by Anton Dybal May 11, 2021 9 min read
Work doesn't have to suck. If you're an entrepreneur or freelancer who has a high degree of control over their work, I would HIGHLY encourage you to re-evaluate your systems and workflows. Ask yourself: Am I pushing the boulder uphill here, and could there be an easier way of doing this?
Oftentimes we overcomplicate things and add way too many unnecessary steps that may only add marginal value, or could perhaps even be counter-productive. We also sometimes do the work in such a way where we don't enjoy it, when oftentimes we could set up a different way of doing things where we'd really love the work. Let me explain what I mean with an example.
One of the few, core things I focus on in running Next-Level Artwork is search-engine optimization (SEO). One component of this is regular blogging—so given the nature of my business (selling posters and canvas art), you'd probably think some good blog post ideas might be to talk about artwork, famous artists, home decoration tips, things of that nature. Sounds like a solid idea, right?
Here's the problem: I don't like writing about those subjects. Or rather, I don't like writing about them enough to consistently churn out 2,000–3,000 word blog post after blog post on those subjects. It's not that I dislike the business, or the industry I'm in; I absolutely LOVE to continue populating our store with a growing collection of awesome artwork. It's just that blogging about the sort of "conventional subjects" you might think of for this industry, it bores me. It feels like a slog.
The other day, for example, I was writing a blog post on the difference between matte, gloss and satin posters. Highly relevant to our company and products, right? An excellent blog post idea? In theory, yes—but in execution, absolutely not. The reason it's a terrible idea is because I had zero interest in writing about it. Again, I like running this company and selling our posters + canvas art; I just don't wanna spend hours researching and writing a long-form blog post about the detailed nuances of different poster types.
I was working on that blog post the other day, and I was just absolutely bored to tears. Now one solution here would be to hire someone to do this blogging for me; delegate it to someone who *wants* to do this work and can do a great job at it. Solid idea, we're just not that far along in the business yet, so it's not a viable option as of right now.
The next answer you'd probably hear from the self-improvement and entrepreneurship community is: Grind it out! Fucking push yourself to get it done! Self-discipline baby! Write that boring blog post!
That's certainly one approach you could take. But I would argue it's a terrible approach. If you're forcing yourself to do work you hate, for these massive several-hour chunks, on a daily or semi-daily basis, you're just not going to enjoy your days and therefore your life. What kind of way is that to live?
After trying and failing to push myself to write some detailed, long-form blog posts about a variety of such lame topics (from my perspective at least—not judging!), I had to just stop myself and ask: Is there an easier way to do this? Am I overcomplicating things, and is there a way I could set up my workflows in this area to where I absolutely loved the subjects I was blogging about? I immediately realized: Yes, that's totally doable, AND there would be several more benefits to this approach.
Forcing yourself through these grueling work sessions where you hate what you're doing is textbook "pushing the boulder uphill." It turns your work into this Herculean struggle, where despite every effort to caffeinate yourself, motivate yourself, and persuade yourself of the importance of doing this, you can still barely push yourself to make inches of progress. You hate the work you're doing, it takes way longer than it needs to, and you dread the thought of doing it again and again, day after day.
What I realized was: If I'm gonna play the SEO game—and if I'm gonna do it consistently, long-term—I need to do it in a way where my workflow has two core attributes: 1) I love the subjects I'm blogging about, and 2) I can pump out the blog posts quickly and effortlessly.
Having to do a bunch of research about the detailed differences between poster types, it takes a lot of time and work. Having to find a bunch of images to use in my blog post to illustrate some kind of interior decoration or graphic design principles, again, it would take a lot of time and work. While there's definitely SEO value to include images and external references inside of your blog posts, you also need to keep in mind: Sustainability, consistency, stamina—and simply enjoying your fucking life. Shoving myself through this painful meat grinder of spending 5 hours researching and writing a blog post about something I don't feel like writing about is a TERRIBLE strategy and a terrible use of my time and life.
So what I did was made a commitment in this area: I will no longer push the boulder uphill. I will ONLY blog about subjects where I'm super passionate about them, AND where I can churn out long-form blog posts easily and enjoyably. No hours of research or image-editing required either, because that means less results per hour of time invested.
Self-improvement, motivation, entrepreneurship—these are subjects I've spent the past several years of my life absolutely obsessed with, and I'm more passionate about these subjects than literally any other. I can just grab a microphone, or stand in front of a keyboard, with no preparation, and start talking or typing away for hour after hour, pumping out (what I consider to be) VERY solid and VERY valuable material on these subjects. THAT is the kind of subject you want to be blogging about—because instead of it being this grueling, painful chore that is complete agony to put yourself through, you instead love what you're doing, and it's more like "Try and STOP me from writing this blog post!"
This approach, of not pushing boulders uphill, is the intersection of several different very crucial self-improvement ideas:
1) Utilizing your existing strengths & "zones of genius", instead of trying to improve in areas you suck at or don't enjoy.
2) Managing your time effectively by doing things much faster.
