“Don’t give yourselves to these unnatural men — machine men with machine minds and machine hearts! You are not machines! You are not cattle! You are men!”
– Charlie Chaplin

I like “systems thinking.”

I can see how vital it is for businesses and organizations to design systems and processes that work.

And I used to think that if I could only discipline myself to be more like a machine then I would succeed as an entrepreneur.

I devoured books like Work the System and Getting Things Done. For a while I became a GTD fanatic and had endless lists of goals, projects, and tasks.

If only I could find a way to process my inbox faster, check off my to-do list quicker and squeeze every minute out of every day, then I would achieve my dreams.

There was just one problem…

It didn’t work!

And frankly, I’m glad.

Because if the “human machine” approach to life and business worked for me then I probably would never question it. I would just keep plugging away with bigger and better to do lists.

But the more I move away from that old way of machine thinking the more free and alive I start to feel.

Instead of treating my mind like a computer I now realize it’s just one part of who I am. And I don’t have to put all the pressure on it to perform functions it’s really not equipped for.

For example, my mind is not the best at making “wise” choices.

It’s great at storing and retrieving information, which it gladly offers up in the moment I need to make a decision. But it’s not great at knowing what to do next.

That job is better done by my “will” which is influenced by my spirit/heart. I’m not going to pretend I understand how all of this works because I’m just discovering it myself.

But I do know this: when I identify as a “machine” my mind becomes my master instead of my servant. And being productive and efficient become my sole goal in life which feels as lifeless as it sounds.

If this sounds familiar then I’d like to present an alternative view to the “we’re machines” approach to life.

Instead of viewing yourself as a machine view yourself as a creative person. Someone with the capacity to do more than process information or perform tasks in an efficient manner.

Stop letting your to-do lists control your life. Use tools like calendars and lists to improve the quality of your life but don’t become a slave to them.