Perhaps the least optimized way to spend your time is evaluating whether the present moment is sufficiently optimized.

This type of thinking can become pathological, and it doesn’t stop with time. It can extend to everything.

Sure sure, Abe Lincoln, if you had an hour to chop down a tree you’d spend 45 minutes sharpening your axe. Here’s what you won’t be doing: Thinking about whether it would actually be more optimal to spend 44 or 46 minutes.

“Am I doing this right?” is a good instinct. It comes from curiosity and humility, a desire to do better, but this question informs more than 8% (or 11%) of your time, you’re decidedly not doing it right.

You probably aren’t having much fun either.

Does this mean ceasing the quest for knowledge, taking courses, optimizing? Of course not. It just means leave those things where they are. When you step out of them, you’re stepping on to the stage, on to the field.

Arrive where you are, as you are.

When you allow optimization sickness to take over your thinking, it can begin to eat its way into places that are at best goofy and at worst deeply sad.

You see talk from people about optimizing their friends: Are they friends with people who “make them better”?


The place in my life where this thinking has reared its ugly head is “Am I optimally spending time with my kids? Are we doing the correct activities? Am I balancing the right amount of loveydove and discipline? The right amount of novelty and familiarity?

I will continue to seek to be a better parent, but when I’m with my kids? Fuck this thinking. It is the least optimal way to be with them. I need to be present, attentive, listening, feeling, smelling, just being here.

Optimization is the furthest thing from this.

When you’re used to living in the tepid soup of optimization, it can be hard to break free, but one trick that helps me is becoming aware of how deeply uninteresting it is next to real sensations.

It’s like licking a postage stamp depicting ice cream vs. eating actual ice cream.