Derek Sivers

Blowing off work to play


What do you call it when you skip school or work for a day, to do whatever you want instead? In America, we call it playing hooky. In England, we call it skiving. (Got another word for it?)

Some of my best, most productive, and enjoyable days have been while playing hooky.

I think it’s a healthy practice, to occasionally blow off a previous commitment, and do whatever you want instead. It’s a great reminder that you’re the boss of your life.

But it’s interesting how productive I am on those days.

When I think back about the times in my life where I got the most done, created the most, or had a major breakthrough in some aspect of my life, it was often while I was supposed to be doing something else.

For example: I’d sign up for a three-day conference, show up to registration, decide I don’t want to go, then sit in my hotel room, uninterrupted, and get some great work done for three days.

This has happened multiple times. I really should stop signing up for conferences!

Or… Could we use this as an effective productivity technique?

  1. Sign up for something — a time commitment.
  2. Put aside the time to do it.
  3. When the day comes, feel the tension between what you said you would do, and what you really want to do.
  4. Blow it off, and do what you really want instead.

Maybe the productivity comes from the fact that the time has already been put aside, so I suddenly have free time to do what I really wanted.

But I suspect that when I feel that tension between the obligation and desire, it amplifies the difference, and makes it clear to me how badly I want to do this other thing. Then that amplified desire leads me to be more intense and focused in my actions.

boy running