In the annals of history, the concept of “time management” is still fairly new. This idea that you can rearrange, ration out, or just generally control your time.
In this episode, writer and thinker Oliver Burkeman debunks the modern myth that we can somehow “master” time. Arguing instead that getting more efficient just makes us busier.
We delve into the toxic allure of “having it all,” why the real challenge of time management is about tradeoffs, and how true liberation can only come once you embrace your limitations.
Key takeaways from the conversation:
- Why getting more efficient just makes you busier
- How embracing your time limitations is the path to success
- Why the true challenge of time management is really about tradeoffs
- How shifting your perspective — through travel, awe, or meditation — can make you feel like you have more time
- Why you should ask the question: “What am I best placed to do here right now?”
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“Before clocks, before watches, before most ways of measuring and slicing and dicing time, there wasn’t this idea that time is moving, and you can either keep up with the conveyor belt or you can use it badly and get left behind. You really need to create that idea of time as an external thing in order to get all the problems that we have.”
“It’s really clear from personal experience, from research, that if you get really, really efficient at doing stuff, you just get busier.”
“Maybe the true definition of prayer is wasting time.”
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A shortlist of the books, philosophers, and researchers we touch on in our conversation:
- Oliver’s book The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking
- A great piece from Oliver on Why Time Management Is Ruining Our Lives
- Philosopher Henri Bergson on time, sense, and duration
- The classic self-help book Teach Yourself to Live by C.G.L. Du Cann
- An interview with meditation teacher Shinzen Young
- Roy Baumeister’s research on happiness vs meaning
- Follow Oliver: Guardian column | Website | Twitter
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