When I got my business degree in 2011, I was ready to start my career.
I wanted to start a business, earn money, and also invest. Those were my main priorities for the past seven years.
I did all those things. You know what I found?
Every decision you make in life is either an investment or a waste.
Here’s what I mean:
- Browsing social media for hours is a waste of your time
- Eating junk food is a waste of your health
- Having a job that makes you miserable is a waste of your energy
- Working out is an investment in your health
- Spending time with people you care about is an investment in relationships and personal wellbeing
- Reading, taking courses, watching informational videos, are investments in your education
Those last three things are all good. And investing in your education has the highest return on investment. Why?
Do you ever get upset about the nasty behavior of your co-workers, friends, or even family? Well, if you let others upset you, it’s not their fault.
“It’s not me, it’s him!” is what most of us say. We’re always quick to blame others for how we feel.
We say that others make us feel that way. But that’s false. You decide how you feel about the things that happen in your life.
Events can’t harm us. Our perception of an event harms us. That’s one of the most important ideas of Stoic philosophy.
In other words, you decide what meaning you give to the things that happen in your life. If your friend tells lies about you behind your back, and you get upset, that’s because you decided to get upset.
The reason I research productivity is simple. I think that a productive life equals a happy life.
Also, if you’re more productive than average people, you’ll advance faster in your career. You learn more. You do more. And eventually are rewarded more.
And when I talk about productivity, I talk about being effective.
Because productivity doesn’t suggest that you get the right things done. It just means you get a lot of stuff done. But that’s not what matters.
Effectiveness, however, refers to getting the right things done.
And if you want to do your job well, earn money, live a meaningful life, or learn skills, that is what matters the most. Otherwise, you just run around in circles. You might appear busy, but you won’t achieve anything meaningful.
In other words: It’s easy to do useless work. Work that doesn’t bring you closer to the outcomes you desire.
Procrastination has been around since the start of modern civilization.
Historical figures like Herodotus, Leonardo Da Vinci, Pablo Picasso, Benjamin Franklin, Eleanor Roosevelt, and hundreds of others have talked about how procrastination is the enemy of results.
One of my favorite quotes about procrastination is from Abraham Lincoln:
“You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.”
The funny thing about procrastination is that we all know that it’s harmful. Who actually likes to procrastinate? No one enjoys doing that. Me neither.
If you think that you have to compete for better jobs or more market share, you’re as wrong as I was.
The idea of competition is engraved in our minds. We believe that we have to compete for the same jobs with others. If someone has a job, that means you can’t have the same job. And if a company has a certain market share, that means you have to compete with that company to “win” a piece of their share.
At least, that’s what conventional advice says. It’s also what I learned in business school. My entire education was based on competing with other businesses. And almost every business book that I’ve read, also assumes that business is competition.
They couldn’t be more wrong. When you assume that you have to compete with other businesses or people for money, jobs or attention, you’re engaged in limited thinking.
What does success look like? What do you want from life? What career do you want?
Most of us answer “I don’t know.”
And you know what? There’s nothing wrong with that. And yet, we think it’s the worst thing in the world if you don’t know what you want to do in life.
We say: “OMG! I don’t know what I want!” And then we have a full-on panic attack. Be honest — it happens to all of us.
Especially, when you see that your old college friend just got married. Or that your co-worker, who started at the same time as you, just got promoted.
It’s at those moments of weakness when we shine a spotlight on our own uncertainty about life.