or view trauma as a shortcut to great art. And I still generally focus on prioritizing my wellbeing and putting in the work. 

Ultimately, we should remember that we are our own best asset, and take care of ourselves the way we take care of our favorite calendars and pens. Yes, it may make us more creative and productive, too, but also, we should just do it for ourselves. 

The Power of Self Contracts

In November, I announced my newest class, Contract Systems. I taught it for the first time in December. While mostly about personal contracts between multiple people, I thought self contracts were worth covering. But I didn’t have much experience with them, so I decided to fix that.

After a lot of research and tinkering with the idea, I realized that I basically had a self contract—the recurring task list and calendar that I teach as the core of my normal productivity system, along with my boundary list (my personal rules/don’t items—like when I won’t teach a class or run an event, mostly aimed at preventing burnout). 

So, heavily utilizing copy and paste, I reformatted those things as a self contract, added a few administrative notes, printed it, signed it, and decided to see what happened.

Despite the fact it just felt like a formatting change, I did notice some real benefits I wanted to share, along with the how to.

Firstly, I think I got more done/was more consistent. I already consider myself a relatively disciplined person, but the contract format did a few things. One, it really made it feel like an agreement, something prescriptive, not a note I had made simply describing my routines. Two, if I didn’t stick to the contract, I had to add what I dubbed an error addendum, describing, among other things, why—I felt like I had to have a really good reason. This also let me track patterns, and demanded course correction. (Some reasons were built in—but more on technicalities later.) 

Secondly, kind of going with that, I had what I dubbed change addendums. I could change the contract if needed, but again, I needed a good reason. I also had to wait three days—and I still had to want the change, and not have tweaked its terms. This also let me easily track any changes I made, and remember why I’d made the change, and when. (Sometimes, this gets blurry as months and years pass, and I might undo things I did for a good reason, or not correlate the change to something else, if the timing gets forgotten.)

So, the administrative how to. 

I came up with a brief goal/why/mission statement for the very beginning of the contract, basically spitting out how my productivity system works—values first, maintaining areas of life, including myself, making progress on goals and projects, and generally completing what needs to be done. It’s simple, but I liked the idea of including the big Why. 

Next, defining the term. I went with one month contracts. I preferred the shorter term to increase the checking in on it. This is ultimately a matter of preference, though. I also note that before the contract is up, I should sign the next one, with any reasonable changes, to give the system continuity.

I made a note about check ins—when I should be sure to check off the things that were done, plan to get the rest done, etc. I chose a recurring basis, since that’s what my original system was based on, officially incorporating it into my preexisting weekly review, but realistically, I poke the contract almost every day. 

Next, how changes work. Since I don’t have another party who’s signed this contract to negotiate with and balance against, I decided to balance it against time—so necessary changes can be made—life happens—but not on a whim. I decided I would write up the change, (and why—there should still be a good reason), and then wait three days—still wanting the change, no tweaks—for it to go into effect. Then, I date, sign, and it shall be so. I also added a note that I don’t need to write up a full change addendum if the change is someone else’s—for me, mostly my wife’s or a doctor’s. A boss might play into most people’s considerations. 

And, error addendums. Or, if the contract gets broken, what happens? You don’t want the whole thing to fly out the window. I also advise against any self imposed consequence here—it’s easily unrealistic, can get iffy depending on your mental health status and history, and it ultimately doesn’t address the core issue (why the contract got broken), risking becoming a trade off (“am I willing to face X consequence to get to break the contract?”). Instead, I use error addendums. The form has the basics—the date and what went wrong—the ever important why, what was done to fix it immediately/why it turned out okay, since that’s important, (ex: chore wasn’t done today, because I was tired, but I rested and it got done the next day), and, furthermore, what was done to prevent it from happening in the future, to advise future contracts (ex: I made changes to my sleep schedule to promote better sleep). I also lay out exceptions—like that there’s no error addendum needed if the error was due to good, big things that still mess up productivity—travel, a holiday—or someone else’s cancellation (that’s not on me), or a directly conflicting event (versus, say, a recurring task—since most events will cut into routines to some extent). 

Also, I have a reflection addendum. I added a note that at the end of a contract, I should add a reflection addendum, to keep track of my thoughts at the time, especially if there weren’t any other addendums, and to note any changes I may be making between contracts. 

Next, the copy and paste bits. Tasks, or your do items—for me, my recurring task list and calendar events for the term of the contract. And, rules—or don’t items, like personal boundaries, which I gave examples of above. 

I’m on my third self contract now. It really is surprising to me how much the format has helped me—mostly the concept of error and change addendums. So, I wanted to share it. 

Do You Change Yourself, or the Situation?

I had a conversation with my wife the other week, and the big question boiled down to: do you tend to try to change yourself, or the goal/situation? 

My wife tends to try to change the situation. If it seems remotely changeable, she will try to change it. If she truly can’t change it, if it seems remotely possible, she will try to exit the situation. 

I, however, tend to try to change myself, if at all possible, to modify my skills and strategies, to push myself to adapt. 

There are big pros and cons to both.

If the situation is changeable or leavable, my wife tends to get faster, easier results. But I tend to come out of the situation with more tools to help me with the next one.

