The Origins of “A Productive Hannah”

It’s hard to trace where my interest in productivity really began.

I was always the kid with a million extracurriculars and projects, and I always needed a way to keep track of it all—plan to get it all done, ensure it was getting done.

Really, though, I think it might have begun with writing. I decided when I was about three that I was going to be a writer. And I got pretty much right on consuming resources about writing. And a lot of these incorporated elements of productivity. Since writing is, for so many people, a passion project or maybe a side hustle, squeezing it in around the demands of a day job—or school—was a common theme, not to mention handling any eye rolls at trying to prioritize time for the liberal arts. 

I remember, even in elementary school, trying techniques out, like waking up early (before school) to write (still not good at morning writing, I now blame sleep meds), or grabbing at bits of spare time when I finished assignments early in class or was waiting for an extracurricular to start (I stand by this, as it translates to my adult life). I could be found tucked in a corner at any family gathering or in any vacation hotel room, head down, notebook in lap; that was my trademark. That, and I brought cookies. Still true. 

I tried focusing on making my writing needs as mobile as possible, able to be done on the bus (handy), I tried color coding mixed writing and school tasks by priority (eh), I tried hanging giant pieces of butcher paper up in my bedroom with plot outlines and plans (still guilty), I tried one index card per chapter on my corkboard (eh, kind of a hassle), I tried a chalkboard (now a whiteboard person; the chalkboard was also painted directly on a textured wall, eh), I tried study groups (hit or miss depending on the crowd), I tried working in the library after school and taking the late bus (hassle, it didn’t come for three and a half hours after school, and it took another two hours to get home). Bullet journals (yes). Kanban boards (yes). Just about every productivity app (meh) and book (yes) known to mankind. Accountability buddies (yes). You name it. 

Productivity definitely started for me as a means to an end—which it probably should be, and it is. Eventually, though, I really became interested in the process itself. I think that this interest in productivity as its own thing rather than as a means to whatever end I was interested in at the time actually came about when I realized I had a knack for it, within the last year and a half or so. I was getting things done—consistently, well, on time, prolifically. I self published six full length books in sixteen months, including two in one week. In that time, I also taught dozens of webinars, maintained several online writing postings, hosted dozens of events, managed a rental property, worked on butler school coursework, and was a full time housewife. Among other things. (Still letting a lot of that sink in.) 

And so, after wrestling with it for a long time, I didn’t really think about my systems too much anymore. I still drank up productivity books like water, but just because they were still interesting, not because they frequently gave me much to change. But then people started asking me for advice. My inbox became filled with questions, or, Have you considered writing/teaching on this? Friends came to me when they hit a roadblock. Off to the whiteboard. My wife, once my productivity mentor of sorts, came to my productivity webinar and wanted followup: back to the whiteboard. 

I am sometimes slow to accept when I might be good at something—it has taken me most of my life to let it sink in that people other than my mother actually seem to enjoy these words I’m posting on the Internet—but once I do, my first instinct is to share it. Write. Teach. Mentor. 

Besides passion and skill, some people have pointed out to me that I fill a few niches in the productivity world that have openings. Among an important few: I do creativity based work, I’m in a full time alternative sexuality relationship/am a childless housewife, I have paranoid schizophrenia among other mental and physical health challenges. Others: I’m not straight, I’m a woman, I’m under twenty-five, I’m essentially a high school dropout. I definitely realize that “happy and productive” doesn’t look the same for everyone, and that everyone has unique challenges to getting there. 

So here I am. 

More than just the how, I’m mostly interested in the whys and philosophy of productivity. What is productive? How does society shape our idea of what productive means? What do we associate with productivity, and is it correlation or causation? How does privilege play in, and how does it not? How do you choose what to do? Why is it important to be productive at all? What are the correlations and the trade offs between productive and happy? How can a challenge also be an advantage? Things like that.

So that’s a little about me and the angle of this blog (there’s more on the About page if you’re interested). 

Let’s get to it. 

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