It’s called a lilac chaser. You’ve seen it before. It’s an optical illusion with a small black cross in the middle, encircled by twelve blurry lilac-colored dots. A green dot animates over the lilacs as though counting the time on a futuristic clock. Stare at the cross long enough and the lilacs disappear, one by one. But the moment you get distracted and look away, the lilacs come back.
The black cross is the work you do. The lilacs are all the things ancillary to your work. They’re the small choices you’ve made around your black cross: the time you wake up, the tools you use, what you have for breakfast, when you check your email, and so on. They’re the various aspects of a daily routine—things that, when fixed in place, disappear with the passage of time.