Friday, December 30, 2005

HOWTO: Be more productive

There are a lot of myths about productivity -- that time is fungible, that focusing is good, that bribing yourself is effective, that hard work is unpleasant, that procrastinating is unnatural -- but they all have a common theme: a conception of real work as something that goes against your natural inclinations.

And for most people, in most jobs, this may be the case. There's no reason you should be inclined to write boring essays or file pointless memos. And if society is going to force you to do so anyway, then you need to learn to shut out the voices in your head telling you to stop.

But if you're trying to do something worthwhile and creative, then shutting down your brain is entirely the wrong way to go. The real secret to productivity is the reverse: to listen to your body. To eat when you're hungry, to sleep when you're tired, to take a break when you're bored, to work on projects that seem fun and interesting.

It seems all too simple. It doesn't involve any fancy acronyms or self-determination or personal testimonials from successful businessmen. It almost seems like common sense. But society's conception of work has pushed us in the opposite direction. If we want to be more productive, all we need to do is turn around.

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