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Working Delusions

Working Delusions

People suffer from many delusions. One of the most common is that everything worthwhile takes effort. It’s part of that pernicious way of thinking called The Puritan Work Ethic. According to this doctrine, work and effort are valuable and praiseworthy in themselves and lack of either leads to laziness, idleness and vice. Ergo, the more work or effort something takes, the more valuable it becomes. If you want to increase the amount of worthwhile elements in your life, you always need to work harder (longer hours, more effort). Q.E.D.

This is, of course, irrational drivel. The value attached to work comes from what’s produced as a result, nothing else. Relaxation and ease don’t produce vice—unless you cling to the belief that anything enjoyable must be sinful too. Most criminals, terrorists and evil dictators work very hard at what they do. Does that, miraculously, make it good?

Much of what people spend their time and effort on is trivial, unproductive and contributes little or nothing to their well-being, enjoyment or prosperity. Hours are spent watching TV programs everyone agrees are rubbish. People do jobs they despise for wages they claim are way below what they’re worth. They buy goods they don’t use and clothes they rarely wear. They look forward to the weekend, then spend it wandering around the mall or watching still more TV.

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Making your life more productive, more enjoyable and more fitted to your sense of life’s purpose needs more (and less) than slogging away at some activity only duty forces you to do. It needs you to let go of all the footling, pointless, unsatisfying and merely conventional activities you do currently. Then focus whatever time and effort you’ve freed up on those parts of your life you enjoy or desire most.

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Life doesn’t need to be a grim process of hours and days of activities you’re forced to do, in return for a few minutes of (probably guilty) pleasure. If you truly enjoy watching TV, go ahead—enjoy it wholeheartedly. If you don’t, stop doing it right now. If thinking about your work makes you feel mildly sick, focus your time on moving to another job you’ll enjoy more. If you love training hard for a marathon, that’s fine. If you’d prefer to sit in a chair with a book, that’s fine too. If spending time with friends makes your heart glad, go to it. If what thrills you most is the feeling of satisfaction you get from the job you do, spend as much time at work as you want.

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There are no absolute, established rules for life. Many people try to tell you otherwise, but that’s because they want you to do only what they feel is right. It’s your life. So far as we know, you only get one. You ought to be able to live it pretty much as you wish, provided you don’t hurt others in the process. That’s what freedom means.

Here are some articles to help you stop wasting effort and start achieving more with less:

Adrian Savage is an Englishman and a retired business executive who lives in Tucson, Arizona. You can read his serious thoughts most days at Slow Leadership, the site for anyone who wants to bring back the taste, zest and satisfaction to leadership; and his crazier ones at The Coyote Within.

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Last Updated on March 13, 2019

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.

Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

1. Work on the small tasks.

When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

Whenever I finish doing that, I generate a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.

2. Take a break from your work desk.

Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.

Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.

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3. Upgrade yourself

Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college. How’s that for inspiration?

4. Talk to a friend.

Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.

Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

5. Forget about trying to be perfect.

If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies.

Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.

Soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come. And then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

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6. Paint a vision to work towards.

If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the end vision in mind?

Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.

7. Read a book (or blog).

The things we read are like food to our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great materials.

Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as Lifehack.org, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.

Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.

8. Have a quick nap.

If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep.

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9. Remember why you are doing this.

Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.

10. Find some competition.

Nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, networking conventions.. you get the drill.

11. Go exercise.

Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.

Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.

As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

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Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

12. Take a good break.

Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.

Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

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Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

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