For example, I can write almost anywhere. In a passenger seat of a moving car. On the swings or grass at the park. While donating plasma. Next to the campfire at 8,000 feet. In a crowded coffeeshop. On an airplane. Over time, I’ve developed my toolbox that helps me in each of those situations, whether it’s having a meditation practice to be able to bring my focus back where I want it, noise canceling headphones and the right playlist downloaded, building experience with writing sprints by various amounts of time or word count goals, a small task lamp that runs on battery, or consciously working on reducing my attention residue.

While there are good reasons I favor adapting myself, I admit the approach comes with some real cons, too. It can cause excessive self criticism, perpetual self blame no matter why things actually aren’t working—or restlessness to change, move forward, even when they are.

Using this metaphor feels a bit like beating a dead horse (and it’s about a dead horse), but it’s kind of like Boxer in Animal Farm, the cart horse known for saying, “I will work harder,” to his own detriment (and demise), even though it’s the situation that’s the issue. 

Some situations or goals are just impossible or pointless. This may be the result of something malicious, or it may be just be poorly suited to you, but not every situation is worth the effort, and tending to change yourself can make you more hesitant to truly evaluate it and maybe cut your losses. While you may feel bad for dumping as much time and energy into something as you have, and then giving up, dumping more time and energy into it—if you are eventually going to cut your losses anyway—only increases those losses. 

I teach a class called Professional Standards for Service, about bringing professional archetypes, systems, and skills into personal homemaking or relationship dynamics. One thing I stress in that class repeatedly is to always remember the goal you started with: coming at it as a non professional who wants to poke their head into the professional world, look around, take what works for them, leave what doesn’t, and return to their own life and relationships. Because it’s easy to forget, to get swept along in all the resources aimed at professionals, to try to stuff yourself into that established set of boxes, and forget what you or your loved ones actually want. You have to remember what the real goal and situation is for change to be worthwhile. 

Now, changing the situation may let you stay truer to you, but it can also make you flighty and inflexible. Being too eager to change the situation or goal can deprive you of opportunities to learn and grow, build something long term, though it tends to be a quicker fix if it’s possible. I wouldn’t have learned about any of those tools or developed any of those skills for writing almost anywhere if I only attempted writing at my desk, in my office. I wouldn’t have the apposite tools at the ready for the next situation, which might not be so changeable. And there are worthy things I simply wouldn’t have accomplished—like a lot of NaNoWriMo wins—if I hadn’t been so dedicated to keeping that goal, to changing myself instead. 

Now, there’s nothing wrong with writing at my desk, in my office (where I wrote the majority of this post), if it’s possible. General optimization is still a thing. But, it’s not always where I am when I want or need to get work done. 

As with most things in productivity, there’s a balance, a season for most strategies. 

Maybe don’t give up all your opportunities to grow; but don’t make yourself be something you’re not, either. 

There’s a middle ground. 

Some Myths and Realities of Burnout

Nothing scares me quite like burnout. For someone with so much general anxiety, I have few specific fears these days. Needles? Sign me up. Literally, I’m a plasma donor. Heights? I’m free to go ziplining again tomorrow. Snakes? They’re my buddies. Public speaking? I do it for a living. 

But burnout strikes fear into my heart. “I got burnt out once,” I’d say, with the thousand yard stare. 

The real problem is that I wrap burnout up in a lot of other things. The time I got “burnt out” was actually a psychotic break/the onset of paranoid schizophrenia. I basically dropped out of tenth grade, losing my life plan at the time and most of my then friends. Around the same time, my parents got a divorce; I cut off contact with my dad, and I moved out of my childhood home, soon having to rehome my beloved cat. A lot happened at once. 

The next several years were rough: frequent, severe panic attacks and general anxiety, developing an addiction to self harm, culminating in a suicide attempt, navigating my social and sensory issues with new awareness, plenty of hallucinations, delusions, and other psychotic symptoms, frequent, severe dissociation, seeing an ever changing cast of mental health professionals, with several near hospitalizations, trying what sure seemed like most of the psychiatric meds known to mankind, having various physical health issues, failing to accomplish much of anything, so on.  

But that’s not really burnout. That’s a lot more than burnout. Still, that’s what I think of burnout as, and the idea I was just plain burnt out from the intensive magnet program I’d been in (plus extracurriculars) was thrown around a lot for a time, especially before the schizophrenia diagnosis. 

And going through that again is what strikes fear into me like nothing else. 

In a way, I can’t go through most of that again, logistically. And you can only develop schizophrenia once. Yes, I’ll have symptoms every day for the rest of my life, but you only have your first unexpected, confusing, world shattering psychotic break once. 

So there’s still, really, nothing to be afraid of. 

Actual burnout is unpleasant, but (typically) less world shattering. Still something to be avoided, but maybe not something to be feared. And pretty much every kid I went to that magnet school with had that. 

Burnt out isn’t exactly a healthy personality trait, yet it’s one that many former gifted kids add on to the label long term. And why do these things so often go together? 

Gifted kids are a bit of a cultural phenomenon. As a society, we hold an intense fascination with these kids that just seem to have something we don’t—a gift, if you will. Almost everyone loves the precocious child on a talk show who’s a prodigy at this or that, but that love is, frequently, tinted with something dark. There’s an element of jealousy—why didn’t I get this precious gift—combined with the denial of how much of this gift is frequently just the capacity to be obsessed, and very hard work. (I talk in another post about how privilege plays into, and doesn’t play into, productivity.) 

