Sunday, May 20, 2012

Doing More by Discarding Values

As mentioned a few posts ago, one of the major traits I've seen return in my recent self-improvements is the rapid and nearly overwhelming production of worthwhile ideas. That is, ideas that are worth documenting, acting upon, using as a basis for future plans, etc. This trait makes me fret a little bit since my mind is capable of giving me more ideas than I can handle, which is downright intimidating. Can I really act upon everything?

It actually harms my productivity in a way. Even when I set up my to-do lists in a rational way I don't attack it as well as I could because I get a sort of brain-lock from all the things I could do, even if my lists aren't all that large. With so many values, it's troublesome to try and figure out which is the best value to pursue for (or at all), and that brain-lock can slow down my efficiency, make me spend a disproportionate amount of time thinking in relation to action, or not act at all when I cave into the intimidation. It particular harms me when I'm involved in a particular activity, because sometimes I'll keep second-guessing myself all throughout the process and harm my concentration and dedication. How does one sort through all these possibilities and cut out the non-essentials?

It's only a start that hasn't spread to my other realms of productivity as of yet, but parsing my Google Reader has given me an insight. Sometimes I'll leave unread certain long articles and the like that I judge would be a valuable read, but something I don't want to read right away. Then a few weeks or even months later I'll take that item off my list because I left it sitting there for so long, recognizing it as a potential value but never actually engaging it. I leave them there for so long because as time passes they get trumped by other values. The fresher material always captures the stronger portion of my interest on each new day. I keep telling myself I'll get to it eventually . . . but then a long time later I'll finally relent and recognize that it's a value I'm simply never going to pursue.

I think I could enhance my productivity by recognizing this on a regular basis by aiming to clear out of my Google Reader on a near-daily basis. Not by reading everything, but by picking out those pieces I'm willing to read during that Google Reader session and discarding everything else, even if I do view it as a value. The fact of the matter is that if I'm not willing to partake it in immediately while I'm examining my Reader I'm probably not going to take the time to revisit it again. It's an interest and value for sure, but it's always other and higher values and interests that win my attention in the end.

It isn't a matter of actually forgoing a value in total, but rather exercising a mode of selectivity. There's more values out there in the world -- ways to enrich your life and gain your happiness -- than you could possibly pursue or obtain, so a great measure of selectivity is necessary. You must try your best to pick the highest values at all time. This is hard because you're always going to be aware that even though you picked the better value you have given up another value. For me, that could mean, since I like dark chocolate so much, that I might buy a dark mint chocolate bar instead of a coffee one because I'm only buying one and value the mint more, but it'll still nag at me to a small extent that I gave up the coffee bar because I still like that too.

In other words, in order to enhance my productivity and well-being I've got to make peace with what I'm giving up so that I can pursue the essentials. In Google Reader, this means I've got to make peace with giving up all those articles I'd like to read so that I can read only the ones I really want to read. Stubbornly holding onto those other interests only serves to worsen that brain-lock issue. In terms of action, this means that I'll clear out my reader every time I decide to examine it, and get rid of whatever I'm not willing to act upon that instance.

How this logic can beneficially apply to other realms of my life, such as picking out self-improvement endeavors, is not yet fully known to me, but I think there does lie in this solution some answers to my other difficulties. In reading books, for instance, I've had the troublesome conundrum -- as I suppose any serious reader might have -- of having a desire to read more books than I could possible dedicate my time to, which has in the past led to what feels like a nearly-infinite book list. I'm going to start applying my Google Reader solution: I'll read what immediately interests me, and discard the rest. I go to the library and rent out nearly countless books that interest me, and the rich piles on the floor ensure that I almost always have something of interest to read.

But of course, I'm not reading in an ADD fashion. I pick up books and extract all the value I want from them, reading from cover to cover and the like, so it's not like I'm continuously picking up and putting down titles without sticking to them. But overall I do pick up titles on a nearly spontaneous interest, and then pursue that interest to the end. While it may seem like a sloppy reading routine, I think it may be the most valuable since my interest always ensures that I'll pay good attention and benefit.

