One of my favorite activities at the monastery is washing dishes.
I love washing dishes because it’s repetitive, it’s mostly physical, and the end point is obvious. These traits are the opposite of my office work where it’s often unclear when the work is done, mostly mental, and novel situations.
Because mental, office and creative work is so nebulous, I find it’s important to have a way to define the scope of work and define what is good enough. Too many people burn themselves out trying to do as many tasks as possible and still feel unsatisfied at the end of the day. At the same time, they’re often doing unimportant tasks where a lot gets done but doesn’t feel like it really mattered.
In order to overcome these obstacles, I find it’s important to do a few steps:
- Define your big goals, what’s the most important things to do? For me this includes the monastery, circling, meditation, health, and friendships.
- Work backwards from the big goals to what are the projects and tasks?
- Each day prioritize at least 2-3 most important tasks tied to those big goals.
If I complete those most important tasks then my day is a success.
Metaphorically speaking, there are more “dishes” (tasks, projects) than I have time to do each day. So, I’m choosing what are the most important ones that fit my given day / week / month. If I do them then I’ve succeeded.