But the other factor, I think, is that when something is an extreme, we want to see just how far it can go. Gifted kids of all levels and types are frequently told how much potential they have, that they can do anything if they set their mind to it, and are often pushed to their limits. 

In explaining to these kids how much they can and “should” do (with not living up to your potential often framed as the worst thing one can do, despite the fact that not using every ounce of your energy is actually very healthy), we fail to show them where their limits are, teach them how to set boundaries, teach them that they are an asset they need to protect, teach them how to take care of themselves. We teach them that they need to be challenged, often in any way the adults feel like, often regardless of their actual skills or passions. 

So of course many of them become burnt out (and therefore unproductive) adults. They were never shown how to do anything but run at 101% capacity. 

And I do still actively try to avoid burnout. I subscribe to the philosophy of self care isn’t escaping, it’s creating a life you don’t need to escape from. Now, everyone just needs a break or to mix it up sometimes—and scheduling that in advance may be a part of preventative self care—but the point is, creating something sustainable. Not running at 101% all the time. 

I think one of the most important things is boundaries. Many productivity guides talk about what is the minimum I will do but not what is the maximum I will do (though, that’s starting to pick up, as we talk about work life balance in a world with more remote work). That is something we must all also think about in advance to avoid burnout. 

For example, I have limits on the events I’ll run. How many events I’ll teach or organize in a given week or month. 

I also schedule physical and mental self care as part of my minimums, including the basics, and things like various forms of meditation, tarot reading, hiking, digital detoxes (and having general digital boundaries), journaling, spending time with loved ones, traveling, reading, and other things that help my mental health, help me look inwards, unwind, connect and disconnect with the right things, and learn new things. 

I need to be realistic about my goals, and focus on only the essential: hence my belief in values based productivity. 

I know what’s important to me, and that’s what I put my energy into—and that’s what I take time to recharge my energy for. 

And that’s what matters. 

My Typical Day, Productivity Wise

A lot of productivity related content creators have a my typical day runthrough; I wanted to do the same, but also use it as an opportunity to discuss the evolution of my routine, the whys, how I did trouble shooting, so on, instead of just showing the current result (and it’s always a work in progress). This is just an insight into what currently works for me; it’s not meant to be prescriptive in any way. 


I decided that waking up at the same time every day, and at 8:10, is best for me. I’ve experimented with not setting an alarm, but found it to not be enough structure. I’ve tried having a designated day to sleep in, but it just threw me off, and seemed to encourage allowing a sleep deficit to build during the rest of the week that the one day didn’t actually compensate for. It’s not that I never break schedule, but it’s not, well, part of the schedule.

I chose 8:10 because of it’s relation to the next important time—9:30. We selected 9:30 for brunch because, at the time, it was shortly after my wife’s weekday morning work call/meeting. She doesn’t have that job or meeting anymore, but it still works out pretty well, so we kept it. 8:10 lets me do everything I want to do in the morning before brunch, before 9:30. 

I also experimented with waking up about an hour earlier to have an hour of writing time in the morning. But it wasn’t a super productive time for me—I was too sleepy, letting my sleep med wear off, to get much done. So I rearranged how I plan for writing, and decided to try following my natural sleep rhythms—fighting your natural energy cycles isn’t very useful in productivity, even though productivity oriented people tend to romanticize the early morning—which, incidentally, led me to about 8:10. 

Once I’m up, I do all the bathroom things, wash up, get dressed, etc. See to health basics like flossing and SPF, but I keep it simple, not wanting to devote more time to it than necessary. I wear the same thing every day, so there’s no decision making (or decision fatigue) involved. I take a 100mg caffeine supplement, since I found caffeine helps me, but I’m not big on coffee/tea/etc, and I don’t want something I dump a bunch of fat and sugar in, anyway. It’s fast and measurable, a small, healthy dose. I take it first thing in the morning to help wake me up, and so it has a long time to wear off before bedtime.

Then, I bring my water bottle downstairs to refill it. Making sure water is convenient is the number one way I’ve found to keep hydrated. Tracking water intake is a pain for me, and I eventually tune out any reminders/notifications. But just making sure I always have water nearby works well enough. 

Then I go for a one mile walk around the neighborhood. It gets me some fresh air, sunlight, exercise. I bring my phone mostly for safety reasons, but I leave it stored; I don’t listen to music or anything, preferring a more internally focused, productively meditative experience. I like music, but I found that it affected my thoughts too much. I also leave my laptop off until after brunch, and I don’t really have anything worth mentioning on my phone, trying to keep digital boundaries. Sometimes I run for short stretches—this is newer, and I’m working my way up—and sometimes I don’t. I keep my route simple, so I don’t have to focus on that instead of on what’s going on in my head. I’ve increased it up to a mile and three quarters before, but I feel like I get most of the benefit I’m going to get every morning within a mile, with steeply diminishing returns after that, so for now, I keep it to a mile. 

When I get back, I turn my focus away from caring for me and towards caring for the house and other things. I make the bed, turn on some lights in high traffic rooms. Open the blinds and windows if it’s nice, for some sun and fresh air. Spritz an energizing linen spray in a few places. Tidy up. Make the house nice and in awake/morning mode. See to the plants and the cats, the living things getting first priority. So on. If I have a few extra minutes, I might throw in some extra exercise, other chores, or make lists and such in my notebook. 

