My daughter Jen has begun to put her art portfolio online. It’s an important step for her as an artist. As a parent, I’m immensely proud of her, and also challenged by her evolving ways of expressing herself. One of the things that struck me was the title of one section: Still Lives.
The accepted English plural of “Still Life” is “Still Lifes.” But her title was much more evocative. It makes me consider my own life and days, which are frequently still, quiet, and relatively uneventful.
It only takes a moment online and one can see friends, family, and virtually everyone complaining and bragging (“humble brag“) about how busy their lives are. Being overwhelmed with activities is looked at as the natural and proper state of the successful person. The entire culture of productivity enhancement is based upon the assumption that we all have too much to do and that this is ordinary and good.
I’m not so sure. I like my quiet, uneventful days. I enjoy working from my home office, some days talking only with the cat between the hours of 7 A.M. and 5 P.M. Yes, I can be busy and have many deadlines to meet, but the still, quiet life is helping me to be more productive with things that matter to me.
When I managed others I frequently told them, “working late is a sign that something is wrong.” I still believe this to be true, and the thing that’s wrong could be that there’s too much work, but it’s more likely that projects are poorly organized, people don’t know how to do their tasks well, and too much time is wasted. Even with that in mind it was too easy to celebrate those who stayed long at their desks and to suspiciously eye those who swiftly completed their work and checked out early.
I’m an early checker-outer now. I find that the quiet, my un-rushed pace, and the time for contemplation is helping me to do the best work of my career.
There is something fundamentally broken about our approach to work and productivity. I’m finding that doing less and doing things better is more rewarding, both financially and mentally.
If I were a manager today I’d look for ways to do less, do things more slowly, and to instill a sense of stillness in the workplace.
But please don’t offer me that job. I’m content here in my quiet home office where I have the time and space to sit and think and to do good work.
The Still Lives by Randy Murray, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.