Instead of taking 4, 5 hours to slowly chip away at some lame blog post that I frankly couldn't give a fuck about, I can now bang out 2,000+ word blog posts EASILY on subjects I love talking about, because I can just stand in front of the keyboard, and start typing away in this almost manic frenzy because I love the subjects so much.
The actual term I use to describe the blog posts I now exclusively do is "flow-zone": I only write blog posts about subjects where I enjoy it so much that I'm just in flow when I write them, and I can just—start-to-finish, with almost no editing required—start talking about a subject, and just in one continuous setting, write an entire, long-form post about it from beginning to end.
This is a MUCH better approach than slowly chipping away at a boring post where it's excruciating torture to write a few boring sentences. I can just bang these out quickly. And while you might think that means they'll suck more, it's actually the opposite, because if I'm passionate enough to zoom through 2,000 words of writing, it probably means I'm very interested in the subject and that will shine through in the writing.
3) Do what you love.
4) Connect with your audience.
By writing about something I'm passionate and knowledgeable about, I'm connecting more with readers, the posts will be more engaging, and ultimately will perform much better than posts that would bore me to write.
If they bore me to write, it'll almost certainly bore you to read. Meaning engagement will be poor. Meaning Google and search engines will see that very few people read the whole thing, they bounce from the page fast, and the posts don't even end up ranking high anyway. So from an SEO perspective, it's arguably superior.
Plus, a lot of the conventional subjects you might think to write about in this industry, the world just doesn't need another blog post on that subject. And I'd have nothing new or unique to add to the already-existing 8,000 blog posts on matte vs gloss posters. So I'd argue I'm adding more value to the world by writing about subjects that I'm interested in and that I can give my unique spin on.
Look at the work you're doing, and ask yourself: What parts of this work do I hate? Which parts of running my business, or doing this work, can I absolutely not stand? In what ways am I "pushing a boulder uphill", and is there a way that I can simultaneously speed up my workflow in this area while also turning it from something I hate, into something I love?
Doing this will radically increase your productivity AND transform this work into something you love to do. It sounds simple—and it kind of is—but personally, it's been a HUGE gamechanger for me.
Pushing a boulder uphill doesn't only mean: You're doing work that's harder than it needs to be because you dislike it. It can also mean: You're making the work way harder than it needs to be. What if rather than pushing a boulder, you could instead push a beach ball?
If I need to do a 3-hour research project every time it's time to write a damn blog post, that's just adding lots of extra work. Are there subjects I could write about where I don't NEED to do this research—or where I've already done tons of research in the form of reading books and studying these subjects independently? Setting up a workflow around *those* such subjects, it's analogous to standing at the top of a mountain, and just giving the boulder that initial shove. Interia takes over, and gravity does the rest. It turns the workflow into this effortless task, that doesn't even feel like work.
And this, incidentally, is one of the core reasons people often recommend that you "do what you love." Steve Jobs, for example, once said the following:
"People say you have to have a lot of passion for what you're doing and it's totally true . . . And the reason is because [building something of value is] so hard that if you don't, any rational person would give up."
It's fashionable to shit on this idea nowadays—mocking these fools who love the work they do, "Get real! Wake up to the real world kid!"—but I'm a firm believer that it's VERY solid advice. Why would I intentionally force myself to do work I can't stand each day if I can instead find a better, faster, easier way to do it where I love doing the work? You don't win extra points for intentionally making your life suck more. Yes, it's unrealistic to imagine a life where you love every second of every workday, but that doesn't mean all bets are off and we should just accept the reality of a bleak, sepia-colored existence where every day is a boring, unbearable slog.
You can apply this thinking framework to every area of your business. Initially when testing out a bunch of social media platforms, TikTok definitely showed promise, because the organic reach and engagement on there is quite high. The thing is, TikTok takes a lot of work. You have to be "switched on" to do video content well, and it often takes a lot of repeat takes to nail it. There's also not a simple way to batch-schedule TikTok posts, at least using the social-media management platforms that I use.
So even though TikTok showed potential, the massively higher amount of work and energy it takes to produce TikTok posts—in addition to the inability to batch-schedule these—makes it a poor use of my time, and a misalignment with my personality and individual proclivities. Again, forcing myself to do this all day would not be a good strategy, because I'd hate doing it. I'd be pushing a boulder uphill.
With Instagram? Engagement and growth rates on there are comparable to TikTok, I enjoy doing it more, AND it's much easier to produce content there quickly. I spend about 30-45 minutes batch-producing 6-12 posts for the day, I schedule them, and I'm done for the day. It would probably take 2x as much time to do that for TikTok, and there's the added time wastage and distraction that comes from having to manually go in and publish these all day long. That just wouldn't be a good strategy.
So my advice to you is to examine the different areas of your work or business. Look at the work you do, ask which parts you hate or enjoy the least, and find out if there are easier, faster ways you could do the work that would also align with your passions and personality. Stop pushing the boulder uphill!
Anton Dybal is the Founder of Next-Level Artwork, a company dedicated to selling outstanding posters & canvas wall art. When he's not working on the business, he can be found reading, exercising, or plotting world domination.
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