Bipolar: Activity and Productivity – The Difference


Today I want to talk to you about two words: ACTIVITY and PRODUCTIVITY. There is a difference between “activity” and “productivity,” especially when it comes to your loved one.
Productivity, for the most part, involves having something to show for your “activity.” I’ll show you what I mean.

Scenario #1:

Lisa works as an office worker in a major corporation. Her co-workers are very busy, so no one has time no notice what Lisa is doing – they can’t tell if she is being productive or not. So Lisa walks around carrying files in her arms for most of the day, looking as if she is busy (just in case anyone happens to be looking). Is Lisa being productive? No, Lisa is showing some activity, but is not actually being productive.

Scenario #2:

Mary works for a virtual organization in the customer service department; in other words, she works from home. So there is no one looking over her shoulder, no one to see if she is really working or not. However, she spends more time on the phone with the other members of the virtual organization than actually talking to customers. Is Mary productive? No.

Talking on the phone is an activity, but it is not really productive. In fact, in this case, it’s worse, because it’s a distraction to the other members of the organization who can’t get their own work done while they’re on the phone with Mary.

Scenario #3:

George has bipolar disorder and when he’s depressed, he tends to sleep more often. The answer may seem obvious, but is George productive? No, because although sleep is an activity, it isn’t productive, since there is nothing to show for it.

In fact, in the case of bipolar disorder, it can be harmful to your loved one. Too little sleep can lead to a bipolar manic episode, and too much sleep can lead to a bipolar depressive episode.

Scenario #4:

Bill watches quite a bit of TV. His wife accuses him of being lazy, but he argues that at least he is doing something with his time! Is Bill really being productive since he is doing something with his time, as he says?

Bill is doing something with his time, as watching TV is an activity. However, it is not a productive activity, as once you are done watching TV, you really have nothing to show for it.
So Bill is not really what I would consider productive.

You want your loved one to be more than the examples in the scenarios I just described. You want them to be productive, since that will help them manage their bipolar disorder better. You want them to be productive, because that will make them feel better about themselves. You want them to be productive, because productivity brings more quality to a person’s life (bipolar or not).

So how can you help? You can encourage your loved one to start making To-Do Lists, detailing out tasks they want to accomplish. These can be things around the house, outside the house, or errands they can run. The list doesn’t have to be long, but just something to make them feel a sense of accomplishment.

The difference between activity and productivity is having a sense of accomplishment at the end of the day. And that can help your loved one feel better about themselves, increasing their self-esteem. Being productive will keep your loved one from being bored (one of the triggers to a bipolar episode). Being productive will also keep your loved one from getting depressed (which could also lead to a bipolar episode).

Well, I have to go!

Your Friend,



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