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Quit wasting your precious energy

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Productivity is not about time management.

For a long time, I thought it was. I scheduled. I tracked. I planned. I set priorities and allocated time blocks. I knew my goals, and the milestones I had to meet along the way.

Sometimes, my plans failed because I tried to put too much into too little. I crammed too many tasks into each hour. I would work at a frantic pace, as long as I could. Burnout was inevitable.

Most of the time, though, my plans failed because my energy failed. I would get slower and slower. The reasons that seemed so clear would become muddy. My motivation, my ideas, my self-confidence: all of it would erode, sliding away beneath me. I’d find myself stuck partway up a hill, wondering why I wanted to get to the top in the first place.

Productivity is about energy management: you have enough energy to do the work you want to do and to build the things that are important to you.

Work doesn’t take more energy than play.

Work is the expenditure of energy.

If you’re playing, you’re expending energy: so, play is work. Work is work. Sex is work. Everything is work.

The difference is that some work is fun, and some work isn’t. 
Some work means something to you, and some work doesn’t. 
And some work means something to you and is also fun: that’s the golden ticket, there.

When you the end of a day feeling listless and unproductive, it isn’t because you didn’t ‘do any work.’ You’re always doing work — expending energy — in one way or another.

No, the reason you feel lethargic and disappointed is because you’ve spent your energy on tasks you don’t value. You feel the disconnect. Imagine winning the lottery, then being forced to spend the money on stuff you hate.

Something joyful — winning — becomes something agonizing.

The same thing happened to me when I chose goals that didn’t align with my values. I would get caught up in the excitement of starting something new. There’s a lot of potential energy bound up in a beginning. That energy would send me a long way down a particular path before I paused to ask why I’d chosen this path.

When I did, I might realize I chose it for all the wrong reasons. To impress someone. To feel more qualified. To fit in.

Once you start, though, stopping feels like a failure. I would keep trudging along, down a path I didn’t love, spending my energy. Turning around would mean quitting, and quitting felt worse than succeeding at the wrong thing.

Every morning we wake up having won the universal lottery: another day.

Here we are, with this expanse of possibility stretching in front of us. We are capable. We are intelligent. We are energized.

Then the coffee wears off and we are slumped over desks, fading away in sad cubicles, doing work we don’t love for money we’ll spend on rents we can’t afford. We do it to maintain a status we don’t care about, to meet expectations we don’t respect, to keep an unfulfilling relationship cobbled together a little bit longer.

There is no way to manage your own energy unless you first realize that it is yours to manage.

As the success gurus of the early 20th century preached full and undistilled responsibility for every moment of time given, I am here to preach complete and unhesitating responsibility for every bit of energy you expend.

It comes to you, this energy, as a gift.

You can throw it away if you want to. But quit complaining about your situation, your unfulfillment, your life, your hardships, and your lack if you won’t consciously manage your energy.

If you choose to throw it away, quit complaining when it is gone. This is on you.

And that’s great news.

What is yours, you can change. If the responsibility weren’t yours, the power wouldn’t be yours, either.

Congrats! You’ve got both.

Start by paying attention to your attention.

This is how you discover where your energy goes. Attention is focused energy.

Attention is how you give your energy to something: your phone, your friend, your pet, your hangnail, your screaming neighbors, your stretch marks, your home, your car, your soul.

Look: I am not here to tell you what deserves that attention. I am only here to ask you to start noticing these transactions.

Because they are transactions. Energy is the currency of the universe. You don’t do anything to deserve it and you’re free to spend it however you want. I just want you think about it. What do you want? Is that what you’re getting? What bargains have you made?

You can end the contracts, you know. You can sign yourself out of any bargain.

You don’t think of attention as meaningful. You don’t notice how it’s sucked away. You don’t value the one minute here, five minutes there. You don’t think you can control what gets your attention. You don’t think it matters.

It’s the only thing that matters.

Your attention, your energy, where you put it, where you send it, how you use it: that’s all you have.

That’s it.

