Earlier today I sat down with my seven year old daughter Grace to ask her a little bit about the things I do and the things she does – and wants to do – in the future. Me: What do you think productivity is?
Grace: It’s an activity that’s a product.
You know, she’s not too far off with that definition. When defined as a noun, productivity is the product of whatever our activity is in certain – or several – aspects of our work and life. Depending on how we engage in that activity, the resulting product will be greater or lesser. So our everyday activity will determine the product. The idea is to make the best product we can.
Me: Do you have a to do list?
Me: But do you have things you have to do?
Grace: Yes. Like cleaning.
Me: So you clean without having to have a list to tell you to clean. Why do you clean without having to have a list to tell you to clean?
Grace: Well, you and Mommy tell me to sometimes. But mostly because I want to play in a clean area and not have to worry about running into stuff.
Even kids need to have time and space to make the most of what they really want to do. And even though we ask her to clean up, she says she mostly does it because of her desire to be able to do her thing in a clean space. That’s important to her, which is why she really doesn’t need a list to make sure it happens.
Me: What is a task?
Grace: Something you want to challenge yourself to do.
Me: Not all tasks are challenging though, right?
Me: Do you like doing tasks that aren’t challenging?
Me: Why not?
Grace: They’re too easy for me. Because sometimes when you do something that is too easy for you, it gets boring.
After we finished chatting, she asked me why I chuckled when I asked her what a task was. I told her it was because I liked what she said a task was and that I wish more people did that. I told her that often people think of a task as any one thing they have to do – challenging or not. She looked at me like I’d said something crazy. I liked that even more.
Me: If you could do anything all the time, what would you do?
Grace: I would probably play.
Me: You’d play everything?
Grace: Some things.
Me: Like what?
Grace: Play wizards, movie stars, play cars with Colton, play guitar, sing, and dance.
Now my daughter haas an iPod Touch, but the only thing she’d have to use it in tandem with is the singing and dancing. Everything else is both imaginative and analog. Some of the questions I asked her later gives me hope that shell be able to “probably play” for most of her life.
Me: Do you like chores?
Grace: I kind of just like cleaning.
Me: What chores don’t you like?
Grace: Scraping plates and clearing the table.
Me: So you’ll be asking us if Colton can do those when he’s old enough, right?
(Read: She’s already got outsourcing on the brain. I seem to be raising a productivityist after all.)
Me: Do you have enough time?
Me: Are you busy all the time?
Me: Would you want to be?
Grace: No. Because I’d want to have time to spend with Colton and my friends.
I hope I can instill this in her on an ongoing basis. Busy doesn’t equal productive. In fact, I think she’d get bored being busy all the time.
Me: What do you want to do when you grow up?
Grace: Be a teacher.
Me: How will you do that?
Grace: Of course, go to school. And I probably try to pass the tests they give because I really want to be a teacher.
If she makes this happen, she will get to play…a lot. It won’t always be easy play, either. It will be challenging play. But it will be play. And that’s great.
Me: If you could teach one lesson to people right now, what would it be?
Grace: Be helpful to others and not to hurt others. And music. I’d teach them music.
Me: And you think that would be the best use of your time?
Grace: I think so.
I loved this answer. She’s using her instincts to answer the question but isn’t absolutely sure that it will be the best use of her time. We all deal with this. We can only go with we can connect with at any given time. Writing this piece right now might not be the best use of my time, but I’m doing it because it feels right. And while having this conversation with my daughter might not have been the best use of my time at the time, it sure did feel like it.
Regardless, I’m very glad that I did it.