As I alluded to yesterday, I do my hardest, most important work in the mornings. It’s in the morning that I realize how much I want to learn and how little time I have.
Beyond time constraints, my other challenge is mental energy. I simply don’t have the ability to maintain a continued, highly-focused study of challenging material, even on those rare occasions I do have the time. That is, after all, why I work on the hardest stuff first thing in the morning.
So how do I manage mental energy when I can read and study? I go with what sounds interesting. Interest level has proved to be a reliable stand-in for my energy level. If I am worn down by frustrations at work or by obstinate (and now ever-present) children, I may only want to listen to an audiobook novel or a sports podcast. If the more intellectual material on my list looks appealing, then I know I have the energy for something more substantial. I apply the same general test when I sit down to read.
It’s the list of inputs that does the heavy lifting here. I have a vast range of interests represented, but the list is finite. I look at my bookshelves or open my podcast player, but I don’t let myself open Twitter or Instagram. I don’t open YouTube or Reddit. What’s wrong with Twitter, Instagram, Reddit, and YouTube? Nothing, really. There is plenty of wheat among the chaff, but the supply is infinite. The internet is full of novelty, and this lets me forget I want to learn and how little time I have.
There’s no moral judgement here, it is the rule I make in the morning, before I am tempted by the potential of every scroll. My other inputs have endpoints. A book has a last page and a podcast has a final minute. That makes me decide what to do next. An infinite stream doesn’t provide decision points.
Each day opens full of potential, and rare is the day we call perfect. That’s okay, I don’t expect a perfect day. I’m happy with a good day, and a few constraints make that easy.