Besides, I could always split my reading into two categories: General and Intensive Education. The former will be where I'll allow myself to be dragged by the breeze of my interest, and the latter will be more directed. I can include educational texts in either category, but which category I decide to put them in will determine how I treat them. Book in the General category will be the books I pick up on immediate interest and partake in at my leisure, while the Intensive Education books will be books I hunker down to study like a student, taking notes and everything. But if the educational text instead falls in the General category, then I'll likely read it without note taking.

The most important thing to understand in this type of practice is that you should trust your memory, the effectiveness of your mind, and your ability to be consistent. I think the reason why it's been so tough for me to forgo an interesting article or to not do a self-improvement venture is that I not only mistakenly believe that it's an essential value, but also that if it is an essential value that forgoing it will mean losing that value forever. I've been afraid, for instance, that if I don't keep on my to-do lists a self-improvement venture that I think I really want to do but want to delay for later, that I'll never remember it ever again and will consequently give up self-enrichment. Same goes for things like reading articles: I'm afraid that if this article truly is worth my time that forgoing it means I'll never ever come back to it again.

But that's preposterous I've realized. When I've maintained writing lists it's often been the case where, if I really want to write about a topic, I'll keep mentally revisiting it even if I don't actually try to make myself. Or if a reading piece really is of value I'll be able to find it in the website archives later. In other words, if it's truly a value I should be incorporating into my life, I'll possess the ability to come back to it even if I erase its documentation. With a writing topic list, for example, I've once maintained the rule of deleting potential topic ideas after a certain number so that the list wouldn't get cluttered or overwhelming, and the most interesting ideas that got deleted came back of their own accord because I kept mentally revisiting them, even without trying to, and after several weeks of my interest popping in and out they would finally get their own article.

This is what I mean by trusting your mind in order to make this practicing of spontaneously discarding values practicable. You need to trust your memory in that you'll trust your values to lead you back to a certain article, book, plan, etc. if you don't document or erase it from documentation and later find you do want to act upon it. You need to trust in the effectivity of your mind to be able to perform this. Finally, you need to trust your ability to be consistent in that you'll be able to walk a fairly consistent path that will lead you back to value sets you thought to discard earlier on, rather than believing you might be internally random and will go askew in what values you choose until you document them and promise forever to come back to them.

For instance, my biggest culinary interest -- because I want to become a Paleo chef -- is meat, game, and fish. Protein cuisine. There's a really cool-sound cookbook called Eat Like a Wild Man, which sounds like something I could REALLY benefit from reading since it's so strongly related to my interests. However, other interests trump it right now.I don't have a reading list due to that infinite-list problem, and I only document books so long as I plan to rent them at the library in the nearly immediate future. As such, it's not documented, and I don't have any plans on when to get back to it.

However, if it's truly a value it should stick. The competence of my memory and the consistently of my values should sooner or later guide me right back to that book when the right time comes. Perhaps it's most likely to happen in a scenario where I'm trying to figure out an educational text that's most relevant to the type of cuisine I'd like to do, and them I'll have an flash of insight, remember texts that are related to this topic, and probably remember this book title too, and come back to it.

Think of it this way: In most cases, the value you're giving up isn't likely to actually disappear. The book that interests you, but that you chose not to read and didn't document isn't going to vanish from existence; it'll still be on shelves of libraries and bookstores. The articles you marked as "read" without reading will still most likely be archived. And with things like self-improvement ventures will most likely always be possible or present. If you trust the ability of your mind, memory, and consistency of values, and fully understand that values like these aren't going anywhere when you choose other values, you should be able to make peace with what you give up in order to pursue other values. If you really, really authentically want to act upon it, your mind and memory are potent enough to bring you back to what you've discarded. If you made the right choice in discarding it in the first place since your interest disappeared or higher values won out, then you've lessened your stress and time-wasters.

I still need to figure out how to apply this thinking to more areas of my life, as I'll still have a great deal of hesitancy, for instance, in trying to figure out what's the next self-improvement goal I should undertake, but this certainly does help a lot in dealing with an ocean of articles and books, enabling me to choose higher values on the fly without fretting about what's lost. Or only lost temporarily, in some cases.

Nobody has time to do everything they'd like to do. That entails a measure of giving up certain things you'd like to do in favor of doing things more valuable. Make peace with what you give up, because you'll always be choosing higher values in trade, and if it's truly worth your time you, and it, should find its way back.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Ah! So you want to comment? Good!

My only rule: Use common sense manners.