Along with “Have you had a good day”? how often are we asked: “Have you had a productive day” or “What have you done today”?

’Good’ as a measure or description seems open to interpretation since a day can be good for a number of varied and subjective reasons. But productive as a measure holds within it an implicit judgement. Have you done something useful with your life today? Have you been constructive? Applied yourself, achieved? Been energetic, focused? It feels as though a productive day is ‘good’ and related to success. So that if we haven’t been productive somehow we can’t have had a good day..

To be productive relates to being able to generate, create; bring about. So the question have you had a productive day is essentially “What have you made happen today”? But if we haven’t made anything happen in our day, how do we feel? Do we feel somehow as though we have failed, our day hasn’t been successful? Or if we’ve tried to make something happen and it hasn’t worked out and we look at what we’ve actually done compared to what we wanted, or set out to do, how does that make us feel? Do we consider effort and intention or do we measure with evidence, tangibles? Is the quality of a day to be found in what we have done with it?

Our sense of achievement is dramatically improved when we do something, particularly physically, with our own hands; something real and practical that we can see. That sense of pride in ‘look, I did that’. Whether that is a piece of art or the pile of clean washing-up (we finally got around to doing), we can see what we made happen. Evidence of our mark on the world; our self visible in the environment. Impact, effect. Tangible change, tangible difference; a manifestation of application.

Productivity is the outcome of applying our will, skills, vision and ideas and effecting and transforming reality into how we want to see it. Using time and energy, often to our own ends. It has high value in giving us a sense of our capacity to take control and direct things through our own volition. Or through concentrated effort where we have applied ourselves, stopped procrastinating, resisting or shirking and just got on and done what we’ve been avoiding. That’s highly productive. And that feels fantastic because we really have achieved something, we’ve ticked off something on the ‘to do’ list. We’ve made our self do something and we feel good about that. We can feel proud of our self. We haven’t wasted out day.

We all Iike to feel we’ve been productive, constructive, proactive and creative. For some, our values and identity and so our self worth are expressed through being productive. But productivity can be over rated. How about those good days when we’ve ‘done nothing’. Just been. Spent time with people or nature or sleeping or reading, enjoyed space and time for ourselves. The value in those days is that they are not defined by being productive. It’s not about measuring success or achievement. It’s not about how we’ve applied ourselves. We don’t need to transform reality, we are enjoying the present for how it is and don’t have to do anything with it, just be a part of it, still, at rest. Although we may feel guilty for not having been productive, sometimes we don’t feel like having to make things happen and this isn’t a bad thing.

The important factor to be aware of is judgement, and this is usually self-judgement, rather than that of the person enquiring after the quality of our day. Productivity, much like achievement is personal, so that for one person a major achievement may appear of little significance to someone else. We can feel pressurised in needing to describe and define ourselves by what we do rather than who or how we are.

We can chose to appreciate and identify what has been good about our day by defining our own values or measures, not overlooking the subtleties and positives and through valuing process, rather than measuring our effectiveness through product or output. Some things are not easy to define. We need to not under-appreciate the time not spent in action and where we can’t describe the things that we’ve done.

If a day has been a day when we’ve been ourselves and been content; that’s a significant achievement.