Awareness as an Antidote
If there is an argument here, it’s one for awareness. An argument to simply be aware of the individual actions you’re taking on a daily basis. If you do a cost benefit analysis and decide, hey, these habits and optimization tools are too helpful to stop, that’s perfectly fine. To be frank, I’m on that train as well. That being said, awareness about how fast you’re moving, what you’re giving up, and what inadvertent stress might be accumulating should be taken into account.
Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman writes in Thinking Fast and Slow, “Intuition is nothing more and nothing less than recognition.” Kahneman argues that experts in any given field have superior intuition through decades of experience. At the risk of oversimplification: in order to excel, one must improve intuition, and in turn, recognition. Critically, world-class recognition requires heightened awareness and sustained attention.
Pay attention when you’re over scheduling, over tracking, over monitoring. Be aware when you’re “busy” just for the sake of it. Notice when you’re leaning into motion over action, to borrow from James Clear. Increased awareness allows you to harness this “busy” time to expand the surface area of your interests, desires, and relationships outside of the optimization treadmill. More importantly, heightened awareness creates time in which the serendipity you’ve engineered can naturally occur. It’s where creativity can flow unencumbered by routine.
To avoid leaning into another habitual treadmill, I’m not advocating for a specific path, directive, or anti-cyclical hack. Rather, I’m advocating for awareness. The fruits of that awareness you can then employ at your own discretion. Doing nothing has its benefits, specifically in the creativity department — an incredibly useful tool for building startups. However, I don’t believe that scheduling the act of doing nothing is helpful by any means. Rather, being aware of the upsides of doing so, and the downsides of hyper-optimization, can be extremely advantageous.