This blog is ostensibly about “productivity”. Productivity is about, what? Not procrastinating? Getting down to work? Not slacking off? Doing what you should be doing. So. What is that?
What “should” you be doing right now?
Should you be reading this blog? Should you be checking your email? Should you be taking a walk? Getting some “real” work done? Here’s how you can tell:
The things you “should” do are exactly the things you would feel bad about if you didn’t do.
I’m not telling you you should do those things. I’m telling you that you’ve already told yourself you should do them.
These are your commitments. Many of them are probably unconscious, or at least unspoken, but they’re commitments all the same. You probably feel that you should not steal money from someone else. That’s a decision you’ve made. You’ve made a commitment not to steal money. If you stole money, you’d feel bad about it. So you tell yourself, I should not steal money.
What do you want to be doing right now?
Here’s another question: what do you want to do? The answer may not match what you say you should do. For instance, as I write this,
- I want to practice the ukulele, but
- I should go to work.
Let’s look at this in terms of David Allen’s Horizons of Focus. (If you’re not familiar with the Horizons of Focus framework, feel free to just nod along.)
- Practicing the ukulele fulfills my Goal of becoming proficient at the ukulele, my Vision of being a talented musician, and my Purpose of sharing joy with others.
- Going to work fulfills my Responsibility to perform my job, the Project that I’m working on there, and the Next Action on that project.
The Key to Happiness
I once thought I had discovered the key to happiness. There are things we should do and things we shouldn’t. There are things we want to do and things we don’t. When we do things we don’t want to do, we’re unhappy. When we do things we shouldn’t do, we’re unhappy. So the key to happiness, I thought, was this: want to do the things you should do, and then do them.
What I found, though, was that I had very little control over what I wanted. I want things for a reason. At the root of every want is the nugget of your very purpose in life. Maybe it came from on high, maybe it developed over your childhood. It doesn’t matter now. You care about that purpose, and you’re never going to stop. That’s your gnome. You can gag the gnome, but you can’t force him to be happy. My gnome wants me to share music with the world. He also wants me to share these ideas with you. I can ignore him and do other things instead, but he’ll still give me that angry glare.
Here’s another idea. Commit to doing the things you want to do, the things that align with your purpose and your vision for your life. The magical thing about commitments is that they can always be renegotiated. If you want to be a musician, adjust the commitments in your life to match that intention. If that means quitting your job, so be it. If that means sticking with your job to pay for lessons, do that. As long as your commitments are in line with your purpose and drive, you’ll feel good about it.
What you really want to get out of your time in this life is not a decision. What you will get is. All you can control are your commitments. You will probably feel better if you align them with your deepest desires.