Glorified Routines and Productivity (Inspired by Maria Popova)
Hi Live Diversified people,
Recently I came across an interview of Maria Popova on the Tim Ferriss Show – Tim Ferriss’ podcast.
When Tim Ferriss asked Maria what she does, she answered: “I read and I write, in that order”.
Maria is the creator of BrainPickings.com, a ridiculously adored website.
Brain Pickings is Maria’s life journey, the books she reads, and mostly her subjective lens on what matters in the world and why.
Glorified Productivity – The Video
I also created a YouTube video for this article. Watch if you don’t fancy reading.
Maria Popova on Routine and Productivity
Tim Ferriss asked Maria: “What does your day look like”, “What is your daily routine”?
I was blown away by her answer. She says word by word:
Well, I’ll answer this with a caveat. The one thing I have struggled with or tried to solve for myself in the last few years is this really delicate balance between productivity and presence, especially in a culture that seems to measure our worth, or our merit, or our value through our efficiency, and our earnings, and our ability to perform certain tasks as opposed to just the fulfillment we feel in our lives and the presence that we take in the day to day.
That’s something that’s become more and more apparent to me. So, I’m a little bit reluctant to discuss routine as some holy grail of creative process because it’s just really – it’s a crutch. I mean, routines and rituals help us not feel this overwhelming massive mess of just day to day life would consume us. It’s a control mechanism, but that’s not all there is. And if anything, it should be in the service of something greater which is being present with one’s own life.
What a beautiful answer. A ton of wisdom on how to live your life in a few sentences.
Talking about the same topic on her website, Maria mentions Annie Dillard:
How we spend our days, is of course, how we spend our lives.
Ours is a culture of how to get things done. How to be more efficient. How to master speed-reading. How to learn a language in 7 days.
Hey!! Stop! Take a breath. Be present.
If what you want right now is to go for a walk, or cycle your bicycle, or shoot a few free throws, or sit on the grass doing nothing, do it. Break your routine and do that.
And after you do all what you felt like doing, you realise you’re suddenly more productive.
From my experience as an author and YouTuber, I often struggle coming up with article or video ideas. Of course, if you sit in front of a computer all the time being loyal to your daily routine, how do you expect to be creative?
An author has to live in order to write. Creativity sparks when you do things out of your schedule, when you talk to other people, when you walk and more oxygen reaches your brain cells, when you travel, when you taste new flavours.
My Battle Against Routine
I’m making this video for myself so I don’t get sacrificed on the altar of productivity.
In the past, I used to be a productivity freak and today still I often get eaten by productivity.
One of my mentors, Dr. Teresa Hunt, who is an astrophysicist, writer, composer, musician, a totally Live Diversified lady used to tell me: “You are obsessed with your schedule Angelos, getting up early, doing the same things every day. You shouldn’t be living like that.”
And imagine that was after I quit investment banking to become an entrepreneur.
An Internet entrepreneur is supposed to be have a flexible schedule but I still used to stick to my daily routine as if was something holy I had to protect.
Teresa was right but I couldn’t understand her a few years ago.
Why Do We Love our Routines So Much?
I guess it’s our psychological bias again.
We are reluctant to deviate from the equilibrium point, ie. our daily routine, because we believe that our daily routine is what will lead us to success.
For example, we can’t afford to go to a theatre play because we haven’t crossed all tasks off our to-do list.
Remember what I said earlier though. Life is non-linear. Deciding to answer 10 more emails will definitely contribute to your success “a considerable linear chuck”. At the same time, the solution to one of your problems, or your next big idea may be hidden in that theatre play which you turned down to answer those 10 emails. In other words, the theatre play can potentially contribute a “huge non-linear chuck” to your success. But even if it doesn’t, a wonderful evening in the theatre will at least charge your batteries for the next day that you have to fight against your to-do list.
Yes, life is chaotic, non-linear, unpredictable. What’s wrong with living chaotically then just like life is?
It’s OK to deviate from an equilibrium point. It’s OK to explore without any particular purpose. It’s OK to try something without being certain about the outcome.
And if you are an entrepreneur, this is what entrepreneurship is all about – pushing boundaries, discovering new areas without any guarantee of success.
It’s all about the journey remember. All the experiences, lessons, failures contribute to your success.
Routine Doesn’t Create Memories
One of my favourite contemporary Russian authors, Михаил Веллер, says in his book “Everything about Life” that an indicator of a good life is your memories. How rich are your memories? Routine doesn’t create memories. If every day of your life looks like the previous, you will probably don’t remember much about those days a few years later.
If you ask me to write about my memories during the five years I used to work in banking I can probably write a short book with the title “getting to work and back home”. If you ask me to write about my memories during the last three years as an entrepreneur travelling the world, I can probably write ten books!
To sum up, it’s OK to have a routine, it’s OK to fight procrastination and aim to be more productive. Just always have in mind Maria Popova’s caveat. And remember, how we live our days, is of course, how we live our lives.