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There’s a reason this blog has been a little light on posts lately: I’ve been writing another book! It’s another productivity project of sorts—and will be published by Penguin Random House in late 2018. I’ll have plenty more to say about the project later. I merely mention it here to give this article a bit of context.
Immediately after finishing writing and editing the book manuscript last weekend, I gave my office a super deep clean. I cranked Macklemore’s new album, fired up the Exercise app on my Apple Watch, and elevated my heart rate as I cleaned the hell out of my office. By midday, there wasn’t a baseboard that hadn’t been wiped; a square inch of the floor that hadn’t been scrubbed; a cable in my storage closet that hadn’t been organized. I felt amazing.
The end of the marathon cleaning session involved dusting the pictures in my office. Scattered throughout the room are framed photos of the people I love the most. I glance at most of them a couple of times each day, and while I usually give my office a light cleaning every few weeks, this time around I noticed a good amount of dust had accumulated. I hadn’t had time to dust them in the last several months due to periods of deep writing and bouts of travel.
This made me reflect on what other things had accumulated “dust” while I was writing the book. Obviously dust had accumulated on my relationships with the people in the frames. Some dust had also accumulated on a few of my other friendships during this time. Dust had even accumulated on this blog—I’m only now getting around to writing about a recent productivity experiment I announced on my newsletter a while back.
We only have so much time, attention, and energy each day to get things done. Over the last 20-some weeks, I invested an inordinate amount of all three into writing the best book possible. This wasn’t necessary: I finished the manuscript months ahead of schedule, and could have invested more in elements of my life along the way. But much like with the productivity project I conducted, I couldn’t resist diving in head-first, discovering where my curiosity would lead.
In thinking a bit more about the dust that had accumulated, another thought crossed my mind: the costs of writing the book were easily worth it. Every single decision has costs—including over-investing in one area of your life.
If you zoom out and look at your life from 10,000 feet above, you can break it into several categories. I personally have seven hotspots: mind, body, emotions, career, finances, relationships, and fun. We’re constantly investing our time, attention, and energy into however many hotspots we have in our lives.
As I wrote the book, I tilted towards a few of these categories (mind, career, and fun), and away from another (relationships). But the costs were, again, worth it. As a result of that tilting, I made something original.
While working a crazy number of hours is a recipe for burnout in the long-run, sometimes tilting towards one area of your life helps you knock an important, meaningful project out of the park. Writing the book immersed and consumed me, but I was able to create something I’m proud of.
I’d even go so far as to argue that tilting is often very helpful. If you’ve just started your career it may make sense to tilt towards that part of your life at the expense of one or two other hotspots. Maybe you’ve just given birth, and it makes the most sense to tilt towards your relationship hotspot. Or perhaps you’re recently retired, and you plan to tilt away from your career and invest in other long-neglected hotspots.
Tilting towards one area of your life for too long is probably a bad idea, unless you’ve made the conscious choice to do so. But every once in a while, tilting is helpful—especially when you consciously and intentionally weigh the costs of doing so.
There are always costs to over-investing in one area of your life. Dust will accumulate on the hotspots you borrow that time from. But when you tilt with purpose, you can consider whether the costs are worth it.