We wake up to responsibilities every day, demands on our time, emergencies, and important tasks. People need us, things need to get done. We have assignments to hand in, meetings to attend, bosses to please, clients to satisfy, money to make, bills to pay, and on and on and on. It is entirely possible to be very busy from day to day without making any real personal progress. We can stay busy spinning on the hamster wheel, expending great energy and effort and still not have anything meaningful to show for it. It doesn’t matter how productive or efficient we get. It doesn’t matter if you have mastered David Allen’s GTD system, if you have no clear sense of where you are going.
Knowing where you are going is fine as well, but what’s more important is consciously choosing your destination. I’ve written about and alluded to the importance of critically examining the world around you, the unwritten rules, the status quo, the assumed paths and choosing for yourself the role you will play and the life you will lead. If you have wrestled with these matters as I do daily, perhaps you have articulated your own code, your mission or at least the path with your life. You have chosen or deciphered your Legacy Work.
Legacy work is the work you do for YOU. It is your personal project, work designed to express your inner longings. It can be as simple as engaging in study to improve your skills, or as complex as building a company. But what legacy projects all have in common is that they are self-chosen, and self-directed. They are for you.
Legacy work is just as important as, even more important than Normal work, and it should be catered for in daily life.
Normal work is just that, normal work. It’s what you do when you clock hours at the office, factory, supermarket, or wherever you work. It’s the work you do for another, to earn a pay-check, to survive. Legacy work is the work that you do to live. It’s your life song, your labour of love, your heart project. Normal work just gives you a pay-check and some benefits, but if it’s the wrong one, it can sap you of all vitality and will to live. The other makes you come fully alive, engaged and involved with creating something new and sharing it with the world.
Sometimes you can merge your legacy work, with your life work until they are one and the same. It is essentially leveraging your passion and personal projects to be commercially viable enough to sustain your lifestyle. Most times, we all have to face the Sex vs Cash duality. Sex being the thing we like to do, Cash being the thing we have to do…for money. In my case, I constantly have to juggle doing designs for clients and businesses to make money to live and get things for myself (cash), and doing designs for me, experimenting, learning new software, techniques, styles (sex). If i spend too much time with cash, I get burned out and stressed, I need to balance it out with ‘sex’.
There are obstacles to engaging in Legacy Work. One of them is the fact that with legacy work, the responsibility shifts from the outside to the inside. In normal work, you have bosses, supervisors and the entire status quo keeping you in line and motivating you to do your part. With legacy work, you need to take responsibility for that, to decipher what your legacy work is, and then to set it in motion. Most people don’t like responsibility. It’s easier to do the day-to-day and ever step up to the plate and what you really want to do with your life. And then have the courage to follow through.
The second sticky point is that we get too distracted and immersed in normal work. We spend our days fulfilling everybody’s needs but our own. We provide the pieces and modules to everyone else’s projects except ours. I struggle with this a lot. Every morning I wake up, and I have to deal with phone calls, emails, smses, bbm messages, tweets, facebook inboxes from clients, all kinds of requests and demands. Many days, I spend my entire time processing and fulfilling these demands: designing the logos, tweaking the brochures, churning out the posters and so on. Granted, having too much work is a much nicer problem to have than too little. But I do have other ideas, pet projects, and dreams of the place I’m trying to take my life and my level of contribution to. It goes further than providing design solutions to clients, I want to go on to getting much better at my craft, creating new products, engaging in exciting projects, meeting interesting people and tackling more important issues. But this is not going to happen by itself. I have to actively carve out the time to set up the infrastructure for the kind of life I want to live. I have to streamline and slow down my normal work. I need to invest more time positioning myself, in sketching out and executing my ideas and projects. This blog and the BXDI project are parts of my legacy work right now. I’m learning to spend at least as half the time I do on normal work, on legacy work. That’s the only way it will move forward and materialise.
On that note, here are some tips to help you with your legacy work, be it building a music career, writing a book, running an NGO, starting a new business, that thing that comes directly from you.
- Commit to it: This thing HAS to happen. It’s not a nice to have, its not a maybe. This is you, make it happen.
- Think about it: Get alone as much as you can, think about your legacy work, flesh it out, dream about it, visualise it.
- Make time for it: Even if you say you are too busy, make the time. Cut something else off, watch less TV, series, movies, sleep less…whatever you need to do, make the time.
- Do it all the time: This works better for some legacy projects than others, but you can try integrating your legacy work into your day to day life. Sketch down ideas during breaks or lunch. Learn while you travel. Instead of facebooking or mindlessly surfing the net, look for inspirations or research online. Do some part of it as much as you can, all the time.
- Share it: Tell people about, invite people to help you, etc.
- Keep at it: These things have a knack of taking longer than expected sometimes, keep at it. Be patient with yourself, with the process…even if you moving at the pace of a crawl…keep moving, keep at it.