Our society is obsessed with productivity and optimizing our lives—having the perfect routine, perfect diet, perfect productivity system, perfect to-do app, and more.
It’s an ideal that not only doesn’t exist, but it’s also harmful to our health and happiness. And what’s more, it’s completely misguided—what many of us really want to do with our work is do meaningful work and have an impact on the world.
So how can we let go of the focus on productivity and optimizing, while still doing meaningful work and having an impact?
Simplify. Focus on the important, meaningful tasks instead of churning. And actually, dive into those meaningful tasks instead of procrastinating because of the uncertainty that comes with them.
Look at your task list and email/messages inbox and pick the most meaningful tasks—there’s a good chance you’ve been putting them off. When you don’t just go to your favorite distractions, you are likely to churn through smaller tasks, answering messages, checking inboxes and updates.
This is because meaningful, important tasks come with great uncertainty. We habitually respond to this uncertainty by avoiding it, going to distraction and easier tasks that make us feel less uncertain.
But the result is that we’re burning through time doing busywork, spending our days doing a lot but not getting a lot accomplished.
Instead, we can simplify:
- Pick meaningful tasks, and focus on those.
- Create space by clearing away distractions.
- Let the busywork get pushed until later in the day.
- And put our entire being into meaningful, important tasks.
Imagine clearing out space in your day by simplifying, letting go of the small tasks, not constantly answering messages and emails, and instead of giving yourself the generous gift of focus.
You’d get the meaningful tasks done, and feel like your work is more meaningful. Those tasks would make a greater impact, and over time, you’d have a great impact on the world.
All because you simplified and focused.
Leo Babauta is the author of six books, the writer of “Zen Habits,” a blog with over 2 million subscribers, and the creator of several online programs to help you master your habits. Visit ZenHabits.net