Notes from a Floating Life Thoughts about productivity, digital living, and leading a simpler life

It's Not a Competition

People working at computers

You see or hear or read about it a lot. Probably every day. Someone who’s always doing more. Always cramming more work and and more learning and more accomplishments into their lives.

Someone who’s held up as an example of what productivity, what work, what a professional life is all about.

Then, somewhere inside you feel a pang. It might be a pang of envy or a pang of regret. It might be the start of a stirring. A stirring that makes you want try to play catch up. To emulate that person and to do or learn or work more. To try to compete and out pace them.

When you feel that pang, when you feel that stirring there’s something you need to keep in mind. It’s not a competition.

Work, productivity, and learning aren’t a game of one upmanship. Doing more doesn’t make you special. It doesn’t mark you with badges of honour or greatness. It just means that you’re doing more work.

Ask yourself this question: Why do I want to do more? Is it because you actually have more to do? Is it because you really, really, really want to do more? Or is because you’re feeling left behind?

I’ve asked people about that and usually the latter has been their answer. That’s not a reason, or even an excuse, to pile more on your plate.

Instead of jumping on the productivity assembly line, ask yourself:

  • How does all this additional work fits in with my goals?
  • Is this extra work meaningful?
  • What do I hope to achieve in the end?

Unless you can come up with a compelling reason to do more, don’t. You’ll just wind up in what will come to feel like an endless slog. You won’t be better off, and you’ll have less time to do what you actually want to do or enjoy doing.

If you’re gripped by the need to compete against someone who seems uber productive, just remember this tweet by Scott Berkun:

I realize many (most?) famous/uber/productive people are deeply miserable. Work is all they have.

That, I think, puts it all into perspective.

Thoughts? Let's start a conversation on Twitter.

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