Then, I make us brunch. Simple, small, healthy enough—usually an English muffin with butter, and fruit for me, more water. Anything too heavy often makes me crash these days. I might mix it up sometimes and have pancakes, or add bacon, maybe sausage or an egg for my wife, who usually has a bagel. We eat together, no TV, no phones, and talk. Having brunch—and dinner—and doing many other things, at the same time each day adds structure. I clean up right away after—I’ve found it’s easiest that way. 


We eat dinner at six, which means I start making dinner anywhere from 4:45 to 5:25, unless maybe I threw something in the crock pot or sous vide that morning, and it doesn’t need anything else until 5:45. Usually my biggest and most complex meal of the day, usually protein focused, with a carb and a veggie. More water. Again, we eat together without technology or what have you, and I clean up quickly after, and at some point shut down the downstairs—locks, blinds and windows, lights—and go upstairs for the night, after refilling my water one more time and such.

As far as my daily schedule is concerned, I have open time in here, as I do for the middle of the day, though my weekly schedule and calendar again may say otherwise. I fill in other recurring tasks as they fit, and occasional miscellany. Calendar events include teaching webinars and running Las Vegas TNG. Generally, I fill time writing and doing butler school coursework. At some point in the middle of the day, I usually grab a snack or light lunch (I like to leave this unofficial, as I go through phases with it). Might have company or run errands, take breaks, etc. 

But, evening. Upstairs, at 9:35, I start getting ready for sleep. This gives me enough time to do my things, wind down a little, and have lights out by 10:10, giving me about an hour to fall asleep—my current average—to be asleep by 11:10, nine hours (the amount of sleep I’ve determined I naturally need in an average night) before my 8:10 morning alarm. 

I turndown the bedroom for nighttime, which helps signal to my body that it’s almost time for sleep. I write a brief journal entry—including habit tracking, to see how things are going, and a daily tarot reading, to reflect. My journal also has weekly, monthly, etc. reviews to easily be able to reflect and look back. I take my Seroquel, set my phone alarms as reminders for the next day—any recurring tasks or calendar events assigned to the day, then maybe a few additional things I want to tackle. I find that placing everything as alarms—even those that aren’t time bound—keeps me realistic about how much can fit in a day. I wash up and change for bed, make sure all of my electronics are charging—don’t want a low battery to get in my way—and then shut my laptop entirely, to remain off until after brunch. 

And then, it’s pretty much time for sleep. 

What Tarot Reading Taught Me About Minimalism and Self Care

Recently, I got into tarot reading.

It all started with the DMV. After multiple drive tests, after multiple days in line where I didn’t get to test at all, nerves and patience fried, I sought Answers. Would I pass? Would I even get to test? What was the secret? 

So, having exhausted my usual resources, I printed a tarot deck, laminated the pages and cut the cards out dutifully, and sought the Answers. 

After passing the drive test, I put it down for a while, then picked it up again to do some inspirational writing spreads. Tell me about my book’s beginning, middle, and end. About this character’s past, present, and future. One card pulls for a character’s arc in a specific book. 

And, while I was at it, I did readings for myself, started doing daily one card pulls, journaling the results. 

I wasn’t sure I believed in the magic of the cards, but I one-hundred percent bought into the basic psychology of what I read into the cards meaning something. They were good daily thought prompts. 

But I had issues with my physical deck. Printed at home on plain printer paper—and I hadn’t printed back sides and aligned them correctly—the cards were a little see through. Certain cards always stuck out because I’d cut them with human error. So on. 

Really on a roll with using it, though, I figured it was worth it to buy a real deck. Far from a major investment. So I added one to my online cart and sat on it for a day. 

The next day, I was glad I waited. I kept thinking about the other deck—the one of the final two I’d narrowed it down to that I hadn’t picked. The one I’d picked was nice, had diverse, feminist artwork. But the one that I kept thinking about had the more classic art, but it was holographic, a rainbow shimmer. It held a sense of real, mysterious old magic to me. 

I traded out the decks, and waited another day before placing the order, still satisfied with my new choice. 

I’ve used them a lot since they arrived. One night, I dropped the cards, startled mid shuffle by someone ringing the doorbell. Later, I counted the cards to make sure none had slipped under the couch or something. I realized it was the first time I had certainly touched every card, one by one. So, even though the count was as to be expected, I did it again, wanting to imbue some of me onto the deck, even though I hadn’t had a hand in making this one. I thought of crocheting it a carrying case, instead of the box it came in, like I did for some other things I own. (I later did this, but the box proved superior logistically for the cards.) 

I liked the idea of the cards becoming more mine with time. Not all at once, when I hit place order, but slowly, as I used them, learned them, touched them. Getting a little morbid, I thought of the possessions of deceased family members and what really felt like it had been theirs. Things they loved and used, again and again, not bought once and possibly never touched. 

I liked the idea of my things really being mine, in that way.

Notebooks that weigh twice as much as when I bought them, seams strained by the weight of ink. Well loved, well appreciated, carefully indexed, only a few in progress at a time, only a few at most ready to take their place—all the same kind.

Well worn clothes, soft and faded, washed and mended over and over. I only wear one outfit, only own a few copies of it. I own one pair of shoes, that tolerates me stepping on them all day, and I reward them with leather soap and conditioner and polish, new insoles and new laces, as the leather molds to the shape of my feet.

