Every day I franticly look for things to improve upon.
I get digging into something and it feels like I can’t stop. If this reminds you of yourself, you probably know how it goes. An interesting subject pops up in conversation. That article somewhere entices you deeply. An insightful tweet storms right into your feed. Interest builds up bit by bit and you simply can’t help it.
At times it is overwhelming: pointers towards ideas, places, activities, and everything else pile up. What should I focus on? Each subject looks deep into my eyes and demands my attention! Your time is a finite resource that will never hold everything you’re interested in. What you filter out matters more than what you keep.
To cope with this I’ve been using this little rule for quite some time. The nice thing about it is that it uses human nature in your favor and needs no extra effort from you. I call it the Three Knock Rule. It’s as simple as it gets: Just focus on what pops up three times.
That’s it. It works because of how we view the world: what we see for a first time usually doesn’t leave much more than an impression. Knock. It gets registered, if it didn’t, you wouldn’t remember it. However, it is superficial and vague. You pay more attention to what you already find interesting.
Then the thing comes up again, but this time you are no stranger to it. Knock. You are reminded of the first time it came up. Alongside that, you remember the context it came with. This brings in a new perspective: what it was before and what it is now, and the balance between the two. You compare and relate both, and if it aligns with you, it drags on.
You could start looking into it now. If it attracts you fiercely, you probably will. Remember, however: when something attracts you it pushes you away from everything else. In a fluke, something can come up twice and not be that interesting. Letting it drag you with it would be a waste of your precious time. In this case, you can go for it and risk wasting your time or let it slide for a while. It is weaved into your mind, so waiting should do it no harm—if it really interests you.
Some time goes on. Your mind throws away filler, anything it won’t use. After a while, that one thing comes up again. There is now a sense of familiarity to it: it has survived up to this point. Knock. You gotta open the door or it’s gonna keep calling.
You remember the two previous knocks. Think: how often do things get this far? They appear here and there, poking around your interests and trying to get you. When they are not interesting, you don’t even remember what they were, where they came from. When they are, each memory holds up on its own. What you care about the most develops a hidden sense flow.
There is now a pattern underlying these memories. Something forced you to be aware of them three consecutive times. You’ve gotten to this point effortlessly, letting what matters rise to the top. Where all other things became vague and are forgotten, this thing filled your mind like a gentle breeze. Listen to it and dive on: it comes a long way.
Knock, knock, knock.
This one is here to stay.