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Getting Rid of Guilty Pleasures

Getting Rid of Guilty Pleasures

Guilty Pleasures

    We all have activities we love or foods we crave that we think of as “guilty pleasures”, things that aren’t good for us, or that we feel would embarrass us if anyone else know about it, but that we enjoy anyway.

    Maybe you like reading “airport novels”, or chick lit, or true confessions. Maybe you love double-fudge chocolate chunk ice cream with chocolate sauce and chocolate sprinkles, or gummy worms, or expensive imported truffles. Maybe you cry in cheesy romantic comedies, or obsess over 1960’s B-movies, or scream like a little girl in slasher pics.

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    Whatever it is, your pleasure is tempered somewhat by guilt. Some guilty pleasures make us feel guilty because they’re so bad for us — fattening foods, time-wasting games, IQ-sucking sitcoms. Others aren’t necessarily bad for us, but we fear for the effect on our reputations if word got out. They make us look “low-class” or “non-intellectual” or “unprofessional” or “immature”.

    The guilt ultimately arises, though, from the pleasure itself. Our modern society, with it’s “work work work ethic” and deeply-bred commitment to constant self-improvement — through dieting, through “extreme” sports, through self-help books, through a never-ending stream of products and media that all promise a “better you!” — holds pleasure in rather low esteem. It is seen, at best, as a reward, though a somewhat disreputable one, for the success of all that work work work.

    But more often it’s seen as a luxury, and a dispensable one at that. The poor are held in contempt for their continued willingness to own DVD players, the rich for their decadence. Food, we are told, is solely for the nourishment of the body; sex, we are told, is solely for the reproduction of the species. Pleasure for pleasure’s sake is to be avoided, and those who seek it are to be shunned.

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    Hence the guilty pleasure — the thing we do just because it makes us feel good. It’s shameful to seek after the “empty calories” of the sugary snack, fluffy novel, or childish hobby. It’s a betrayal of the fundamental principles our society is built on.

    It’s time to strike the phrase “guilty pleasure” from your vocabulary.

    The idea that those things that distract us from the “real” work of living should be held in contempt is, of course, good for those who profit most from our work, but it’s no good for the rest of us. Work is good, of course — things need to get done — but work without pleasure is for automatons, not human beings. Indeed, it is the “guilty pleasures” we should feel least guilty about, because they re the things in which we are more fully our own people.

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    Behind the concept of the guilty pleasure is a demand for conformity. Don’t eat that, watch that, read that, do that, be that. It is an insistence that there are certain things we’re supposed to eat, watch, read, do, be, if we are to be taken seriously as adults. It is an insistence, in fact, on being “normal” — or even worse, “average”.

    I defy that.

    I hear you thinking, “But certainly, if something’s unhealthy for you, and you do it anyway, you should feel guilty about it — it’s the only way you’re gong to stop!” And sure, if your diet consists solely of guilty pleasures, if your reading is entirely guilty pleasures, if your life is consumed by the quest for ever-more guilty pleasures, that’s a problem. If your guilt stems from your concern over a lack of willpower or discipline that is causing you real harm, you absolutely should be dealing with that. It’s probably not the guilty pleasure that’s to blame, though — you need to work out some balance in your life as a whole.

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    But more often, our guilty pleasures are an exception, a small part of a life that’s otherwise already well-balanced. Which is to say, you can probably afford to indulge in a guilty pleasure or two without any guilt. If it gives you pleasure and isn’t likely to kill you, by all means, dig in!

    Same thing with the rest of the guilty pleasures. If your guilt stems from the fear of what other people would think if they knew, and you’re no longer in middle school, you need to deal with your lack of self-confidence, not your appreciation of Top 40 music.

    As with so much else, it boils down to a question of balance. If your life is chugging along just fine, thank you, and you just happen to have an inordinate fondness for Troll dolls, I say know yourself out. On the other hand, if your eating habits or entertainment preferences leave you unprepared to deal with your life — or if they’re the only consolation in your life — you need to give some serious thought to discovering more nourishing pleasures — or building a more nourishing life.

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    Last Updated on September 10, 2019

    How to Master the Art of Prioritization

    How to Master the Art of Prioritization

    Do you know that prioritization is an art? It is an art that will lead you to success in whatever area that matters to you.

