The unschedule

I like to set goals and achieve them. Making progress simply feels good. But I can’t say this fervent process of achieving has always worked in my favor. Sometimes I get so focused on attaining my goals that I physically and emotionally wear myself out. Perhaps you can relate. Recently I’ve thought a lot about why this happens and I’ve realized something simple, but yet very profound…

At the core of most achievers in the Western world is a belief that work precedes all things “better” in life. In many aspects, this is very true. If you don’t put in the hard work then you can’t expect life to improve. But this same belief can become very destructive when we overlook rest and health. Let me explain.

Modern culture places a significant emphasis on work and career — so much so that it becomes the foundation of how we organize our life (hence the base of the pyramid in the left of the picture). In other words, the idea is, “make work a priority and then organize the rest of your life around it.”

This approach can bring wondrous results in the short term, but in the long term it leads to burnout, dissatisfaction, depression, and health issues. However, simply flipping this model changes everything. But please understand: This is not an advertising campaign for laziness. It’s a matter of recognizing the integral relationship between quality work, health, and happiness. The goal here is to create a better quality of life AND better quality work. This can never happen, however, when our demand to work exceeds our demand for health.

It may be time to reverse engineer conventional scheduling by deciding how much personal time you need, blacking out the appropriate time-slots in your schedule, and THEN figuring out how to make your work fit around those allotted times.

This flipping of priorities is, indeed, a simple concept, but at the core of our daily rituals, we confront a modus operandi that encourages us to do the opposite — and we wonder why one of the most repeated phrases in the professional world is, “There is just never enough time.”

As long as work remains the priority, personal time, creativity, and fulfillment will be in short supply.

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One Comment

  1. 2-21-2013

    Kent,
    I discovered the fact that you are discussing a few years ago. Our priorities can easily be converted into an obsession. In other words, we can be addicted to work,
    just as people become addicted to alcohol, drugs, food, etc. In my opinion, a balance is necessary. Health should be our primary concern; for without it, we have nothing.
    We humans are not automatons. We need nourishing food, adequate sleep, and exercise.
    Your reverse pyramid can be likened to the one that doctors reversed a few years ago,
    placing the vegetables and fruits at the bottom, and the proteins and dairy products at the top. Drinking smoothies made with green vegetables and berries, as you do, contributes to good health. Green tea has proven to be a very healty replacement for coffee and soft drinks. As the saying goes: “Avoid the three white additives in your diet, sugar, flour and salt.”

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