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Ironing and Life Insights

Ali Abdaal
Ali Abdaal

Hey friends,

One of my favourite personal development blogs, Raptitude, wrote a post in November called Do What You're Doing.

It's about the idea that when we're doing stuff, we should be fully immersed in the thing we're doing, rather than thinking about other things.

David, the author, quotes from a 1990s book about Spring Cleaning

Pay attention. Almost everything else will fall into place if you do. Don’t think about revisions in the tax code. Or anything else. In Latin: Age quod agis—”Do what you are doing.”

He then goes on to say

I take this to mean something more than just “don’t get distracted from the act of cleaning.” I interpret it as, “bring all of your concern to exactly the task you’re on now,” whether it’s wiping away soup spatters from the stovetop, or dragging the coffee table aside so you can vacuum.

Although I came across this in November, I hadn't actively applied it to my life until earlier today, when I found myself ironing a top for a wedding. As usual, I had my AirPods in, and I was listening to a podcast at double speed. In my head, the ironing was a 'waste of time' and so I was trying to make better use of that time by listening to a podcast.

The absurdity of the situation struck me pretty quickly, and I remembered the advice of Age quod Agis - Do what you're doing.

So I took out my AirPods, put them away and focused all my effort on the ironing. I found that my mind wandered while doing so, but there was something meditatively nice and enjoyable about just focusing on the task at hand and not thinking that I could be doing something better with that time instead.

Don't get me wrong - I'm still a stickler for productivity and multitasking and efficiency and all that, but I think it's nice once in a while to really focus on the thing we're doing, even if it's something utterly mundane like ironing clothes.

I mentioned this towards the end of this week's podcast episode (we always have a segment where we talk about our 'insight of the week'). My brother could relate - since he started paying attention to all the various sensations he has while washing his hands, he's found that to be a much more enjoyable activity as well.

I'm curious to know - are there any seemingly mundane activities in your life that you get a disproportionate amount of pleasure from? Is there something you enjoy that you feel others would too if only they paid more attention to it? Hit the <reply> button and let me know - I'd love to share the wisdom of the crowd in next week's email.

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’.

Book Discussion: The Courage to be Disliked | Not Overthinking

In this episode, we summarise "The Courage to be Disliked" by Fumitake Koga and Ichiro Kishimi. It's one of the very few books that Taimur's actually read, and the concepts it presents are provocative and go against a lot of the dominant narratives of the current cultural milieu.

My Favourite Things this week

1 - Podcast - This episode of Invisibilia titled Emotions was wonderful. I almost exclusively listen to long-form conversational podcasts, so listening to NPR-style podcasts is a pretty novel experience. But apart from that, this episode was amazing - riveting story, emotional rollercoaster, and some very interesting insights for living a more intentional life. It even made me tear up in places.

2 - Podcast - This episode of The Art of Charm about how to talk to strangers was a very engaging listen. They discussed the power of being able to connect with strangers, and shared some useful tips and tricks that we can all apply to our lives. Top stuff.

3 - Article - This post on Paul Graham's blog, where he talks about the concept of haters and where the phenomenon comes from, was pretty interesting.

4 - Podcast - It's been a good week for podcasts. If you're interested in business, I'd thoroughly recommend this episode of the My First Million podcast. It's an interview with Carey Smith, the founder of a company called Big Ass Fans that makes big fans for factories.

Kindle Highlight of the Week

Most endeavors are like learning to speak a foreign language: to be correct 95% of the time requires six months of concentrated effort, whereas to be correct 98% of the time requires 20–30 years. Focus on great for a few things and good enough for the rest. Perfection is a good ideal and direction to have, but recognize it for what it is: an impossible destination.

From The 4-Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss. Resurfaced with Readwise.

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Ali Abdaal

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