Today was a long day. I had to have a difficult conversation unexpectedly, I had a long flight, a train ride, and when I arrived at my RV, I was locked out. By the time the locksmith got there, I had already tried squeezing through a tiny window in the RV, so I was covered in dirt and frustrated.
When I finally got into my RV, I went directly into my bed without really thinking about it. It was 7:30pm. I wasn't tired, and sleeping would have screwed up my sleep schedule anyway. I was just drained and didn't want to do the things left on my todo list. I planned to clean the RV, do dishes, bring the RV to South San Francisco to dump the tanks, and write a blog post. For the first time in a long time, I just wanted to do nothing.
So I lay in my bed and thought about my options. One was to just stay in bed, maybe read or something, and hope I was refreshed when I woke up the next day. That's what I felt like doing. But when I thought about it, I was just setting myself up for another long day by piling my current todo list on top of the next day. If I could just muster the initiative to start doing things on my list, though, I would actually feel better. It always feels good to go to sleep with a clear todo list.
I scrubbed the kitchen counter first. It looked really nice, which motivated me a little bit to do the dishes. That took less time than I expected, which also motivated me. Before I knew it I had cleaned the whole RV, topped off the air in my low tire, and was on my way to dump my tanks. An hour later, I'm back in my RV with enough water to last for two weeks, and I'm on a roll. I didn't even hesitate to open up the text editor and get this post going.
The point of all this? Sometimes it's better to trust how you will feel, rather than how you currently feel. I knew that if I just trudged through my list a little bit, I'd be glad I did, and would give myself the best possible foundation for a good night's sleep and a productive day tomorrow. I also knew that if I succumbed to lethargy, I'd feel behind the next day, would be disappointed that I skipped my writing, and would have to carve time out to go dump my tanks.
In general, it seems that more one optimizes for short term comfort, the less he accomplishes and the lower his baseline happiness is. So if you find yourself falling into the trap of putting things off for no good reason, look into the future and imagine how it would feel. Sometimes you need to suck it up and do your future-self a favor.
Working on something that is going to make an insane blog post... for those who are sick of productivity posts and are looking for adventure posts, stay tuned.
Photo is a Buddha statue from the Met in NYC
I disagree with Moo. To do for some is a natural and everyday occurrence (I'm not saying Tynan isn't one of those people), but for others it is more difficult. This post is akin to the journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step. Where I assume you see the functionality in the post (dirty dishes), I see the art of doing. Why is it some people can pump out blog posts, create fantastic dishes of food, or are great programmers while they do not have "time" to say, go to the gym, or learn a new language, or whatever they want to do. It is that more mental energy is required for new activities so it is important to remember to just relax and do. Tynan is an inspiration for me and others and he even inspired me to write my own blog.
As to you Moo, I read through your comments and wonder why you even read this blog. Most of your comments are pretty negative and lack the encouragement of intellectual discourse in my opinion . You want to see poker and flipping watches, go watch a movie. I watched a man pummeled to a bloody pulp in a subway station for five seconds before stepping in. As the guy regains his composure, a friend of my friend notices he dropped his expensive watch. This guy grabs the watch on the ground and pockets it. After the guy who got beaten up gets a towel and comes back, he asks for the watch. The friend of a friend doesn't say anything for a good ten seconds. I feel that person would be you. You ask how you create a book and I simply shake my head. He tells you in this post. You start from doing.
"Sometimes you need to suck it up and do your future-self a favor."
Screw that. What's my future-self ever done for me?
How long had you left dirty dishes sitting in your kitchen? On my list of gross things not to do is leaving dirty dishes and food waste sitting around when I know I'm going to be leaving the house, especially on a trip to the opposite side of the country...
Great post Tynan. I too have found that accomplishing goals (however small) compounds and has an positive effect that allows me to in turn accomplish more.
I love your productivity posts, can't get enough of them <3 The one which always stick with me most is 'the opportunity cost of work'. But adventure will be amazing also. I intend to register today. Love this blog!
"In general, it seems that more one optimizes for short term comfort, the less he accomplishes and the lower his baseline happiness is. So if you find yourself falling into the trap of putting things off for no good reason, look into the future and imagine how it would feel. Sometimes you need to suck it up and do your future-self a favor."
That was brilliantly put.
Cool. Any other advice for acting for the future me, in addition to "look[ing] into the future and imagin[ing] how it would feel"?
Been to NYC recently? I noticed this post's and the previous post's pics were both taken in NYC.
I think I can contribute something positive for once. A good way to think and act for the future is to ask yourself how much you REALLY want a particular thing you're thinking of buying/doing. Do I REALLY want an extra couple of minutes of sleep? Not really -- it usually leaves me more tired than if I'd just gotten up and moving. Do I REALLY want that extra pie? Not really -- all that sugar will make me feel bloated, will make me fat, or even possibly give me jitters or diabetes down the line. Ultimately, nothing you do, don't do or get today is going to "make" you happy. Happiness is a choice, and it's always good to have a large margin of safety. So just do stuff that'll get you ahead, and before you know it you won't have much desire for immediate gratification.
Great post. So much truth in this. I find that I often have to take a leap of faith and just tell myself to try working uninterrupted for 15 minutes and see how I feel. Almost always, I feel like continuing to work and feel much better.
Have you ever read the "War of Art" by Steven Pressfield?
If not, you must absolutely read this book. You will love this book.
Many of your posts reflect exactly the setiments of that book.
In any situation always value long term prosperity over instant gratification.
It is unfortunate that short-term and long-term good are so often seen as opposing one another. Often what is good now is also good later, such as setting aside money or exercising.
+1 We're talking short term on a micro level with exercise though. It may take two minutes to put your gym shoes on and head out the door for a run which'll make you feel better for the rest of the day and more, but many, MANY, people would still choose to stay in bed for the extra two minutes of initial comfort.
I suppose. I have been in the grocery store, seen the confections and thought, "That sweet potato pie would be the best thing ever... except for that cheesecake... and that blueberry pie." Knowing me, I would eat them all at once if I didn't check myself against the many pitfalls of all that sugar in one slam. So I guess there is some validity to the whole dichotomy many folks perceive.
I tell ya what, though -- nothing keeps me out of the gym except bad illness. There's nothing like it. The feeling of a good workout, that is, not illness. :))
My last post on living in an RV has generated a bunch of questions by comment and by email. Instead of responding to them individually, I'm going to answer them all here.
How long did it take you to outfit the RV with solar power?
Putting solar power into an RV is a simple job, primarily because most things in an RV (everything that I use) runs of 12V DC power instead of standard household 120V AC power.
A couple weeks ago, my todo list was stressing me out. I use Wunderlist, which is a pretty great way of keeping track of all the things I have to keep track of, and for reminding me of what's coming up next, what I have to work on.
At first, it was a niggling feeling in the back of my mind. All I knew was that this feeling of slight unease had something to do with my system for tasks, but I didn't identify it. Then I read an article that mentioned the words 'list fatigue', and that was it. The article was probably talking about something else, but the words just fit what context I had about my todo list.
It was the buildup of too much stuff on the list(s).
I let things slowly accumulate into a backlog of tasks that needed to be done, and that was not a good idea. Having an extremely long - and growing - todo list is a vicious cycle. If your experience is similar to mine, then that ever-growing list just points out how much you need to do, and you procrastinate, making that list grow even more. That turns into a cycle that quickly makes you feel worse, as well as wreaking havoc on your productivity.