When I look back on the times I’ve done the most productive work on my startup, it has always been when I’ve had a great balance of work and rest. It has also been at times when I have genuinely been enjoying the moment.

Steve Jobs suggests that in order to do great work, we should love doing the work:

“Work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work, and the only way to do great work is to love what you do.”

By saying “the only way to do great work is to love what you do,” Jobs implies that how good we are at something is correlated with how much we enjoy doing it. I am sure you can agree this makes sense.

Loving what we do

This need to love what we do has had me thinking for a while about how to maximize the amount of time I’m truly enjoying what I’m doing.

We all have parts of our lives that we enjoy less than others, and it is easy to assume that it is inevitable that there are elements of our days which we won’t enjoy at all. I think that whil this is very easy to agree with, a lot of the time it may actually be a choice—whether we realize it or not.

A while back I watched a video entitled Tea & the Art of Life Management, a great discussion featuring two of my favourite authors: Tim Ferriss and Leo Babauta.

The video is fantastic and I can highly recommend it. I’ve watched it a number of times myself, and I always keep remembering it for one particular thing which Tim Ferriss said. He calls it Gratitude Training:

“Let’s say that you want to eat a peach for dessert one evening, but you decide to only allow yourself this luxury after washing the dishes. If, while washing the dishes, all you think of is eating the peach, what will you be thinking of when you eat the peach?

The clogged inbox, that difficult conversation you’ve been putting off, tomorrow’s to-do list?

The peach is eaten but not enjoyed, and so on we continue through life, victims of a progressively lopsided culture that values achievement over appreciation.”

Ambition vs. day-to-day happiness

The final sentence in the quote above from Tim Ferriss is something I find particularly interesting as a startup founder. As a founder, I read many articles, many videos and generally try to stay very up-to-date on the different techniques out there and try to learn from what has worked for others.

This means that a lot of the time I am exposed to articles which show how much people have achieved such as how much a startup has been acquired for. With such a high concentration of this kind of information, it is easy to put a lot of value on ambition. We don’t start companies and aim to make no impact, do we?

However, going back to what Steve Jobs says, if we value ambition too much compared to day-to-day happiness, we are unlikely to ever achieve the things we are striving for. In an interview with David Heinemeier Hansson of 37signals on Mixergy, Andrew Warner asked David a very interesting question:

“When you launch something, you say ‘we just wanted to launch something and see where it went’ and on the other hand, ‘we’re going to build a hundred million dollar company.’ How do you balance both those sides?”

David responds by saying that the ambition is much less important than day-to-day happiness. He says that if you care more about the milestones and ambitions, you are much less likely to achieve them.

Choose to enjoy the moments

So next time we’re washing the dishes, why not actually find enjoyment in washing the dishes? It can be a very relaxing activity.

When we’re trying to reach inbox zero, why not enjoy the great conversations we are having and have some gratitude for the amazing people we are in touch with and the fact we can communicate so easily?

When a customer gets in touch with a question about our product, why not be thankful that they care enough to get in touch, and look for something we can learn from them?

I certainly need to keep reminding myself that it’s a choice.

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Written by Joel Gascoigne

Joel is the founder and CEO at Buffer. He is focused on the lean startup approach, user happiness, transparency & company culture. Say hi to him anytime @joelgascoigne.

  • Great post! Enjoying the moment certainly is a choice. I actually think ‘Gratitude Training’ should be taught in schools. It’s such an important skill.

    I think enthusiasm is the same. If you can be the most enthusiastic person in any given situation, you won’t go far wrong.

    Simple, but powerful advice.

  • Astha

    Thank you for such a wonderful article.

  • Great little post! I have found gratitude spontaneously arising after meditation: http://opensit.com/sits/518 And I realised it’s not just something that’s “good to do”; it can be a really transformative practice. I’m not the first to say this :)

  • Sheena Sharma

    Great post! I completely agree. I try to find meaning & gratitude in my daily life, before I get too caught up in goals not yet achieved.

  • Couldn’t’ agree more Joel.. Too often we are looking for purpose and not following our passion… but there is something to be said about being passionate about everything you do and I think this post is spot on… Love What you do but also find ways to Love EVERYTHING you do! Well said!

  • Fantastic reminder + really well written. I’m looking forward to watching that video too. Thanks for posting it.

  • Mia Sutton

    Loving that quote from Steve Jobs!

  • I think that Gratitude in business is the single most over looked thing, yet is the one thing that can keep your business going in really hard times. I have made my business around this one tenant and I impart that to my clients. Thanks for the interesting read. I enjoyed it very much.

  • I agree when you love what you do thats when the magic happens. I believe its also when you are your most creative and others will normally benefit from it.

  • Jane Folodi

    I think in this era people don’t follow their hearts when they choose their jobs. Since in this new world we leaving in “Life is expensive”, people choose jobs that will pay them good so that they can be able to survive. However this affects them later on in their jobs because most of the times these are people who are always upset at work, because they don’t have any passion in their jobs. i think it is very important to follow your passion than money, because at the end of the day you have to wake up every day to a place you don’t even belong in

  • ravena143

    This article is good as far as it goes, but I think its focus on mundane tasks like washing the dishes kind of misses the point. The biggest problem I’ve had with not enjoying work was never boredom, it was overwhelm. How does one feel gratitude for pressured rushing and unreasonable expectations?

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