The ongoing impact of this pandemic has been felt across the world, and as we learn to cope—those of us who've shifted to remote work are often burdened with not winning the multi-tasking Olympics.
Chivon John, wellness and mental health champion took the filter off productivity with Tennile of She is Epic and The SIE Fund Founder in an eye-opening Instagram Live discussion.
Chivon's life work is to help ambitious achievers redefine success and apply their work ethic to their wellbeing. She works as a full-time Wellness Specialist at Shopify and is the host of her Filtered Perceptions podcast.
When asked how she perceived the pressures of productivity, while also addressing a meme that was circulating online at the start of the pandemic, "If you don't come out of this quarantine with: a new skill, a side-hustle or more knowledge—you never lacked time, you lacked discipline."
She emphasized that productivity should not just be about producing a result.
"It becomes harmful when we have this one-size-fits-all definition of productivity. It doesn't acknowledge that everyone's life is impacted differently by this pandemic. It does not consider essential workers or other individuals who do not have the luxury of creating or going on Duolingo to learn another language."
Chivon further broke down the harm productivity culture can cause, "We are in a pandemic—it's not sabbatical. We have extra time because we are fighting a virus. We are conditioned to wanting to always be on the go. And rest has become this thing—we all know we need, but at the same time, still very much struggle with it."
Although we're all in the same storm, we're not on the same ship. As Chivon highlighted, we are all in our own boat trying to swim upstream, trying to figure things out.
"One person may use this time as a way to 'Uplevel' (their skills), but not everybody has that perspective or has the capacity right now to do so. We don't know what's happening behind the scenes for folks. We also don't consider that having stillness and rest is productive to some—taking this time to just step back. There's a lot of people who are now reckoning with the fact that their identity was very much tied into their title or what they were producing."
Chivon shared a quote from Glennon Doyle, "'There's a time for creating, and there's a time to become the person who creates.'
For some people, this is very much creation time, but it may be a time of intentional stillness for others. Maybe even take a step back to count whatever wins, whether getting out of bed today or answering one email. We assume that productivity is about producing a result and not necessarily about intrinsic motivation, such as the joy of learning and turning inward."
Which leaves us to determine if we need exercise or extra sleep...Tennile then asked, "When we talk about productivity during a pandemic, are we also talking about privilege?"
"I think so. If you don't have to worry about keeping a roof on your head or if you're able to work from home, it's a privilege. But when you look at it in the sense of productivity, do we really have all this time right now? And if so, it doesn't necessarily mean that we have the energy or capacity to deal with things."
Chivon John is a whole ministry, so start preparing your tithes now. We're just getting started.
Early in the interview, Tennile pointed out the flip side to productivity privilege and how this might not apply to those already dissatisfied with their life before the pandemic. And asked Chivon if, instead, this can be an excuse not to make the most of this "slow-down" period.
"I think that some people who recognize that there is an opportunity, want to change and make the most of this time, they still have to go through the rollercoaster period first. And just because we have "time", it doesn't necessarily mean that we have the energy or capacity. We're dealing with something so new, so different, and there are days where I'm like, okay, so I answered two emails. That's all you're gonna get from me today. And that's okay."
This pandemic is almost like a reset. Chivon shared, "What we know as our productive selves or what we thought of productivity back on January 1st, 2020 is not the same."
We can no longer measure success the same or compare versions of what we know of ourselves. We are all having to relearn how we get things done and what's important to us.
"I think that's one of the silver linings of this. This period allows us to take some steps back. And as someone who's been a wellness advocate for a while, I love that wellness is front and center right now—in everyone's lives—because we need that right now. We're becoming more aware and hyper-aware of the fact that if our mental health and wellbeing are completely off during this period, we're not going to be able to thrive through it."
Tennile agreed that there is a mental adjustment required to manage stress, trauma and the realignment of old habits. Which led right into the next question, "How can we embrace our journey and not the group-thinking of what to do during the time?"
Chivon's perspective on productivity will help set a lot of folks free, "One of the biggest coping mechanisms is to have grace and self-compassion throughout this entire journey. This is not the time to judge and put ourselves down or compare how we're fairing to someone else. When it comes to self-care, you need to know and figure out what works best for you. What makes you happy and what you really need right now."
As this is a forced reset for us all, Chivon advised that people need to be patient with themselves.
We do not need to put a timeline on when we think we should have it together. We're on the cycle of grief (shock, denial, anger, depression, acceptance etc.), we're grieving the loss of a lot of things, like losing loved ones and for many of us a way of life that was once familiar.
Chivon is all for those who want to "make the most of this time" but suggests people should clarify their motivations, do it because you feel that it's necessary—not because a meme told you too.
While some have already found their rhythm to flawlessly execute, others may still be in the fire.
"During this time, we have to be mindful of our mental health and wellbeing. If you do want to work on something, ask yourself if this is going to add more stress or help alleviate it?"
As Chivon elaborated, even if you don't accomplish that thing or finish the Duolingo course or whatever—the point is you still found value in the journey (of doing it).
And that's the key.
This is only part one of a two-part article! Would you believe me when I say this was only twenty minutes into an hour-long conversion with Chivon?!
Come back next week, when I share part two, Earning Your Rest, Chivon John on The Pressures Of Productivity In A Pandemic.
*This interview was conducted in May of 2020.
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