The road to hell is paved with good intentions.
Contradictory to what you might think, a ruined life can start off as an attempt to build a good habit. You may start off as wanting to be more productive, and you’ll most likely follow the latest trends in productivity, thus bringing structure to your life, and increasing the amount of work you get done. After you get the basics down, you’ll undertake bigger and heavier workloads; always in search of getting more done and faster! One day, you’ll stumble upon an epiphany, a brilliant idea for some great project—yes my friends, that’s how it begins.
Little by little, it will affect your personal life, giving you the illusion you can organize every minute of every hour to focus on your project. You’ll start skipping meals, cut out your workout, skip reading your kids their bedtime stories, and more. Pretty soon, you’ll find yourself totally drained with zero motivation to do the things you were so motivated to accomplish a week ago… with the added value of an angry spouse telling you that it’s nice you were able to check off “visit home” from your tasks.
You may justify to yourself that you just need a bit more time in order to finish your project, right? Wrong! Even David Allen, one of the most productive people you’ll meet and the author of Getting Things Done said that: “If you’re appropriately engaged with your life, you don’t need more time. If you’re not, more time won’t help”, why?
Keeping yourself constantly occupied helps you ignore some issues in your personal life. It supplies you with a rewarding comfort zone that can be sustained for a long period; you get rewards for each task, all the while getting closer to the big reward just beyond the horizon.
Yet, be warned this is a bubble, and bubbles are meant to burst. Sacrificing your personal life on the altar of productivity actually pushes you away from the main reasons you sought to be more productive in the first place. It puts a wall between you and the outer world preventing you from seeing there’s a problem since you are engrossed in being productive, and once the bubble pops, it may be too late.
If you’re working on a new project you’ll need a boatload of creativity, and where do creative juices come from? According to Vincent Walsh, a professor from the Institute of cognitive neuroscience in the university college of London, creativity comes from obsession. According to him, there are four components to creativity:
Preparation: preparing everything; researching information, testing, and generally sniffing a bit around before you make your move.
Incubation: the period required for you to process what you’ve gathered during the preparation phase.
Illumination: The Eureka moment!
Verification: Checking how well your idea bumps against the walls of reality.
To follow through successfully with these stages, you’ll need to obsess over your idea, but how much? That’s the million dollar question, and ultimately, it’s up to you. Extremely creative people changed a few spouses and were tormented emotionally and mentally day and night until they had their break. Those are the people you’ve heard of, but there are plenty of others who never made it to the illumination phase
Keep obsession at bay by making sure you keep it balanced. Obsession is a slippery slope, and most of us aren’t Albert Einstein. We are creatures of emotion and impulse, we refuel with new experiences, support from our community, and rest, and all of the above require time. A high level of productivity and creativity can be sustained only when we feel fulfilled (or as Abraham Maslow called it, the upper reaches of the pyramid). Stay balanced, be productive and don’t lose touch with yourself—until next time.
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