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The End of Many Books

Indistractable

by Nir Eyal

“Being indistractable means striving to do what you say you will do.” That’s a good, stipulative definition.

What’s good about this book is that it urges personal responsibility rather than whining. Eyal reminds the reader that most of our distractions are chosen by us as a way to “relieve discomfort.” That may hurt, but it helps to get to the root. Eyal also works from a position of opportunity instead of fear. Email, tech, the Internet, etc., are tools, and don’t need to be treated as monsters. As he says, “Techno-panics are nothing new,” and I’m thankful he is not one of them.

Much of the book follows more expected productivity presentation, and I’d recommend Atomic Habits instead.

3 of 5 stars

Categories
The End of Many Books

The ONE Thing

by Garry Keller with Jay Papasan

A friend recommended this to me and, even though I’ve probably read too many books about productivity and time management and such, it still had some good reminders.

Good reminders included: Don’t play the part of victim, take responsibility and make your own choices. Pay attention to physical energy as a resource, and employ it at the right time. Schedule appointments to do the important work; block time on the calendar for the priority. Consider leverage, how smaller dominos/decisions can knock down larger ones if in the right sequence and gaining speed.

I would not recommend this book for a young person who probably can’t, maybe even shouldn’t, know what they are good for yet. “Sunk cost” bias is real, and wrong. A lot can be learned from trying different things, even failing at things, if the goal is maturity rather than speed.

Related, mastery and deliberate practice, which Keller promotes, do not relate equally in every area. This is an important distinction made in Range that really should be considered. Speaking of Range, it would be a much better book for young people, and the old(er) people who feel like they’re too late (for whatever).

All that said, the work of evaluating the ONE question is better than just drifting into regret. “What’s the ONE Thing I can do / such that by doing it / everything else will be easier or unnecessary?”

3 of 5 stars

Categories
The End of Many Books

Four Thousand Weeks

We will not live forever in the flesh. We cannot do all the things, visit all the places, love all the people, fix all the crises. There are limits. We can either accept the limits and give thanks for them and work within them as we’re able, or we can attempt to ignore them or deny them or distract ourselves from the painful/humbling parts of the limits.

This book was a good read, even though I do not share some underlying worldview with the author. He uses more Zen and Hindu and humanist resources, though Ecclesiastes did get one shout out. He argues that his version of “and then you die” allows for true freedom. But his version has nothing and no one after the final breath. If you take that all the way down, there is not a consistent reason to work, and certainly no reason for joyful toil. But if, as Christians can, we take our limited time all the way up to God and His purposes, we shouldn’t bury our talents no matter how long it is until the Master returns. We will give an account to Him, and we will be resurrected to live with Him forever.

But amidst this book’s shilling for climate change and criticisms of capitalism, he really does let us out into the field to chew the cud on the fact that we can’t do it all, and a wise person stops trying. He urges a better perspective over better life-hacks.

I’m aware of no other time management technique that’s half as effective as just facing the way things truly are. (Loc. 369)

He also has some helpful (if inconsistent with his own worldview) observations on how so much productivity advice is about setting up “bulwarks against the risk that other people might exert too much influence over how your time gets used” (Loc. 2339). When, turns out, sharing time with other people is exactly what makes our time meaningful. The book doesn’t quote Solomon on this, but wisdom avoids isolation:

Again, I saw vanity under the sun: one person who has no other, either son or brother, yet there is no end to all his toil, and his eyes are never satisfied with riches, so that he never asks, “For whom am I toiling and depriving myself of pleasure?” This also is vanity and an unhappy business. (Ecclesiastes 4:7–8)

4 of 5 stars

(See this previous post as well.)

Categories
Enjoying the Process

And Then You Die

I started reading a book called Four Thousand Weeks yesterday. I am the sort of sucker who bought it shortly after seeing someone else mention it, because I am the sort of sucker who regularly (and wrongly) thinks that I could get more D.U.N. if I just had a more optimized system, the right app stack, a cleverer acronym, or was just a different person altogether, ha!

Anyway, I’m still in the introduction, and I don’t know where the book will end up; is it even possible to agree with anyone completely? But Burkeman has already encouraged me with this:

The world is bursting with wonder, and yet it’s the rare productivity guru who seems to have considered the possibility that the ultimate point of all our frenetic doing might be to experience more of that wonder.

—Burkeman, Four Thousand Weeks, Location 55, emphasis added

It reminds me of this inspired life-buoy from Solomon:

There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God.

