How using desire paths will spark your productivity


Do you often feel that what you have to do is not aligned with what you feel like doing? And then you end up in an unproductive and destructive work pattern? I used to experience this a lot.

The other day I watched a TEDx talk by Chris Bailey, the creator of the project ‘A Year of Productivity’. In the talk he mentions the University of California at Irvine and their different approach to design. He tells how they waited some time before building actual sidewalks during the construction of a new campus. They looked at the paths that the students created spontaneously by walking around the buildings, and then built the sidewalks on top of them. They chose to use the students’ desire paths.

I immediately loved this concept of desire paths. It was exactly what I had been looking for to describe, how I have managed to become more productive: by integrating my desire paths into my work schedule.

Let me give you an example.

I used to plan to have one morning a week for writing blog posts. I had this idea that I work best in the mornings and, therefore, it would be the first thing on my schedule. But, what really happened was that I prolonged the morning by surfing aimlessly on the Internet until at some point I forced myself to look at the blinking cursor in an empty word document while lacking inspiration. I would end up feeling frustrated because I had procrastinated too much and was behind schedule.

I started paying attention to when I felt inspired and what would get me writing. I realized that I was more likely to concentrate on writing when I allowed myself to start the day by taking a walk and getting my mind to flow; then read some articles and maybe watch an inspiring talk to fuel creativity. Slowly, a topic for my new post would form in my mind, and when I actually sat down in front of the computer, my hands would start typing almost as if by themselves since I would be bursting with ideas.

What it really comes down to is to work with your personal flow and not against it. I am not talking about just following any desire you have. You should really look at what energizes you, what ignites your creativity, and then do this. Thereby, you can eliminate the patterns that drain you and keep you from being productive.

How to map your own desire paths:

  • What activities do you constantly choose to do at a different time than planned, or skip altogether? Notice why this happens. Could you schedule them at another time of the day?
  • What tasks do you always feel resistance towards doing? Notice why there is resistance. Notice what helps you do them and what doesn’t. Incorporate the things that help you into your schedule.
  • What sparks your creativity? Plan this activity to take place before you have to write a blog post/brainstorm/create a new product.
  • What calms your mind? Plan doing this activity before you have to perform/teach/work on difficult tasks.
  • What gives you confidence? Plan doing this activity before you have to talk to potential new clients/sell your products/meet with collaborators.
  • What energizes you? Plan doing this activity before you have to do dreaded but unavoidable tasks.

This way you are able to plan your work with awareness and increase productivity. In the comments below, I would love to hear, how you use your desire paths when planning your schedule.