How can this even be possible? I wonder if a hunter-gatherer feels that way? Hell no. At the end of the day, he's got a pile of nuts or a dead deer to show for it. Does a bricklayer ever feel like her actions are futile? No. When she started the day, the wall was only two feet high. Now it is eight feet high.
What I'm driving at here is that the problem is not you. It's the tasks. The modern world is full of invisible, hard-to-remember activities. Like banking online, for example. And these activities are not in any way futile or unimportant. They can be very important. But they aren't visible. Once you finish your banking task, you close your computer, and what happens? Your desk, your world, looks exactly as it did before you started as if nothing has happened.
Now that we can start to see what the problem is, a solution begins to seem obvious: Become a bricklayer. No? Well then how about this: Make a list of what you do as soon as you finish it. It's like making a to-do list backwards.
So as soon as you finish your banking, write on a piece of paper, did the banking. Maybe even put a checkmark next to it. Do the dishes, then write it down and checkmark it. Do that throughout the day, and then — and this is the most important part — before you go to bed, read that list.
What will happen if you do this? It will produce three very helpful results.
1. You will no longer feel that your actions are futile. You won't be demoralized by the sense that you are spinning your wheels and getting nowhere.
2. It is motivating. When you see that you are in fact, getting things done, and many of those things are important to you and move you toward your goals in life, you are motivated to do even more.
3. You will find out how you spend your time. This will lead to an improvement in the use of your time without even really trying. At the end of the day you'll look at your list. Sometimes you'll see that many of the things you've done were not very important. You haven't really noticed that before because those activities have also been invisible.
Make a done list every day, adding to it every time you complete even the smallest task, and at the end of the day, read it over. This will go a long way to counteracting the futility-inducing demoralization of modern life.
Write down your tasks as you complete them. Read your list at the end of the day.
Adam Khan is the author of Cultivating Fire: How to Keep Your Motivation White Hot, Principles For Personal Growth, and Slotralogy: How to Change Your Habits of Thought.