In startup culture, there's always this collectivist mindset that I find quite interesting. Colloquially, it's known as the 'hustle' mindset—the notion that every single one of your actions ultimately has to lead up to some greater goal, or else it's a waste of time.
Like many other things in life, there are a lot of sides to this one specific coin; this way of thinking makes up the overwhelming majority of founders out there, and it can provide sustenance and motivation for those that might need external validation—having an inner voice that constantly tells you to do something tangible can be pretty sweet. But on the other hand, it can be overwhelming purely because of the idea of excessive productivity; can one really work 24/7?
I'm not here to talk about the limits of humans and productivity, but I feel the need to talk about this specific idea of mindsets within the context of time management a little bit, because of an interesting experience that happened quite a while ago.
For most of my life, my work (both professionally and as an amateur) has been focused on specifically creating products and projects that others can use. Things like CLIs, languages, startups, designs: things that I can touch, feel and actually interact with. That's the reason that I got into programming in the first place; bringing out fundamentally intangible ideas into the real world. However, over the years, an increasing percentage of my work's become intangible in that physical sense—as I start to pivot to a more business-faced programmer mindset, many of the decisions that need to be made have to do with abstract ideas, not actual products themselves. I needed to engage in deep thought about things like optimizing human systems, legalities of product direction, and the list goes on and on (it still hasn't ended). Generally, engaging in this type of deep thought doesn't yield the actual tangible results that I used for validation as a highly technical individual—thinking about humanity is interesting, but only under highly specific circumstances will you ever end up with a specific end result that you can show to others.
In the beginning, I started to think of those kinds of decisions as wastes of time for the exact same reason that I saw the humanities as useless. They didn't provide me with actual skills that I could apply to specific problems explicitly (that last word being the operative). However, as time went on, the way I fundamentally thought started to change. The philosophy and ideas that I developed purely as a side effect of needing to take those high-impact decisions influenced the way I made decisions on other parts of my life—from being able to holistically analyze technical ideas for projects beyond just the technicalities to figuring out if someone's worth a coffee chat. Deep thought might not bring immediate effects, but the fundamental intangibility of it means that you gain something more important than just raw skill and talent: you gain perspective.
Ultimately, I think all of it boils down to the core idea that the definition of productivity shifts based on the environment that one is in—not merely tasks or actions completed. Productivity isn't just about creating and building, it's about enriching yourself as a person. Humans absolutely love to quantify things; it's an innate feature of our evolution. But in the modern age, as staying sane starts to get increasingly difficult, I think it's finally time we get over the quantification era of our brains and truly embrace "unproductivity."