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

Avoiding The Trap of 'More'

An old man sitting in front of a pile of books, reading

More.

That’s something many of us strive to do. More work. More reading. More activities. All in a pursuit to, we hope, better ourselves and fill supposedly idle moments and to keep idle hands busy.

It can be a constant push to find more things to do, to tackle more, all in the name of productivity. At least, what you think will be productivity.

You can do more. But the questions you need to ask are Do I need to? and Do I want to? You need to ask those questions because more can become a trap. You find yourself trying to fill as many of your waking hours as you can with something. With anything, no matter how small or big. All with the aim of being productive.

To me, that path leads you to false productivity. You’re doing more work, but little of that work might matter. It’s often tasks you’ve set to fill time, to rather than to do something meaningful. On top of that, you might be sacrificing quality for quantity.

I know a number of people who try to read and learn everything they can. An admirable goal, but they usually rush through books and articles and courses. I wonder how much they’re actually retaining. I wonder what kind of relationship or connection they have with what they’re reading or with what they’re trying to learn. Often, that connection is shallow and tenuous. They’re only scratching the surface rather than delving deeper and internalizing what’s before their eyes.

You risk burning out if you pack too much into your life. I know this from experience. In 2007, my life was busy. Very busy. I was juggling my work as a contract technical writer with freelance writing, taking courses, maintaining three blogs, and spending time with my family. Often, I was at it six or seven days a week. One Saturday morning, my body told me to stop — I was weak, tired, and just couldn’t focus. I spent most of that weekend lying on the sofa, watching BBC World News, rather than working.

That was the signal for me to stop and reevaluate what I was doing. I cut back on everything. I didn’t do or learn as much, but I gained more depth with what I was doing, with what I was learning. I felt better about the quality of the work and the learning I was doing.

Remember that your life doesn’t have to be a continuous stream of work and activities from the time you wake up until the time you turn in. There’s nothing wrong with taking time to rest, to relax, to reflect. You’ll be doing less, but you’ll be getting more out of it.

Give it a try.

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