Challenge Yourself: Limit Your Inputs And Increase Your Output

This Week’s BIG Idea

When we take more information that we can put to good use, we feel overwhelmed and unable to think clearly. After reading Ryan Holiday’s Stillness Is the Key, I started examining my inputs to determine what’s essential and what’s a distraction. Although this exercise is difficult, it’s important. The Stoics believed that the mind is the only thing under our control, so we must protect it from the outside world.

Accumulating things (both physical and digital) weigh us down and our work suffers as a consequence. So as a way to increase my output, I’ve been limiting my inputs. I came up with a ruleset to help me on this journey:

  • Email: I only subscribe to emails that are absolutely important.
  • Books: I read to learn. If a book doesn’t teach me something, I won’t read it.
  • Television: I watch a 25-minute episode of an anime per day.
  • Podcasts: I only listen to podcast episodes that are valuable to me.
  • Movies: I watch movies over the weekend. If I don’t enjoy the movie in question, I stop watching it.
  • YouTube: Do the videos I watch get me closer to my goals or further away from them?

By creating a set of arbitrary rules, I limit the content that I consume. Whenever I have some free time I gravitate towards creating (output) something rather than consuming (input). As arbitrary as some of those rules seem, I often find myself questioning my actions. Turning off the TV when a movie is doing nothing for me feels liberating. Similarly, unsubscribing from a newsletter that doesn’t align with my values is freeing. You get the idea.

We must say no as often as we have to. If you look around you, most things are a hard no. Once you say no to the things that don’t matter, you can welcome the ones that do. This is one of the healthiest habits we can develop even if it takes time. Eventually, this becomes second nature and we don’t have to think about it. We must value our attention because it’s a precious resource that everyone wants to capture. So what will you say no to?

What I’m Working on

This is the first time that I wrote down a series of goals for the year, as well as the steps that I’m going to take to reach them. Although I have a lot of systems in place to achieve the things I want in life, I noticed that reflecting on that process often is as important. So the idea is to work on a monthly or annual review where I see which goals I reached and which goals I didn’t reach and try to determine why. Were my expectations too high? Was that goal not relevant anymore? Was there a flaw in the system? Should I have had more specific steps? This is one of those projects that will start bearing fruit over time, but I’m confident that it’ll start working out soon enough. 

What I’m Listening to

I’ve had this podcast episode in my queue for some time, but I finally made some time to listen to it. Ali Abadaal interviewed Nasir Kaharma from the popular productivity channel Kharma Medic. The episode is all about productivity, studying, and being a medical student. Kharma also discusses his obsession with time management and how he recovered from it with the help of therapy.

What I’m Reading

  • How to Not Die Alone by Logan Ury: I’ve had this guide to dating on the list of books I want to read for months. The idea is that this book will not just help you find love, but also keep it if you’re already in a relationship. Although I haven’t read many books about dating, love, and relationships, How to Not Die Alone is backed by behavioral science. Some of the book’s lessons include the dangers of online dating, the features you should be looking for in long-time partners, and the bad patterns you must break before dating.

What I’m Watching

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about re-reading some of my favorite books. When 2023 started, I decided I was going to read The Daily Stoic the way it’s meant to be read. That’s one lesson at a time, over the course of a year. I’ve realized that while I had already read that book, I’m seeing some of those teachings with fresh eyes and I’m learning them all over again. In fact, some of those meditations that felt confusing before, make total sense now. Although The Daily Stoic is a unique kind of book, I like the idea of coming back to some of my favorite books and reading them all over again.

This Week’s Quote

“Who is there who would wish to be surrounded by all the riches in the world and enjoy every abundance in life and yet not love or be loved by anyone?”


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