Founder Diary

February 8, 2022

The bliss of avoidance

The bliss of avoidance

Wouldn’t it be nice to have the time to do it all and more? No, it wouldn't.

A hamster putting a counting frame into the trash can
A hamster putting a counting frame into the trash can
A hamster putting a counting frame into the trash can
Nikita Kazhin's headshot

Nikita Kazhin

Co-founder at Brick

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It might sound surreal, but these days it takes more convincing to have ourselves do less than more. In my last post, I wrote about a bunch of reasons why we’ve become so hellbent on pissing our attention away. It follows then that there’s a productivity gold mine in learning to seize more control over what we take up and start doing.

It’s habitual for us to ask “Wouldn’t it be nice to also take up this?” or “I’d love to have the time to also do that!”

What if, instead, we asked: what is it that I’d be absolutely thrilled to not do?

Can we find joy in subtraction instead of addition?

For example, I work in a cozy chair in a warm room. That alone makes me feel totally stoked that I don't have to spend the whole day outside, say, making deliveries in this freezing weather.

I'm also glad I'm not an accountant, because I can't stand math, and that I'm not a lawyer because I'm not exactly thrilled by the twisted language and endless paperwork. Yes, I can still admire the work of such people, but, you know, from a respectable (and respectful) distance.

I rather not do the things I rather not do. I try to avoid them.

Now, it sounds fantastic to dodge (when we can) the things we aren’t exactly enthusiastic about, right? That’s easy enough. But what if we took a step further? Can we find gratitude in avoiding some of the things we love?

Being the irresponsible newsreader that I am, what if today I force myself to stop reading after half an hour instead of two hours, and use that freed-up time to, say, write another blog post?

On the surface, it may sound like substituting something enjoyable with something that might not be, but, perhaps paradoxically, when I manage that feat, I tend to feel more energized, more accomplished, and more productive, if you will. This is because my substitute activity (the blog post) was a) more challenging; but b) potentially more rewarding; and, most importantly, c) a more relevant and distinct step toward my true goals.

Did you catch that?

I was avoiding something I loved. And you know what? I loved it!

Wouldn't it be great to have more of that? Having reaped all these benefits once, I suspect that (hopefully) next time there might not be as much forcing to do. I don’t have to fear cutting my reading short, as much, because I know the substitute benefits will come. I can eagerly attempt to embrace the tradeoff even if I fail to see (or want to see) the upside every time (who am I kidding? I know I will occasionally fail. I love reading the news after all!).

One more side effect to consider.

When our attention is spread thin among too many things, we can't help but worry excessively about all of them. Worrying takes A LOT of mental capacity away from where it’s used best. This anxiety sucks any joy that might be gleaned from the task and transforms it into a process of mindless ramming forward before moving on to the next task. This way there will be no chance that all the important tasks on the agenda will get the attention they deserve.

The fewer things we’re engaged with, the less “processing power” is expended just to keep them all in mind. Counterintuitively, it also means we’ll be less worried about our priorities because we can afford to lend them the attention required for excellent outcomes instead of a mere “pass.” Isn’t that the whole purpose of focus?

Yes, some knowledge, some joy, and maybe even some opportunities are lost because of elimination, but we can learn to draw satisfaction from the fact that we managed to forgo the less important — even if it’s something we love — in order to save time and attention that is better spent on our "north stars."

Thanks for reading!

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