That’s the whole scheme and scope of reality. You, me, all of us are vibrating bits of energy. Everything you see: the same. Matter is a crazy illusion we’ve all agreed to have together.

Energy is what’s real.

Money is nothing. It’s a representation of energy. How bizarre that we would value the representation of something more than the thing itself.

Consider the value of what you get out of each transaction.

Your attention on social media: what do you get back from those ten, twenty, sixty minutes you spend scrolling? What do you get in return for your energy?

You’re getting something, or you wouldn’t be there. Here’s your question: do you want what you’re getting? Is it good? Do you like it? Is it helpful? Is it fun? Do you value what you’re getting in exchange for your attention?

Sometimes things are fun but not valuable. 
Sometimes things are valuable but not fun. 
Sometimes things are both: fun and valuable. Those are the best things. Those are the things that deserve your attention, at least 80% of it. Let the rest fall into the cracks that are left.

There isn’t a universal standard to impose.

This is not about morality, about what should be valuable to you. Oh, no. What a ridiculous assumption to think that anyone could prescribe what some other person should value. (We’d get past this faster if we would agree to quit using the word should in the first place.)

What you value is up to you.

But what you spend attention on — by default — might not be what you value. It might be fun or feel good, and you mistake that for value.

Not the same.

It’s difficult to know what you value.

It takes thought. It takes honesty. Most of us don’t know what we value.

Instead of doing the difficult work of figuring it out, we adopt. We find a ready-made set of values. There are plenty around: every sub-set of society, every religion, every organization, every ‘tribe’ has its list. Choose your flavor.

Or don’t.

I hope you don’t.

Trouble comes when you assume a set of values that don’t match who you are, who you want to be.

An assumption of shared values is a trap. You end up in a place you don’t belong, in behaviors you don’t internally approve.

Over time, you separate your internal self more and more from your external choices. The split widens. You immerse yourself in the external, the situations and interactions of daily life. You look away from what you’ve left behind, crushed and silent, on the other side of that canyon. You try to forget it’s there.

But you can’t.

And that’s why you come home from that party, or from a full day at work, or from a trip, a fun day with friends, a promotion or honeymoon or date or shopping trip, and see yourself looking like death in the shadowed shine of your bathroom mirror.

When you pay attention to yourself, you know.

So you do your best not to get caught in those places, those moments, those silent in-between spaces. You stay busy. You look up and out; anywhere but inside. You ask for feedback and affirmation in a thousand ways, because you need reinforcement. You need an argument for the silent mirror self.

You have to know what you value.

You have to figure it out.

Let yourself be still long enough to hear it.

Learn to say it a thousand different ways. Make a thousand false starts and then another one. Each one gives you clarity.

Knowing what you value is how you learn to spend your energy in the way that’s best for you.

And the way that’s best for you is the way that’s best for everyone, for God and the universe and all of us, for evolution, for uplifting, for enlightenment, for the collective movement forward we’re all making.

Knowing what you value is how you start creating value.

Spending your energy on anything you don’t value is a waste. The universe is bountiful, profligate, eternally generous. But the universe wastes nothing. Someone who flings energy about and receives nothing they value in return is a vacuum, and you know how nature feels about that.

She’ll shut you down.

The listless, lethargic feeling is the diminishing of energy. If you don’t use your energy well — if you don’t get value in return for attention — your energy allotment goes down. Energy is the currency of the universe, and the transactions are supposed to be equitable. Nature likes a balance.

When you waste your precious energy, things get out of balance. The slow but sure diminishing of your drive, your fire, your motivation, your joy: that’s not a punishment, or a judgment. It’s a reminder. It’s a call to action.

It’s the universe knocking on your door:

“Hey, uh, ‘scuse me. You gonna, like, do something with this shit, or do you wanna give it back?”


Photo by Greg Rakozy on Unsplash

The post Quit wasting your precious energy appeared first on a n n i e m u e l l e r.

