Choice can be the most difficult thing sometimes. When faced with two options, it’s usually easy to see the cost and benefits associated with each. When more options are piled on, the results can become muddied.
Picking and choosing when faced with a bevy of possibilities can lead not only to indecision but stagnation. That’s why many of the most successful producers attempt to limit not only their focus but the things that may come their way to detract from their focus.
It’s not easy. I constantly struggle with over-extension. And I routinely try to reduce the amount of commitments I have. There are times when it’s not received well.
But being honest in those situations, with yourself and with others, is the best way forward. Don’t be cruel, but don’t be misled into giving of yourself when it will cause your work, and your mental health, to suffer. Again, it’s about taking that time for yourself.
Increasing output by decreasing inputs may seem contradictory. But if you read yesterday’s post, you’d know that given diminishing returns we may already be reducing our potential productivity. In nearly every case, we are. We lump so much into our lives that it’s impossible to create as we should be creating. Barely getting enough done.
So, if our productivity suffers from too many inputs, we must reduce them to reach peak productivity. Hence entire movements on time management and minimalism.
Maybe peak productivity isn’t the goal. Maybe it’s a simpler life. Or fewer bills, less stress, less to clean. Maybe it’s just the search for more happiness.
Whatever it is, it can’t be found by throwing more and more at it. It’s better to try and remove one or two things at a time until you can find some breathing room.
“Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing. A schedule defends from chaos and whim. It is a net for catching days. It is a scaffolding on which a worker can stand and labor with both hands at sections of time.”
— Annie Dillard, The Writing Life
We all have a list of things that we want to accomplish. And probably a bigger list of things that require our attention. And, if we’re honest, an even longer list of items that others need from us.
When we make time, we take time from other items that could be consuming our attention. The economic principle of opportunity costs. What we are giving up.
Remember: The most successful people are generally those who eliminate the unnecessary from their lives.
What I’m Reading: The Call of the Wild by Jack London. Picked it back up, and am just reading a chapter a night. Being a dog lover, it’s nice to read from the dog’s point of view, but also a bit sad given the context.
What I’m listening to: Camp Red Moon on Audible, from RL Stine and other authors. Fun fireside ghost stories, geared towards a younger audience. But I did grow up reading Goosebumps, so I don’t mind it at all.
What I’m spending time with: The Witcher III: Wild Hunt on Nintendo Switch. Started down the deep dive of the Witcher franchise last week, and wanted to give the game a go. Pretty good so far. I like the open-world environment, as well as multiple quests to accomplish. A little glitchy at times, which I heard is a flaw in the Nintendo conversion. But otherwise, a grade of A- so far.
What I’ve shared:
More often than not, when pressed for time we give up our own ambitions or creative work to make room for other things. The challenge, then, is to not push aside our creative work. Make time. Chisel it in stone into your calendar.
This is my time, for my creative work. It will not be altered.
Force yourself to work, and hold yourself accountable. That’s how to make meaningful projects come to life.
With so many things on your plate, it’s easy to try and take it all at once. But figuring out where to place your focus will pay dividends in getting things done.
But how? Which items to take your attention, and which to postpone?
Those questions are similar, but the answers are unique to each individual. But regardless of what you have lined up to do, make sure you’re spending time on real work – work that you find motivating and important. Otherwise, nothing else you do will matter.
When I was directing fundraising programs, this question was written on a sticky note and attached above my desk so that I could keep my attention focused. If I felt myself straying, I could look up and ask myself that question. Was I just sending emails, or was I working on something with more purpose?
Since that development contract ended back in April, I’ve seen that sticky note float around every now and then. I hadn’t thought about it much until recently since I’ve been working an extra gig. Now, I find my calendar full most days, and that’s great!
But, am I making time for the deep work? For my creative endeavors? Am I writing for the blog, for instance? Working on some of my other projects, whether in writing, publication, or film/tv/stage? Sadly, the answer more often than not was no…
Now in the new year, and maybe with a six-month contract for work, I have to remember to keep my attention focused. Yes, the jobs I do must be done, and done well. But also, don’t neglect the deep work. The nourishment for the soul. That thing I get to leave behind me.
So again I get to ask myself: “Am I being productive? Or merely keeping busy?”