Be less responsibleThis is Josh.
He is very responsible.
His mom is always telling stories about him being the nicest kid when he was little.
He believes her.
However, Josh is unhappy.
He would like to write more, but he never seems to find the time.
There are always other things that need to be taken care of.
And he doesn’t know what to do.
What is happening here?
At the beginning of every week, Josh makes a plan. He knows he tends to plan too many things, so he puts down just a few tasks he really wants to get done.
It’s Monday and Josh is optimistic.
Then he checks his calendar. A couple of meeting invites landed in his inbox. All of them say it’s important.
That’s okay. He knew this was coming. So he adds them into his plan.
And now let’s get to the really important thing: The article is not gonna write itself.
He makes coffee, sits down to write, and his phone rings.
It’s Suzan, she says she needs the marketing report ASAP.
He sends the report and after he comes back from the meeting, there are new tasks and invites to the inbox. All of them say it’s a top priority.
And it doesn’t get better as the week goes on.
People want things from Josh. Everyone likes working with him because they can count on him at any time.
He always picks up his phone immediately. He is 5 minutes early on every meeting. He responds to every email as soon as he can.
He is very responsible.
It happened again.
No writing done.
But surely next week is going to be different.
Learn to be less responsible
Being responsible takes a lot of time and energy. And the bad news is, that if you’re anything like me (and Josh), you tend to overestimate how much you can get done in an average day or week.
Take that, add the natural human urge to say yes to people, and voila – you get a formula for life when you have no time for things that are important to you. You run around pleasing everyone because you don’t want to disappoint them. I know this very well.
If that sounds like you, you might need to invent some irresponsibility for yourself.
Take it from Richard Feynman, a Nobel-winning physicist who practiced the same thing once he got too famous and everyone wanted things from him all the time:
To do real good physics work, you do need absolute solid lengths of time…if you have a job administrating anything, you don’t have the time. So I have invented another myth for myself: that I’m irresponsible. I’m actively irresponsible. I tell everyone I don’t do anything. If anyone asks me to be on a committee for admissions, ‘no,’ I tell them: I’m irresponsible.
This isn’t about being a jerk to people. It’s about being just enough irresponsible to make sure you do what matters to you first.
If you can’t make yourself happy, eventually, that’s going to be bad for everyone. Your primary responsibility is to take care of yourself.
And if you need to be less responsible to others to achieve that, then it’s the right thing to do.