Your time management won't work until you realize how little time you have

One efficiency expert admits he was wrong about life, in the most meta productivity book you'll ever read.

9/20/2021 12:30:00 PM

One efficiency expert admits he was wrong about life, in the most meta productivity book you'll ever read.

Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals explains how wrong we are about life, in the most meta productivity book you'll ever read.

, I could not be more guilty.So what's the solution? How do you enforce moments of idleness, even boredom (the state of mind when youget your most creative ideas)? Well, humans have been doing it for centuries. Most religions have rigidly defined days off, like the Shabbat or sabbath, where there's a prohibition against doing any kind of work; on the secular side, most cultures have long lists of feast days with a focus on celebrating life in the moment.

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The idea of atech Shabbat, or Screenless Sunday, seems to be gaining ground as a solution. You could also decide that the work day ends at a specific time and hold to it, rather than letting it bleed into your evening as we have a habit of doing in the always-on world. But as Burkeman points out, it's near impossible to impose these rules on yourself without a support network around you that's doing the same thing: We live best in rhythm with others. So bring your family and friends along for the ride into enforced idleness.

3. Make your to-do list tiny.Burkeman doesn't advise throwing out your productivity tools entirely. There's nothing wrong with having a to-do list; as GTD guru David Allen says, capturing all your tasks enables you to only have a thought once (instead of having a brain that is constantly nagging you about what needs to get done next). Rather, you can use that list to be more mindful about how you're going to procrastinate — because no matter what you do, you're always procrastinating on something else.

Four Thousand Weeksoffers a number of strategies for better procrastination. You could try focusing on one big project at a time (or one big work project and one big personal project), while letting everything else lie fallow. Or you could"fail on a cyclical basis" — agree ahead of time that you're going to do the bare minimum on your fitness routine during a month you're canvassing for an election, say, then get back to the gym the following month. Instead of seeking the elusive work-life balance, you are"consciously imbalanced."

But my favorite is Burkeman's idea of having two to-do lists: one open and large, one closed and tiny. The open one is everything you could be doing; the closed one is a list of just 10 things you could achieve today. The catch is you can't move items from the open list to the closed list until an item on the closed list is ticked off (or if you're waiting for someone to get back to you on it.) I put this strategy into effect in the app Todoist — every day I make sure the"Today" section has no more than 10 items — and it's already making me calmer and less in need of digital distraction.

4. Research your relationships.It's unreasonably annoying when the people you love don't act the way you expected, am I right? How dare they act like unpredictable human beings, constantly in flux! Burkeman taps pre-school education expert Tom Hobson for the appropriate mental shift: Deliberately adopt the attitude of the researcher about this human being you've been thrown together with.

Wonderwhat this autonomous individual might do next; don't attach yourself to a particularhopeof what that action might be, or it will eventually end badly. Cultivate curiosity instead of getting attached to an outcome. Indeed, you can apply this approach to all of life itself, no matter what crisis arises: Wondering rather than hoping is the foundation of

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.5. Remember your cosmic insignificance.It isn't just the 4,000 weeks thing. Burkeman goes out of his way throughout the book to remind us of just how little we matter in the grander scheme of things. We spend our lives wanting to"put a dent in the universe" by having an impact on future generations, but"even Steve Jobs, who coined that phrase, failed to leave such a dent," writes Burkeman."Perhaps the iPhone will be remembered for more generations than anything you or I will ever accomplish, but from a truly cosmic view [say, another 310,000 weeks,] it will soon be forgotten, like everything else."

SEE ALSO:The end of aging: Are you ready to live to 150?This attitude is not meant to be mean or depressing, but liberating. It takes your ego out of the equation. If the work of today's greatest novelists will be forgotten eventually, your novel matters just as much; you might as well have fun adding it to the vanishing canon. That nutritious meal you're making for your kids doesn't make you a Michelin star chef, sure, but it will make as much of a difference in their lives as a hundred-dollar dish — perhaps more.

Shorn of the nagging voice that tells us we need to do something of maximum importance, fully aware of our limitations and our inability to tackle even a tiny percentage of our list, aware that we are never really in control of our time or our outcomes we can at last relax and enjoy the ride. With the lowest possible expectations, we paradoxically find it easier to take pride in our accomplishments — for as many weeks as remain.

Read more: Mashable »

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