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Obsessive thoughts on optimization (of money, time)

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Sometimes I obsessively think about wasted time or money. I repeatedly regret not making a decision sooner, coming up with an interest or idea sooner, and with money I will obsessive about how it could have been spent more efficiently. The how it is spent takes over to some respect the enjoyment of it.

 

It will usually go away after neglecting to think about it, but when I do think about it I find myself being annoyed about it. This sounds like I have no control of my mind now that I think about it, but I guess it is just that thinking back upon my thought processes it is something that I find peculiar because it seems to me that many other people do not think like this. 

 

For example when I go out to a restaurant my friends will be thinking about just enjoying the food, whereas I will be thinking about how the fact that the amount of money for what you get does not necessarily match, that it was a "rip-off". They will just chalk it up to it being an "experience", while I think about how I should have found out about it before going and avoiding it. A friend of mine that considers himself an Objectivist (so do I), does not think in the terms I think. 

 

Another example, that I am going through right now, is that I think about wasted time not deciding to look into learning how to sail a few months ago instead of looking into it this last week. I could have optimized the amount of time practicing in May and June, but I now have to wait till July.

 

I try to tell myself that I am not omniscient, but I often have a lingering resentment. I wanted to share this with this forum, because something that I think I have picked up from Objectivism is the idea of planning values, of purposefully thinking about what you value and going after it, which I admit I can either not do enough of, accept prejudices about how to achieve certain values, or procrastinate.

 

When I see waste of time or waste of money, it really annoys me. I will get mad at family members for example when they use excessive amounts of soap when washing their hands, or when they do not coast to red lights. Is this irrational behavior?

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In order to get anything done, you either need a plan or a habit. So, planning is “good,” and more planning “gooder,” right?
 
I’ve lived doing what you describe for years — the endless apparent dichotomy of being efficient and thoughtful in what you choose to do, vs. being so “efficient” and “thoughtful” that you bring yourself to a stressed-out standstill. Somehow, I’ve managed to get things done, but not without an endless stream of self-induced stress and criticism, often turning legitimate interests into terrible chores. In essence, I’ve usually accomplished the opposite of my (supposed) original purpose: improvement and enjoyment of my life.
 
In this past year, I decided it was time to finally address this issue “for rilz.” I’ve known the phrase, “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good” my whole life, but when I paired it with some articles by Dr. Hurd about “perfectionism,” the phrase became more relatable and realistic. He seems to really understand this mentality, and has some good thoughts. Here are a few of his articles, with some quotes to give you an idea of what he says. (The articles have more that’s worth reading than just these few quotes I chose):
 
Note to Perfectionists: Don’t Try to Improve!
Perfectionism is based on irrational beliefs. One irrational belief is, “I can and should improve this, regardless of objective proof.” Actually, the burden of proof for improving something should always be on the person insisting that improvement is both possible and necessary.
 
You can get around perfectionism not by getting rid of your high standards. Why do that? There’s nothing wrong with high standards, and there’s much good about them. But high standards are objective ones. The way to be objective is to say to yourself, “I feel like I can improve this. But can I, really? What objectively needs improving? And is it necessary?”
 
Perfectionism vs. Happiness
Perfectionism and the quest for excellence are not the same thing. People who achieve excellence and develop competence along the way eschew an irrational desire for infallibility. Instead, they favor of life as a place where ever-increasing knowledge leads to never-ending improvements.

 

Faulty Thinking and Addiction
This is because perfectionism is a phrase which refers to a set of false beliefs, including but not limited to the following:
  • “It’s always bad to be wrong. Errors are disasters.”
  • “Errors make me look foolish in front of others, and that’s a catastrophe.”
  • “Life should be easy and comfortable. Any departure from this status is a disaster.”
  • “Knowledge should be automatic. If I can’t make it so, then I’ll pretend it to be so.”
  • “If I don’t know everything all at once, then I don’t know anything.”
 

"Workaholic" Q&A write-in

Yes, plan and think about tomorrow, next month, or next year. But in the process, don’t sacrifice your precious minutes, seconds and hours. They are finite, and are ticking away whether you choose to enjoy them or not.
 
Perfectionist boss Q&A write-in
She’s a perfectionist, which, strictly speaking, means trying to do the impossible.
 
This last quote was the final crack in my “perfect illusion” which caused me to see the light. As I’ve been striving for “perfection” for at least ten years, it’s a habit that’s become part of nearly every aspect of my person. Nevertheless, for a year or so, I’ve really given it a go at the idea that perfection doesn’t exist. I consciously try to go for “good” or even “great” within a given framework or context, consciously move on, and repeat. The results have been excellent, in my general mental state, my acceptance of others’ work, my expectations of myself… Pretty much, in everything! At this point, I’m convinced, and expect five more years of this outlook to yield excellent, not perfect (! :)), results.
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I'll add two statements I use when training managers on time management:

 

1.  You cannot manage time.  Time cannot be saved since it is the same for everyone.  The clock ticks away for everyone one second at as time.  You have to decide how to spend it.  That requires knowing what are your goals and ultimately your values. 

 

2.  All your values are "the whole".  In Objectivism this is all your values are your total context.  Do not get so wrapped up in acheiving one value that you ignore the others.  SPlan for ALL of them (which is a different subject on time management and planning).  The important thing to remember is that goals allow you to get values.  Work to enjoy the values.  You work qua value, not work qua work then fret over the work.  Here, the phrase Carp Diem has a real application.  Work, like all of ethics, is to acheive happiness, not work as an end in itself.

 

 I understand what your going through from my experience so I've thought about this a lot so I hope that helps in such a limited post.  

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