year of virtues, month four: industry

Happy Monday, everyone! How was your weekend? I am back home from a whirlwind AWP conference in Los Angeles, where I got to attend so many helpful and thought-provoking workshops, snagged a whole bunch of new books I can’t wait to read, and connected with some dear friends I had not seen in quite a while. By the end of the conference, I felt filled-to-the-brim with a strange combination of brain-dead exhaustion and recharged motivation in my writing life.

My brother, coincidentally, had to work a conference in Berkeley the same weekend, and got a couple days off work following the conference. So my parents drove up from So Cal with me and we spent three lovely days together in the Bay Area as a family. Allyn called it my “staycation” and that is exactly what it felt like — a little relaxing mini vacation right at home! It was wonderful to all be together, and we lucked out with absolutely gorgeous weather. I joked with my family that San Francisco was showing off for them, because immediately after they left, the weather turned gray and rainy! It matched my mood — I miss them! It is always hard saying goodbye.

view from coit hike

 

fam in sf 2016

Today, since we are already a week and a half into April, I wanted to write a brief post about my focus for this month from Ben Franklin’s List of Virtues. It was a bit difficult for me to choose what I wanted to focus on this month, because I am feeling a bit scattered and pulled in many different directions. Summer and our wedding are just visible on the horizon, but not close enough to touch yet. And yet at the same time, I feel like the new year just began an eye-blink ago and I have so many projects I want to make more headway on before the busy summer begins.

I decided to go with number six on Ben Franklin’s list: industry.


INDUSTRY: Lose no time; be always employ’d in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.


To me, this is a virtue that must be dealt with carefully. It reminds me of Gretchen Rubin’s Secret of Adulthood that many things in life are good servants, but bad masters. To let industry rule your life would mean you become a productivity robot, and nobody wants that. I have written on this blog before about my quest to make time for what really matters to me and to value myself and my day not just on the number of things I check off my to-do list. I think we need to be careful with industry that it does not become a barometer of worth; that we do not multitask our lives to the detriment of deep thinking and intentional listening; that we do not speed through our days on auto-pilot, constantly rushing from here to there, constantly checking our email and social networks and newsfeeds. {After all, when Ben Franklin wrote these virtues, there were no such things as smartphones or Google!}

This month, I am focusing on industry with the perspective of being employed in what is most useful to me — what I most want to make headway on in the forthcoming weeks. I have a couple big projects that I really want to move forward with and that I have not been giving the attention they deserve of late. Also, I want to make little-by-little progress on our wedding planning while we still have plenty of time until the big day. As I learned during my year of living simply, taking care of tasks far in advance takes SO much stress away!

My brother shared this graph with me that I thought was very interesting: Steven Covey’s Time Management Matrix. Here is a great article explaining it in depth. Basically, “urgent” tasks mean tasks that you need to get done for someone else; “important” tasks are those that are important to YOU for achieving your larger goals.

This month — and beyond! — I want to focus more on important tasks, rather than defaulting into giving most of my time to the urgent column. And, interesting to note, in the important column Covey lists “relationship building” and “recreation” — two items definitely not on the to-do list of a productivity robot. Yes, perhaps it is possible to be industrious AND have a balanced life!

Questions of the day:

  • What does industriousness look like to you?
  • What quadrant on Stephen Covey’s matrix do you spend most of your time in?

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