Don’t React

The “productivity literature” (for lack of a better blanket term) is clear:

  • Don’t read email first thing in the morning
  • Don’t do social media in the morning
  • Some even say: avoid news in the morning

The more I think about this, the more I try to increase my daily effectiveness, the more I realize that it all boils down to one principle:

Act, don’t react. Put off reaction for as long as possible.

And oh… my… gosh… this is so hard. The temptation to look for something to react to is practically overwhelming: an email I can reply to. A social media posting I can laugh at or be outraged by. A buzzfeed article I can develop an opinion about.

Anything to switch over from action to reaction.

I’m the sort of person (maybe everyone is this sort of person?) who has a reaction to everything. The food I eat, the things my kids do, the music I listen to, every scrap of media I consume… if I gave myself free reign, I’d have commentary on all of it.

I’m writing this right this moment because it’s a way to distract myself from the urge to react. In a sense, it’s a reaction to reaction.

Often very prominent creative types say things which turn out to be ill-considered, and garner an angry backlash. And people ask “how could they have not seen this coming?” I wonder if, sometimes, it’s simply because as part of being creative, they are people who have internalized the value of action-over-reaction to an extreme degree?

With my high-speed internet connection and lively social networks, I live in a world where I have limitless opportunities for public reaction every waking second. I’m finding that cranking this particular door of temptation closed is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.

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  1. The flip side is that it might help foster creativity. I got that here:

    P.S: I’m only here ’cause I’m waiting for my dev laptop to reboot 🙂

  2. I know you’ve seen this quote before, but I’ll leave this here again just because I’m constantly awed at how utterly applicable it is to so much of life:

    > “when you don’t create things, you become defined by your tastes rather than ability. your tastes only narrow & exclude people. so create.”

  3. I guess I never realized you were so subject to this, because you convey the impression that you are very self-disciplined and keep it in check. I know I have this weakness, so it follows that you may have inherited some of it. 😉 Actually, you’re the one who inspires me to try to cut down on my knee-jerk reactions to low priority media. No longer working makes this temptation/excuse to be mentally lazy even harder to resist. But I guess with all the stuff coming at us, it affects everyone, even you! It’s a convenient distraction when you’re procrastinating on a challenging list of tasks. The trick is breaking the habit. If you can, you feel so much more productive, and then you can “reward” (?) yourself with a fix of reactivity later. Or better yet, you’re too tired by then to bother!

  4. […] Still not perfect. Also related: Don’t React. I noodled on this a bit more, and the following is what I came up with. It isn’t really […]

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