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  • Tracey Kyles

The Illusion of Productivity and Greatness: Hustling and Perceptions of Superiority

Hello, reader. Today’s post is more of a thought-provoking discussion, less based on science like many of my other posts and more based on thoughts I’ve had about productivity. I figured I could procrastinate a moment and get things out.

So, this morning I woke up in my hotel room, I decided that, before I start the many research papers I have to work on for this week, I wanted to start my day on Facebook to see what people sent me overnight. I couldn’t help but think to myself about the stigma of social media and its detriments to productivity. There's always this mythos I feel like I've often been told that driven people do not start their day on social media, and therefore, you should never spend any of your first hours on social media. After all, it's this horrible procrastination tool that brainwashes us and takes away our precious motivation. And don’t get me wrong, I’m more than aware of its addictive properties. After all, that’s part of what I study, but let me be honest and say that social media has been my savior for my sanity this far into the semester. I need those small moments where I’m not buried in conceptual topics about the psychology of communication. I need to start my day with small things to feel good about before I dive into the larger concepts. As long as I am not on for hours and not writing for my papers, that shouldn’t be an issue.

But that also had me thinking about those nuggets of inspirational advice we’ve likely all come across on our feeds. You are probably aware of those messages that are supposed to help you become a more inspirational version of yourself. They are often shared on business sites like LinkedIn, though a few may have slipped onto Facebook or Twitter. “Hacks to become successful” “Secrets motivated people know.” and the list could go on. I’m sure many of us are familiar with the term “hustle culture.” But is it really that healthy to be obsessed with all work and no play?

All of this thought of hustling and arbitrary rules of when to use social media had me thinking of this all as nothing more than an impression. Are we pushing this narrative to build an impression of ourselves to others? To explain my point, we’ve probably seen the timeless quote, “Great Minds Discuss Ideas; Average Minds Discuss Events; Small Minds Discuss People.” As inspiring as the quote is, it’s actually not even credited to anyone, but it’s regurgitated with many random figureheads in history cited for it. But what does it say about intelligence? I don't necessarily imagine a big-brain person is going to be talking about nothing but ideas and theories with others. As Ph.D. students, we certainly show a better capacity for larger ranges of ideas, but in our downtime, we’re talking about the “smaller” things too. It’s tiresome to think about nothing but theories all day, so it’s healthier to have a range of conversations when your mind needs a break.

And if I may add my opinion, I feel most of those inspirational pieces of advice that serve to transform you into a motivated person only provide a psychological placebo. It just serves the purpose of building an ego, making you feel better. You’ve overcome the hindrance to progress that is social media, or you’ve demonstrated you’re better than average minds when you're above gossip. But the truth is, the smart people around me demonstrate a range of thoughts. It goes back to something I've taught myself in the past, which is if you constantly have to prove to yourself how smart you are, that just means you're insecure about it. The truth of the matter is that leisure is just as important as work, helping people refresh their minds and improving productivity.

I should additionally add that I am aware of the phenomena of social media addiction. If a person finds that they can’t pull themselves away from their activities online to resume their responsibilities, that’s something that is worth addressing. Nonetheless, it’s still not a testament to the intelligence of the person.

Here’s an even better argument against hustle culture:

With that being said, here’s an example of a more reasonable list of advice to help improve your performance and reach goals:

Also, more advice on why downtime is just as important as “hustling”:

Anyway, this was just more of a brief opinion piece based on some arbitrary morning thoughts. Work hard out there, but please get some rest.

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