OLW 2014 | Are Productivity and Simplicity at Odds?

by | Simple Living | 9 comments

I’ve had this topic on my to-write list for over a year now because I can’t quite sort it out. Maybe we can do this together?

Sometimes I feel pulled apart. I write as much about time management as I do about finding meaning. I have boards on Pinterest for both Create More and Slow Down.

And this year, as I’ve really thought about what it means to create space in my life, I’ve circled this question again and again.

OLW 2014 | Are Productivity and Simplicity at Odds?

Are productivity and simplicity at odds?

To begin, let’s define these terms at a basic level and relevant to a memory keeper’s life.

1. Productivity is the state of being able to create.
2. Simplicity is the state of being uncomplicated.

Hmm… interesting! One connection immediately jumps out. You uncomplicate scrapbooking so that you can create.

That sounds pretty great. So where do things get muddled?

Outside of scrapbooking, we often see productivity used in terms of shortcuts and life hacks. Plus, historically it’s been associated with industry and profit-making. It can feel fast and rooted in desiring more.

Along side of productivity we have simplicity. This movement is often equated with granola types or 100-thing-minimalists. It can feel slow and rooted in desiring less, but in a not-very-realistic way.

Speed up, slow down. Go faster, hit the breaks. So which is it?

What if this pulling apart, this dichotomy of ideas, is actually a delicate balance for us? We want to feel at ease, but empowered. We want to feel relaxed, but inspired.

We just want get stuff done without resistance or insecurity!

I posit that for some people productivity and simplicity are at odds. However, for you here in this community, I believe they are compatible tools that help you find that state of balance you crave.

So what do you think? Are productivity and simplicity at odds?

Did you find this post helpful?

We believe simple is not how your page looks, but how your scrapbooking hobby works. We have a free workshop called SPARKED and it is the best way to learn more about Simple Scrapper and start creating consistently.


  1. Kim McKelvey-Smith

    I think for some of us, productivity and simplicity are at odds with each other. Particularly those of us who come from a corporate job or some other industry that focuses primarily on high productivity which yields better or more profits.

    I spent 27 years in the corporate world on both sides of the management divide and both stressed high productivity. From the management side, I learned techniques which included streamlining our various processes aka simplifying things to yield better productivity and quality.

    So why didn’t I apply that to my scrapbooking? I think the main reasons are due to my former need to be involved at many sites, learn new things and to try out all the fun techniques and styles of scrapbooking. In addition, I became involved with running several sites as well as designing both for the sites’ challenges, trying to sell my designs, and publishing an ezine. Can we talk about overload?

    As you know, I’ve had a couple of personal tragedies the past couple of years, and slowly have gotten back to being ‘ok’ and moving forward. So here I am,
    four or so years later, I’m at the point where I am ready to be creative again but on a more personal level: I’m designing and scrapping for myself and in ways that are more simple and streamlined.

    By using the articles and tools you bring to us via the website and the premium membership area, along with my recollection of the tools I learned during my corporate stint, I am a happier, much more relaxed scrapper than I’ve ever been.

    Reading this blog, joining Simple Scrapper and having access to the membership tools has reinforced the free thinker/rebel/rules breaker within me and I totally understand what Jennifer’s message is really all about:

    – times change, tastes change and so your focus will change as well.

    – listen to your inner voice about what scrapbooking means to you and how you want to document your and your family’s lives.

    – let go of your pre-conceived notions about scrapbooking.

    – stop measuring your scrapbooking by others’ expectations and rules. (This one is totally easy for me as I’ve always been one to ignore other people’s opinions about my crafting πŸ™‚ ).

    streamline your processes to make things easier for you to document what you want to, when you want to, and how you want to.

    I hope this long-winded reply helps someone to realize they’re not in this alone and that you can again enjoy scrapbooking, whether you are a paper, hybrid or digital scrapper. Being thoughtful of what is important to you, streamlining your processes (supplies, gathering your stories and photos), exploring new techniques — all of that can be enjoyable for you as it will lead you to the perfect end result for you: beautiful documentation of your family’s lives.

    If you aren’t a member of Simple Scrapper, check out all of the free information Jennifer offers on her blog and website and think about joining the membership. I was there once; I lurked for awhile, soaked up the information available, then joined the membership and have been happy with that choice since day 1.

    Thank you again, Jennifer, for Simple Scrapper and all you do!

    • Jennifer Wilson

      Thank you for your sweet words Kim. You raise a great point here, that simplicity can feel like a much-needed escape from the expectations of productivity. Simplicity is almost like a new framework or lens through which to view productivity or plainly, getting things done… one that is more sustainable and practical for today’s world.

  2. Lisa M. Zepponi

    wow! What a question! I don’t know. If I am a true simple scrapper with minimal supplies to chose from I can be very productive, but I guess I need to actually sit down and scrap! Ha!

  3. Lynne Moore

    Well said, both Jennifer’s post and Kim’s comment.

  4. Theresa

    I also come from a “high stakes” job, and I’ve found that both in and out of work, simplicity IMPROVES productivity. Paring my life down to the basics helps me focus on what’s most important. I suppose that I find that simplicity and productivity walk hand in hand. Are my priorities clear? Are my processes streamlined? Where is the cruft in the system, and what’s the most efficient and compassionate way to fix it?

    As far as scrapbooking is concerned, streamline my supplies and process–paring my “stash” down to what I really NEED has helped me figure out what’s most important to me in terms of both creativity and memory keeping.

  5. ARC

    Jennifer – I recommend the book “Essentialism” by Greg McKeown. It talks about how streamlining and identifying your very topmost priorities helps you become MORE effective at reaching your goals. So in a way you’re becoming more productive by simplifying, because you’re focusing all of your efforts on a very few things rather than a bunch of stuff. Rather mindblowing, actually.

    • Jennifer Wilson

      Awesome, I will check that out! Thanks for the recommendation.

  6. Amy Hanschen

    My personal experience of simplified and productive are absolutely connected! SIMPLIFYING my life is the umbrella of life at my house. It happens in so many ways, both large and small, so that is a ‘given’, if you will. But I have questioned myself many times as to whether or not I have to be to PRODUCTIVE, especially with respect to my memory keeping.
    The answer I am living with is a qualified no! Yes, I have to get some photos printed for my husband to put in a photo album and family to look at. That’s easy. But no, I have no expectation of scrapping any or all of them. No forced productivity in this arena. In simplifying my own life, my scrapbooking art is a part of the creativity I need for personal balance, so it stays. But I do it own my own terms…when I want, how I want, when I need it, and usually with a plan.
    I am refusing to get caught up in whether the photo is good or needs editing because I’m not a professional photographer. At the most, I adjust the lighting. I’m only trying to capture a memory for my family. I also often decline to post any photos of my scrapping art for classes, etc. because of the time sucker and stress and distraction that can become – keeping up with comments, feeling like I have to comment on others work because they commented on mine, even sometimes feeling like my work isn’t good enough. These things take the joy away from my memories and my art – not productive or simplifying!
    My simplified life has evolved into focusing more on life, loving others, loving myself. I often substitute the word ‘contributing’ for ‘productive’ (both at work and home) to give a slightly different connotation. It also answers the productivity question with a sense of purpose, Am I doing what needs to be done in a meaningful, helpful way? When I focus more on life, loving others, and loving myself, I do them best with art and creativity and intentionality and a plan. If I do just those things, am I not productive? Not only am I productive and simplified, I am at my best!

    • Jennifer Wilson

      Oh Amy, these words are so beautiful. Thank you for sharing them here and sharing of yourself. I love how the subtle shift of your focus to giving has made everything come together for you.



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