Spend No More Than 5% of Your Time Looking at What Other People Are Doing

I think one of the healthiest thing one can possibly do is spend their time focused on their own activities.

People are starting to notice that Facebook is bad for mental health because it just shows you other people having fun, being witty, being successful, etc. But fewer realize that this is also most of Twitter and many other mediums as well.

The problem isn’t social media. The problem is that when you’re watching other people do things you’re not doing anything yourself.

I think a good rule is something like 5%. 5% of your day, or week, or month, is enough to catch a glimpse, to see what everyone you care about is up to, and perhaps ride the zeitgeist for a moment.

But if you start pulling threads, following links, and endlessly refreshing you will begin to lose yourself.

So what do you do if you’re not following other peoples’ activity? Good question. Two things:

  1. Consume high-quality content.
  2. Create content of your own.

For #1 that mostly means reading books. It can include any other strong media as well. Podcasts. Documentaries. Course content. Whatever. But the point of it is spawning new ideas in yourself through evolution (mix, reproduce, descent with modification).

You read books, you have ideas. You listen to podcasts, you have ideas. You take college courses, you get ideas. Etc.

That brings us to the second and most important activity: Creation.

Write. Paint. Draw. Make custom gifts. Knit. Make beer. Hack hardware. Hack software. Code. Create and teach a class. Etc.

I don’t know how much time should be spent consuming great content vs. creating because it’s different for different people and different disciplines. But let’s say you should be creating with at least 25% of your time. So maybe that’s 50%, or maybe it’s 75%. I don’t know.

What’s important is that you don’t eat that time by following what others are doing (unless you’re consuming their finished works away from live streams). If you follow someone who just wrote a new book, then fine, go get it and read it.

But don’t find their Twitter feed and sit around waiting for them to say something interesting.

That’ll leave you thinking one thing:

Wow, this person is smart. They created this incredible piece of software. I couldn’t have written this. I wish I know more about this topic. Wow, this person is so successful. This person is better than me.

That’s where you’ll always end up: they’re awesome, and you’re not.

There are plenty of smart and funny people on Twitter and Facebook. A never-ending stream of them. Watching them will just convince you that they’re producers and your job is to consume what they make.

Screw that. You make stuff. Let someone else consume what you make. Don’t be the one looking at the work of others.

Follow the 5% rule. You’ll be infinitely happier.


  1. When I say what other people are doing I’m talking about what they’er saying socially and trivially. If create good content then by all means consume that. Just don’t confuse the two.


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