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Working hard vs being productively fulfilled

Last update: August 16, 2017

The society based on production is only productive, not creative.
— Albert Camus

When running a business or an independent practice, there are always so many things to do. Finish this up, answer that email, call this person, meet that client, etc.

When fully tuned-in to our daily routines, we often feel that if we stop crossing things off the to-do list, then we are no longer “in business” or no longer productive. So, we invent new things to do or distract ourselves with.

Deceptively, these “early yardage” tasks can make us feel good about ourselves, only because “we are in action” and actually “doing something”.

Sometimes this can become quite a trap…Doing more things will surely keep us busy, but they won’t always get us to where we’d like to be. On the contrary, it can become counter-productive and even wear us out, taking away all the energy needed to enjoy life.

And what’s the point then? What are we trying to prove by this and to whom?I think that the real challenge behind this “mist of doing,” is to actually maintain the balance between our daily duties and personal life in a way that fills us up with new energy and enables us to maintain our drive, creativity and health. Without them, how can we create a successful venture, or, in general, live a fulfilling life?

Organizing your day in the way that enables us to be the most productive and still have the time for ourselves, our friends and personal passions is part of a wider topic of lifestyle design.

Today, I’d like to share a few tips that have helped me to become more productive. Perhaps some of them will click with you as well…


Today is the day to be re-examined and changed. Tomorrow is to be lived in a better way.

Well, this one is kind of obvious, isn’t it? The funny thing is that, although it is obvious, we often don’t take it seriously until we get an opportunity to truly realize how valuable our time is and how fast the time goes. Awakened by this understanding, we suddenly get the pull to start making the changes and living our life to the fullest. For everyone this moment comes when we are “ready to hear it”.

Until then, getting into a habit of re-examination shouldn’t hurt. It forces us to create the time for questioning our own actions and assumptions and getting rid of those which simply create boundaries for growth. Of course, as long as this questioning does not become “chronic” freezing us from action…


Re-examining the to-do list with a birds-eye view

So when we make the time, how do we approach it? Naturally, this is very subjective. I can only share what works for me hoping that it might inspire some ideas for you… Personally, I treat this time like the “cleaning time”.

Firstly, I look into my overall life. Is it the way I’d like to be living it? Are all its elements fulfilled, such as my: environment, personal time, significant order, friends and family, health, career, finance, and fun? Which ones need some more attention and tweaking (there are always a few that need this…)? Can anything be done about it now or is it a matter of time until it gets better?

When it comes to the career “peace of the pie”, I have my 3-4 key objectives clearly visible in my working space. These are my “key directions.” I double-check if I am doing the things that will get me there. If so, great! If not, why not? Did I get side-tracked or is it something else?

Everything that does not take me into the direction I’d like to go is either dropped or delegated so I have the time and energy to pursue those things that will get me there or simply those things that I’d really like to do.

These key directions have now become a powerful filter, enabling me to focus on what matters the most. If a new idea suddenly pops up, I double-check if it is aligned with my directions before I invest any time in it.


Aligning our day with our inner rhythm.

Because of our different characters, some of us are naturally in a more contemplative flow; others are more in high-speed mode, while some of us are of various shades of the two. These different ways of being, enable us to do the many necessary different tasks and thus naturally call for a different rhythm during the day.

I realized only recently how important it is to organize our day around our natural rhythm. Not undertaking too much will prevent from making us feel overwhelmed or stressed out, while not setting our expectations too low will help to avoid that feeling of guilt.

Accomplishing just the right amount of the right things during today will create a feeling of satisfaction, which will naturally give more energy for tomorrow.

What’s the right mix for you? This can easily be discovered by testing. Test one scenario today, the other tomorrow, mix and match, add, remove… until you discover the right formula. Then, it’s quite magical as we feel more in the flow…

And once you discover that right mix, treasure it. Don’t allow other ideas or people to put it out of balance. It’s not that easy, I know…

Creating time to pursue our personal interests and passions, to simply have fun

When we are very focused and driven to achieve a certain goal, it is very easy to delete the ‘fun time’ from our lives. We want to maximize the time we spend achieving and minimize the time “for the other things” thinking that they are a distraction or inappropriate or whatever else the “serious me” comes up with.

Sending ourselves in multiple directions and giving ourselves a quality ‘fun time’ are two different things, don’t you think? The first one implies, that we are kind of jumping in-between multiple things without the ability to give any of them a proper attention. While, the second one means that we are dedicating quality time for ourselves, for whatever we find meaningful and fun.

Finding what that “quality fun time” could be can take time for many of us and is a topic in itself. At least for me, the quality ‘fun time’ is the one that rejuvenates, charging me up with new energy rather than draining me, wasting my energy.

I realized the full power of such a time only recently and noticed that this idea could be applied not only in a personal but also in a professional context. We can always improve our work by instilling in it some activities which will make it more fun.

It does not have to be only the weekends or the holidays which are rejuvenating and fun. Why do some of us still think this way? Our everyday could at least have an element of this – it’s just a matter of our attitude and making the time to create that fun in the way that suits us the most.

Having fun is good – the more the better. It’s then that we really feel that we live. Don’t suppress it from life. What’s the point of achieving that goal if it drains us along the way?


Working hard is a well-spread concept, especially in the Anglo-Saxon, Eastern European and Asian societies. Personally, I don’t believe in it anymore. It is too narrow.

Accomplishing our duty is important, I agree. There is also nothing bad with reaching for our goals. But, organizing our life in a way that takes us towards our goals, without being completely draining and gives the needed time to regain our energy, is a bit different…

Moving this way forward might take a bit longer than in the popular and fashionable “working hard” way, but is it the speed or the journey in itself that’s really important here? If we get there, but we are still not satisfied with ourselves or fulfilled, what’s the point of it all?

Naturally, this is not a recipe for a productive and fulfilling life. We have to find it for ourselves by tweaking our days from various points of view until more and more of that inner peaceful joy is felt. That’s a good “key performance indicator” that all is going into the direction that’s right for us…

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