Cleaning up my kids' toys only creates the illusion of progress

Before... and after

I had this insight over the weekend while we were straightening up the house.

Without fail, the kids get the toys out again, usually more than once in the same day. It feels for a moment like you accomplished something to put them away, but they'll be back soon enough.

Instead, to make genuine progress, process that lingering stack of mail at the end of the kitchen table. Or look hard at things that have been where they don't belong for so long that they've become invisible. Unlike toy cleanup, these won't be undone the moment your son wakes from his nap.

It's easy to draw a parallel to work.

Although sorting through emails and messages on platforms like Teams is sometimes necessary, it doesn't usually translate to meaningful progress. It's tempting to engage in these activities to feel busy and productive, but we must question their true value and what you are putting off in favor of it. Will you put "cleaned out inbox" on your resume? Will the work you complete continue to generate value after you're finished with it?

When it comes to deciding how to spend your time, don't choose the illusion of progress. Your sense of satisfaction can already tell the difference.

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