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Changing how I think of time

Ali Abdaal
Ali Abdaal

Hey friends,

For the second time in this newsletter's 113-week history, it totally slipped my mind on Sunday and so it's coming out on Monday. Truth-be-told, it was an item on my todo list and all day I'd been thinking oh yeah I need to send the email but then around 10pm I started an online board game with a friend which took all my concentration and completely removed the concept of this email from my mind. Oh well.

On that note, Through the Ages is a fantastic board game, perhaps made even better on the mobile app (available on iOS and Android). Can't recommend it highly enough. If anyone fancies adding me on it, my username is aliabdaal.

Anyway, an idea I've been experimenting with this week is changing how I think of chunking time.

In my head, I've always chunked time into 1-hour slots. If I'm booking in a call with someone, or planning out my day, I'll think of it as a series of blocks each lasting an hour. Most calendar software works like this too. If you create an event for 10am, it'll default to a 1-hour 10-11am event.

But I had an interesting realisation a few days ago.

It's 2:30pm and I'm at home, chilling on the sofa. I've just finished my lunch, and I've got 30 minutes before I have to leave the house for an evening shift at work. Without thinking, I start watching a random YouTube video. But before I get lost completely in the infinity pool of distraction, I remember that I'm working through an online course in singing and I need to do 2 x 15-minute practice sessions. With this spark of realisation, I jump off the sofa, and get through the day's exercises, trying my best to mimic Josh Groban and then Michael Buble and recording the process. Then it's 3pm and I'm ready to drive to work, smugly proud that I've spent the last 30 minutes doing something productive rather than being a wasteman.

I realised that these 15- or 30-minute windows often come up in my day. But because my default had been to think of time in 1-hour chunks, I'd always default to wasting time ("okay it's 3:45pm, clearly I can't start work until 4pm so I'm just going to browse Twitter until then").

Over the past few days though, I've started making a concerted effort to think of time in 15-minute chunks instead. So now, rather than wait for 4pm to do something useful, I think of something useful I could be doing with the 15 minutes until then. Often this involves practising some guitar or piano. And even just 15 minutes a day of music practice is huge over the long term.

As I finish writing this email, it's 16:38. Normally, I would've wasted time on Twitter or Instagram until 17:00 before negotiating myself off the couch and into doing something useful. But now, with this mental shift, I only need to waste 7 minutes until 16:45, and then I can bash through some more singing exercises before switching gears to filming at video at 5pm. What fun!

Have a great week!

Ali


This Week on Not Overthinking

Not Overthinking is the

weekly podcast

hosted by me and my brother. If you enjoy these emails, you’ll hopefully like that too. You can listen on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, Castro (my favourite podcast app) or any other podcast app - just search for ‘Not Overthinking’.

Racism, Social Justice, and Figuring Stuff Out | Not Overthinking

This week we talk about the Black Lives Matter movement, social justice, and how our towards these issues have changed over the past few years. Please interpret charitably.

My Favourite Things This Week

1 - Book

- In trying to educate myself about the wider context about issues of racial inequality, I began reading Me and White Supremacy by Layla Saad this week. It's a revealing and deeply engaging book that I think many people could draw value from. I talked about it more in the video I released on Friday.

2 - Article -

David Perell isa writer I've mentioned in previous newsletters and his post on 'How To Maximise Serendipity' that I read this week, gives an excellent breakdown as to why serendipity is a skill that can be learned and how we can build our own serendipity vehicle. I highly recommend this article as well as his other articles too, especially his blog posts about writing online.

3 - Podcast

- The latest episode of Save Planet, Get Rich on Achieving Happiness featured Naval Ravikant (@naval), a venture capitalist and co-founder of AngelList. Amongst the numerous key takeaways, the one that stuck with me was the idea that the ideal life would be one where you had a hobby that as a byproduct made you money, a hobby that as a byproduct kept you healthy and a hobby that as a byproduct made you smarter and more creative.

4 - Video

- We never usually get to see how an internationally renowned song is put together but this video documenting the creation of Ed Sheeran's Galway Girl is fascinating and inspiring.

Quote of the Week

"Real motivation comes after you start. Motivation isn't the result of hearing a speech or watching a movie or crisping your soles. Motivation isn't passive; motivation is active".

From The Motivation Myth by Jeff Haden. Resurfaced using Readwise.

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Ali Abdaal

Junior doctor, YouTuber, web designer, aspiring musician. Trying out this blogging thing.