Bernie Anderson
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the blog

Current musings, whatever they may be. 

The Unharnessed Curiosity of Squirrels

There is real danger in curiosity.

While it may not be a deadly trait (as it apparently is for cats), it can be a besetting characteristic for people who do a lot of thought work.

Don’t misunderstand. Curiosity is a great characteristic. The problem can be information overload, which leads to idea debt (more ideas to act on that you can possibly act on. I love this article by Jessica Abel on the subject), which leads to frustration and a serious lack of productivity.

This doesn’t mean you should not be curious. Curiosity is a great characteristic, especially when harnessed. But unharnessed curiosity will kill your soul, at the very least.

Curiosity is a blessing and a bane. I can tell you this from personal experience, as I’m more distractible than most squirrels. Especially when it comes to taking a deep dive into new realms of information and knowledge. It would be VERY easy for me to spend days wallowing in a mire of information about anything from bookbinding to music theory to the history of the Huns.

None of which would be profitable at this very moment.

I’ve found a simple way to harness curiosity.

And (you may have guessed), it all has to do with a calendar.

Schedule Your Input

Block time in your week for unabashed reveling in information. Read whatever you want. Go down whichever rabbit hole suits your fancy. Browse academic articles or comic books (I’ve done both). Just do it in the allotted time. There may be days for focussed input. If I’m working on a project, I may limit my input time to a particular subject matter. But, for me, input time is almost like playtime.

Caution: this is not entertainment time. Input doesn’t mean watching mindless videos on YouTube. There is purpose in that this is a time for satisfying the things I’m most curious about at the moment.

Schedule Your Output

Output sessions have some pretty strict rules. I set a 50-minute timer (you could start with 25 minutes or 12 minutes if you need to) during which:

  1. Work on only one thing
  2. All notifications are off
  3. No Internet (There are some very rare exceptions here.)
  4. If focus is lost and that 50-minute session is broken - start over.

It’s astounding to see what can be finished with 50-minutes of focus.

Scheduled input puts a limit on your curiosity while not stifling creativity.

Scheduled output trains your brain to focus.

I need both.