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A bet about your last week: you are probably not learning how to play the pan flute, scheming a revolution in a southeast Asian country, or dancewalking through your main avenue every other day.

There are also interesting things you are not doing. Things that you are gaining value because you are not doing. 

Here are some of mine that other EAs may also gain value from: 


  • I'm not seeing any advertisement online, thanks to the no ads at all feature of AdBlock Plus
  • I'm not reading newspapers or any other source of news. I just assume other people will filter me into the relevant news. 
  • I'm not considering what to do on weekends during the day. I've locked in a routine I like so I don't have to process any information. 
  • I'm not eating nearly as much meat as I once did. 
  • I'm not watching sports, because I like participating in them as much as watching, so given a choice, I'll take the Two for the price of one value. I only exercise in ways that fill two or more goals at the same time. 
  • I'm not using email to schedule things with people, but Google Calendar directly, saving precious coordination time. 


I'd like to suggest that we list things we learned to value not doing on the comment section. I would love to not do some of them! 




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I'm actively choosing not to go out with people who I don't find particularly interesting or fun (i.e., people in the "they're nice" category, but who either aren't really interested in the type of discussion I want to have, are really judgemental/cynical about trying new things, etc.). Before, I'd feel like I needed to be nice and make friends with everybody or I'd be a mean person, but as my social circle has expanded and the number of things I've wanted to do has increased, I've become more selective.

Oddly, this has actually made me enjoy meeting new people much more. I'm always willing to give the benefit of the doubt that I could have a really good conversation, or really good connection, with someone I haven't met--but am not too disappointed, and don't feel "guilted" into spending time with someone, if I don't.


Similarly, I'm actively selective of the people and social groups I spend time with. This is important.

I happen to have an identical twin. He spends a lot more time than I do with school friends, and a lot less time with effective altruists. While we're ideologically almost the same, I tend to act more on my EA beliefs, and my 'actively choosing to hang out with people who will positively influence me' has been a big contributing factor to this.

I've had a similar shift. One other consideration is that I used to think it was important to spread EA ideas by hanging out with non-EAs primarily, but I've come to believe the social influence of other EAs makes me more effective.

I feel like not consuming news, television and facebook are really pretty good moves.

How about the prestige/social benefits of being up on the news? Or indeed some TV?

I figure they're less than the benefits from other enjoyable activities like socialising, networking, or doing interesting projects.

In extremis, presumably the prestige costs of being totally uninformed about the news are worth avoiding?

Maybe. Zero food is obviously suboptimal...

Maybe zero news is suboptimal for people in corporates, or who rely on it for networking. I buy that news is widely overconsumed though, and don't buy that getting embarrassed by lack of news-knowledge is commonly a serious problem.

I've seen people get very embarrassed by this but perhaps that's irrational on there part and due to social oversensitivity out of proportion to the actual social costs (hardly unheard of)

What's the argument for not consuming news? I don't necessarily disagree, but it's not self-evident to me.

I found Avoid News, Towards a Healthy News Diet by Rolf Dobelli quite convincing.

Thanks, Ryan, but years of reading the news have left me unable to process such a long, thoughtful piece about how years of reading the news will leave me unable to process long, thoughtful pieces.

My solution is listening to all the TED talks-only about a six-month delay and much more durable information.

Another option is Long News: https://www.ted.com/talks/kirk_citron_and_now_the_real_news And if you are into global catastrophic risks, you only need to spend about 10 minutes a month here: http://gcrinstitute.org/gcr-news-summary-june-2015/

This is the blog post that convinced me a few years ago.

I love it when reason points in a direction I already wanted to go but mistakenly thought it unreasonable. Thanks.

Why did you want to go that direction?

I didn't derive sufficient immediate pleasure from reading the news. But like eating one's vegetables, I thought it was justified by long-term returns.

(Hoping someone now provides a reason I don't have to eat my vegetables.)

Haha, don't be silly, I stopped eating solid food a long time ago.

[Was just joking about vegetables.]

I stopped doing a job that was giving me severe anxiety and depression. The job was elementary school teaching, and for what it's worth, was probably low impact relative to what I'm doing now. But even if it had been a potentially high impact job, I think I would have had a very low (or perhaps negative) impact given how unhappy I was.

Lesson: don't do a job that makes you miserable.

This seems potentially important advice for etg-ers.


So, an extremely valuable thing which I stopped doing in grades 11 & 12 was investing large amounts of time in school. I put about a third of the time into school as the other top students, and instead invested my time into higher return things such as learning university level maths and volunteering.

Note: I didn't go to a top school, and I had unusual negotiating power within my school due to my circumstances. Both of these factors were strong incentives which may not have been present for the people reading this.

I stopped using shampoo and conditioner on my hair a few years ago. For a while it was bad while oil levels reached equilibrium, but now I'd say my hair is better than before.

Don't check email too often (once is good enough, twice if you must...)

I'm curious as to others experience with this. I check less than once a day but am not sure thats optimal.

I worry that people will be offended if I reply to emails days late, but suspect that in this I might be being a little paranoid.

I agree on the news front. The vast majority of news today is irrelevant to just about everyone's life. There is no good reason why I need to know about a mother who killed her children or some comments one famous person said about another famous person. That sort of information doesn't make me a better citizen or even make me more informed about the world in a meaningful way. I do listen to NPR when I'm in my car, and that has been useful to me, although it's worth pointing out that I am essentially multi-tasking while doing it, so I'm not using dedicated time.

A couple other things I am not doing:

  • Eating meat (one year strong, and I'm happy to report that it takes almost zero time now)
  • Participating in social media (I was an early adopter in 2004, but I've been off for two years)
  • Checking a smart phone (I don't have one)
  • Watching TV (I don't have service)

My “news” sources usually don’t publish news but timeless items of knowledge, things that will be just or almost as current in five years. For each such item that is valuable to me and informs the things I do, I have to skim through ten or twenty others that are just noise, though, and I wish I were more sure that this is not cost-effective so that I could cut it all out. Has anyone solved this problem?

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