Time management

As addicting as it is, desire is the enemy to proper time management. Poor sleeping habits, unhealthy lifestyle choices, and just plain dissatisfaction are all byproducts of a poorly managed life.

~ Ryan Holiday from, https://dailystoic.com/5-stoic-lessons-on-time-management/

Time management is the only thing—the only major skill critical for leading a good life… Time management is the only thing which no one ever attempted to teach me explicitly. Everything else was covered to some degree: science, religion, morality, philosophy, work ethic, hygiene, sexuality, language, geography, personal finance, and more, depending on how you want to subdivide all the stuff in my head.

Time management isn’t the most critical thing to know. Language and critical thinking are the top two, because with those two and sufficient time you can bootstrap everything else. However, things would be far better for everyone, if the third item on the list of must-have skills to be Human was a basic grasp of Time Management.

For me, I was trying to fix my sleep when it became obvious that I needed to arrange my day around sleeping. That lead immediately to an entirely new need for time management. “I need to be at work by 8,” is not Time Management (with capitals.) I then took a circuitous route discovering the needs and methods of Time Management.

But where do I wish I had actually started? That’s an excellent question. Right around 18 years old, I wish someone had handed me a copy of this tiny book: How to Live on 24 Hours a Day by A Bennet.

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Single-serving sized visits with books

Imagine you have a book problem. (Don’t judge me, please.) You’ve read countless books. You’ve given away countless books in an attempt to get the foundation of your house to stop settling to one side. You’ve gone through your to-read book shelves and culled as many as you can bear over to the normal shelves, resigned to being okay with never reading them.

…and you still have hundreds of books that you really want to read.

There are two common ways that people recommend reading books: One-at-a-time, (whether thoroughly and carefully cover-to-cover or by breezing through them more quickly,) and multiple-at-a-time. In both ways however, you intend to pick some book and to completely, (whatever that means to you,) read the book.

I want to explain a third way: Single-serving sized visits.

Begin by allocating a set amount of time. Something like 45 minutes seems to work well for me, but it can be any amount that you can do in one sitting. Extra bonus points if you can make this a recurring thing you do regularly.

You will need post-it notes and a writing instrument. You will not need a bookmark.

You’re going to pay a short visit, (say 45 minutes,) to your book collection by picking one book. Take the book (and your post-its and your writing instrument) and head for your reading spot. (You do have a designated reading spot, right? :)

Spend 45 minutes reading the book however you wish. Skim it. Read the prologue. Dig deep into chapter 4. Start reading at page 88. Turn it upside down and read it [upside down] backwards. Whatever. If you really don’t like the book, you can walk out on the date and put the book on your read pile.

As you read it insert post-its…

  1. …on the upper edge of pages whenever you find a reference to any other book. It doesn’t have to be a book you have, or have read, or even want to read. Just start leaving “top” post-its referring to books. Write the name, (and author, etc., as much or as little as you like—”I have this”, “I want this book”, whatever) on each note.
  2. …on the outer edge of pages whenever you find something interesting. A quote, an idea, killer prose, whatever. Write a note explaining the reason you like what you’re noting, maybe try to position the post-it, and include a little arrow that points to the part—Or just a blank post-it, and write directly in your book if that’s your style.

After the allotted time, your visit is over. Put the book back, either in the to-read area, or maybe in the read-these area. (If you bother to distinguish.)

Over time, you will slowly get to know more and more of your books. You won’t feel like you need to read the books—you already know you can’t possibly finish them all. At least this way you’re going to have hundreds of great little visits with these ideas you’ve collected.

Over time, you’ll find more and more top post-its as you build mental links to other books. You’ll find all those side post-its marking ideas you like. You can also pick up a book and see what you think of it— I’ve never touched this book. [It has no post-its.] I clearly love this book. [It furry with notes.] When you want to recommend a book, you are likely to have post-its that have the good bits you’ll want them to see first. The top post-its are going to suggest other books in your collection you might want to visit next.

…and on and on.

