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The Minimalists

Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus write about living a meaningful life with less stuff for 4 million readers. As featured on: ABC, CBS, NBC, BBC, TODAY, NPR, TIME, Forbes, The Atlantic, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and National Post. They live in Missoula, Montana.

It’s 8:33 A.M.: Do You Know Where Your Productivity Is?

Joshua Fields Millburn, photo by Adam Dressler

It’s 8:33 A.M. and daylight is peeking through the windows. So far this morning I wrote for three hours (I’m working on a memoir-ish book called Everything That Remains), and then I read for half an hour and exercised a bit: stretches, push-ups, pull-ups, and squats—my usual exercise regime.

In other words, I’ve already done a lot today, and yet there’s still an entire day ahead of me. My secret? I don’t do much. Seriously. Sure, it seems like I do a lot of things, but I don’t.

To put is simply, people can be more productive by doing less. Rather than the normal productivity tropes of planning and scheduling, attempting to force production, we can get more things done by focusing on only the the important stuff first, working through the tasks that truly matter, embracing Real Priorities instead of engaging in fluid inactivity.

Usually that means doing things that’re more difficult than we’d like. For me, writing is difficult, exercise is hard, even reading is not passive. Virtually everything that’s meaningful—everything worth doing—requires a good amount of effort. But of course that’s where all the reward is.

Likewise, the passive tasks—Facebook, email, television, &c.—are easy. And they are fine in small doses (I’ll likely check my email for 30 minutes today or tomorrow, and I’ll certainly spend a few minutes on Twitter ). But there’s no long-term reward for passivity, just a beer gut and an empty existence.

Later today I’ll walk five or ten miles, wandering the streets of Missoula (my form of meditation); and I’ll spend time with friends, correspond with my writing students, and even squeeze in some more writing/reading time tonight—all active tasks that require more from me than the boob tube, with an exponentially higher payoff. Feel free to do likewise.