I spent six or so hours in a car today travelling for a video shoot. I wasn’t the one driving—I don’t have a license, in fact—but the trip today made me think about how I’ve approached being on the road in the past. I sometimes describe myself as someone who is slowly working his way through being a workaholic. If you’d like an example, I used to love when my wife would push me around campus because it meant I could get more emails done. I would sit in the back of class at university and edit the student newspaper if whatever was being said by the professor didn’t interest me. In almost every moment of the day from ages 23 to 27, I was focused on dredging out every last drop of productivity I thought I could get. Looking back, I know I was measuring whether I had a good day based upon how many hours I put in my spreadsheet. It was a badge of honour, I’m sad to say.
And now, if I read in a car, I feel ill. I like to think it’s my brain’s anti-productivity alarm system yelling, “Not this shit again!” So, shocking no one, I did a lot of talking and thinking today. I kept my headphone on one ear—listening to music or a podcast is how I quell the constant drone of anxiety that my brain pumps out—but I was far more present than I was anytime in the past when I was focused on whether I could get back to an editor faster, or think of a story idea, or write this email.
Right now, I’m in my desk, in my wheelchair, and glad that I get to mark the end of the day writing this. I didn’t write it in the car, I didn’t write it on a coffee break at the shoot, I didn’t steal from my much needed sleep to write this, I carved out space when the other members of my house (both human and canine) are resting. A lot of productivity folks talk about “Do that one thing per day that scares you!” Second to getting up on the coldest day of winter thus far, the second hardest thing was doing what Cal Newport calls “Slaying the Productivity Dragon.” Except I’m not defeating that dragon by conquering some to-do list. I’m accomplishing the goal by trying to have the discipline to not get back to my desk every chance I get.
So, my question for you today is: How are you overindulging in productivity advice and how can you quell that urge to fall down that dragon-sized rabbit hole?
And no, that metaphor isn’t perfect, but it’s also almost 9PM here.
I've decided to shift CRPL to a 5 times a week newsletter about productivity as I am fascinated by the topic, am in the early stage of writing a book about it, and want to have a place to think, and write, and create work about this vital area of thinking. Click below to join the daily newsletter and/or to help financially support this project.