Interesting but irrelevant

In a recent post, I wrote about Bill Gates’ prescient thoughts on email from back in 1994. Towards the end of The New Yorker article linked to in the post, Gates shares an insightful approach for how he manages his time.

Basically, since there are an effectively infinite number of interesting things going on in the world and since we have finite time to explore them, it’s important for us to explore those things that are not only interesting but also relevant to us. And a great way to do this is to take sources of interesting but irrelevant things out of our life.

There are natural limits to this approach because we get some of our greatest insights in areas that are relevant to us when we’re doing seemingly irrelevant things. But the gist of the idea is correct.

Here’s the full extract:

“TV is neat. I don’t have a TV at home, because I would probably watch it, and I prefer to spend that time thinking—or, mostly, reading. So I’m pretty conscious about not letting myself get used to certain things.

O.K., it’s a little bit like this. I go to a baseball game, and I’m having a good time, watching the game, but then I feel myself getting drawn in. I start wondering, Who are these guys? Who are the good ones? How much are they paid? How are the other teams compared to this one? How have the rules changed? How do these guys compare to the guys twenty years ago? It just gets so interesting. I know if I let myself go to ten games I’d be addicted, and I’d want to go more. And there’s only so much time in the day. And, frankly, it’s easy for me to get interested in anything.

So there’s all these choices, but time is this very scarce resource.”


Also published on Medium.