'Working Hard, Hardly Working': Let's Take a Look at the Issue of Productivity
By Milly Woods
I’d be lying if I said my eyes didn’t slightly roll when I heard fitness influencer and entrepreneur Grace Beverley (GraceFitUK) was releasing a book. Having followed Grace since her undergrad days at Oxford University, I greatly admire both her academic and professional successes. Although, I was a little apprehensive about what would be on offer in her debut novel. A 3 step guide to build a 6 figure business? The smoothie recipe you just HAVE to try? A 3 hour morning yoga routine?
Well, I am elated to announce that my fears were completely and utterly unfounded; Working Hard, Hardly Working is 217 pages of pure gold for GenZ-ers and millennials alike. With not a single smoothie recipe insight, Beverley tackles huge topics including finding your purpose, redefining productivity and the problems with hustle-culture, presenting each one with ease and humour; making them accessible to even the most reluctant reader.
I couldn’t do the whole book justice in a single article; I have decided to focus on the topic that was most pertinent to me: finding your purpose.
Beverley dedicates part one of her book to analysing (and criticising) the concept of purpose fed to us through modern education, media and culture. Particularly, the author challenges the idea that humans have only a single purpose and that finding it should be one’s entire motivation. This struck a chord with me as, for as long as I can remember, purpose has been sold almost as the holy grail and it didn’t occur to me until reading Working Hard, Hardly Working that perhaps, it wasn’t.
As a second year University student, now more than ever I seem to be asking myself questions about the future. “What do I want to do with my life?”, “Who do I want to be?”, “Am I doing enough to be ‘successful’?”. Whilst I know I’m not alone in my quest to have it all ‘figured out’, I don’t think we discuss these topics enough. Carving your path is a daunting task for any young person, and, in an age of social media, where this journey is also met with a bombardment of messages promoting ‘the hustle’ whilst simultaneously encouraging us to ‘slow down’, I would argue that it’s only going to become increasingly challenging.
So, what do we do? Continue to attempt to find our place in a world of conflicting ideals? Or begin to shift our perception, against what we’ve been led to believe about purpose? Both Beverley and I would argue the latter. More specifically, in her blue-print for productivity, the author suggests that, instead of searching for a divine, all encompassing reason for being, we choose to ‘litter’ our lives with small things; adding meaning to everyday life. Whilst this approach really does go against everything we’ve been led to believe, it makes perfect sense! With this mindset, purpose becomes less mystifying and more achievable for the average person. Specifically, as (soon-to-be) graduates tasked with finding a job that enriches both our life and bank account in equal measure, framing purpose as something that is omnipresent in every situation, alleviates some of the pressures associated with post-grad life.
If you’re anything like me, by this point you’re probably wondering “what does purpose look like in everyday life?”. Whilst Beverley didn’t give too much away on her own personal purposes, I’m happy to share some of mine (and I’d love to hear yours)! Personally, achievement makes me feel most fulfilled and therefore purposeful, but it's not everyday you hit a personal best in the gym or receive a new job offer. Therefore, in line with the teachings of Working Hard, Hardly Working, I make a conscious effort to set small, daily goals to provide a sense of structure (and purpose) to my day. Ranging from uni work, actual work, self-work, even housework, I can’t tell you how much these tiny pieces of self-imposed challenges aided my productivity, particularly in 2020. But, I would like to highlight that purpose isn’t always productive and I’d encourage you to find things that aren’t, as sometimes there is nothing more fulfilling than binge-watching The Kardashians or a splurge in Primark.
Having said all this, we should not be naive to the fact that Working Hard, Hardly Working is written from the point of view of its immensely privileged author who, by her own admission, has faced few of the socioeconomic challenges that plague so many of today’s young people. Thus, I’d like every reader to bear in mind that success looks different for everyone and however you deal with the trials and tribulations of this often crazy world, you’re doing fantastic!
Image Credit: Instagram/@gracebeverley