Not everything is worth paying attention

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Anthony Pica
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Not everything is worth paying attention

Not everything is worth paying attention

There are so many things that demand our time. Things that tug at our attention.

We're all under constant bombardment of information.

But not everything is worth paying attention to. "Pay" is the keyword here. Think of it like this: whenever you give your time and energy to something, there's a cost. And that cost is your time, of which you have a finite amount. So ask yourself, "is this thing I'm paying attention to worth the cost"?

In the early 1800s when Napoleon was leading the French military, there were countless matters that demanded his time, so he had to be selective with what he paid attention to. His strategy? He told his secretary to wait three days before opening his mail. He found that many of the seemingly urgent issues had resolved themselves without his attention.

More than a century later, president Dwight D. Eisenhower also experienced an onslaught of issues and developed a strategy to help him prioritize which matters to pay attention to, based on urgency and importance. Today, his tool is known as the Eisenhower Matrix, and it can help you decide what to Defer, Delegate, Delete, or Do.

Something may feel critically important in the moment, but not everything is worth focusing on immediately. Understanding the "why," tradeoffs, and potential second-order effects can help decide whether something is genuinely urgent.

If everything is a priority, nothing is a priority.

There's a good story about a philosophy instructor demonstrating an important life lesson by filling a jar with rocks, pebbles, and sand. Each item represents a different level of importance of the stuff in your life. If you haven't seen it already, here's a 3 minute recreation of the story:

Keep in mind: our time is finite and the most scarce resource we have. Treat it as such, and prioritize the most important, which may be family, friends, health, or a mission-critical project.

A wealth of information creates a poverty of attention.
—Herbert Simon

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