In “The Pleasure of Finding Things Out,” physicist Richard Feynman shares his thoughts and feelings about life, career, curiosity, scientific discovery, life-philosophy, and everything else.
In one essay, based on a 1981 interview for the BBC series Horizon (a video that went viral on YouTube,) Feynman shares his technique of “active irresponsibility” i.e. feigning irresponsibility to avoid mundane work in order to dedicate himself to productive work:
To do the kind of real good physics work, you do need absolutely solid lengths of time. When you’re putting ideas together which are vague and hard to remember … it needs a lot of concentration—solid time to think. If you’ve got a job administrating anything, say, then you don’t have the solid time. So I have invented another myth for myself—that I’m irresponsible. “I am actively irresponsible,” I tell everybody. “I don’t do anything.” If anybody asks me to be on a committee to take care of admissions … “No! I’m irresponsible. … I don’t give a damn about the students!” Of course I give a damn about the students, but I know that somebody else’ll do it! … because I like to do physics, and I want to see if I can still do it. I am selfish, okay? I want to do my physics.
Idea for Impact: Avoid Mundane Tasks
Delegate, defer, or avoid the ordinary and mundane elements of work that your work-life imposes upon you. These don’t contribute directly to your long-term goals and aspirations.
Often, the consequences of saying ‘no’ to things you don’t want to do aren’t as bad as you may fear.
For more on investing your time where your priorities are, read my “World’s Shortest Course on Time Management.” Refer also to my articles on time logging and time analysis for a methodical approach to find how you’re currently spending (or wasting) your time.
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