The internet is a great source of ideas about living a meaningful life. Some people have developed their approaches into somewhat of an art form. In this post I consider some of the ideas that have come about over the past 5 – 10 years online about what it means to live your life. I’ve also linked to what I think is the premiere blog about living an awesome life as a student, and beyond to when you think about a career.
A big focus online has been productivity, and blogs about how to do more faster and better have mushroomed. One approach that captured people’s productive hearts and minds is Getting Things Done, or GTD. Started by David Allen, GTD suggests that you organise your life by getting everything out of your brain and into a system. This frees up your brain to think, rather than remember. The system can be complex, so I recommend having a look at his book called Getting Things Done. The best thing I’ve taken from this is the notion of an inbox where you chuck everything to be sorted through daily. I don’t normally get it done daily, but at least I know where anything I’ve lost will be. Also GTD focuses on actions. So when you sort through your stuff, you pick out the actions to be done. It’s a nice approach, and one that has some good takeaways in it.
The counter-productivity culture sprang up almost simultaneously, although the line between both is somewhat blurred. Allen would argue that his complex system leads to more simplicity and time to enjoy life. Zen Habits has some fantastic ideas about living a simple life, although he sometimes seems to write stuff just for the hell of it – like a ‘top 5 ways to do X’. A Zen Habits approach to productivity is listing the three big things you want to get done that day, and then doing them. I like it, and I like it even more when used with some ideas from GTD. Whatever approach you take it seems to involve some discipline, and a fair chunk of experimentation. I’m still mucking around with the way I do things, and I suspect I always will.
When it comes to studying, philosophy, productivity and the meaning of work, Cal Newport at Study Hacks is my favourite writer. He started off focusing on how to do well at school and university. There is a huge back catalogue of blog posts about techniques, tools and approaches to student life. Some are very practical, some are more ethereal and conceptual. As his career progressed (he’s no longer a ‘student’ but a Post-Doc at MIT) his ideas progressed. He now writes about careers, and how to craft the career and life that you want. I appreciate his approach to life, and his focus on enjoyment while recognising that you need to work hard to be ‘so good they can’t ignore you’ if you really want to get the kind of career you want.
These are three different takes on life, what do you think?