Optimizing vs. Setting for Good Enough

Over the past few months, my approach to sleep has drastically changed.

And through this process, I’ve learned something valuable.

When I was going through high school and college, sleep was a non-negotiable for me. Since academic and athletic performance were my top priorities, I knew I had to treat my body right. While other students were staying up late cramming for tests and finishing homework assignments, I found a way to get at least 8 hours of sleep just about every night.

Why?

Because I knew that sleep is important. Study after study has shown how sleep deprivation negatively impacts cognitive performance.

And the same is true physically.

When I was putting in the time and effort to become a better athlete, it would have been a waste if I wasn’t recovering with a proper sleep routine. And it never made sense to me why someone would spend all night studying, just to show up at an exam the next day exhausted and unable to critically think.

So I was relentless in my sleep discipline.

But something interesting has happened over the past few months or so.

I’ve started to slip with my sleep schedule. Now I typically get in bed around 11 and get up at 5, rarely getting much more than 6 hours.

And I’m actually alright with that, because I don’t think that sleep is as critical for my success anymore.

Sure, I realize that I’m not performing at my absolute best mentally, and I know that sleep is an important part of my health in the long run.

But at least for the time being, my formula for success has changed.

While going through school and playing sports, success came down to a few isolated events. I had to be at my absolute best for games, tests, and other big moments.

But that’s not really the case any more.

Whether I’m at my job, working on my house, working on Get the Most Out of High School, hanging out with friends, or just about anything else I do; success is now measured over a much longer period. When I’m trying to make a sale, my performance in a given meeting matters. But the number of meetings I’m able to have, and the volume of people I’m able to reach out to is just as important.

Overall, I can afford to be at 90% if it means I’m able to put more hours in.

If I’m able to sleep two hours less per night without significantly decreasing the quality of my life, I think it’s worth it since it gives me two more hours each day to spend on things that matter to me.

 

I realize that I can’t optimize everything in my life, so I have to pick and choose what is most important.

As a deeply competitive person, I sometimes fall into the trap of thinking that I need to be the best at everything. I want to be perfectly healthy, be the best at my job, cook great meals, be the best husband, etc.

But really, that’s just a recipe for failure.

I only have so much time in the day, and I realize that any time I spend on one activity takes away time that I can spend on another.

That’s why I no longer go to the gym five or six days per week like I used to. It made sense when I was competing athletically and I wanted to be at my peak, but that’s not the case any more.

Now I just want to stay in good enough shape to be healthy and feel good while enjoying my exercises and minimizing the time that it takes out of my day.

If I can do that by lifting just three times per week, playing the occasional pickup basketball game, and generally trying to stay active; then I’m wasting time and effort doing anything beyond that. Sure this means that I’m not quite as fit as I know I could be, and I’m not at my absolute best on the basketball court, but that’s alright with me. Those aren’t my priorities any more.

I think about finances the same way.

My goal in life isn’t to make as much money as possible. My goal is to make enough money so that I minimize financial stress, and can live a happy life.

So when I’m trying to plan out my career, it doesn’t make sense for me just to aim for the highest-paying jobs. It’s much more useful to think about the impact I’ll have in different roles, and the effect this will have on my work-life balance.

 

Overall, this idea of choosing what to optimize is really interesting to me, and it’s feeling more and more like an important guiding principle.

If you haven’t thought about this before, maybe now’s the time to reflect.

What are the things in your life that you want to optimize?

And what are you currently optimizing when you really should be settling for good enough?

Leave a comment below or send me a note at bbartneck@gmail.com.

-Brandon