As we enter week number three of CRPL’s new era I thought it would be valuable to lay out my initial methodology—academic habits die hard, I guess—when it comes to cripping productivity. You’ll have heard me write around these concepts before, but hopefully this week’s editions will be an easy entry point for new readers moving forward. Also, I’d love it if you shared the project with your networks. It truly does help a lot.
This methodology, which is a work in progress in the truest sense of the phrase, is what I’m following as I write this book on cripping productivity. While I sometimes take these steps (insert wheelchair joke here, dear reader) out of order, I think they are helpful for those looking to just start decontaminating the toxic wasteland of productivity advice. I was going to write, “consider this your productivity advice N95,” but that may be a little (or a lot) of a reach.
What does looking in the tender places mean? Simply put, it means actively seeking to look in the places you have conditioned yourself not to want to look.
Early on in my university education I was sitting in a class taught by Dr. Michael Capello. In that course, we talked about the fundamental difference between feeling uncomfortable and feeling unsafe. When we’re looking at the tender places we are not looking to jump headlong into something that will make us feel unsafe. The goal is to look at the topics that make us feel vulnerable, uncertain, whatever the opposite of rock solid is. In that class, the uncomfortable versus unsafe discussion was about anti-racist education and action, about the need for white folks like me to be able to sit with the discomfort of not knowing what to say, and having to unpack our past actions and thoughts, as opposed to what being unsafe would be in the same situation.
A lot of productivity advice can trend towards the unsafe for a disabled body and mind. Not always, mind you, but it can be really easy to take a “do one thing a day that scares you” methodology and send yourself into a panic spiral. It can be just as easy to inundate yourself with so many rules that you neurodivergent brain overheats or so many physical tasks that your physical body calls it quits in a way that doesn’t help you build productivity momentum.
If we were to crip that earlier phrase up we might say do one thing a day that you wouldn’t have done yesterday. The one thing that scares you doesn’t have to be lifting a bunch of weight or skydiving, it can be making that call to book a doctor’s appointment, or laying out your meds for the week, or buying that nice gift for yourself that your past trauma has been blocking. It still might make you feel uncomfortable, but if handled safely, is unlikely to make you add to your list of diagnoses or unexplained symptoms.
But to take in that initial piece of advice requires vulnerability. It requires us to say, “I am willing to engage with things that have harmed me before.” Only a little, and not all at once, but I do need to be at least a little open to things that I’ve previously hated. I’ll give you a personal example: I couldn’t, and still can’t, stand the underlying assumption that all people start from a healthy/abled baseline. Sometimes, when I’m watching even the most well meaning of creators, my inner voice is screaming, “Tell me how you would do that on about half the energy!” Not quite the same as productivity, but another one is when I watch content by minimalists. I’m sure there are wheelchair-using minimalists—I know a few who might consider themselves that way, now that I think about it—but it’s not exactly the easiest lifestyle to map onto one that requires a ton of adaptive equipment.
But, okay, if I’m looking in the tender places with minimalism, I can still ask myself basic questions even if they make me feel queasy. I have an extra wheelchair frame in the basement that I can probably donate. I have enough cooking pots that I’ve adapted that I can probably part with one or two. I did try a minimalist wardrobe once, but I couldn’t stand wearing almost exactly the same things from a sensory perspective. That was something I also needed to learn.
Lastly, just because we have to look in the tender places as part of this version of cripping productivity does not mean we have to do it in order to engage with productivity advice in its entirety. Find your safe creators, your favourite videos, or podcasts, or books. Like a favourite song, some back to it. James Clear says that the honest answer to “how long does it take to form a habit” is forever. In his mind, if you stop working on the habit it will cease to exist. You do not always have to ponder the hardest questions, or press on the most painful parts, to make progress. You can bask in things you want to dive deeper into and it can serve you just as well.
I've decided to shift CRPL to a 5 times a week newsletter about productivity as I am fascinated by the topic, am in the early stage of writing a book about it, and want to have a place to think, and write, and create work about this vital area of thinking. Click below to join the daily newsletter and/or to help financially support this project.