Making Better (or at least more productive) Choices

In this case, a binary is useful: procrastinating with productive tasks.
Photo by Brandon Lopez.

When I was in university, I had a habit of getting too busy to be human. (Any of my pals from the past, well, ten years, would know that this is a habit that didn't end with university.)

When finals rolled around, I had to study plus do a lot of other things, so taking "study breaks" wasn't really an option. Instead, I would just take breaks by studying something different. I would go from reviewing Brecht's theories to memorizing cognitive psychology terms to slogging through the earth and ocean sciences course I made the mistake of taking by correspondence.

Luckily, I was studying different-enough classes that each different subject felt like a totally different brain space. Each one was a break, because it was variation.

People thought I was bonkers for calling switching between cognitive psychology and Brecht a "break", but I got through finals and felt pretty good about life.

Well, now here is some vindication from Seth Godin!

His focus is a little different than my exam-survival mode was, though:

"One useful practice is to have forced choices that break up the work but that are also productive. Not fun, that would be a mistake, but productive."

The idea here is that big, creative, or daring work can be scary, and sometimes you want to avoid doing it. Normally, we avoid important and valuable work in terrible, unproductive ways that don't serve us or the work we want to do (you know, the whole reason social media is as successful). Seth suggests that instead, we switch back and forth between the big, scary task and something that still helps move the mechanics of our lives and work forward.

Seems pretty smart to me.


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