Productivity Hack: The Most Uncomfortable Chair in the Room

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nixon1You often see pictures of entrepreneurs working leisurely. Or, at least, working in a position that gives the appearance of leisure.

You know the pose: seated on a couch, legs outstretched and perched upon the table, laptop sitting on their lap as they type and work and create, smiling the smug smiles of those who think they’ve got it figured out.

I am not one of those entrepreneurs.

Apart from being painfully aware that I have almost nothing truly figured out, I detest the idea of working comfortably. It’s not a pleasant thought to me.

Comfort is for successful people, it’s the reward for accomplishing things you set out to do. Whenever I am relaxing, I prefer to do it comfortably.

But not when I work. Because when I first sit down to work, I have achieved precisely nothing that day. Not one word written, not one task accomplished. The score is at zero. I am only successful once I finish working.

Because I am not successful, I have not earned comfort.

When I write, I tend to stand. When I sit, I choose the most uncomfortable chair in the room.

I sit with back straight, shoulders pinched, head forward.

If you’re looking for a poetic analog, look no further than Game of Thrones.

eddard-starkThe Throne in question–the Iron Throne–is not a comfortable seat. Forged by the breath of Balerion the Black Dread from the thousand swords of those Aegon the Conqueror defeated in battle, the Iron Throne has protrusions that can cut those who are not wary.

The moral lesson Aegon intended for his heirs was that no ruler should ever sit upon the throne carelessly, just as they must not rule carelessly.

Here’s how this relates: firstly and most obviously, when I work, I am hungry and eager. I try to manifest the mindset of a hungry conqueror, not a well-fed king.

But, more deeply, there’s something I take very seriously: responsibility.

I’m not over here ruling the Seven Kingdoms, but I have carved out my own little empire. And I know that my writing influences thousands of people. I’m grateful beyond measure for that, and I do not take it lightly; I have a responsibility to my readers to create the best content I can, and to always try to get better.

There’s also a responsibility to myself: to keep pushing and growing, to make the business better, my writing better, leave a bigger legacy.

So far as I know, there is no faster way to stagnation than to get comfortable.

In any industry, no matter how successful you are, you’re never, ever, ever, EVER safe. There’s always going to be someone nipping at your heels–there are people younger or smarter or whatever.

You can be at the top of your game, and the proverbial mountain, but if you simply stop at the summit instead of getting to the next mountain, that’s it. Game over.

To go back to GoT: I think it’s pretty clear that anyone who gets too cozy on the Iron Throne is in trouble.

In a similar vein, another great fantasy series, The Wheel of Time, features an item called the Crown of Swords, which is what it sounds like: a metal crown forged in the likeness of laurel leaves, but ringed with small swords.

The message is clear, in either case: one should never get too comfortable with power.

I feel–quite strongly–that the same is true for success.

Don’t get too comfortable. Ever.

Those entrepreneurs who talk about how cushy their lives are, and show you pictures of them working from a beach? Good for them. I hope it works for them–but they’d better keep an eye on their shoulder.

As for me? I subscribe to the ideal that nothing truly great was ever created without a little pain.

So: I prefer to avoid comfort when I work. Because it’s work.

This chair I’m sitting in fucking sucks. But goddamn, do I love it.

About the Author

John Romaniello is a level 70 orc wizard who spends his days lifting heavy shit and his nights fighting crime. When not doing that, he serves as the Chief Bro King of the Roman Empire and Executive Editor here on RFS. You can read his articles here, and rants on Facebook.

  • Matt Serna

    Love this post, and couldn’t agree more. I think there’s a lot of overlap between the psychology of fitness and the psychology of productivity, and I’d love to see you write more about this kind of thing.

    I never understood the whole “working on the beach” concept – in addition to the cushy atmosphere impacting the quality of work you produce, it sort of defeats the point of being there if you’re going to be glued to your laptop IMO. I’d rather work hard and then play hard, instead of trying to do both at the same time and accomplishing neither.

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