How to Have a Really Unproductive Day

Blog / Produced by The High Calling
Tobin Copley crumpledpaper square

I woke up the other day feeling a little bit, well - off.

I went about my business, though, figuring these things usually wear out as the day progresses. But it lingered. My mind was fuzzy. I could barely string two sentences together. I couldn’t concentrate. I felt lethargic and low.

Maybe it was allergies. Or I didn’t get enough sleep. Or maybe it was one of those mysterious biological-universe-circadian rhythm things, where the cosmos was blocking my energy force.

Okay, I just made that part up entirely.

Anyway, I pushed through the day at the office, making some lame attempts at getting work done even though all I really wanted to do was to lie down on the floor.

The day proceeded in slow motion. I took calls, but I hardly made any calls. I showed up for meetings, but mostly stayed quiet instead of contributing like I usually do. I kept looking at the list of projects that needed attention, but couldn’t think of anything to do. My initiative and motivation were curled up in a ball on the floor.

As the hours marched by, I felt not only lazy and tired, but also began to feel guilty. I noticed my colleagues as they energetically talked on the phone, chattering about projects, and holding important meetings. Why didn’t I have any important meetings scheduled today? There they were, on the phone, conferring in the hallways, getting things done. Taking names. Doing deals. Contributing. Unlike lame, no-good, unproductive me.

Layers of jealousy and paranoia were now settling on top of the malaise.

I called my wife and whispered my concern, looking for some quick therapy. “I feel like a waste product.” I confessed.

“Oh, don’t be so hard on yourself,” she quipped. “One off day isn’t going to ruin your career.”

“Are you sure about that?” I asked, finding it hard to believe while listening to the collegial laughter of my more productive comrades billowing out in waves from the conference room down the hall.

“Yes.” She replied firmly. “For goodness sake. You are allowed to have a really bad day. Now go take a nap and forget about it.”

As counterintuitive as those words seemed to me, at the same time they were a huge relief. The thing is, I get so focused on productivity that it becomes an overly defining aspect of my well-being. But she was right. Most of us are fairly consistent in our productivity and attitude 99% percent of the time. We are not machines. There are going to be moments when we waiver, when we are off, when we need some downtime maintenance. It’s okay to just let it be.

I did decide to sneak out of the office for a while to take a nap, then came back to work without all that extra pressure. I got a couple of small things done, fulfilled some obligations, but mostly took it easy. Tomorrow is another day, after all. A fresh, new day.

And guess what?

It was.

Sure enough, a little distance, a good night’s rest, a straight-up cappuccino the next morning, and I was raring to go again. In the first four hours, I more than made up for the listless day that had dragged behind me.

Despite what we’d like to think, we are not robotic pieces of machinery capable of switching on and off with a command. We are biological creatures, made up of molecules and enzymes and electrical synapses and lots of water, all of us sloshing around in a zigzag of magnetic force fields orbiting the sun, which is spinning around a gravitational pull in its own galactic frenzy.

Huh. So maybe there really is something to that biological circadian rhythm thing?

Post by J.B. Wood, an excerpt from his e-book, At Work as it is in Heaven: 25 Ways to Re-imagine the Spiritual Purpose of Your Work.

Image by Tobin Copley. Used with permission. Sourced via Flickr.