Dominoes and Pillars: when to be productive and when to slow down

April 13, 2009 by Jared Goralnick

Dominoes, by Mirko Macari It’s tough reconciling a want to be productive with a need to seek out happiness.  We’re often told to balance work and pleasure, but it’s easy to misjudge what we can handle.

An analogy between dominoes and pillars has helped me to better understand how I spend my time.

Dominoes and Pillars

There are times when we want to set things in motion, make progress, and get to the next step as effortlessly as possible.  Some parts of life we want a domino effect—with one action carefully followed by another until we quickly make it to our goal.

Pillar, by Sukanto DebnathThere are other times we want to plant a foundation, hold onto a moment, and, while we’re at it, move as slowly as possible.  We want to create a sense of permanence and live that for all we can.  This is like erecting a pillar in our life, both for the big stuff that shapes us and even more for the little moments we most enjoy.

With dominoes, we want to place them in such a way that one action naturally leads to the next.  While we should enjoy the whole, ultimately we want to make it through our emails, complete the whitepaper, and get off the plane.

With pillars, we want to create something lasting, a moment that we’re not trying to get through, but instead to be aware of its every second.  While time will surely pass, we want to enjoy the glass of wine, laugh loudly at the comedy show, and never forget the feel of her skin.

A Little Context

I used to write mostly about productivity.  Lately I’ve written more about happiness.  But I haven’t abandoned either (thankfully).  I’d been trying to understand how there’s a place for both, and when to focus on one or the other.

I was obviously kidding in my (April Fool’s Day) article, where I described how to live a productive relationship.  But it begged the question: how do we know when to apply technology and “life hacks,” and when to slow down, pace ourselves, hang onto things.

Makes me think of fast food vs. the Slow Food movement.  It may sound like a tangent when I point out that Slow Food is less about the productivity of the eaters and more about cultivating particular food quality.  But when you think about it, all of this talk of productivity is really just a relationship between time and quality (i.e., input and output).  There are instances where we ought to splurge and savor our time and instances where we ought to conserve and maximize it.

And Back to Dominoes

I like to think of how I lay out my day:

  • If the focus is on moving forward, I apply concepts like batching, body rhythm, and the 2 minute rule.  I lay out my tasks with as few obstacles as possible, so that one thing will lead to the next and and the dominoes will fall over naturally.
  • If the focus is on enjoying the moment, I take pictures, fall for tangents, and generally do less.  I take all the time I need and try to build pillars that stand on their own, and that I can look back to.

For me the image of a line of a dominoes or a free-standing pillar helps me to alter my mental state.  While there are of course concepts that help in both areas (like turning off our notifications), generally there’s a time for one and a time for the other.

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2 Responses to “Dominoes and Pillars: when to be productive and when to slow down”

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  1. Egitisim Kariyer Enstitusu

    There are instances where we ought to splurge and savor our time and instances where we ought to conserve and maximize it.

    thank you for that

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