150 Billion Bits of Purpose

Did you know you only have 150 billion chances to live life purposefully? It seems like an absurdly large number, but follow along with me and you will see that perhaps it isn’t…

The 99u.com blog claims to be about empowering people to use their own great ideas. It is very eclectic. A great thought I read there recently comes from Sam Spurlin. He wants to challenge people’s way of thinking about productivity. He posits that our brains can process about 100 bits of information a second. Assuming you live 80 years and sleep 8 hours a night, that gives you about 150 billion bits of information that your brain processes. (I know that some of you are thinking that this is the capacity of the conscious mind, the subconscious does 100 times that — the point is still going to be the same, so just play along…) Now, Sam says reading takes up about 50 bits a second, leaving the other 50 to take in the sounds, scents, and other senses. And we can only follow so much before something goes by the wayside. Try following six people talking at the same time. You will only process so much of that information — at least at the conscious level.

So the question is, how will you invest your 100 bits per second? Some people want to be as productive with their lives as possible, and try to figure out how to win more time by finding tricks and shortcuts to get things done. But does being productive always equate to being effective?

Some think being productive is effective. But being effective isn’t just about getting things done faster, it is about getting the right things done. One can be very productive on meaningless things… think of most reality TV.

To get the right things done, you have to know why you are doing things. You have to tie what you do to the things you value. I wrote about rituals the other day. They are a way to deliberately live your values and put purpose into some of the things you do.

In the minute or so that you have taken to read this article, you have processed 6000 bits of information. Hopefully, you didn’t simply read them to be entertained. My hope is that you will take a few of those bits over the next few minutes and think about your values and your purpose and begin to align your actions with them!

It’s Not About “Productivity.” It’s About Living Purposefully. by Sam Spurlin at 99u.com

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