Americans are quite obsessed with the idea of productivity. A quick google search will lead you to a billion articles about fighting procrastination, optimizing your work flow, and prioritizing tasks. We believe that if we just accomplish a little more, we’ll achieve all our dreams and be validated in our pursuits. Productivity is a sort of individualistic moral cause in that while we can choose what we want to do, the only sin is to not do it efficiently.
While I don’t have anything against productivity techniques per se, it is overly focused on doing something, which is only one half of the equation. Not doing anything can be equally important.
To explore an alternative to modern productivity culture, I chose Taoism. Taoism is focused on living according to the Tao, “the totality of natural processes.” Taoists believe that nature has it’s own way of doing things, and it is senseless to try to work against the Tao. To cross a river you don’t swim upstream. You let the current guide you. Don’t force it.
- Lao Tzu is considered to be the “founder” of Taoism as his teachings were aggregated into the classic Taoist text, the Tao Te Ching circa 4th century BCE.
- Wu-Wei, loosely translated as “non-action,” is one of the core idea in Taoism. It teaches that not forcing thing, or not going against the Tao, is often the correct path.
- Taoism is fond of paradox, often saying that we must try to not try, be both strong and weak, and to seek knowledge by not seeking knowledge
In a Modern World...
The lifehacker productivity culture is all about trying to force things to happen to improve your life. But when these methods fail or lead to marginal results, we become frustrated with ourselves and either give up completely or double down and try to find some other magical method to make us productive. But Taoism teaches that we shouldn’t force things, and that there are times to put in a strong effort, and times to not do anything at all.
My 30 Day Experiment
My Practice: Practice Tai Chi, take nature walks, and work naturally