Work and Rest

2 minutes reading time

Work is finding yourself alone at the track when the weather kept everyone else indoors. It’s pushing through the pain and crappy first drafts and prototypes. It is ignoring whatever plaudits others are getting, and more importantly, ignoring whatever plaudits you may be getting. Because there is work to be done. Work doesn’t want to be good. It is made so, despite the headwind. Ryan Holiday

Sometimes work feels effortless. Words or code flows, creativity pours forth. More often, work is hard, or you don’t really want to do it. You want something more comfortable, so you allow email, Facebook or Twitter notifications to distract you. You feel busy, productive, you’re “working”. The end of the day arrives, and you look back. What did you actually get done? Disappointment sets in. You didn’t do what you set out to do. Sound familiar? It’s a struggle for many every day.

The Stoics often talk about working hard, but that doesn’t merely mean working longer hours just to get it done. Maybe on certain occasions, it is necessary, but we should not become a slave to our work. Instead, we should seek to be effective in our work. Then, muster the discipline required to see it through without distraction.

In your actions, don’t procrastinate.
In your conversations, don’t confuse.
In your thoughts, don’t wander.
In your soul, don’t be passive or aggressive.
In your life, don’t be all about business.
Marcus Aurelius

As Marcus so succinctly describes it, work itself is only half of the equation. In the seven habits book, Stephen Covey called it the P/PC balance (Production/Production Capability). To be effective, you have to walk the line between what is produced and your capacity to produce. Concentrating only on one or the other will reduce your effectiveness. Covey described it using the fable of the goose and the golden eggs:

To maintain the P/PC Balance, the balance between the golden egg (production) and the health and welfare of the goose (production capability) is often a difficult judgment call. But I suggest it is the very essence of effectiveness.

While you can work harder for a period, it must be balanced with rest and recuperation so that you maintain your productivity for the long term. This is the seventh habit, Sharpen the Saw, which, in my view, it is a very Stoic-like principle. There is more to life than work, more to life than just making money or getting stronger. Our most valuable contribution is necessarily more rounded than any one of those things. We need to work on becoming the person we need to be for the people who need it from us the most.

Effective Work

You may have heard of the Pareto principle. If you’re effective, you’re spending your time on the 20% of work that provides 80% of the results. Delegation and automation of the other 80% results in both progress toward your most important things and gives you back your time to spend on other important aspects of your life. First and foremost yourself, to sharpen your saw, and then on the people and things you enjoy.

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