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How to Be Productive in a World on Fire

Firstly don’t.

But if you must, you could try a few different things. When you’re trying to be productive in the midst of so much out of your control like global pandemics, mass shootings, unstable financial markets, focus on what you can control. Which, I will admit, is a rather futile endeavor.

You have value. Like as a person, to the world, to your apartment, to your pets. We need to start there. Even if by the edges of your fingertips, you ultimately control your perception of yourself.

Once that fact is established, you can reclaim some of your agency. You may not have power to get the Senate to pass legislation or markets to behave or the ownership of a certain ornithological website to remain out of the hands of a super villain. But you do have more control than you might believe you do.

Next is to start with something small. Remember, in the grand scheme of things you only need a few things to actually survive:

  1. A little sunlight, by going outside for a few minutes
  2. Something to drink and something clean to drink out of
  3. Change into clean underwear at least every 36 hours
  4. Science says you should eat at least one cookie every 72 hours or your lymphatic system could shut down.

Most of those things you should have control over and most of them should be low stakes enough to make time for. If you can’t, there’s likely something larger or more systemic barring your entry. So please, eat a cookie, wear clean underwear, and maybe drink water. A little Vitamin D wouldn’t go awry either.

The rest will follow. Beyond that, you don’t need to prove yourself to anyone.


A couple years back I wrote a blog post about self-care that’s a little more serious in tone and personal in substance, it was written pre-pandemic.