“Those who work much do not work hard”, said Thoreau in his journal. I have read his journal multiple times, each time his observation and endearing wisdom resounding so true but so often forgotten in our sisyphic behavior; and even more chronically failing to put it into practice.
|1. More is not always more
2. Avoid just hitting back. Aim for solving problems instead
3. Stopping accelerates finishing
4. Delete distractions to reclaim focus
5. Build systems to maximize brain energy
6. Manage your time to maximize your attention
“How we spend our days”, Annie Dillard wrote in her meditation, “is, of course, how we spend our lives”. But how we expend our days, repudiating that ‘busy is a decision’, becomes the source of our un-happiness. As we drift through our lives, many times in heedless hurry and luxury, the frailty of well-known limited resource (time), and the not so well recognized faculty (attentiveness) never occurs to us. Do we forget our impermanence?
Seneca (the Roman philosopher), writing in the first century, saw “busyness — that dual demon of distraction and preoccupation — as an addiction that stands in the way of mastering the art of living”. Nineteen centuries later, Bertrand Russell, lamented rhetorically, “What will be the good of the conquest of leisure and health, if no one remembers how to use them?”
Leisure is not luxury. Our culture betrays this aspect, which David Steindl-Rast gently addressed: “Leisure… is not the privilege of those who can afford to take time; it is the virtue of those who give to everything they do the time it deserves to take.” While we continue to flee from the contemporaneous “busyness” with planning, change, and managing relationships; it is worth remembering that it is our own decision(s) robbing us of the vibrancy of aliveness and the joys of real achievement.
The graph below shows the relationship between productivity (GDP per hour worked) and annual working hours. It is worth noting that the Greeks are some of the most hardworking in the OECD, putting in over 2,000 hours a year on average. Germans, on the other hand, are comparative slackers, working about 1,400 hours each year. But German productivity is about 70% higher.
During the 1960s and 1970s, Peg Bracken’s writing reassured women that they did not have to be perfect to have a happy, well-managed home: “There are good reasons for doing some things fast; because life is crowding in hard, and if the things isn’t done fast it won’t be done at all, or because doing it isn’t half so rewarding as doing something else. Therefore, iron fast so you can paint slow. Shop fast so you can sew slow. Cook fast so you can spend some time with a child before it disappears into an adult.”
Without discombobulating further on the pathological nature of productive busyness, I dispense it to your “choice” to recognize and explore within self the path to your own personal purposefulness. “The content of your character is your choice; Day by day, what you choose; what you think and what you do; is who you become.” – Heraclitus