This post is taken directly from what I wrote under the page with the same title from the Steal Like An Artist handbook by Austin Kleon. Funnily enough, that book is the reason I started this blog but I’ll save that for another post.
Why aren’t we doing more of what we like doing? Is it because most people don’t actually know what it is they like doing?
Most people spend longer periods of time at work than they do at home. I think this is due to the fact that most people feel that the longer they spend at work, regardless of what they actually do or how productive they are at work, the more productive they can convince themselves they’ve been. When in reality, they actually haven’t been productive at all. Most probably they have spent hours staring at a screen, on social media, in pointless meetings, making endless cups of coffee and staring into blank space thinking about dinner.
Some of the worse culprits of this are those that follow their 8 hours of reasonably paid inactivity with a reward of extended inactivity once they return home. Other’s ask them if they would like to meet up or suggest to go to the gym, but their reply is always “I don’t have time, I’ve got a lot going on at work”. Everyone has time. Too much time, in fact. That’s why most people have to fill it with a pointless 9-5 that is nothing more than an occupancy of that time to justify a pay check and make the person feel as though they have a purpose in life. The joke is, most people who fall into this trap are avoid or are afraid of doing the activities that actually are meaningful and give them fulfilment: health, fitness, travel, reading, writing, creation, socialising, music…
People are idiots. Even good people are idiots. It’s almost impossible to escape the pointless activity.
Here’s how to combat and become a superior being – titled “Reasons I am not one of these people.”
1. Health and fitness are always the priority: I start my day with outdoor exercise and this is non-negotiable. Even when I worked shifts that started at 5:45am, I still cycled to work and sometimes even put in a short swim or run. During my working day I ensure I am up and walking around and try to take as many opportunities to go outside as possible. I always finish my working day with activity too, 3-4 days a week this a strength session in the gym, the other days I walk/stretch/mobility exercise.
2. Educate yourself and refuse to stop learning: Nobody calculated a formula where they worked out that 8 hours is the optimum amount of time for employee productivity. Even when working a job such as a teacher where certain hours of the day I am properly occupied, there’s still moments where not much is going on. Instead of wasting these small windows of opportunity, use them to learn and educate yourself. Even time spent before and after working hours can be spent learning and bettering yourself as a human being. The internet is vast with podcasts, audiobook, documentaries, we have real books for reading and if not you could attend classes or learn from peers. Education isn’t just for school and your youthful year; never stop learning.
3. Find enjoyment in activities and you’ll always commit: “How come you can run all those miles? You did what this morning?! I can’t swim 1 length let along 5km!” – I hear this on a daily basis. People let their jaw hang open when I tell them about the amount I do and I get nothing but kicks out of it. They tell me they couldn’t ever be that committed but guess what? Commitment is easy when you love the activity. The reason I run so much is because I love it. The secret is, to find the good activity that you love and you’ll never find it hard to do.
4. Only give as much attention and time that is necessary: When confronted with tasks and activities that you know aren’t all that meaningful then don’t long them out just to waste time. Do them with as much attention and time commitment necessary and then leave them be. Do you really need to go through your emails and delete them? No. Does it really take you 30 minutes to write a report or could you just copy, paste and edit accordingly? Yes. It doesn’t mean you’re not pulling your weight, it doesn’t mean you’re a bad employee but it does mean you get 25 extra minutes to stick that podcast in your ears and write a blog post instead. As long as you don’t use the free time to check social media then you’re right back to point 2.
5. Be aware that life ends: The most important one of all. As existential as it may sound, I think about death on a daily basis. As a child it terrified me, as a teenager I almost refused to acknowledge it but as an adult I use it as a tool of motivation. Think about the meeting you’re in at work; whilst you’re twiddling your thumbs and everyone around you is arguing about the pension scheme or breaks not being long enough – does it really matter? Will you really care when you’re laying on your deathbed? No. Drop the stresses that doesn’t really exist and seize every opportunity that presents itself – life is literally too short.
If you follow these rules and add more substance to your life you’ll start to realise how badly most other people live. How little care they take of themselves and how little they do despite telling everyone how busy they are. In my notebook I have written “do more shit than anyone else and you’ll still find time to get bored”. You are capable of more, there is always something to learn and there is always an opportunity to be seized.
Make it happen.