Productivity: Enemy of progress?

Working in Silicon Valley and teaching yoga in San Francisco, I can imagine students who walk in to practice have a few things on their minds: a recap of the day, a plan for tomorrow, perhaps a seed for the next great start-up - or a load of stress from not having built it yet. Tension may creep down from the head and into the neck and shoulders, or further. Depending on the class type, yoga can feel like a refreshing swim or relaxing soak, restoring the body and mind. Until stress returns. Then you practice again.

I came across an piece discussing psychology research that found that people who framed their efforts to value progress instead of productivity reported more positive feelings about their actions. In it I read a strong connection to the work we do in yoga: cultivate awareness by practicing steadily with clear intention. Over time, states of focus or mindful exploration grow richer and more accessible. Holding a well-aligned plank pose for longer and longer periods, for example, may lead to balancing in handstand or not; planking anyway develops physical strength, sensitivity, and mental capacity to face longterm challenges useful far beyond achieving a pose.

The article takes a hard look at procrastination, refuge of the perfectionist, and how, through awareness, one can progress.

From the article:

Procrastination is a particular problem for entrepreneurs, who often must tackle work in which they have no experience and no familiar starting point. And of course, when you are responsible for everything, there's always something else you could be doing. Many consider procrastination a moral failing, a weakness of will. But Timothy Pychyl, a professor of psychology at Carleton University in Ottawa, Ontario, calls procrastination an “emotion-centered coping strategy.” He suggests that if you understand what's motivating (or — more accurately — demotivating) you, you can begin to address it. “Many of these emotions are not conscious,” says Pychyl. “So the first step is to have some awareness of how you are feeling. ‘Why do I keep not wanting to do this?’”

[Mindfulness] concentrates attention on the qualitative, rather than quantitative, aspects of work — why am I doing this? instead of how much of this am I doing? “To me, productivity is the wrong focus,” says [Adam Grant, professor at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business]. What you want is to be maximizing quality or usefulness. “I think a lot of people accept the goal of being productive,” says Grant. “And that's counterproductive.”