Archive for March, 2010

What I meant was…

March 17, 2010 Leave a comment

Back in November I posted a little blurb, which said in its entirety:

Other people’s creativity often distracts you from your own.

On the surface it sounds like I’m dissing what other people do.  It sounds pretentious and a little snobby. Like I’m saying that other people’s work is not worth watching, reading, or listening to, and that was the furthest thing from my mind.

OK, well, not entirely (he said sheepishly). What I meant was this: imagine it’s the end of the day. You’ve spent all day at work, getting stuff done for someone else, and even though you get paid for what you’ve done, you can’t ignore that it was someone else’s stuff. When you get home you are probably tired. If you have family, and especially young children, you spend time with them, and that’s a good thing.

Now imagine you’ve put the children to bed, and it’s just you and your spouse. Without thinking about it – snick – the TV goes on. You think “Mur is right, I should be writing.” But here the flashing box just lulls your good intentions to sleep shortly before it does the same to you, and what has happened is someone else’s creativity has distracted you from your own. It’s a perfectly good show. But someone else made that show, someone else used his or her creativity to write the script, to direct, or to act in it. You could have done that.

You could have written that.

What I’m going on about is opportunity cost. It’s a basic concept in economics and it goes something like this. Say you have $25 to spend. You could choose either to spend it on dinner or go buy a book. If you choose the dinner it is at the cost of the book. If you choose the book it is at the cost of the dinner. It’s up to you to choose which opportunity you give up to get what you want.

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The problem is that we often make the wrong choice. Watching TV instead of writing is OK sometimes, but not all the time if you want to be a writer. If you want to be a writer you want to write more often than you want to watch TV, it stands to reason. When you choose to watch a show, consciously or unconsciously you have chosen not to write. How do you feel about that?

We only have ourselves to blame if we don’t write as much as we want. That’s why I wrote that frustrated little post in November. I wasn’t trying to blame other people or devalue their work. It’s just that I made some unproductive choices how to use my time. And I continue to do so almost regularly. It’s just something I have to learn.

Hopefully you have learned to choose your opportunities wisely. If you have any suggestions for me, please comment below.

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Categories: productivity