A Productivity Hacks Gothic Short Story

When carving space for yourself takes a dark turn.

By Monica Torres

1. “They hijack your mind,” the man in the talk said. “We are in a crisis of attention.”

2. Before bedtime, you put your phone on your nightstand. You put your phone in the living room. You bury your phone in the backyard underneath dirt, and rock, and bone. You wake up and it is in your hand again.

3. You nap before work, in between work, and after work. You are always napping. You never sleep.

4. They gift you unlimited vacation days that you never take. You know better now. The last time you returned from one, they had looked at you blankly: “Who are you?” Someone who looked just like you had sat at your desk. She had waved hello.

5. Don’t let email take over your day, they warn. The last person it consumed never came back the same. You schedule time at the beginning and end of your day to beat it back. No matter how well you prepare, each day, it grows back and you start over.

6. Standup meetings replace regular meetings. They are so successful chairs and cushions begin to disappear from the office. No more time wasted getting settled. The board wants to make the doors glass next.

7. To maximize your day, you go outside of your office at prescribed times. Morning light keeps you awake longer. Thirty minutes of afternoon light can undo hours of sitting. When the dusk hits your retinas, you swear you can hear the breeze, and faintly, screams that sounds like your own. Then you go back inside, full of ideas.

8. You automate your errands to an app, which is run by a group of humans who arrange your laundry pickup and book your hotels, and monitors your sleep. It’s 24/7. When friends ask, you say it’s easy to use and free to download: “People don’t even know that it’s not me.”

9. You start evaluating each relationship for improvement. “Are you a time-plus or a time-sink?” you coo at your baby who breathes as if each one is guaranteed.

10. They say that they do not track your time, but you are sure that eyes follow you down the hallway. Your manager always knows when you have taken a lunch break even when he is not in the office. You wave at the ceiling before you leave, and make sure to not use the full hour.

11. The office is on fire. Numbers are in the red and layoffs loom. To appease them, the younger and older employees get sacrificed. You can still remember their cries as the flames licked their feet.

The pivot frees up space for a meditation room. The health and wellness coach they hire preaches more breathing and letting it go: ‘All feeling is temporary.’