The Key to Productivity Isn’t More Rest, It’s Intentionality


Link: “Darwin Was a Slacker”

For some of us, the notion that working only part-time on a legacy project is the best approach is tempting. Is it possible to do such a thing? Sure, of course. Free time and the ability to choose how you spend your time in the first place is a privilege.

But is it ideal to follow that approach? I don’t think so.

I stumbled upon this article and simultaneously liked and disliked it. Read the whole thing—you might relate to it more than me.

“Figures as different as Charles Dickens, Henri Poincaré, and Ingmar Bergman, working in disparate fields in different times, all shared a passion for their work, a terrific ambition to succeed, and an almost superhuman capacity to focus. Yet when you look closely at their daily lives, they only spent a few hours a day doing what we would recognize as their most important work.

The rest of the time, they were hiking mountains, taking naps, going on walks with friends, or just sitting and thinking. Their creativity and productivity, in other words, were not the result of endless hours of toil. Their towering creative achievements result from modest ‘working’ hours.”

I enjoyed the examples, and as I said—it’s tempting to think this is the answer. Just take it easy. It will come to you.

And sure, maybe it will.

I just know that for me, there’s more to it than “work in the morning, sit around and think in the afternoon.” That’s how it’s always, always been.

The answer isn’t only “work hard all the time,” because of course you can work hard all the time on the wrong things. But I don’t think the answer is to coast either.

It’s more like: find the right thing, then give it all you’ve got. A two-step plan, essentially:

1. Do whatever it takes to find this thing

2. Do whatever it takes to keep it

These days I’m basically working all the time, from before dawn till way past sunset. I’ve always worked hard, but the non-stop pace of a daily podcast added to everything else has increased the (self-applied) pressure.

Yet I honestly haven’t felt more productive in a long time. I feel good! I’m shipping work out and connecting with people.

It’s great that an audience has responded to well to the show (it’s currently receiving over 1.5 million downloads a month), but I can honestly say that I love the work for its own sake. I’m planning a book launch for the fall, a major tour, and several other projects that I’ll keep close to my chest until they’re ready.

I have zero desire to pull back on any of this. If I could make any impossible change to the order and structure of my day, I’d have two hours added to it.

It’s fine if you disagree with this pace or routine, by the way. But before you decide that you do, ask yourself: have I found my mission? Do I truly know what I hope to accomplish in my life, or who I wish to become?

Because Darwin certainly had a mission. So did Rodin and Thomas Mann, two other people mentioned in that article. If you have a mission, why would you slow down? If the goalpost is in front of you, it’s time to sprint, not stall.

The other thing is that we’re all going to die, something I try to remind myself of every day. I think I’ll make another cup of coffee… and keep working away.


Image: Tim

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