Five Ways to Harness Your Irresponsibility for Increased Happiness and Productivity

Five Ways to Harness Your Irresponsibility for Increased Happiness and Productivity

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If you’re like most over-achievers, more often than not, the number of items on your to-do list exceeds the number of hours that you have in any given day or week (or month…or lifetime).
Day after day, the work piles up–and you know (on an intellectual level, at least) that you can’t possibly get everything done, but any time “off-task” feels “irresponsible” and even stressful…
What to do?
In most cases, the answer isn’t to work more/harder/faster. Instead, by embracing our “irresponsible” tendencies, we can actually increase our productivity and happiness–and in this article, I’ll show you exactly how to do this.
You can download our free Irresponsibility Plan to plot your course as you follow along…

1) Embrace the “B” Student Attitude.

We often think we have to be the “A” student and strive to do everything perfectly all the time.
But what if we “irresponsibly” aim for an B, or even a C in some things, instead of an A? Doing this can create a little extra time for ourselves.
In most cases, we can afford to sacrifice some time on many of our obligations without any major negative consequences–and doing so can even make us appear more organized and efficient to others. Plus, we’re more likely to be well-rested and ready to go when the next wave of obligations comes crashing down on us (which it inevitably will…).
Let’s be honest–those dishes don’t have to be spotlessly clean, you don’t have to triple-check one slide before making the next slide in a presentation, and it’s okay if you get that oil change tomorrow instead of today.
The idea that we should optimize on everything is drilled into us from an early age, but in many cases, this is unnecessary and inefficient, and our time is better spent focusing on the important aspects of a task or project and then moving on to the next one.
Use the downloadable Irresponsibility Plan take inventory of all the things you do in a day and examine where you can take some shortcuts and still do “well enough” instead of “perfectly.”

2) Find the Give and Take.

Chances are you’re around other people who also have too much to do.
There may be deals you can make with them, where you help them out with something now, in return for their help later.
If you have a busy (but unselfish!) friend, see if you can work out a deal where you take a burden off of their plate and they take one of of yours in return (e.g., you agree to pack lunches for both of you this week and they agree to drive you both to/from work for the week.)
Use the downloadable Irresponsibility Plan  to list people with whom might want to forge low-risk give-and-take deals, giving each of you a little more “me” time–and making it easier to stay responsible in the future!

3) Indulge in a Recharging “Me-Time” Activity.

Does binge watching a TV series every now and again make you feel like you’ve decompressed enough, so that you can go back to being responsible again?
How about reading a sci-fi novel, or taking a day off on a weekday to go hiking, writing a story (or a blog post!), listening to music, practicing an instrument, playing a video game, or driving to a scenic or relaxing place nearby?
What about a yoga class, deep breathing or meditating, or sitting and staring into space, daydreaming?
Whatever your pleasure, taking time out of your normal all-work-all-the-time mode to let your brain wander and relax can actually up your productivity (There’s a reason that Einstein claimed to have got all his best ideas in the shower!), so don’t feel guilty giving into this “irresponsible” urge from time to tome.
Use the downloadable Irresponsibility Plan to choose which “irresponsible” activities provide you with opportunities to rest, relaxation, and recovery.

4) Make Sleep Urgent and Important.

When you’re thinking of sacrificing sleep to get something else done, try to be a little “irresponsible” and see if you can procrastinate on the task at hand, or even eliminate some less important aspects of what you think you need to do.
Many of us make the mistake of thinking that while sleep is important, it isn’t urgent. That may be true for one or two nights in a row, but in the long run, lack of sleep can actually harm our productivity and hinder our performance, so it quickly becomes an “urgent” issue.
If you’re really in a crunch, sacrifice some sleep for tonight, but make an immediate plan to eliminate the reason/s for the crunch (e.g., what can you put off, what can you delegate, what can you get done without cutting into your sleep?).
Use the downloadable Irresponsibility Plan to commit to making sleep and important and urgent goal.

5) Make Irresponsibly-Responsible Pacts.

Social support is perhaps the biggest motivator to make sure you do things. When life gets busy enough that exercise, eating, and sleeping feel like “irresponsible” activities, start forming agreements with others to ensure you all make time for these things.
Schedule a regular exercise activity with a significant other or friend, especially if it’s another busy person. Chances are, you both tend to place obligations to others ahead of your own needs; this way, you can encourage each other take care of yourselves more.
Use the downloadable Irresponsibility Plan to identify partners for your irresponsibly-responsible pacts.

***

We’re conditioned to think we’re “irresponsible” if we don’t do everything to the highest standards, but it turns out we can re-train ourselves to leverage our “irresponsible” habits to actually create positive and productive change in our lives.
Readers–I’d love to hear your thoughts: what’s your favorite “irresponsible” activity–one that seems like a time suck or productivity killer, but that actually increases your energy, motivation, or wellbeing? Leave your ideas and suggestions in the comments below 🙂

Chand John is a guest blogger for the Center for Advancing Leadership and Human Potential.  He received his Ph.D. in computer science from Stanford University, where he created Stanford’s first-ever workshops for engineers and Ph.D. students to learn to thrive in non-traditional career pathways such as product management.  He has given several guest lectures at the Stanford Computer Forum and the Stanford Career Development Center.  Chand has also been recognized as an educator who makes complex concepts accessible to non-experts.  He has authored a book of concrete, step-by-step advice for Ph.D. students and is drawing a comic book to teach computer science to both kids and adults.  His expertise in advancing research on human health has been recognized by the National Center for Simulation in Rehabilitation Research and the Center for Physics-based Simulation of Biological Structures, both established by the National Institutes of Health

Keywords: productivity, achievement, personal development, success, well-being, balance, fulfillment, happiness, motivation
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Chand John, PhD, is a software engineer and educator with a passion for making it easier to master the most difficult topics in subjects ranging from science and technology to career management to personal project management. He earned his Ph.D. in computer science from Stanford University, where he created Stanford’s first-ever workshops for engineers and graduate students to gain access to non-traditional career pathways such as product management. He has given several guest lectures at the Stanford Computer Forum and the Career Development Center at Stanford. Chand is the author of PhorbiDden PhooD, a book of concrete step-by-step advice for Ph.D. students, is a former lead editor of the Stanford Computer Science Department’s book of advice for graduate students, and is currently drawing a comic book to teach computer science to both kids and adults. His work on software to advance human mobility has been recognized by the National Insitutes of Health’s Biomedical Beat publication, the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s Program for Excellence in Science, and the National Center for Simulation in Rehabilitation Research’s OpenSim Fellowship.

  • February 13, 2016

    Thanks for writing this, Chand! I had always called these my “lazy” tendencies, but you walk through how each one actually helps recharge us, which helps me be less judgmental and more forgiving to myself.

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