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Why Obsess About Productivity?

A guy on Twitter asked a pretty good question the other day: "Why do you worship productivity so much? Honestly? (I am currently sitting at a ski hill with an ear-to-ear grin from powder turns.)" I gave him an answer, but I think the question deserves an answer longer than one hundred forty characters.

Something I've been circling around a lot recently is the idea that my own experience doesn't really matter so much. Happiness follows the law of diminishing returns, and I'm so happy all the time that making myself more happy is pretty useless. I've had so much fun and had such a breadth of experiences, that, for the most part, I feel like having one additional one is insignificant.

I'm an imperfect human, of course, so I do still do things "just because I want to" sometimes, but when I take a step back, look at the arc of my life, and think about the time I have left, I mostly think about ways that I can impact the world. If I can spend some effort and make someone who's not so happy a little bit happier, help someone who hasn't had so many cool experiences have a few, or help someone become more productive themselves, maybe that's a better use of my time.

None of that means that I think I'm some sort of great person. I'm completely aware that probably a lot of my real motivation stems from ego or from wanting the satisfaction of knowing that I had an impact on people. I get emails sometimes from people who tell me I've changed their lives, and that sort of blows me away every time and makes me feel really good.

Guest Post: On Being On-Track With Obsessive Tasks

On SEBASTIAN MARSHALL

It's particularly challenging with tasks that require intense bursts of time and energy. Coding, writing, inteking strange new behaviors and worldviews. These are things that require intense focus, energy, and enthusiasm and just the right mental state. That can be very hard to maintain, and in fact, is often not even beneficial to maintain in other areas of your life that you have a higher degree of mastery and require less arousal to reach your optimal performance. So I think it's natural to fall into and out of this "high-energy" mode, which many of us associate with exponential productivity.

But there are some easy traps to fall into here.

One of the biggest is ignoring the skill of putting yourself in this mode at will. There is not actually a magic genie in your walls. You need to be able to say, tomorrow morning I have time to write, and I will write, and a part of that is getting yourself into "the zone." If you are failing to get yourself into "the zone," then you need to step back and work on that skill independently. Maybe that means re-awakening your original inspiration (thinking about all the people you will help with this book) or maybe it is preparing your vessel (low-fat, high fiber diet the day before, 6 hours of sleep, wake up, run, then get right to work... or whatever ritual ends up working). But these are factors that need to be evaluated.

I think another big one is denial. Thinking that you can maintain this state longer than you can, physio/psychologically or just within the constraints of the rest of your life. It's important to "pump yourself up" to the very high levels necessary to achieve your goals. It's also important to deal with the realities and interruptions and diversions of life as they come, then be able to return to that state.

Anyway, with regard to myself and my major goals, this week was largely a wash.

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