What not to do in your thirties

It was my birthday recently, and as someone partway through my thirties, I took it as a chance to self-assess how I was doing. Was I making progress on my goals? Were there things I would like to do that I wasn’t?

What to do you in your thirties

As part of that, I did some googling on common goals for people in their thirties. The lists I found were all pretty similar:

  • Save for retirement (a topic we’ve posted on)
  • Eat healthy
  • Sleep well (including having a regular bedtime and wake up time)
  • Connect with and invest in family
  • Keeping growing and learning
  • Exercise
  • Avoid competing with others and figure out what matters to you

All good advice – I found Mark Manson’s list particularly good. One list in particular, though, said in your thirties you should start following the news, because you never want to be the one at a party who hasn’t heard that [famous person X] has just died. I totally reject with this. I aspire to be the person who hasn’t heard the most recent irrelevant pop news, not the first to know.

It strikes me that a better way to think about it is that your thirties are about what you choose not to do.

What not to do in your thirties

What do I mean by that? Strategy, the management guru Michael Porter famously said, is choosing what not to do. In your teens and twenties, there are a lot of things you may want to get done: get a degree, land a job, find a life partner, travel the world. Your twenties is a period of exploration where you do new things and find out what you like or don’t like.

That’s still true in your thirties to some extent–you should never stop exploring and learning!–but the thirties are also a time to figure out what you want to exploit, not just explore. Hopefully you’ve figured out the right sleep, diet, and exercise routine. Stop doing other ones! Be more intentional about how you spend your time, and devote it to things you find meaningful. Identify what gives you value and who you want to spend time with, and then stop doing the rest. Prioritize.

If that’s following pop artist funerals, then you do you. But for a lot of people, I don’t think tracking minor news on Facebook is where happiness lies. I want to spend my thirties surrounded by the people I love, working to leave a dent in the universe, and to achieve that I want to stop doing other things. Of course, I still want to take risks, learn, and evolve. I’m not stuck with what I’ve tried so far in life. But where I can choose what not to do, I am happy to do so.

Have you found a transition between your twenties and thirties, NT? Either in how you think about your life or where you spend your time?

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