At about 9pm on most nights, I find myself detouring from the productive tasks I’ve been grinding away at during the day. My attention will begin to sag, and my browser will find its way back to Facebook or Twitter with increasing regularity.
9pm is where my productivity ends and staying busy begins.
There’s a huge difference between productive work and work that simply keeps you busy. Arguably that difference is life and death, living and slaving. When work becomes a matter of passing idle time, our mental breakdown is soon to follow. It’s the magic cocktail for exhaustion, depression and a tunnel with no light.
How do you know that you’re working to stay busy?
You have 17 tabs active on your web browser. Four of them are Facebook, 1 of them is Twitter, and the rest are a combination of BBC Sport stories and Wikipedia entries on the First World War.
Your workflow consists of a juggling act between refreshing Facebook for new clicks on your ads, then skipping back to your control panel to see how many of the clicks have converted. You slip away in disgust at your lack of revenue, crack open a new browser on Mashable, and then repeat the same bloody process 4 minutes later. Probably in a new tab.
You cruise through the entire database of gigs on Fiverr, despite having no precise idea of what you’re looking to buy. You just know that you’re missing something important, and it’s being snapped up by your competition. Of course, your competition doesn’t have a name or a face. It’s simply a projected vision of your own self if only you were working twice as hard.
You invest an aimless hour of your time in to ‘figures projection’. Yes, this is the useless affiliate art of taking his stats from Day A and B, then multiplying them by a combination of 30, 90 and 365 to find out how rich he’ll be 1 month, 3 months and 1 year from now. I have done this many times and it has never worked. Ever.
You refresh your bloody Gmail! To hear from who, I have no idea. Perhaps the National Lottery’s unclaimed millions department…
You click on link after link of mildly stimulating headlines, knowing all too well that the information to follow is a rehash of a thousand similar articles you’ve already eyeballed to death. You know the information can’t possibly help you, or it would have done 5 months ago. But you read it anyway. Why? Because ‘staying busy’ is better than being stationed away from the computer screen, where the magic email that says you’ve finally ‘made it’ can’t land.
Do any of these symptoms sound familiar?
Learning to recognise this transition in your day is the key to understanding where productivity ends and staying busy begins. Once you’ve pinpointed the divide, you have half a chance at correcting it.
I’m not saying recognition alone is a cure. We are highly trained creatures of habits. It’s all too easy to convince ourselves that time is being spent effectively, even when it’s clearly being spunked down the drain – along with that nutritious delicious Rustlers burger you ate in all of about 14 seconds.
Tip: Want an indication of how ‘busy’ you feel? Take a look at how quickly you eat. If you attack your meals like a wolf at a tea party, there’s probably a little voice in the back of your head singing, “Hey, you, don’t you have some place to be?“
We are fixated with the idea that doing something is better than nothing. But guess what? That’s a steaming pile of horse shit. And you know it.
Doing nothing and shutting the hell up is important for many reasons. Not least because it gives your brain a chance to digest the ticking matrix of data and meaningless tasks that have bumrushed your day.
Here’s a challenge.
Take 5 minutes. Sit your arse down away from the computer screen, and be silent.
What happens? Where does your mind go? What thoughts bubble to the cusp of your imagination?
Treasure them. They are the silent streaks of creativity that are routinely pummelled in to submission by the constant stream of diarrhoea you willingly subject your mind to.
Without silence there is no context. Without silence there is no opportunity to disconnect from the day and regain control of where it’s heading. So, if you’ve reached the tipping point where staying busy is your only desire – stop. Disconnect.
Go outside and shut the fuck up.
Everything will make more sense when you return.
Recommended This Week
I recently did an interview for GenerationYWorking (good new site) on the trials of working from home. Give it a read if you’re wondering what my day looks like.
If you haven’t downloaded it already, make sure you grab a copy of my freshly brewed Affiliate Marketer’s Survival Kit (add your email below for access). It’s 50 pages of up-to-the-second info on what currently works in affiliate marketing.
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