After hearing about Elon Musk’s ideas for government on Mars, I've started wondering what lessons we could take away from other examples of direct democracy, like Ancient Athens. It seems like voting directly on issues may have only been part of the equation: Making sure that every citizen has enough knowledge and experience to make informed decisions may end up being the bigger challenge.
When was the last time you tried to be more productive?
A quick search of Google for the phrase "increasing productivity" returns nearly half a million results. There are countless books, blog posts, tips, and tools designed to help us maximize our ability to get things done.
We all want to be more productive. Even the words that we use to describe productive people and actions are filled with aspiration: ship, create, code, get things done, make things happen.
There's also a real danger of becoming unbalanced. I've recently seen some people suggest taking this to the extreme, focusing on productivity to the exclusion of everything else in life—no reading, no fun, no conversations, no games, no inspiration.
When we focus to deeply on our productivity, it becomes easy to see ourselves as a collection of outputs. But we are more than just the sum of what we've accomplished. We're also the sum of what we've learned, heard, read, watched, reflected on, believed in, and listened to.
As strange as it sounds, the pressure to be productive has made it easier than ever to feel unproductive. But another word for unproductive can be: receptive.
Being receptive means effectively receiving knowledge, ideas, and inspiration. It acknowledges all of the work that we do every day to process and make sense out of the signals that are around us all the time.
Over the past few years I've challenged myself to spend more time improving this aspect of my life. I'm definitely still early in my journey of exploring this, but I wanted to share some learnings I've had along the way and what's worked for me.
This doesn't necessarily mean that these things will be right for everyone. What I am excited by, though, is starting more of a discussion around how we can be better readers, listeners, and observers of the world around us. How we can be generous, healthy participants as well as contributors.
If productivity asks the question, "How can I create more effectively?" then receptivity poses the question, "How can I receive more effectively?"
I've put together a short list of practical ways I've implemented this in my own life. This definitely doesn't mean that I'm against productivity, but I do think there is a lot of value in balancing what we create with how we receive the things that are all around us.
As you read through this, you might notice that some of this advice sounds like it could apply to productivity, too. This is why I think the two ideas are inextricably linked: The more receptive we are, the more energy and inspiration we have to be truly productive. The more productive we are, the more important it is for us to become better at receiving and processing signals.