Some Things You Just Can’t Dodge

We should spend more time on thinking how we spend our time. I’ve luckily had the opportunity to do so in the last months. A post about thinking methods and aching backs.

I really do not have to worry about many things except for my thesis right now (suspicious, how I’ve started to engage with my blog at the same time that I’m obliged to write something else). That’s why I’ve had the time to do some research on how to be more productive since I’ve always felt that I waste much more time than necessary. It’s really not the first time that I’ve read up on how to be more efficient, but usually when I do that it’s the night before an exam and my search bar ends up looking something like ‘study 8 hours in 4 hours’ or ‘how much coffee to drink before exam after studying all night’. As you may imagine or have experienced yourself, the search results are a loss of time more than anything else.

Now that I’m free from exam pressure, I’ve rediscovered this Youtuber called Ali Abdaal who’s a doctor and blogger and business owner who seemingly has more hours per day than I do (with 1.46 million subscribers on YouTube, if you’ve ever searched for videos on productivity, you’ll probably know him). If you’re like me, and usually only crave to be productive merely hours before an exam, you’ve seen that his videos are longer than 30 seconds, which is about the amount of time that one can afford to lose during study nights, and therefore haven’t really give him a chance. But I think you should. Here’s why:

Ali Abdaal reads and assesses books and studies about how to work and live more effectively, how to lose less time with the things you may not enjoy as much so that you can spend that gained time on whatever you do enjoy. And isn’t that something people strive for? The great thing about his channel is the fact that while his titles are certainly click-baity (E.g.: ‘How Writing Online made me a Millionaire’), raising people’s hope and leading to lots of viewers, the videos are actually helpful. (Disclaimer: I watched this video last week and I am not a millionaire yet, so you may want to lower your hopes)

He talks about all these methods and principles that you should follow if you want to be more efficient with whatever you’re doing, all of which are great advice, but I think the most important aspect he mentions is the relevance of enjoying the tasks at hand. Whenever you do something, it should be enjoyable at least to some extent.

Of course, not everything you do is enjoyable in itself. In fact, most things probably aren’t. Even if you’re studying exactly what you always wanted to study, in the city you love most. Even if you have the job you used to dream about as a child. Even if you’re in a relationship with your all-time favourite person. Some things just aren’t fun. Writing a 3000-word essay for that one class you know won’t have any influence on your future isn’t pleasant. Preparing a project for your boss that he will present as his own is frustrating. Spending your only day off from work setting up your partner’s grandparents Wifi will not be something you look forward to first thing in the morning.

But while these activities are not inherently fun, you make them worse by hating them before doing them. You’ll probably spend more time worrying about or loathing these projects than it takes to actually complete them. Think about how many times you accomplished an annoying task just to realise that it wasn’t that bad, or hard or exhausting. (I can think of literally only one event that was even worse than I had expected – French oral examination as a senior – against hundreds of times where I seriously overestimated the agony I’d undergo.) Very often you’ll even have found that you had at least a little fun doing it.

Embracing this realisation, the fact that I probably won’t hate every second of that thing I have to do has had a serious influence the way I look at tasks. What I think is crucial to fathom is the fact that while you do not always get to choose what you do and while some projects really are annoying, the way you look at them makes all the difference. So maybe next time you have a project coming up that isn’t necessarily your favourite pastime, ask yourself if there’s any way for you to make it less tiresome. Find the one little thing that isn’t annoying about the task, and actively choose to focus on that. If that does not work and you really cannot find anything positive, it helps to take a step back to look at the bigger picture. Failing the class because you decide to write the 3000 word essay on the day of the deadline will probably lower your overall grade and your chances to get that job you want. Sending your boss a presentation with 19 spelling mistakes on 3,5 powerpoint slides will probably affect your position in the firm in a negative way. Deciding to stay in bed instead of setting up your grandparents in law’s wifi will certainly affect your partner’s mood, which might lead to you sleeping on the couch.

Some things you just can’t dodge, so you may as well make the time you have to spend on it more pleasurable, even if it’s just a tiny bit. Things aren’t usually that bad. Most of the time it’s just your mind playing tricks on you because it’s lazy. Tasks usually offer at least a tiny bit of fun, if you so choose to seek it. Concentrate on that, and you’ll get things done much quicker. And, in the exceptional case of a project that does not present any positive prospect, you can always motivate yourself by thinking about your aching back after sleeping on the couch.

Invent yourself, CK

“If you spend too much time thinking about a thing, you’ll never get it done” – Bruce Lee