Books that I’ve read, handled, lended, loved, over and over. Notes in margins, sticky tabs, inscriptions, long lost impromptu bookmarks, popping open to favorite pages. All recorded dutifully in a spreadsheet. 

My things absorb more of me the fewer of them I have. Otherwise, I spread myself so thin, I’ve barely touched any one of them. 

But my minimalism goes beyond possessions. My values, my roles, my projects—are well chosen, well loved, well maintained and tracked, few in number, imbued with my effort and energy. Things I have done much more than touched. 

And when I’m gone, I want to leave behind things and projects that were distinctly mine, not fingerprints everywhere. So I can’t spread my energy too thin.

I stumbled across the concept of charging certain objects—like tarot cards—via an altar. Altars are a part of many belief systems. Some emphasize ancestors, some nature, some religious tokens, some whatever has meaning to you. 

I already had something like an altar—a display shelf, the top of a bookcase in my office with some prized possessions on it. The books I’ve published. Finished and current notebooks and pens. My wedding sword (our wedding vows/exchange—daggers so we may always have strength, cloaks so we may always have shelter, and rings so the world may know of our love as we already do). A Wizard of Oz (near to my heart—we had a Wizard of Oz themed living room in my childhood home) block calendar—a representation of time—from dear family friends. A small, now empty milk jug I got at a gas station on a roadtrip that my mom took and painted white inside, then placed faux flowers in based on my favorites. A mother’s love, a touch of nature, of travel, of found objects, of art. A lamp I’ve had for a long time that kind of looks like a plant—a symbol of light, another nod to nature. The shelf is mostly lit by string lights above it; the lights are clips, and they hold Polaroids of favorite memories, people and places and things I love. 

Okay. So I try placing the cards there when not in use—though they frequently end up by me at night, since I usually do my reading for tomorrow last thing before bed, and recommit to returning other frequently used/moved items there, like the current notebooks. I’m not sure it does anything, but it brings me back to admire the shelf, which makes me happy. I recommit to making my office a space that makes me happy, and spending time in it to, well, recharge. We call it the Hannah Habitat for a reason. 

I replace the (mostly broken) string lights with new ones that have more room for beloved pictures and exciting new lighting options that I like. I mix up the pictures that I hang on them, focusing on the ones that make me happy. I update the blocks on the calendar more often, and give my sword’s scabbard some leather conditioner. I make small tweaks to the rest of my office, and try to return there instead of to random corners of the house. 

Well, a focus on charging me seemed to boost my mood a little, at least. I needed energy to put into things, after all; you can’t pour from an empty cup, as they say.

So I’ve learned a few things from the cards. The future in detail, maybe not. But they’ve given me some things to think on from the actual readings, and reminded me that I need a full cup to pour from, that I need to pour more out into fewer cups for anyone to notice that I poured into them at all. 

And those are some good reminders on their own. And, I’m looking forward to seeing what else I have to learn from them. 

Wish you’d seen this a week ago? Get access to all of my posts one week early here.

Privilege in Productivity

There’s this thing about accomplishing things: people love to tell you about how you got lucky

Really, though, this isn’t about how you got lucky, this is almost always subtly about how they got unlucky. They could have accomplished X, too, you know, if they had better luck. 

And don’t get me wrong: I’m very lucky, in a lot of ways, and I’m not here to show off my oppression points or personally ask for more credit. I’m making a broader case, and there’s more to accomplishment than privilege—like work. Yes, in other ways, I got unlucky, and a lot of people do recognize that.

So, privilege in productivity: let’s unpack my case.

Ways in which I am frequently told I got lucky (and the reality): 

