‘Develop the habit of letting small bad things happen. If you don’t you’ll never find time for the life-changing big things, whether important tasks or true peak experiences.’ – Tim Ferriss
I came across this nice little concept a few days ago while reading the revised edition of The 4-Hour Workweek: letting the bad little things happen to make good big things happen. This was especially interesting since I experienced this first hand recently.
I had been making up for lost ground with some study, and had made some really good progress throughout the week. Using the principles of effectiveness (check out the previous posts on time management), I had full attention when it came to study time. No interruptions, no distracting lingering thoughts of Facebook notifications and manufactured ’emergencies’ through email.
Friday came along, and so I decided to check email that evening purely so I didn’t have to spend that 1 hour or so on the weekend. Once-a-week email + Fb cleanup is a fairly new habit of mine and has thus far produced amazing peace of mind. (This is coming from someone who logged on and signed in every time I got on a computer).
A few bad little things had happened in my online ‘absence’. I hadn’t replied to a repeated email sent about a future event (which I was to be involved in) regarding the MSA (Muslim Student Association). This had resulted in a personal Fb message from the President asking me to ‘Please view my emails’.
This had caused some considerable inconvenience in a world where immediate access to somebody’s attention is compulsion*.
*Side note: don’t ever give anyone the power of gaining your immediate attention. It is imperative to ‘train’ others to respect your time… this is for another post though.
Most ’emergencies’ aren’t emergencies. Nearly no problem is neither fixable or reversible. The problem I encountered was important but not urgent. My studies on the other hand was important and urgent.
The problem was solved with a 2-minute response email.
This is where I’m getting at: the little bad thing had to happen for me to make good progress on the important good thing, in this case being my sanity knowing now I’m back on track with studies.
Checking email takes 1 minute, but any problem or matter discovered will linger for hours and days until you have the opportunity to actually respond, or solve the issue. This eats up your mind when you relax (or study).
This is the worst state possible, where you experience neither relaxation, nor productivity. You have the time, but no attention.
Having time and attention while working on something difficult and worthwhile will more than double you focus and effectiveness on the task at hand.
Letting the bad little things happen will cause a few people to complain, but getting the big, urgent and important things done will allow you to see what those little things are: ‘repairable hiccups’ as Ferris puts it.
‘I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.’ – Bill Cosby