THE BRAZEN CAREERIST- Farm living: How going rural can boost productivity

I have often thought that we choose to marry someone who has something we don't have, but we wish we had. So it makes sense that now that I feel secure in my relationship with the farmer, I am going to tell you what he has that I want: photos for my blog.

I am in love with the farmer, but also I am in love with the farm. But I am realizing that photos are like writing: You can only show a fresh perspective of something you know very well.

I remember when I taught creative writing to freshmen at Boston University. The first month, almost every student wrote about sex. I went to my advisor and asked him why I am getting twenty stories about having sex.

He said, "Are all the stories terrible?"

I said, "Yes."

He said, "That happens every semester. When you love something, you want to write about it. But you never know enough about it to write it in an interesting way until you know it closely enough to hate it as well."

The farmer once told me there are millions of different minerals in every handful of dirt; he can see infinite action on the farm.

Compared to other places I have lived, the farm gives me space to think. My head is always swimming with ideas, I'm always writing or reading. Even when I'm sitting still, I'm writing sentences in my head and battling with myself if they are good enough to get up and get a pencil before I forget what I wrote.

Jason Fried is always talking about how get a clear head so you get more done. Jason explained that his business partner used to live in Holland. And Jason lived in Chicago. And his partner moved from Holland to Chicago so they'd get more done together. But they got less done. Because you need long stretches of uninterrupted time to get things done.

Jason's recent book, Rework, is about counter-intuitive ways to be more productive. I love the book because the advice is short and true– like have a short to-do list so that you can actually get it done. And make tiny decisions so that you can keep moving instead of doing nothing while fretting over that huge decision.

The book is timely for me because Jason forces us to see that productivity is really about slowing down to focus on doing something real, instead of moving really fast but doing a lot of nothing. But Jason doesn't let you off the hook by telling you to do nothing; he gives you tips for continuing to move forward, but in a very smart way.

I am doing that on the farm. Slowing down. Making space. Not letting myself do things that should never have been on my to do list anyway. But the tradeoff, when you slow down to get focus, is that slow is scary because you have to face what you're really doing.

Making space to do something that matters is scary because something has to give, and I am figuring out what that means for me. In the process of figuring out how to slow down enough to see but still move forward to reach my goals, it's taken me so long to finish this column that the farm has changed.


Penelope Trunk has started several companies and worked for many more.