Saturday, June 6, 2009

How to be Obsessed

So, the way to happiness is to slice everything into smaller and smaller chunks. That way, you'll get a lot of things done. And that means you'll be be a productive member of society, for which you will be rewarded with lots of money. And with that money, you can buy lots of material goods. And we all know that amassing material goods results in happiness. Right?

OK, so maybe your goal in Getting Things Done isn't to Acquire Material Goods but is, instead, to Overthrow Capitalist Society. The slice-n-dice technique will still get you there. It is just that your "to do" list might be a little different:

  1. Read chapter 3 from the Anti-Capitalist Manifesto
  2. Prepare snacks for Thursday's meeting of the Anarchist Club
But, with all this work to cut your work into two minute transactions, when exactly are you going to figure out whether you want to conquer capitalism or kill it? When do you do your thinking? How, in fact, do you become you if you're filling every beat with an action?

Merlin Mann's answer is obsession. A total and compulsive preoccupation with a single thing. He says, there should be no need to prioritize, to select between alternative things you could be doing now. You should always be doing the one thing that you need to be doing. You should always be thinking about your obsession. You should be obsessing about your passion.

This is a simple answer to a complex problem. And, when you have an overriding compulsion to do one thing, it works well. But does everyone have this? Perhaps, but certainly not all the time. We need to simulate obsession.

How to be Obsessed
What is it like being obsessed? If I remember right, when you are obsessed with something (someone):
  • You can't help thinking about it
  • Everything reminds you of it - songs on the radio, strangers on the street, doing the washing up
  • You speak of your obsession all the time
  • You form a circle of friends who are similarly obsessed
Clearly, then, you can make your self obsessed with something by the following the above path on purpose. Book time on your calendar to think about something. Look for links between the object of your obsession and your everyday experiences - what you're doing, where you are, what your are seeing and hearing. Find opportunities to talk (and perhaps even write blog posts) about your obsession. Seek out people who are similarly interested (intoxicated).

Maybe you pick something to simulate obsession with every month? Give it a whirl and let me know how it goes.

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