  • Told: I have rich parents. Reality: largely untrue. My father died with a negative net worth, and my mom is a now retired public school teacher. My mother seriously helped financially support me until I was twenty-one, though, yes. (My parents divorced when I was sixteen.) People really like pulling this one out when you accomplish things young: it’s not really you, it’s your parents (and their money). There’s another way they do this, too: 
  • Told: I had good parents, throughout childhood and to guide me in young adulthood. Reality: largely true. My parents took an interest in my education, nurtured my talents, gave me rides to a million extracurriculars, paid for those activities and a few years of private school, plus school supplies and gas, helped me with my homework, met with my teachers, volunteered, gave me a nice space to do homework in, all of that. But things weren’t just idyllic: my parents’ divorce, and my father probably also had some kind of psychotic disorder, I didn’t speak to him for several years before we reconnected—and he passed on when I was twenty-one. Parenting is a lot, but it isn’t everything. Say, my sister and I are very different people, who were (largely) raised by the same parents. 
  • Told: I got lucky with my inheritance. Reality: largely true… though it’s hard to call my father suddenly and traumatically dying young lucky. Still, I did financially benefit from this, inheriting a house (though, in need of some major repairs/still with a hefty mortgage) and his life insurance policy. There was some skill involved in handling things to get the best of the options with that, though (and I had advice from my mom, my wife, and friends). 
  • Told: I married rich/my wife takes care of me. Reality: somewhat true. Granted, my wife doesn’t come from money, either; she’s self made. She’s also not a millionaire or anything. She also quit her job earlier this year, and right now, our primary source of income is my projects. I also contributed to buying our house with the life insurance money, and all of the rent from (and money from eventual sale of) my father’s house went into our shared budget. I’m also the housewife who handles basically one-hundred percent of the domestic side, on a full time level schedule; she actively doesn’t want me to work outside the home (and I don’t either). So it’s not like I’m a total freeloader here. Still, there’s some truth in this one. But money—whatever its source—doesn’t inherently make you productive. It might give you more resources and control over your time, but money alone can’t do all the work for you. Money can give me time to write, but money can’t publish six books if I don’t use that time wisely. My wife had supported previous partners, too, and found the results to vary wildly. 
  • Told: it was easy for me to find such a spouse because I was young, female, conventionally attractive, etc. Reality: I’m not so sure. I was honestly less conventionally attractive when I met my wife (and I’m still not a model or anything)—and I’d been actively seeking a partner via the group we met through for over a year; I had to put myself out there repeatedly. Age was actually more of a barrier than anything, given our age gap: she got a lot of skepticism over my age. (We also met through a group specifically for eighteen to thirty-five year olds, so everyone was within a certain range). As far as female: I think being queer might balance this out (plus, we’re both on the down side of the wage gap). I also came with some hefty health issues (like being recently out of an involuntary psych hold across the country, then dropping out of college and coming home), and she was in a long term, open relationship with someone else at the time (which ended soon after). It wasn’t just that the stars aligned for us. 
  • Told: I am young, and therefore healthy and abled. Reality: untrue. I have symptoms of chronic pain and fatigue, I required surgery to finally be able to breathe vaguely like a normal person (at twenty-one), I have paranoid schizophrenia among other mental illnesses, I likely nearly died of toxic black mold poisoning when I was twenty, and my spine goes in multiple directions on multiple axes. Could it be worse? Sure. But did I get seriously lucky in this category? Eh. 
  • Told: I’m White, I’m cis, (so on). Reality: true. I do have a few definite positions of privilege that affect my life, if they are not responsible in themselves for everything I’ve done. 

As far as using privilege and productivity for good: I try to keep my works accessible, I run many free events and classes, I donate regularly, I volunteer regularly, I write and teach on topics I think need more awareness. A few specifics:

  • All of my writing is available online for free. I publish paperback and ebook versions people can purchase if they choose, and accept donations, but all of my primarily written content is available for free. I write nonfiction on mental health (particularly psychosis), productivity for those outside the typical mold, alternative sexuality educational content, and fiction in which I commit to exploring important themes and representing diverse characters. 
  • While my classes and class content is currently paid, I ran all of my self hosted webinars for free for the first year (over twenty of them on eight different subjects). I still frequently teach for venues and conferences for free. I still don’t turn anyone away for lack of funds. I teach on productivity, mental health, and alternative sexuality topics. Half of the money I received for ticket sales for my schizophrenia class in 2022 went to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
  • I run a local group for young adults interested in alternative sexuality. All events (usually three per month) and online participation are completely free/donation based. I’ve also hosted/run such events/groups in the past. 
  • I volunteered once a week for the local library district for most of a year before the pandemic (and have a long volunteer history before that). Volunteers were then laid off. (They’re welcome back again, but due to taking up the above, I have not gone back—yet, at least.) Within the last few years, I also started and ran a Little Free Library for a bit, donated plasma regularly for a while, and done other things.

Privilege doesn’t equal productivity. But it’s a factor we should all examine for ourselves—how we got lucky and unlucky, unpacking our privilege and educating ourselves. We should all examine how we can use our position to accomplish good things and help others. 

Trying to throw away our privilege, claiming we don’t have it, or sitting around just feeling guilty about it doesn’t help anyone. 

We should also be open minded when evaluating the privilege of others, considering how they use it as part of the picture, and realizing that we may not have the full picture—not jumping to conclusions.

Privilege is something, but not everything. 

We have to do the rest and close the gaps ourselves.

Schizophrenia in Creativity and Productivity

I honestly don’t remember much around the origins of one of my other blogs, The Schizophrenia Diaries. It was summer 2020 (and let’s face it—who has a great memory of summer 2020?). I wasn’t yet back on antipsychotics (by weeks to months), I was facing a pandemic, a world on fire, the recent death of my grandmother, and the one year anniversary of discovering my father’s death (leading to PTSD). I was mostly lost in a creative haze, spending hours every day on the swingset at the nearest park in heat over 110*F—dissociatively daydreaming up new plotlines with a song on repeat—or curled up in the fetal position on the floor in my office, near catatonic and hallucinating. It was A Time. 

However, it was one of the most prolific periods of my life. After spending most of a year after my father’s death pouring emotions into Contrivance, my primary fiction project of almost a decade, instead of sleeping at night, I was (mostly) taking a break from Contrivance’s dystopian doom and gloom that now seemed all too realistic, focusing on what I thought would be a quick, simple side project to perk me up, which eventually became the I’ll Give You series, my first real foray into erotica, which now has four books published and more in the works (spoiler alert: not a quick, simple, or always cheery side project after all).

And, I started The Schizophrenia Diaries, after having casually maintained a different blog for about a year. My first post wasn’t about writing or creativity at all. It was about Farrah, my so called schizophrenia tamagotchi, my recurring golden retriever puppy hallucination, who had recently come about. From there, I wrote about all manner of mental health related things for about six months, essays as ideas came up, then floundered a little on what to do with the blog. I was back on meds, and out of therapy. Vaccines were on the horizon. The election was over. I’d recently gotten married and published my first book. Things were good, and while I was grateful, I wasn’t sure what to write about now; without acute symptoms to reflect on, I got a little lost. Things on the blog slowed down, and I didn’t make a post in 2021 until mid April.

