“Why did I do this?”

So we got a dog. The kids had been begging for one for years. After hemming and hawing, the “perfect” circumstances arose in which a puppy was available: my wife was nearby to get it, it was the height of summer so everyone was available to care for it, it is hypoallergenic… The stars seemingly aligned, I sighed, and said “go for it.”

It wasn’t a rational decision. It’s like deciding to have a child. You don’t know what you’re getting into. As good as conditions may get, they’re never perfect. You just roll the dice.

Getting a puppy, at least at first glance, is the least productive thing you can do. They have a bladder the size of a thimble. They get the “zoomies”, times where they dart across the room in some mad dash, smashing into things, and then calm down at seemingly random times. They need lots and lots of walks so that your floors and furniture have a chance at survival. They need training to go to their crate, sit, stay, come, and more.

Yes, it’s adorable. Fine, I still grumble.

Now that the kids have gone off to school, I’ve become the de facto care giver. I’ve rearranged my schedule to see clients around the puppy’s walks. I’ve given up my home office to work in the living room where I can take action quickly.

Am I complaining? Well, yes.

“Why did I do this?”

And then a few things happened.

First, while playing the guitar, she listened. I had a home audience! Catering to my narcissism is a helpful in.

Second, I realized I had added some useful extra steps to my daily shut down sequence. For example, I put away my laptop charger instead of leaving it plugged in. While before it was organized in the sense that I could access the laptop quickly, it was less aesthetically pleasing. Now, I have a cleaner set up, a more thorough start up and shutdown sequence.

Third, I’ve been getting outside and exercising a heck of a lot more. At one point, she sat down in the grass. I sat down next to her and enjoyed watching the park with her.

Perhaps this is all just one long rationalization. But in the end, it speaks to a more useful definition of productivity. Too often, it is used synonymously with “efficiency” such as getting as much done in as little time as possible.

But a more useful definition, one that I return to often, is that productivity is better seen as a process of finding and weaving mastery and meaning into our daily lives.

Sometimes that’s about tasks and efficiency. But, with this definition, extra steps aren’t bad.

In fact, we often stumble into pretty amazing creations this way. Some serendipity of stuff laying around comes together to form an idea that takes off. Taking the long way home, we find a new store we hadn’t known about.

A more poetic way statement of the same is that “the impeded stream is the one that sings”[1].

It would seem that I have just argued that productivity now means nothing and that chaos is a source of inspiration so we should never clean our rooms. But, I would say instead that for any instrument, that impedance from which we find beauty is a carefully crafted one. Through the skills of the craftsperson who built the instrument and the musician who has honed years of practice into a gentle flow, we find mastery and meaningful sounds.

I guess I’ll keep the dog.

​PS. If you’re interested in learning about building systems to support finding mastery and meaningful work, consider Workflow Mastery – Building from the Basics

PPS Addendum – By request, an image of the culprit: