Matt Gemmell

My new book CHANGER is out now!

An action-thriller novel — book 1 in the KESTREL series.

★★★★★ — Amazon


Productivity 1 min read

There’s a Paul Graham quote that’s been going around recently:

What seems like work to other people that doesn’t seem like work to you?

That’s a question we should all be asking ourselves.

The word work, for most people, is synonymous with unpleasantness. Drudgery. Monday mornings. Interminable weeks. Work is the thing you take holidays from, and dread returning to in the new year.

It’s an obligation; a thing you do because you’re paid to. An unhappy reality of the adult world. The light at the end of the tunnel of work is retirement, when we can finally banish the daily grind forever.

“It’s work”, we say, meaning that it’s difficult. “It takes work”, we say, meaning that it takes effort. We contrast work with play. Word association would probably produce words like occupation, which is literally something that takes up your time.

We’re not fond of work in the abstract, and we have a habit of excluding anything enjoyable from that category. I like doing it, so by definition it’s not work. It’s a self-defeating perception that actually reveals some deep wisdom.

What’s that thing that you enjoy most, but other people don’t? What’s the thing that they’re relieved to stop doing when the weekend arrives, but you can’t be dragged away from?

It’s usually the thing you want to spend your evenings doing, too. The thing whose annoyances are challenges to you, and where the mundane tasks are easy, rather than boring. The thing that makes hours feel like minutes, instead of the other way around.

The thing whose repetition is practice, and a joy - not a burden.

It’s the thing that fits. What you feel you’re meant to do.

When you’re doing that thing, you can’t wait to get to work. Evenings are continuations. Weekends are more opportunities to fashion great works. Holidays are a change of scenery, without the final day being tinged with sadness and dread, before you return to your life’s work.

Compensation is a welcome bonus, for something you’d be doing regardless. Retirement is unthinkable - why would I ever stop?

I’ve found that thing, and the profound sense of rightness is something I draw energy from - and enthusiasm, and hope - every day.

You’ve found that thing too, almost certainly. You’re itching to go and do it right now. The thing where you never really feel you have to try. That’s what you ought to be doing.

You’ve known it for a while, at the back of your mind. It’s been sitting right there, patiently waiting. Hiding in plain sight, during your leisure hours, calling to you. It’s obvious in retrospect. How did you miss it?

You just didn’t think of it as work.