    By prioritization, I’m not talking so much about assigning tasks, but deciding which will take chronological priority in your day—figuring out which tasks you’ll do first, and which you’ll leave to last.

    Effective Prioritization

    There are two approaches to “prioritizing” the tasks in your to-do list that I see fairly often:

    Approach #1 Tackling the Biggest Tasks First and Getting Them out of the Way

    The idea is that by tackling them first, you deal with the pressure and anxiety that builds up and prevents you from getting anything done—whether we’re talking about big or small tasks. Leo Babauta is a proponent of this Big Rocks method.[1]

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    Approach #2 Tackling the Tasks You Can Get Done Quickly and Easily, with Minimal Effort

    Proponents of this method believe that by tackling the small fries first, you’ll have less noise distracting you from the periphery of your consciousness.

    If you believe in getting your email read and responded to, making phone calls and getting Google Reader zeroed before you dive into the high-yield work, you’re a proponent of this method. I suppose you could say Getting Things Done (GTD) encourages this sort of method, since the methodology advises followers to tackle tasks that can be completed within two minutes, right there and then.

    Figure out Your Approach for Prioritization

    My own approach is perhaps a mixture of the two.

    I’ll write out my daily task list and draw little priority stars next to the three items I need to get done that day. They don’t need to be big tasks, but nine times out of ten, they are.

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    Smaller tasks are rarely important enough to warrant a star in the first place; I can always get away without even checking my inbox until the next day if I’m swamped, and the people who need to get in touch with me super quickly know how.

    But I’m not recommending my system of prioritization to you. I’m also not saying that mine is better than Leo’s Big Rocks method, and I’m not saying it’s better than the “if it can be done quickly, do it first” method either.

    The thing with prioritization is that knowing when to do what relies very much on you and the way you work. Some people need to get some small work done to find a sense of accomplishment and clarity that allows them to focus on and tackle bigger items. Others need to deal with the big tasks or they’ll get caught up in the busywork of the day and never move on, especially when that Google Reader count just refuses to get zeroed (personally, I recommend the Mark All As Read button—I use it most days!).

    I’m in between, because my own patterns can be all over the place. Some days I will be ready to rip into massive projects at 7AM. Other times I’ll feel the need to zero every inbox I have and clean up the papers on my desk before I can focus on anything serious. I also know that my peak, efficient working time doesn’t come at 11AM or 3PM or some specific time like it does for many people, but I have several peaks divided by a few troughs. I can feel what’s coming on when and try to keep my schedule liquid enough that I can adapt.

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    That’s why I use a starred task list system rather than a scheduled task list. It allows me to trust myself (something that I suppose takes a certain amount of discipline) and achieve peak efficiency by blowing with the winds. If I fight the peaks and troughs, I’ll get less done; but if I do certain kinds of work in each period of the day as they come, I’ll get more done than most others in a similar line of work.

    You may not be able to trust yourself to that extent without falling into the busywork trap. You may not be able to tackle big tasks first thing in the morning without feeling like you’re pushing against an invisible brick wall that won’t budge. You might not be able to deal with small tasks before the big tasks without feeling pangs of guilt and urgency.

    My point is:

    The prioritization systems themselves don’t matter. They’re all pretty good for a group of people, not least of all to the people who espouse them because they use them and find them effective.

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    What matters is that you don’t fall for one set of dogma (and I’m not saying Leo Babauta or David Allen preach these things as dogma, but sometimes their proponents do) until you’ve tried the systems extensively, and found which method of chronological prioritization works for you.

    And if the system you already use works great, then there’s no need to bother trying others—in the world of personal productivity, it’s too easy to mess with something that works and find yourself unable to get back into your former groove.

    “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

    In truth, this principle applies to all sorts of personal productivity issues, though it’s important to know which issues it applies to.

    If you thought multitasking worked well for you each day and I’d have to contend that you are wrong—multitasking is a universal myth in my books! But if you find yourself prioritizing tasks that never get done, you might need to reconsider which of the above approaches you’re using and change to a system that is more personally effective.

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    Featured photo credit: Sabri Tuzcu via unsplash.com

    Reference

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