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3 days ago
Waterloo, Canada
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Single issue voter

Ad Reinhardt, 1943


Whenever a heartwarming story about a community rallying to support someone with a medical issue pops up, one of my smarter friends will point out how absurd it is that any citizen of the richest country on Earth should need a GoFundMe campaign to pay for their medical bills.

Again and again, I come back to this post by comedian Rob Delaney:

I’m almost a single-issue voter. I’m not, but my thinking about government and elected officials and what their purposes are begins and ends with how they approach health care. My thinking certainly visits all the other issues along the way (or a few of them anyway; I don’t have to have an opinion on everything as I’m not running and never will run for president) but number one among all the issues for me is health care. My reason for that is that I believe that you can’t really effect positive change in any other area if your body (or your child’s body, or your partner’s body) is sick or not working. Nor can you effect change if you’re struggling to pay for – or even get – vital medicine for yourself or a family member. Nor, again, can you effect change in areas you care about if you’re in significant debt for medical care you’ve already received. You can even have a hard time effecting change in the political issues you care about if you merely live with the specter of not being able to access or pay for medical care for yourself or your family.

Health care should be the #1 issue for everyone in this country. (It also happens to be the one thing me and my conservative dad can agree on: Medicare for all.) For me and my family, it’s the black cloud that hovers in the background of every decision we make: How will we get health insurance? What if one of us gets sick? 

Inevitably, someone will say, “I read you for art, not for politics,” so here’s a hook for you: Bad health care has killed more American artists than I could list here without my fingers falling off. The midterms are coming up, so if you want to support the arts, register to vote and vote for politicians who support universal health care.

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3 days ago
Waterloo, Canada
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*Caffeinated gamers

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*Caffeinated gamers

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4 days ago
Waterloo, Canada
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Stephen Miller is an Immigration Hypocrite. I Know Because I’m His Uncle.

Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images If my nephew’s ideas on immigration had been in force a century ago, our family would have been wiped out. Let me tell you a…
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5 days ago
Waterloo, Canada
6 days ago
Washington, DC
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1 Comment and 2 Shares


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6 days ago
Apparently true according to Snopes
Waterloo, Canada
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Herding Cats: A Simple Method for Working with the Disorder of Our Lives

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By Leo Babauta

When we’re trying to change our habits and our lives, even if you have some success, you’ll notice two longer-term difficulties:

  1. Habit efforts get sidetracked, you are constantly in a state of transition, things are always in flux, and it can all feel completely out of control. What you really want is a sense of stability and consistency, but you can’t seem to find it. So the common question is: how do I develop discipline to be more consistent without all kinds of starts and stops and constant flux?
  2. Or maybe you’re doing relatively well, developing one habit after another, but then your life seems to be pretty full, and the question becomes: how do I fit all of these habits into my life? I want to exercise, meditate, cook healthy food, read every morning, declutter, focus on top of my important tasks, write every day, stay on top of email and messages, spend some time outdoors, sketch every day … there’s just not enough time when you factor in eating, chores, showering, etc!

So what do these two problems have in common? They might seem like two different problems: one person feels like everything is a mess, and the other just wants to find the right order for everything they’re trying to fit in their life.

The common factor is that things don’t feel like they’re in order, and there’s a sense of uncertainty and chaos/disorder that causes some anxiety/stress.

The solution to both problems is the same, then:

  1. Realize that this disorder and chaos is actually the normal for this process.
  2. Accept that uncertainty and disorder, and relax into them.
  3. Stay with your intention despite the chaos. Keep pushing into the discomfort with it, going forward, while being compassionate for any missteps or interruptions.

In the end, it’s like herding cats — things are going to be disorderly, and if you accept that and relax into it, you’ll have a lot less stress while still trying to get the cats to go in the right direction.

Let’s talk about the disorder and chaos, and how to accept the fact of them … and then talk about how to herd the cats (basically, herding our lives!).

Accepting & Relaxing Into the Disorder of Our Lives

When things are up in the air, it can feel like we’re in transition. “Once I get past this trip/project/illness/visit from my inlaws … then everything will settle down!”

