I once heard an entrepreneur talk about how he didn’t have time to eat better — he was too busy working on his app. He was too focused on getting shit done. He couldn’t take a break. He was half joking when he said that he’d sleep when he was dead.
I know it was all bullshit. I know that he didn’t really need to be working 18 hour days. I know that it wouldn’t have made that much difference if he had slowed the fuck down and eaten a proper meal instead of running past McDonalds’ all the time.
I know because that entrepreneur was me. I have never given as much thought to my body, to my health, to my lifestyle as I should have, in the past. There was too much urgency. Too much of a sense that things needed to happen in the immediacy of the moment, too much of a sense that if I wasn’t working all the time my business would fail.
The long-term effects of my old lifestyle — popping No Doz pills to stay awake, drinking 4 cans of RedBull a day — I have no idea what they’re going to look like. I don’t know what I’ve done to myself. I do know that the short term effects, back then, were bad enough. I wasstunnedd, angry, vicious, sad, hopeless…and heading for a bad breakdown.
This is the hole of productivity.
I think to some extent we put this kind of crap on ourselves by always looking for ways to be more productive. Now don’t get me wrong, I love productivity, I love reading about it and optimising it and being a huge nerd. But it can be an endless hole, if we let it. It can be demoralising and depressing, because the more we research and switch and flip between productivity solutions, the less productive we become.
But we still keep telling ourselves it’s a problem with ourselves. We’re not more productive simply because we aren’t working hard enough. And so we put more and more blood sweat and tears into our projects and all we get is more exhausted.
Look at these articles:
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There is so much of this crap out there. That’s around 30 different habits we’ve got to break if we want to be more productive. And if we can’t be more productive then surely it’s because we don’t have enough self control or will power…I can guarantee you that even if you did break all these habits, you still wouldn’t be happy, and you’d still keep pushing yourself to overwork.
A Shift In Your Mindset Is Required
It’s far too easy for productivity to morph into an adrenaline-fueled lifestyle that propels us like a pinball from one task to the next, with little time to appreciate or enjoy what we are doing — much less time to do what we truly enjoy.
A little mind shift is in order here — a little shift away from productivity and toward creativity. Here’s what I mean:
Rather than asking, “What do I need to accomplish today?” ask “What am I going to create today?”
Rather than saying, “Look at everything on my list,” ask yourself, “What can I remove from my list to give me more time to create?”
Rather than groaning, “I dread this crappy task before me,” ask “How can I create this task in a way that feels joyful, creative, and giving?”
Rather than looking for ways to manage time so you can fill it with more, look for ways to engage in what you are doing right now so that time becomes elastic and you can do less.
When you shift from a life of production to a life of creation, every moment becomes a your own work of art. You are no longer responding, racing, cramming. You are designing, solving, serving. You are fully in the moment, because the act of creating requires your full attention, right here, right now.
Being productive isn’t all bad. It certainly has its place. You do have to operate in the world of linear time and according to the schedules of other people. You have to tend to the practical tasks of living if you don’t want to be fired, arrested, or divorced. But a productivity mindset does not have to be your way of life.
Maybe that shift is what’s missing in so many of our lives. I know it’s what was missing from mine a few years back. I was far too focussed on the productivity instead of enjoying the process of making and building and creating. That’s a wonderful process, and it’s worth savouring. So many people have lived their entire life without experiencing that process. It’s a matter of great personal fortune that you’re able to live through it yourself.
You don’t have to always push for more. It’s not the end of the world if you slow down and adjust your mindset and start to consider the creativity more than the productivity.
At Creatomic, when I can’t think of a blog post that I really want to write, I don’t push myself to pump out some crap that I don’t care about. I slow down, take a breath, and remember that life — and Medium.com — will wait.
I Think The Worst Part Of Being An Entrepreneur Is Being Your Own Boss
Because you’re the worst boss in the entire world. Either you don’t push yourself enough to work or learn or finish projects, or you push yourself too much and you wind up pushing yourself to the absolute brink. Being your own boss sometimes means dealing with the biggest asshole you’ve ever met — a person who literally has no boundaries and will harass you about work 24/7, every weekend, every holiday, every morning noon and night.
You have to find a way to deal with that asshole. Stop them from controlling your health. Stop them from taking the wheel and driving you off a cliff.
Life really will wait.
Life will wait while you sleep in a couple mornings a week, play some Xbox, do some stuff for fun, enjoy your business, enjoy your writing, enjoy your work, cook a damn good meal. You are more than your productivity, because the number of things you can tick of a list don’t actually define who you are as a person.
If I could go back and talk to myself at 21, that’s what I’d want to say. Don’t worry about trying to cram more and more crap into the same 24 hours, because when you look back, you’re never going to think about how glad you are that you pulled X amount of all nighters. But you will think about how much you wish you could spend that time all over again on the people you cared about.
‘After all, it doesn’t take much to let your life slip away. All you have to do is blink.’
[This post by Jon Westenberg first appeared on Medium and has been reproduced with permission.]