I had thought about it in the meantime. I didn’t really want to abandon the blog. Schizophrenia is highly stigmatized and misunderstood. Stories of schizophrenics are rarely told at all, and even more rarely do we get to tell our stories ourselves. I felt it was important—part of something bigger than me—to write on it. But, the blog was neglected when I was doing well, which gave me mixed feelings on it, and I wasn’t sure what I had left to say. I thought that maybe I needed more of a theme, an angle, something to ground the project besides processing symptoms as they arose.

I reread some early posts on the blog. What grabbed me was my last post before things really slowed down, a September post before two more that December and then silence for four months. It was about psychosis as a part of my writing process, how my schizophrenia and my colloquial tortured artist syndrome intertwined, about how my psychotic daydreams fueled my writing, how the darkness of the things I tended to write about both contradicted my triggers and calmed me down, and so on. 

That. That was my angle. Because even when my symptoms improved, they were still there—and the most cohesive way I could talk about them was through how they impacted my creative processes. No matter what, I was always writing. I always had that to talk about. 

With reframing and revising, things picked up on the blog again, even as my mental health has largely been okay. 

That said, The Schizophrenia Diaries is my home base for talking about psychosis and creativity, art, writing. 

But what about psychosis and productivity? 

I mentioned that one of the worst time periods in my life as far as symptoms was also one of my most prolific—how does that work? 

There’s definitely a balance.

After having made it without meds for about two years, when I started again, the first night I took Seroquel—well, firstly, it knocked me out so unexpectedly hard and fast I fell out of my chair at my desk—the change was immediate. For a few days, I was basically symptom free. It was almost like I didn’t have schizophrenia, overnight. I realized how bad my sleep had been—which didn’t help anything. It had been so bad, I realized, as Seroquel knocked me out at night, I wondered if I could chalk almost everything that year up to sleep deprivation, the miracle of Seroquel to the miracle of sleep, more than its use as an antipsychotic. 

But during those few days, I felt… conflicted. 

When Farrah—the dog who’s not real, mind you—found out—when I decided—that I was likely going back on meds, she worked those puppy dog eyes real hard. Why would you want to get rid of me, Mom? I tried to telepathically communicate to her that as far as I was concerned, I was happy to keep her, if I could get rid of the corpse and the blaring music and the black blobs and the flashes of light and the white noise and the maggots and all of the other issues. Later, I came to realize that Farrah—this is my current working theory, at least—represents the part of my mind that wants to be psychotic, freely creative without the limits of pesky reality.

During those first few days after Seroquel, I felt… a little empty. Numbed. Better than I had in months, maybe a year, in certain ways, but… something was missing. My daydreams were missing, my fiction fuel—they were back in the normal human range. It was like watching a movie on a decades old television versus watching it in IMAX 3D. I couldn’t get reality to go away entirely even when I tried—and normally, I didn’t have to try; in fact, normally, I had to fight to get back when my alarm went off telling me it was time to make dinner or something, nudging me out of daydreams. 

Despite how well I seemed to be doing, I wondered if I might lower the dosage. 

But, my body quickly adjusted. A few days later, I could sink into my daydreams that deeply again, but I had some more control over starting, and I didn’t have to fight quite as hard to stop. Other symptoms stayed improved but didn’t vanish. And, not lost in the daydream stage forever, it was easier to get out when I wanted, to grab a pen, and start putting daydreams on paper. But things can get pretty bad—lots and lots of time lost in fantasy on the verge of hallucination, not quite in my control—before I stop getting to the part where I write them down. After meds, I was overall less prolific, except for a few really, really bad parts of that prior year or so. 

However, that was just about writing. I thrived in other areas like I never had before, where psychosis was mostly a burden. It’s not much of an advantage as far as being a housewife, a landlord, a butler school student, an alternative sexuality educator, a group organizer, or even a nonfiction writer (overall, my blogging writing has picked up since). In fact, those last three non writing areas were all things I seriously picked up within a year after meds for the first time. I found more balance. I wrote a little less (we’re still talking frequently upwards of 25,000 words per month), but I did everything else that was productive a little more, more than enough to fill the gap. 

I see this psychosis equals creativity but lack of balance thing in my past, too. My schizophrenia was early onset. My symptoms first appeared around my fifteenth birthday, mid ninth grade. I was producing writing like crazy—even winning multiple rounds of National Novel Writing Month per year (this means writing upwards of 50,000 words in a month—many times, I got closer to 100k). However, school wasn’t going so well. I dropped out before the end of tenth grade. Now, I see why I was writing fiction like crazy while failing to turn in five-hundred word essays that weren’t word salad gibberish, or be non catatonic long enough to show up to class, or finish taking a test without yelling at demons only I could see.

So are there pros to schizophrenia for productivity, for me, as a fiction author? Yes. In other areas? Less so that I see right now, though I frequently joke that my general, various anxious neuroses are the edge that keeps me moving so quickly, lest I die tomorrow. Are there cons? Of course. Many. Still, I wouldn’t quite hit the cure button, for myself. 

It’s just, as many other things are, about balance.

