Optimizing the unimportant stuff

I often describe myself as having an inclination to try and optimize things. I have observed in the past that I tend to bring this inclination to bear particularly on the unimportant stuff, which always seemed odd. But just this minute I have come to understand why: I do it this way to free up time to do the important stuff exactly the way I want, whether optimal or not.

Take reading, for example. There are all kinds of ways to optimize your reading—ways to read faster, ways to absorb more of what you read, ways to organize what you’re going to read, ways to keep track of what you have read, etc. I have no interest in any of those things, because reading is important. I want to do it exactly the way I want to do it.

Figuring out some trivial reordering of exactly how I put toothpaste on my toothbrush so that I can save 5 seconds a day is much more likely to be the sort of thing I’d do—because I don’t care. I have no interest in how I brush my teeth (as long as my teeth don’t fall out), but freeing up 5 seconds a day that I can spend doing what I want to do is motivating out of all proportion to the actual time savings.

(It’s actually not so disproportionate. It takes just 240 days saving 5 seconds per day to break even on spending 20 minutes figuring how how to save those seconds. Every 5 seconds after that is pure gravy.)

Anyway, since I mentioned recently that my optimization efforts tended not to have much payoff, in my post on getting better at life under late-stage capitalism, and having literally just now realized why that was, I though I should add that bit.

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