Standing Firm In The Face of Endless Productivity Desire
I started my new job two weeks ago. My first full-time workday/week after a long break. Although I improved my productivity skills over the last two years, I have been mostly independent and had control over my schedule. I thought working would be no different, but I was wrong. This led me to review my take on productivity and surprisingly, this week I came across a beautiful book Four thousand weeks by Oliver Burkeman which deals with the same issues. Here is which thoughts did the book and my first weeks make me ponder.
More Efficiency Means More Work
The current work practices are based on crossing the items on a to-do list. By doing this, one can feel a sense of achievement after an exhausting work week. However, crossing the items on a to-do list is not satisfactory in the long run because if you are not working independently then the works that need to be done will never end. Cleaning the desk and emptying the table will not be entirely possible. Even if you achieve it, the manager or the client will bring you more work. It does not mean that we should be lazy and extend the work or underperform. The message here there is no need to be obsessive about finishing the work at hand. Burkeman puts it:
Productivity is a trap. Becoming more efficient just makes you more rushed, and trying to clear the decks simply makes them fill up again faster. Nobody in the history of humanity has ever achieved “work-life balance,” whatever that might be, and you certainly won’t get there by copying the “six things successful people do before 7:00 a.m.
This can be applied to issues other than work. One may want to be good at sport, have a fulfilling relationship or start a side hustle, you name it. It is extremely difficult to be good at all of them and implement the perfect work-life balance.
My observation is that many successful people have made sacrifices from their personal lives and maybe values to get where they are. But that means they are not successful enough in other fields of life. This is the part of the untold story. Steve Jobs was a difficult friend, Bill Gates or J. Bezos ended their marriages or so many celebrities and wealthy people have suffered from depression and anxiety. Before defining success, one should ask what are the values that I care about and what sacrifices that I can make to get the position that I strive for. It is a difficult question and hard to answer before starting the journey. These are leading me to other questions. How much effort should I put in my work or in which fields of life I want to be more productive? What is important to me in life? What makes an authentic life?
What Is A Productive Life For Me?
As Oliver Burkeman, I have been a productivity geek since I started school. I have made many plans and new year resolutions. I organised my files, documents and established a new version of to-do lists. I failed on most of my plans but did not give up making new plans and trying to be more productive.
I read books like Atomic Habits, Make Time and watched videos about it and was inspired by the people like Benjamin Franklin, Elon Musk, Cal Newport or Ali Abdaal. My understanding from all these talented and successful people is that the whole point of productivity is not to get most things done in a limited time but to do what you are doing intentionally. I conceive that the plans are destined to be spoiled and deadlines (set aside artificial ones) are not the most pleasant motivator. However, being aware of what you are focusing on and not focusing on is the whole point. It does not matter whether I am reading a book, working, making effort for a side hustle or spending time with family and friends or just scrolling through Instagram or Twitter.
I realise that when I devote my time intentionally I am getting what I want from them whether it is intellectual satisfaction or pure joy and relaxation. By being aware of that, I reduced my daily consumption of social media and screen time. This allowed me to make more time for the stuff that I really want to do. For example, I have been consistent at keeping my journal or writing these Sunday letters.
Therefore, I want to define the things that I expect from my future self. As long as I put effort into them in a consistent manner, I would deem myself productive and as long as I am happy while I am putting all these efforts my journey would be more joyful than the destination.
Two episodes from my favourite podcast host. Both are related to the pandemic that has been shaping and shaking our lives. Two completely different points of view might help to cover the issue deeper.
Tomorrow’s Lawyers by Richard Susskind. A visionary book. It lays down the challenges and opportunities in the legal industry. It analyses questions like how can new lawyers make a difference and improve themselves. It traces how the legal industry will look like in the future and how does technology change the nature of legal work?