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Sharpen the saw

It’s preserving and enhancing the greatest asset you have–you. It’s renewing the four dimensions of your nature: physical, spiritual, mental, and social/emotional. … “Sharpen the saw” basically means expressing all four motivations. It means exercising all four dimensions of our nature, regularly and consistently in wise and balanced ways.

~ Stephen Covey

Synergize

What is synergy? Simply defined, it means that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. It means that the relationship which the parts have to each other is a part in and of itself. It is not only a part, but the most catalytic, the most empowering, the most unifying, and the most exciting part.

~ Stephen Covey

Depth of learning

Working deep is the answer for me. To be happy, to feel good about myself, to not feel guilty about sucking up my share of oxygen on the planet. I have to get back to it.

~ Steven Pressfield from, https://stevenpressfield.com/2010/02/writing-wednesdays-28-depth-of-work/

I too am drawn to deep work. I wonder if there’s anyone who is not?

But for me, deep work seems to not be enough. I also need deep learning. I need to spend two uninterrupted hours reading something, (perhaps S Ambrose’s Eisenhower, or T Ferris’s Tribe of Mentors,) with stops to copy out quotes, detours to lookup some detail, bookmarking of another author’s work, and so on. My mind is one large pressure-cooker, and I need to regularly vent the pressure, pop the lid and jam new stuff in before sealing it back up again on medium heat.

Roughly a quarter of U.S. adults (27%) say they haven’t read a book in whole or in part in the past year, whether in print, electronic or audio form, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted Jan. 8 to Feb. 7 [2019].

https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/09/26/who-doesnt-read-books-in-america/

Interesting article that digs into who exactly is, and isn’t, reading. Want to change your life?

Read more.

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Seek first to understand, then to be understood

You’ve spent years learning how to read and write, years learning how to speak. But what about listening? What training or education have you had that enables you to listen so that you really, deeply understand another human being from that individual’s own frame of reference?

~ Stephen Covey

Territorial, not hierarchical

It has to be territorial, not hierarchical. Meaning real success comes from the inside out, not the outside in. Real success is the process, not the product. It’s what we would do if there were nobody else in the world, yet it depends in the end on everyone else in the world. The essential expression of our art is that of a gift. We draw from that which is most ourselves–and then offer that essence to our fellow travelers on this planet, to help them, entertain them, show them they’re not alone … asking nothing in return (well, maybe enough to pay the rent, we hope.)

~ Steven Pressfield, from https://stevenpressfield.com/2009/11/writing-wednesdays-15-elements-of-success/

This is a classic that has nothing at all to do specifically with writing. If you are involved in creating anything, you will find this is a great article with a long list of elements of success. (“Elements of Success” is his title.) After you read this, you should run—not walk—and get a copy of his book War of Art; you can thank me later.

Anyway.

The paragraph above really spoke to me. The idea that “success is the process” is something I keep losing hold of. Like a swimmer who keeps forgetting that kicking effectively and continuously is a necessary part of staying afloat and getting there, I keep forgetting that the process is success and I begin to struggle.

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Think win/win

Most people tend to think in terms of dichotomies: strong or weak, hardball or softball, win or lose. But that kind of thinking is fundamentally flawed. It’s based on power and position rather than on principle. Win/Win is based on the paradigm that there is plenty for everybody, that one person’s success is not achieved at the expense or exclusion of the success of others.

~ Stephen Covey

Put first things first

The degree to which we have developed our independent will in our everyday lives is measured by our personal integrity. Integrity is, fundamentally, the value we place on ourselves. It’s our ability to take and keep commitments to ourselves, to “walk our talk.” It’s honor with self, a fundamental part of the Character Ethic, the essence of proactive growth.

~ Stephen Covey

Begin with the end in mind

Each part of your life can be examined in the context of the whole, of what really matters most to you. By keeping that end clearly in mind you can make certain that whatever you do on any particular day does not violate the criteria you have defined as supremely important, and that each day of your life contributes in a meaningful way to the vision you have to your life as a whole.

~ Stephen Covey