For a long time, I associated weed with relaxation and lethargia. Maybe it’s because I subconsciously bought into the ‘Reefer Madness’ stereotype of the lazy stoner.
Because of this, I was surprised when I got to university and found out that many of my peers used marijuana to study, work on assignments and generally be productive.
Productivity seemed to be the very antithesis of the porridge-brain and overwhelming sleepiness I had experienced in the past, and for this reason, I’ve always been fascinated by those who could convert joints into pages of academic research.
Writer and actor Seth Rogan swears by marijuana as a great aide for productivity, saying it improves his creativity and makes him willing to work.
So how do people use weed to be productive? And how can you make cannabis work for you?
What Prevents Productivity?
In order to understand how marijuana can improve productivity, we first have to understand the nature of productivity. Psychology – as well as common sense – tells us that there are a number of things that can hinder or stimulate productivity. An inability to feel creative, a lack of motivation, a bad mood and health problems are factors that can lead to someone being less productive.
Marijuana has been scientifically linked to stimulating creativity. An interesting article on Psychology Today looks at a 2011 study on the link between smoking cannabis and creativity. The article states the following:
Schafer and colleagues (2011) reviewed literature suggesting that the effects of cannabis on creativity have not been extensively studied nor are the mechanisms by which it stimulates creativity well understood. However, they suggested that cannabis produces psychotomimetic symptoms, which in turn might lead to connecting seemingly unrelated concepts, an aspect of divergent thinking considered primary to creative thinking.
In other words, cannabis helps us connect ideas in different ways to how we usually connect ideas. This could enable us to generate more ideas, leading us to be more creative.
As the above-mentioned study stated, there’s a lack of concrete studies on the link between creativity and cannabis. That said, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence. Cole*, an interior designer, occasionally uses weed to help him work better. He says that certain strains can make him feel inspired and creative. “I’m usually able to be creative on my own, but I sometimes get what I call ‘designers’ block’. When this happens, I find that a small amount of weed – say, one or two puffs – helps open my mind.” This, he says, helps him brainstorm better.
Of course, some strains are better at inspiring creativity than others. Sativa strains are associated with stimulating creativity. Clear-Sativa strains are often credited with giving the user energy without inducing any lethargia or drowsiness, allowing for someone to work while experiencing an uplifting head-high.
Marijuana as an anxiety-reducing aide
We know that marijuana is often used to ease anxiety.
Considering how anxiety can hinder one’s work performance, it’s unsurprising that many people might rely on weed’s relaxing properties to help them shed anxiety and focus on their work.
Danielle*, a freelance writer, uses marijuana to ease some anxiety-related symptoms. This helps them focus on work. “Racing thoughts, a symptom of anxiety, distract me. Often, I’m preoccupied with them more often than I am my work. These go down as I use cannabis,” they explain.
Ariana Munsumy, a student, has had similar experiences. She recently began using cannabis to ease anxiety around university work, and finds it to be really effective. She usually only waits until her state of mind is very anxious to use weed, but is trying to use it more regularly to pre-emptively avoid a full-blown panic attack.
“I have a few joints rolled up and kept in my kitchen drawer, so now I try to smoke about a full joint once a week, but I don’t keep to a rigid regime or time it. The whole energy of the medicine generally stays with me for a few days,” she explains. While she can be productive without weed, she’s often anxious without it – and this anxiety can impede her work.
Landela*, an entertainment personality, finds that marijuana increases her confidence before she performs. In varsity, she found that a quick hit would help her engage more confidently in lectures and become more interested in her work. “I would just hit a blunt for some crazy energy and to get that little “oompf”,” she explains, adding that it stimulates creativity, too.
Cannabis as a treatment for pain and discomfort
Pre-existing health issues can also result interfere with one’s ability to work and focus. In this light, the medical benefits of marijuana can indirectly help people be more productive.
Danielle also has IBS, which can interfere with their work. “Sometimes, bathroom time eats up a decent amount of my workday. For instance, I was in the bathroom yesterday for 36 minutes back-and-forth from urgent bowel movements,” they say. They find that cannabis – particularly edibles – eases many of their IBS symptoms, enabling them to work for longer without having to deal with any interfering symptoms.
Similarly, Cole has fibromyalgia, which he medicates with marijuana. “Fibromyalgia means that I experience a lot of aches and pains, which makes it really hard to work,” he says. He uses marijuana to ease the pain. While it doesn’t always relieve all the pain, it usually takes the edge off. “As someone with a relatively new business, I can’t always afford to take time off from work. I find weed to be one of the cheapest and most effective treatments for pain.”
Marijuana as a reward
Of course, motivation can be a key aspect of improving productivity. Sometimes, people use marijuana as a way of motivating and rewarding themselves.
Georgina*, a part-time student who works at a local non-profit organization, uses weed to reward herself on occasion.
“You might have heard about the jellybaby method of motivation. This is where you place a jellybaby every few paragraphs [in a textbook], and you let yourself eat it when you finish studying that section,” Georgina explains. “Well, I do that, but with a joint.”
When she struggles to get through a certain section, she sets a goal for herself. When she reaches that goal, she takes a few drags of a joint. Then, she naps. “The promise of a joint-induced nap is a really great motivator for me. I don’t use it all that often, and I’m able to work without weed, but it’s great if nothing else is motivating me,” she says.
When it comes to motivation, however, marijuana might be a hindrance: there have been studies that suggest long-term marijuana usage can stifle one’s motivation. Those who began using marijuana at a young age – and those who have used marijuana often for a long period of time – apparently have lower levels of naturally-occurring dopamine in the brain.
Dopamine is a hormone that is strongly associated with motivation. This lack of dopamine can cause one to have ‘amotivational syndrome’.
Ultimately, using marijuana for productivity is similar to using marijuana for just about anything else. Different strokes work for different folks, and you need to explore and experiment with cannabis before you can become certain that it’ll work for you.