If you’re reading this blog, you probably have more interests than the average bear. And if you’re anything like me, you probably struggle to make time for all these interests.
It’s tough, right? Working full-time and maintaining 1-2 hobbies is pretty doable for most people. But what if you have 5-6 interests you’d like to pursue?
We’re often told that life is short. You can’t do everything, right?
Good news! You can do everything.
But not all at once.1
We can’t literally do everything, of course. Our time on earth is finite, and it’s impossible to accomplish an infinite number of things in a finite period of time.
But here’s what’s interesting: You can come surprisingly close. As the Roman philosopher Seneca famously said in his essay On the Shortness of Life,
“Life is long if you know how to use it.”
There’s a catch, though: you can’t do everything today. Or this week. Or this month.
You’ve got years (maybe several decades) to pursue your interests, so use them. In my lifetime, I hope to do all these things:
- write a book
- learn to code (like, for real)
- record an album (I’ve recorded on three albums, but never as a solo artist)
- bike across the USA
- get my PhD
- run a beer mile
With some thoughtful planning and the right mindset, we can maintain a dizzying array of interests. Below, you’ll find three strategies to help.
1. Selectively lower your standards
Each of us seems to face a choice:
- pursue a few interests with laser focus
- casually pursue many interests
There’s a third option, though: hold yourself to different standards for different activities.
I hold my trumpet playing to a pretty high standard. I’m currently a semi-pro player, but my hope is that most folks in the audience will assume I’m a pro.
As a cyclist, on the other hand, I am very much in the amateur category. Not even a cow would mistake me for a pro cyclist: I bike in an old pair of Sambas, I rarely ride longer than 15 miles, and most of the serious cyclists in town would smoke me in a race. And that’s fine! I have high standards for musicianship and low standards for athletic performance.
I like to think of it this way: Anything worth doing isn’t worth doing well. Anything worth doing well is worth doing well.
2. Schedule your free time (then defend it)
It’s true of both money and time: when you budget every bit, it feels like you have more of it. And if you want to try your hand at dozens of different pursuits and be working on 5-6 at the same time, you’ll likely need to schedule at least some of your free time.
It may seem a little over-the-top, but one group of people knows the benefit of this practice very well.
If you somehow got hold of Paul McCartney’s personal assistant, I bet he could tell you what time Sir Paul will be working out next Thursday. I further suspect that nearly every hour of Serena Williams’ time is spoken for months in advance. Meryl Streep likely has events on her calendar for 2020.
Public figures have no choice but to schedule their entire day if they want to retain any time for themselves or their families. You may have hobbies and interests making demands on your time (instead of publicists), but the principle is the same: making a plan and standing by it allows you to use every minute of your time instead of wondering where it all went.
3. Be quick to abandon dried-up interests
Just as you don’t have to do everything this week, you don’t have to do anything you no longer want to do. People change, and their interests with them. It can feel like there’s a quaint sort of honor in pursuing a hobby you committed to months or years ago, as if you owe it to your past self to follow through. In most cases, you don’t.
Knowing when to quit is highly underrated2, and there’s no honor in continuing a personal pursuit you no longer enjoy.
Conventional wisdom is often right, but it can be off-base, too. If you’re a person with many and various interests, there’s no need to settle: by being strategic and intentional, you can likely pursue everything on your list.