Yet again the Greater Good website wafted the scent of some refreshing ideas across my untidy desk. This article by Kira M. Newman focuses on an intriguing shift of perspective that seems deserving of further thought. Intuitively for me, it makes sense to shift my focus even more from my todo lists (content) to how I use my energy (process). I’ve been moving increasingly in that direction, from time management to mindfulness, for several years now, but this is the first coherent statement I’ve come across about how to do this more effectively across the board. I’m definitely going to try it out even though it means adding another book to my list of purchases. Below is a short extract. For the full post see link.
Emma Seppälä and I have something in common: we are both recovering chore-haters.
“There was a time when I couldn’t stand running errands: getting gas, taking my car for an oil change, calling the electricity company about a bill, or going grocery shopping,” she writes in her new book The Happiness Track: How to Apply the Science of Happiness to Accelerate Your Success. “Taking care of this or that silly errand instead of being ‘productive’—doing things that would serve some future goal like advancing my career—felt like a waste of time.”
In The Happiness Track, Seppälä tries to untangle one of the knottiest problems of the modern age: our burned out, overscheduled lifestyle. We are stuck in a jumble of feeling overwhelmed yet never accomplishing enough, trussed up by the underlying assumptions that we hold about productivity: Success requires stress. We have to compete with others. We can’t cut ourselves any slack. “We have simply accepted overextension as a way of life,” she writes.
So it’s no wonder many of us aren’t not happy—we’re drained and emotionally exhausted! Nearly half of us lie awake at night due to stress, the worries of the day coming home to roost when we finally stop moving. We tell ourselves to “tough it out” rather than to rest or reassess what we’re doing.
To combat this problem, the typical advice is to manage your time better: Prioritize. Make better to-do lists. Delegate unnecessary tasks. If that hasn’t worked for you, don’t be surprised; nature abhors a vacuum, and so do we. If we give ourselves an extra hour, we’ll find some task to fill it with. So time is not the commodity we should be tracking and managing, Seppälä argues. Instead, we need to manage our energy.
In Seppälä‘s formulation, we drain ourselves of energy anytime we experience intense negative emotions or thoughts, or struggle against our urges and desires. If we allow ourselves a walk during lunchtime but are consumed by worries about our afternoon workload, we’ve drained energy rather than gained it—yet the same amount of time has elapsed. If we have to peel ourselves out of bed morning after morning running a sleep deficit, it takes a toll on our vitality, even though we have more waking hours to get things done.
Seppälä outlines six qualities to cultivate that will contribute to both our productivity and our happiness.