But here’s the truth: our lives are always in transition. There’s always messiness. There’s always going to be something interrupting our set habits, schedule, routines. There is always disorder. We’ll always feel uncertainty because of all of that chaos.

This is the simple fact of our lives. And yet, we want order. We want simple answers. We want the perfect daily routine, the perfect set of habits, the smooth ride of a Japanese bullet train (shinkansen).

This desire for order, simplicity, consistency and perfection in the face of the reality of disorder, complications, interruptions and messiness is the cause of our anxiety, stress, disappointment with ourselves, struggle and frustrations.

Let’s be clear about that: we cause our own difficulties and stress simply by not accepting the way things are. We are the cause of the anxiety and frustration, not any external factors. This isn’t something to feel shame about, but rather a fact to rejoice: we have the power to remove that stress by simply accepting the true nature of our lives.

Things are always in transition. Things will always be messy and disordered.

And that’s not a problem.

It’s nothing to worry about.

It’s actually a thing of beauty. Think of nature: it’s not straight lines and smoothness, it’s chaos and random growth, it’s blooms and disruption, adaptation and flow. It is so beautiful, because of its disorder.

Once we see the beauty in the disorder of our lives, we can accept it and relax into it. Instead of struggling and holding tightly to our ideals, we can relax our grip, relax our bodies, and just breathe. Loosen our hold on how we wish things were, and just be in the middle of the chaos in a relaxed open awareness.

Relax into the disorder. It’s a warm jacuzzi of a bath.

How to Herd Cats (or Work with the Disorder of Our Lives)

So we’re accepting, we’re relaxing, we’re enjoying the beauty of it all. Wonderful! Now what?

How do we herd the disorder of our lives in some semblance of a direction? How do we herd the cats to go somewhere we’d like them to go?

If we accept that we’re herding cats and not trying to run a smooth bullet train ride, we can work with the chaotic nature of the cats. We know cats aren’t going to follow directions or go on a schedule. We know the nature of cats, and to expect them to be a bullet train is ridiculous.

With that in mind, let’s talk about a method of herding cats (the disorder of our lives):

  1. Set an intention. Think of this as a direction you’d like to head in. You want your life to go in the direction of better health … so you have an intention to take care of your health with exercise and a diet full of veggies.
  2. Start herding the cats in that direction. Intention is nothing without action. So start moving things in that direction — it might mean setting reminders, asking for support from family, putting notes to yourself around the house, having your running shoes next to your bed, finding a workout partner, finding some good healthy recipes, etc.
  3. Try to keep the cats going in the right direction. Continue to try to keep your intention, for as long as you can. Things will go astray (we’re herding cats here, c’mon), but for as long as you can, keep them going in the right direction. Keep adding more structure, reminders, accountability, rewards, etc.
  4. When things go astray (they will), don’t get bothered by it. It’s a part of the process. Relax into it, and just start again. Yep, you herd me (har!). Just start again, going back to Step 1.

There’s no Step 5. You just keep setting that intention, keep taking action to go in the right direction and stay on track, and when things go astray, relax and don’t be bothered, but continue the process. It’s not really “starting again” actually, but just continuing the herding.

It’s that simple. When things go astray, it’s not a problem. There’s never a problem, it’s all just beautiful chaos with a loving intention.

What about the 2nd person (from the beginning of this article), who wants to find the perfect order of habits and routines? They are herding the cats of their day — there isn’t a perfect order, it’s just continually experimenting, continually trying new habits, continually learning what works and what doesn’t (and what works this month might be different than last month).

Think of the habits and routines and tasks and chores of your day/week as the cats you’re herding, in this case. They don’t want to be put in order. You can try to organize, which is totally fine, but just don’t stress too much about getting things in the right order, organized properly. Just herd the chaos of your day, with loving intention. Learn to love the flow, instead of wanting things to be set.

The wild flow of our lives is a thing of heartbreaking beauty and joy.

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7 days ago
This is useful as a remedy to
“Once I get past this trip/project/illness/visit from my inlaws … then everything will settle down!”
Waterloo, Canada
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