—Ecclesiastes 2:24

It’s enjoying the process. It’s seeing the wonder of God’s many gifts. And it’s what the “man of God” called wisdom:

So teach us to number our days
that we may get a heart of wisdom.

—Psalm 90:12

As the title of Burkeman’s book signals, a life of 80 years (a number Moses figured for those with strength, Psalm 90:10) is about four thousand weeks. Not only is that calculation not morbid, it’s an opportunity for both mighty work and whacking gratitude (Ecclesiastes 9:10).

Categories
The End of Many Books

Die Empty

Reminders don’t always need to be profound, just timely. This is another book in the kick-in-the-pants genre, making a case that it’s better to spend ourselves for what we think is important than to always be holding back/waiting/fearing. “Make progress on building a body of work” and “make an effort to create value where it didn’t previously exist.” Though the book is not Christian, a Christian could see some of the advice as a partial application of passages such as Psalm 90:12 and Ephesians 5:15-16.

3 of 5 stars

Categories
The End of Many Books

How to Take Smart Notes

Yes, this is a book about note-taking. I read it last year during the global lockdown, because I was interested, and because it was about something other than a virus. Mentions of it swelled among the productivity bloggers for a while, and it seemed as if it might be profitable for efficient capturing and curating. Even more, it claims to offer a way to think better, especially for sake of making connections between ideas.

The book examines the workflow of Niklas Luhmann who wrote hundreds of articles, and considered his copious output as a result of his system of input.

I haven’t implemented all of the workflow, but I keep thinking about ways to make progress in organizing and writing. My reading of the book also had a serendipitous connection with the beta of an app called Roam Research. It is perhaps the ideal digital tool for the Smart Notes approach, especially as it focuses on a network rather than hierarchy of notes, as well as on blocks rather than pages or documents. Roam makes it easy for the same block to be referenced in multiple places rather than tucked away in only one place.

If you are still reading this review, you are probably the type of person who would be interested in the book as well as in Roam. 🙂

4 of 5 stars

Categories
The End of Many Books

Everything in Its Place

I’ve read a variety of productivity and organization and personal growth books over the years. I almost always appreciate them, not because each one has new information, but because fresh reminders are good. The unique angle of this book is related to chefs and kitchens and cooking, but I buy that there’s overlapping application outside of the kitchen. I’ll be thinking about mise-en-place and working clean for a while.

4 of 5 stars

Categories
The End of Many Books

Traction

by Gino Wickman

I am less interested in the EOS ®, the Entrepreneurial Operating System, as a “complete system.” That said, as someone involved in a few different groups trying to DO STUFF, I appreciated some of the questions that Wickman urges people to SOLVE.

3 of 5 stars

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The End of Many Books

Finish: Give Yourself the Gift of Done

by Jon Acuff

I enjoy Acuff’s humor (the snark and the 80’s references), and I appreciated his numerous punches at perfectionism especially as it hinders productivity, or at least makes getting things done no fun.

3 of 5 stars

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Lord's Day Liturgy

No Lifehacks for Obedience

I have read a variety of books about productivity and getting things done and how to figure out what’s best next. I kind of like the genre. I have tried a lot of task apps, todo systems, and techniques for processing information. These have a place. We are created for good works, and being able to plan and organize and aim our good works is a good thing.

But. There is often a but. But, efficiency and effectiveness can become idols. Not only can they become false gods, they are not gentle gods, they are cutthroat. There is always someone serving those gods better than you who get greater rewards, and there are always items left on the list every day that didn’t get done to burden your guilt. Most of the books and articles and lifehacks offer an answer. You must change something in your circumstances in order to do better.

The assumption is that the problem with your productive service is your environment. What you need is a list organized like this. What you need is a clean desk like this. What you need is a place to store all your papers, digital or analog, like this. What you need is to carve out blocks of uninterrupted quiet time like this.

One danger of these sorts of “this-es” is that they tempt us to see our neighbor (family member, friend, co-worker) as an inconvenience, a hindrance to “our” work. But it is not blessed to blame. It is not blessed to lust for quiet, and get angry, when God clearly isn’t giving it to you. Pastors tell other pastors the story of Jonathan Edwards who regularly spent thirteen hours a day by himself in his study. While I’m thankful for some of his fruit, he left his wife Sarah to run the house. That is not more spiritual, it’s more selfish.

Let us be zealous for good works as Paul told Titus to tell his people. Go ahead and make a list, and get an app if you need to. Let us redeem the time because the days are evil. And let us never think that if we could just control our environments then we could obey God. Obey Him always and in everything.