We’re all looking for the next thing that we should be doing or paying attention to. Maybe that’s even part of why you read this blog. This is a good pursuit of course, but it often seems to me that people don’t spend enough time figuring out what they shouldn’t be paying attention to. I find that most people actually know what they should be doing, but they cram their lives so full of so much other stuff that they bury the needle within the haystack.
It’s important to create a very strong filter, one that catches 99% of the stuff that you’re exposed to, especially the useless stuff that masquerades as important stuff.
You need to know what you want to come out of the end of the filter. It’s not enough to think about what’s “bad”, but rather you must know what matters to you. For me it’s quality time with friends and family and trying to do and learn about stuff that others don’t (so that I can bring it to you and my friends in a usable way). You could pick apart my life and find some other stuff too, but the vast majority of what I do is aimed towards those goals.
When you encounter something vying for your attention, ask if it is aligned with what you want to come out of your filter and whether it is actionable or not. If it meets these two criteria, go for it. If not, ignore it and move on. If you find that you are frequently filtering something out that you wish you didn’t have to filter out, that may mean that you need to change to a different filter, maybe because you’re at a different place in your life.
I almost never comment on politics and the news. Even if I got really into politics and was totally up on all of the news, it wouldn’t bring me more quality time with friends and family. It also doesn’t qualify as learning about unusual stuff, since it’s literally what everyone learns about. Also, neither one is actionable at all. I will never care enough about politics to run for office or seriously help a candidate win, so I’m not going to divert precious energy there.
Most choices from my life are replaced my strong defaults. I wear the same clothes every day and eat the same food every day because making choices about these things is a waste of focus and energy.
I don’t go to parties or large gatherings because even though this could result in me making new friends that I could spend quality time with, I find that I have MORE leverage just spending quality time with the friends I already have (and I accidentally make a few friends per year anyway).
Goals often require supporting actions which take up focus. That’s totally fine and necessary, but it’s important to make sure that the focus they occupy is proportional to the role they play towards the goal. For example, staying healthy matters because it allows me to have more quality years of life with which to spend with friends and family and it keeps my mind sharp. So I work out every other day and eat reasonably healthy food. Getting totally shredded would take up a disproportionate amount of time relative to the role it plays in my goal, so I don’t spend effort on that.
I also end up doing a lot of stuff that seems like a waste of time. In order to discover things that others don’t, I go down a lot of dead ends. Before the multiple-property-buying thing that I always talk about, I spent a few days trying to figure out how to make time shares worth it. Before coming up with How to Manage Your Finances Like a Billionaire I had to research all sorts of investment, tax, and insurance products. To find Budapest I had to visit a bunch of countries that were just OK. I don’t beat myself up about wasted time because I know that those are the sorts of things that should be getting through my filter, because in aggregate they end up producing the results I want.
What do you want your time to be going towards? How much of it is going towards that now? How much of that remaining time is high-leverage? How much could you cut out to make way for more of the best stuff?
Photo is the mountains near Mt. Charleston in Vegas.
No Tea Time with Tynan this weekend, but I think I will schedule one for the following Sunday.