Busy bandwagon and infinity pools – minimise these two things to make time for what matters

One of the best books I have read in the past decade is Make Time by Jake Knapp and John Zeratsky. The book explores techniques to help readers “focus on what matters every day”, and it has had a big influence on how I try to spend my time. This blog post covers the two concepts from this book that have been most useful to me: busy bandwagon and infinity pools.

Make Time book image from Goodreads.

Busy bandwagon

Busy bandwagon refers to the tendency for us to always be busy and occupied with something. The authors argue it is important to make space for just being rather than forever striving to do more. This doesn’t come naturally to me. I can be a bit of a workaholic and I find it hard to sit still.

To get control of the busy bandwagon, I have consciously tried to build boundaries between my professional and personal life. This includes things like:

  • separate personal and work accounts on my devices
  • blocking access to work apps on my phone outside of work hours
  • making sure I have at least 1 day per week and 1 week every few months where I take a proper break
  • leaving plenty of space in my days for doing what comes to mind

The most transformative change I have made to keep the busy bandwagon under control has been my mindfulness practice. I started in 2014 when I completed an 8 week mindfulness program. Mindfulness teaches you to live in the present moment rather than dwelling on the past or scheming about the future. So it is particularly useful for someone like me whose default state is to rush through life from one thing to the next without stopping to breathe. Since reading this book I have meditated pretty much every day, which helps me be a bit more mindful as I go through the day. Taking this to the next level, I have heard people like Yuval Noah Harari and Rory Stewart say excellent things about 10-day Vipassana meditation retreats, but I haven’t mustered up the courage to book onto one yet. 10 days of silence feels like a lot!

Mindfulness book image from Goodreads

Infinity pools

Infinity pools refer to the dopamine-induced need most of us now have to always be scrolling through information, usually on our phones. I have often found myself scrolling away through apps like Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn and Guardian News and watching the hours tick away. I don’t want to delete these apps. It is important to keep up to date with the news and professional networks. Facebook is an excellent way to keep in touch with friends and access local community groups. And I don’t want to completely give up making my life look better than it is on Instagram.

So I have bought access to an app called Freedom that prevents me from accessing any of these apps other than for a couple of hours in the middle of the day (which is usually when I am busy enough to not fall into the infinity pool trap). It works across all my devices, which makes it much harder for me to cheat. The act of paying for the app also makes me a bit more committed to following through. I must admit, I do from time to time delete this app in order to do something urgent only to not install it again for a while. It takes a lot of practice to break the infinity pool habit. I can’t honestly claim I have cracked it, but the time I spend infinitely scrolling has gone down a lot.

I also subscribe to a weekly news magazine instead of refreshing the BBC homepage every few hours. Weekly is a good enough cadence for me to keep up with what is going on in the World. A weekly news magazine also has the time to go into far more depth into the issues of the week than a daily news publication.

This is what I see when I try to access Instagram before 11 am or after 2 pm

Other nuggets of wisdom from this book

Some of my favourite quotes from Make Time:

“You create your own reality by choosing what you pay attention to”

“Do not ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

“Make a list of the big things that matter in your life.  Choose the one most important thing. Rewrite the list in order of priority. Keep this list around to remind yourself of your one highest priority—and to break ties between two activities when you’re not sure how to spend your effort.”

“Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”

There are about 100 recommendations in this book, and I have only covered a few in this post. I definitely recommend reading Make Time if these types of topics are interesting to you.

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