Productive Unproductivity

I’m going to try to make this quick because I’m running on 20% battery, and this is an impromptu post.

I mentioned this a couple of posts ago, but I want to go a little deeper, mostly because I ran across this on the Reddit, which was linked to from an AskReddit thread today. I have no idea if I’ve seen this before. What I do know is that it gels with a philosophy I’ve been trying to get better at living.

My job is mentally taxing. And emotionally taxing. And I sit at a desk almost all day, so let’s go ahead and add physically taxing.

But that’s ok. I chose this. My career has meaning.

That said, sometimes my energy is gone. If I’m not physically, mentally, and emotionally ready, I can’t do my job that well. And during the course of the day, sometimes you lose your spark. It happens. Nothing to be ashamed of.

But I still need to get stuff done.

Enter productive unproductivity. The basic premise is that when I’m not all there, I can do something that’s going to help me out when I am all there.

At work, this often amounts to me updating my CV. It’s a dumb task, but when you have to complete an annual evaluation, an up-to-date CV makes life easier. I also map out articles, lessons, etc. Not the mental work of building, just sketching. Then when I get back to it later, I already have a frame built.

At home, it’s trickier because I have a comfy couch. But I try to put a load in the wash, empty the dishwasher, etc. I’m terrible about these things, but I’m not as far behind as I could be.

But here’s where it gets even better: I made the decision to leave my job and current town a couple of months ago. I leave in a couple of weeks. Terrifying. Stressful. Etc.

And then a curveball happened: Turns out without something sitting right in front of me, I have zero motivation. I wanted to do nothing.

Then the summer came, and my yoga teacher went on vacation. And so did my backup yoga teacher. And so did my backup-backup yoga teacher. I’m officially out of yoga teachers. F#$%.

Nothing at work for me to be excited about. No yoga class to even give me after-hours plans. Also, I still can’t run. And no, I’m not going for a walk.

With some life stress, I basically lost 5 days to unproductivity, granted this was while I still had a yoga class to attend. I couldn’t concentrate at work. I couldn’t really read or watch shows I enjoyed. I just sort of vegged out, killing time.

And it pissed me off. My brain was running past capacity and nothing was getting done. I was sinking into other bad habits that could easily become problematic. I was done. That crap had to stop, and I was going to force good decisions down its throat if it killed me.

There’s a line from a Mountain Goats song: “I’m gonna make it through this year if it kills me.”

That was the point I hit. I was officially done with my own BS.

What did I do?


I did a lot of yoga. Excepting the Super Awesome Month of Yoga, I haven’t been this active in yoga since I first started 8 years ago. With all the constraints that work and graduate school had, I just couldn’t maintain. I did a better job where I’m living now because I started going to a studio, but even that maxed out at twice a week most of the time and often only once a week.

I’ve been attacking yoga with a vengeance. I’m sure there’s some crap about loving kindness I’m supposed to follow, but I’ve been doing yoga out of spite. I’ve been doing my best to pour out sweat. I keep the AC set in the 80s while I’m at work, so I’ve been leaving it alone when I get home so I could enjoy a good sweaty yoga session.

I made a Quisto-shaped puddle. #yoga (#ashtanga) for the win.

A post shared by Quisto Settle (@applications_of_randomness) on

I’ve pushed myself hard enough to leave my shoulders barely functioning. But I’m getting better. I’m getting more flexible, stronger, and more mobile. And my brain’s better about shutting up on days I do yoga.


So many salads. One of the things I can never quite forgive myself is knowing that I don’t need to try that hard to lose weight. And yet I’m not.

‘Cause I’m lazy.

Another spiteful, good decision. For the past month or so, I’ve eaten salad at lunch most days. There’s always meat on them, and I get things like mac and cheese with them sometimes to ruin the effect, but I’m still eating salads. So many salads.

I’m almost hoping I can trick myself into thinking this is what lunch is supposed to be, and to a certain extent I have. When I deviate, I pay for it because my stomach is accustomed to the nothingness of salads, so things like the nachos I had yesterday weigh me down.


This one is a little trickier. I’m not reading as much as I’d like still, but I’m reading more than I did in my funk.

If nothing else, I’m getting consistent again, so you take your wins where you can get them.


This includes listening and playing.

For listening, I’m letting myself dwell on songs and I’m being active about finding new songs for playlists. It lets that anxious part of my brain that needs something to do act out in a productive way. Some of the gems I’ve found recently have been Cory Branan, Charly Bliss, and The Low Anthem.

When I’m in a bad mood, I’ve been letting music be a way for me to feel it without throwing a brick at someone.

For playing, I’m just playing. And playing.

I’m going after songs. I’m trying to be loud. I’m trying to be delicate. Mostly, I’m just trying to push every emotion I have sitting in my body out through a song. I’m sure my neighbors have appreciated me alternating covers of Against Me! and The Avett Brothers. My fingers haven’t stopped being callused since I was a teenager, but I think I might be finally trying to draw blood now.


You’ll notice an uptick in my writing around the Puddles of Sweat post. Without races, I wasn’t writing on this blog regularly. I was keeping my book review blog more active, but even that one had taken a temporary dive.

I keep up this blog. I keep up the book review blog. And I also keep up my own personal writing that I don’t share quite as readily.

But in all three, I’m trying to find the words to convey what I’m feeling. I’m trying to put absolute sincerity into it, whether it’s in telling you I made a Q-shaped sweat pile on my yoga towel, telling you how amazing the Ms. Marvel series is, or writing a short story based on a random encounter that one time.

So I let emotion out as I sweat. So I let emotion out as I play music. So I let emotion out as I write.

Summing it all up

I’m down to 11% on a laptop that likes to die at 8%, so where is this all heading?

Stress is pushing me to do something. I had the option to make good decisions or bad ones. I made good ones. I feel like I made good decisions for bad reasons, but they’re still good decisions. In six months, I’ll be able to look back and see the work I put in even when I wasn’t feeling it.

You can’t get time back. So if you can’t quite be yourself, why not make good decisions anyway so that when you’re yourself again, you won’t be set back?

Ok, that’s it for me. Keep it real, weirdos.