Beware of Optimization Junkies
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In 2009, a billionaire visited McGill University (where I went to school).
I asked him what his greatest piece of advice was for both young and older people alike.
“If you can’t get your work done between 9-6, you aren’t doing your job properly.”
This rocked my world. At the time, I was working 80h+ weeks, doing everything I can to “make it”.
The following day, I made a promise to myself that I’ll never work more than 50h a week in my life. And I’ve kept that promise. I never work more than 50h a week yet run a big team at Late Checkout, a product studio & agency (and have started and sold 3 companies).
It seems like every other day I see a tweet glorifying hustling for 80 hours a week, dedicating your life to “the grind” and a general belief that you have to optimize every waking second to make the most of your life.
I call these people “optimization junkies”. Optimizing every single second for productivity.
To me, that’s no way to live a life.
I think there’s a better way — one that actually outperforms the hyper-optimized lifestyle we see on Twitter.
The Philosophy of Slow Living
The philosophy of “Slow Living” is emerging as a vital counterpoint to our fast-paced, hyper-connected lives. It's a choice to consciously shift the rhythm of life, embracing a more balanced and deeply meaningful existence by slowing things down and savoring the world around us, as well as the wealth of what we already possess.
My slow living journey is all about simple acts, like turning my morning coffee routine into a full-on sensory experience. Or taking these undisturbed, nature-filled walks during lunch without my phone, kind of syncing myself with nature's rhythms.
I also put aside weekly time for this newsletter, which became less of a chore and more of a tranquil space for my thoughts. These simple acts really transformed my everyday life, making it much more mindful and relaxed.
Contrary to popular belief, these game-changing insights don't always spring from high-pressure brainstorming sessions or late-night cramming. More often, they seep into consciousness during moments of quiet contemplation, while watching the stillness of a lake at dawn or enjoying that first, slow sip of morning coffee, undisturbed by digital distractions.
There’s a reason so many good ideas come to people in the shower. Your brain needs a little space to think.
"Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you." - Anne Lamott.
Take the Middle Ground
Almost all of this hyper-optimization culture comes from Twitter and Instagram. On one end you have all these fast people — like really, really fast people, full of optimization, productivity, that sort of thing.
5AM wakeup, 15 minute cold plunge, schedule and calendar fully time blocked weeks in advance. Every second of the optimization junkie’s day is accounted for before they even wake up.
On the other end, you have people who opt-out completely. They just go into their job, do the work at a reasonable standard, and go home. They’re not thinking about self-improvement or building anything long term, just going through the motions.
Burnout is more than just working too much and hating your life. You can also burn out from not doing enough to propel yourself forward.
The most healthy version is in the middle — a balanced approach to dedicating your life to hard work while giving yourself the space to be a human outside of work.
Now, more than ever, AI makes it possible to work normal work hours
In 2007, Tim Ferriss came out with The 4-Hour Workweek. Despite it’s somewhat corny title, it proved to millions that the internet could allow you to create products and communities that enable you to work where you want, when you want and how you want.
The rise of AI and global talent allow you to speed up your work and slow down your life even more. If it was the 4 Hour Workweek in 2007, maybe it’s the 40 minute workweek in 2023.
Embracing the Slow Living Movement, counteracting the obsession with over-optimization, and striking a balance is essential for a meaningful life. The best ideas and breakthroughs emerge when we allow our minds the space to wander and think, rather than being crammed with tasks and deadlines.
Adding more hours isn't always the solution; sometimes it's about adding more life to your hours.
P.S: share this article on Twitter and let me know what you think (tag me @gregisenberg)
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