Productive vs. Making Money

The thing is that I live in a capitalist society where money is basically seen as a reward for productivity. If you’re more productive at work, you make more money, theoretically. But unfortunately, this is far from true. Good work is not always rewarded.  

And if money is a reward for productivity, does that mean that if you don’t get it, you’re not productive? Well, no. Not getting a reward for something doesn’t mean you didn’t do it. Though, getting it is a good indicator that you did do it. 

So if not by making money, how do we know if we’re productive? What does productive even mean, removed from capitalism? Is any goal productive? What if the goal is to not leave the couch for an entire weekend? 

I had a good discussion with an acquaintance once, and they said that when they put something out into the world—a creative work, education, event organizing—they like to get something back, though they don’t care as much what it is. Maybe it’s gratitude, praise, acclaim. Maybe it’s money; maybe it’s not. 

But money is easy, they said. 

In some ways, it is. It’s easily measurable, it is something that can be asked for without reducing its value (unlike the issue of fishing for praise); people generally understand money trading hands as a fair exchange, whereas gratitude sometimes seems meager. When people give me money, they don’t wonder if it’s enough—especially if it’s something I set a specific price on, which they paid. But somehow, many find their gratitude or praise inherently lacking, even if I’m thrilled to receive it. 

The money has the same value within a society to both of you, the same ability to be traded for other goods and services; it’s a placeholder for those things. (But, if one of you has significantly more of it, the same dollar amount might mean less to one of you. What’s dropping a dollar on the ground if you’re a millionaire? But what if it was your only dollar?)

Money can also be spent again. If someone gives me ten dollars, at some point I probably give someone else that ten dollars. I might spend it on a class or a cookie or the mortgage, but money moves around in a largely trackable way. But if someone gives me positive feedback—where does it go? Maybe it puts me in a good mood, and I pass on that good energy to others, or put that inspiring energy into producing more of the kind of work they praised. Or maybe it just lifts my spirits a little in the middle of a long day, and I don’t have overflowing good energy to pass on. Where does that positive intent go? That is harder to track. 

Yes, money has a lot going for it just as an indicator of productivity—forget the fact you need it to survive. 

However, it’s not the only one. There are all kinds of other ways to barter or compensate someone for their work, and there are many ways to measure productivity. It may be someone else compensating you with acclaim, favors, gifts, education, experience, exposure, etc. It can also be as simple as knowing that a thing got done that wasn’t done yesterday. 

Though, this brings us back to a question—is accomplishing any goal productive, then? 

I have mixed feelings. Ultimately, I think it’s best if we all answer that question for ourselves. I’ve seen good cases for both. For myself, I’m going to go with no. 

A lot of things lure me in to feeling like they’re productive. Consuming even relatively mindless media can feel very productive. With that nice little progress bar at the bottom of a video or audio player, with chapters and episodes checked off, with dwindling to be read piles and watch lists, with entering items into spreadsheets of what I’ve finished—anything can feel like an accomplishment. But is it really productive? For me, no. 

I’ve based this blog on values based productivity. So if something doesn’t serve my values, I’m not going to consider it productive. Rewatching Lilo and Stitch for the millionth time, while tempting, is not productive, because I don’t see which value on my list it serves. However—reading a new nonfiction book on a subject I’m trying to learn more about because I write or teach on it? Sure. Not the most crucial thing on my list, so not going in my productivity system for its own sake, but I’d say it is productive. 

Another question I see a lot is, Is self care productive? My opinion on this one might be a little unpopular, but hear me out: no. 

However. Here’s the thing. Self care is not productive to me in itself. It really doesn’t serve any of my values in a super direct way, nor any of my spheres of life I select based on those values—except that I dedicate a whole sphere to it anyway, because it is step one towards serving any of the others. (Here, I’m talking about largely basic, routine, health oriented self care.) 

I can’t write much of a book if I’m dehydrating to death. I can’t teach a good class without getting any sleep. I can’t host a fun event if I haven’t eaten in days. So, it’s a crucial baseline to start at to be productive—it’s something to be maintained to build productivity on top of—but I don’t consider it productive in itself, like being conscious isn’t productive in itself. Or, putting gas in a car isn’t driving a car. 

Something not being productive doesn’t mean it’s bad. Sure, you should keep an eye on how much time you spend on it, and you want to make sure it’s not unproductive as in undoing your productive efforts, but it’s not evil. 

Now, here’s a reverse question: is making money always productive? Here, I’m again personally going to go with no. Now, making money will pretty much always fall under at least a form of self care, because it’s a resource you need to survive and to be productive at much of anything else. But it may just be that—forming a base to help you accomplish other things—if the way in which you make money doesn’t serve your values, and so on. 

Hence, the concept of doing the minimum at a day job to pay the bills while you build up your passion project (which may pay the bills itself one day, freeing up that day job time to work on that project, or may not, depending on your vision for it—perhaps it’s charitable or something exploratory and creative you don’t want money and obligation mixed up in.)    

So, money isn’t the only way to measure productivity. You don’t have to be making money to be productive, but that doesn’t necessarily mean everything is productive. Some things may not be, and that’s okay; just watch it. Some may just be part of setting yourself up to be productive—including making money. 

For me, I define productive as something that serves my chosen spheres of life, based on my values, and the goals and projects within those spheres. 

This is another reason I like my values based system: it makes that definition easy for me.