Intensity can be Deceiving

I like to keep myself busy. There’s just this delight in keeping my schedule packed, and knowing that the next day will be filled. But this intensity can be a deceptive metric for how well we are living our lives. So here’s some things to keep in mind:

Being busy can be a form of procrastination

A packed schedule may not necessarily be meaningfully filled. For any commitment, there is a natural tendency for it to continually demand more and more of our time. If we don’t actively trim our schedule, we’ll end up with an inefficient balance of commitments.

Also, it’s always easier to start on the easy problems instead of the important problems. We may feel like we’re making progress when we’re busy everyday. But if we’re working on only the easy problems, we’ll find ourselves stuck in square one, never having made it to square two.

Hence, we should implement some form of error correction into our life. How do we know when we’re avoiding the important problems?

Working at 90% capacity

We need to reserve 10% of our capacity for answering the meta-questions. This is when we go up by one level of abstraction and evaluate what we’re doing and how we’re doing them. If we’re working on a task for a project, we need to ask if we’re working on the right tasks. If we’re working on a project for work, we need to ask if we’re working on the right projects. 10% Thinking Time exists on every layer of abstraction.

Time to think and time to write are important spaces that we need to keep for ourselves. They’re hard to do, because there’s no definite form to it: When I’m trying to find the answer to a question, there’s no telling how long it will take to get to that answer.

But it is precisely because there’s no definite ten-step procedure to writing and thinking that it provides more-than-proportionate returns. We are forced to deal with our own intractable problems, and there is no standard, optimal solution to those problems.

Only then we’ll be able to keep ourselves meaningfully busy, and do the things that matter.