Geetanjali Mukherjee

Sunday, May 10, 2015

The What of Productivity Along With The How

We seek to have empty inboxes and complete everything on our to-do list, we read endless life hacks and suggestions for saving a few minutes here and there, and for wasting less time on playing games on our mobile and getting more done. But are we consistently thinking about what we are doing with the time that we are saving?

Two recent tragedies, of different scales, the devastation of the Nepal earthquake, and the sudden death of David Goldberg, have reminded me that no matter how easy or difficult life is, how good we may be and how successful we may be, life ends, and sometimes abruptly. Or circumstances can change, and what was possible before may no longer be possible. We really can't take our current life, however hard we have worked to order it just so, for granted. We don't know how much time we have, before we either make "the ultimate climb" or simply move to a different ladder or hill or valley.

This realisation is something that I would rather not have, I would rather not think about how things might change. I don't like change, not really. But I recognise the need to prepare for it, and at the very least, to evaluate what I am doing with the time I have now. As someone said, the days are long but the decades are short. Time goes by quite quickly, and all you do remember are the dreams you accomplished and the time you spent with the people you love.

Something that came up over and over in all the obituaries of David Goldberg was how he made people feel, how he took time out to help anyone out who asked for it, and never made them feel like it was an imposition. As someone who looks up to his wife, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg as a role model, I have always admired how secure Goldberg seemed given all the attention she got. You can sense that he made a lasting impression on the people he knew, and they thanked him with the outpouring of touching remembrances after his passing.

All of this made me think - am I spending my time optimally - redefining optimal for myself as doing things that I will look back on and feel proud that I worked on, and being the kind of person that I have always wanted to be. I started to ask myself, am I spending enough time with the people I cherish most (whether in person or through some other means)? Am I working on my most important goals - not goals that are imposed or will make me look good in some way, but goals that make my heart sing? Am I grateful for what I have at this moment, instead of constantly focusing on what I don't have yet?

This may be trite advice, but it nonetheless true - in our frenzy to save time and get everything done, we really do need to take stock and determine whether we are living our lives true to our larger values. If we are, at least when circumstances change, we won't regret that we didn't take any action on our big dreams, or that we hardly spent any time with our loved ones, or that we spent what little time we do have being stressed out, crabby and unhappy in pursuit of someone else's idea of what we consider an ideal career or enough success. As long as we live our lives in accordance with our own values, we may wish we had more time, but at least we will know we did something good with the time we did have.

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