I’ve been thinking a lot about work lately.
Not the nebulous “what I do all day” kind of work, but rather a reflection on how my relationship with my daily tasks is an indicator of my personal and professional life.
Questions like this come to mind:
- Do I treat my work time as sacred?
- What’s stopping me from doing more?
- Do I start each day with a to-do list?
- Do I actively prevent and mitigate distractions?
- Do I force others to treat my work time as sacred?
- Do I always know what comes next after completing a task?
- Does the list of things that’s stopping me from doing more get smaller every day?
- Do I only work when I feel like working, or have I grown past letting my emotion influence my productivity?
- Do I recover from distractions when I’m knocked off-task, or does it take me hours (if not all day) to get back on task?
When I think back to the days when I had first left my job, I remember floundering in my free time. I had gotten by my entire life by being smart and charming, but not by hard work. All of my “accomplishments” were a result of my doing just enough, or being liked by the right people. I had terrible work habits, honed in the belly of the beast.
I used to sit down at the computer and spend most of my days brainlessly refreshing feeds and news sources until my brain turned to mush. I never carved out the time to be still, hone my craft, and learn the art of business. This free-wheeling nothingness was a result of 1) me not having a boss anymore and 2) never developing a habit of self-managing.
Amateurs and professionals
When I look at the habits of people who get things done, it’s obvious that work being taken seriously is at the center of their achievements.
On one end of the spectrum is the amateur who works in the shadows on nothing in particular, as needed. The amateur isn’t building anything intentionally or working with a sense of purpose or determination, so their work reflects this. As my mentor would say, they don’t know how to work.
On the other end of the spectrum is the professional who realizes (and has long since sold out to the idea) that work is not a choice. Work is a part of our life that must be practiced just like any other habit. It’s not influenced by how they feel, what other responsibilities they’ve taken on, or how nice the weather is.
Professionals do what’s needed, every day, period.
Bridging the gap
One doesn’t go from sitting on the couch watching TV for eight hours a day to playing back to back pickup games at the local basketball court overnight. By the same token, the amateur doesn’t become a professional overnight by sitting down to do work all day. This isn’t to say that the mindset and habits of a professional can’t be immediately emulated, though.
With tweets and texts alarms and chimes all around us, it’s easy to spend less than an hour being productive every day. Think about that! The legacy of what we’re working towards as artists and world-changers accomplished in sixty minutes a day.
What’s interesting to note is how much gets done when we focus. We love a great just-in-the-knick-of time stories, and glamorize the last-minute sprint.
What reinforces this lazy work habit is how good it feels to accomplish something under pressure, and how we remind ourselves each time we do it that this is how it’s done. Yes, instead of making a habit of doing the work we’re proud of by focusing intensely and proactively on our tasks, we get off on the euphoria of almost being embarrassed. And thus the cycle continues.
I’m trying to turn over a new leaf, and I hope that you’ll join me. Nothing is more important for my career and quality of life right now, and I appreciate those who set the example for me and those around me.