from cold basement

with gloves

Renewed Focus

Renewal. It is a word that means many things. Everyone needs renewal, but determining what area needs that renewal and how to go about it requires further thought. These are earnest questions I’m asking of myself. I’ve felt a bit out of touch recently. This is a circuitous attempt to address the issue – both its roots and its particulars – and work out some sort of plan going forward.

Coping through Process

I’ve been very interested over the past 7 about the process of self-improvement through productivity. The internet – with unchecked enthusiasm, ever-faster connection speeds, innumerable writers, and as-far-as-the-eye-can-see tools – provided a panoply of information about how to better exist within the reality of a hyper-connected world. Questions were earnest, even if the answers were often unhelpful:

  1. How can you maximize your productivity?
  2. Which of these Top 10 tools make you the most productive?
  3. Which [tool vs. tool] is more productive?

It’s not that the content of these titles is certainly full of meaningless content, it’s that they don’t even ask the right question. Instead of assuming the goal of productivity is worthwhile in and of itself, we should have been focusing on the goals themselves. Alas, this seems to be the great coping process of a generation. Part of the renewal involves a change in focus.

Alpha and Productivity?

Productivity is not an end. Being productive does not, in and of itself, mean anything. Productivity is a placeholder that we must fill with purpose, goals, and hard work for it to mean anything. It’s an empty text box that we can fill with florid prose or lorem ipsum, but the choice is entirely ours. We cannot simply choose to be productive; we must choose an end to be productive toward. That “end” is called a goal.

Moving the Goalpost; Defining the Goal

Specific goals are a necessary component of meaningful productivity. In a mad rush to understand how to best use new tools we forgot about the reason we needed to use the tools in the first place. A significant number in my generation have been exposed to this misguided focus on tools over goals.

Productive Boredom

By default, boredom is not intentionally built into days structured by administrators, educators, or bosses. If you’re never able to reflect or even consider what you – as a person – would actually like to do, then you’re left either achieving or ignoring the goals that others set for you. While you may describe this state of following as “boring,” true boredom doesn’t allow you to successfully complete tasks strengthening your Pavlovian tendencies. Boredom breeds creativity:

Children should be allowed to get bored so they can develop their innate ability to be creative…

Boredom, paradoxically, provides the mind a fertile space and time to work out self-motivated goals. Boredom itself may be a prerequisite for autonomous goal-setting, and autonomous goal-setting is a prerequisite for what most would call meaningful self-productivity.

The Known End

So how do we shift our focus to setting goals instead of seeking the mythical animal called productivity? One simple way is to decide that the goals you will set are clear. Clear goals are a requirement if you want to achieve them (because, absent clarity, how would you know?).

Seeking Boredom

But remember the boredom. Build boredom into your day simply by allowing it to occur. The fact that I do not own a so-called smart phone benefits me here, but I’m constantly drawn by distractions large and small. Get comfortable with boredom. Plan it into your day (how boring!) and keep it scheduled. With nothing do do but stare at an empty desk, a non-connected computer running a CLI, and some writing tools you’ll be productive in no time.

Plan Waste

Plan waste too. The internet is a great place, and despite the distractions it provides (including a multitude of tools and people writing about their benefits) there is nothing like it for quick connections, nearly complete access to everything, and endless rabbit holes for curious kittens that generally don’t end in the death of anything but productivity… and it may even inspire it.