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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

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Bring Them Up

What We Need to Work On

I heard George Grant give a workshop talk at the 2017 ACCS National Conference called “Tools for the Toolbox.” I could not find a link to it anywhere, BUT he reworked/focused his material and gave it as a plenary talk at the 2018 conference under the title “Lifelong Learning: Following in the Footsteps of Isaac Watts.”

Grant works through 10 principles in Watts’ book, On the Improvement of the Mind (which according to Grant is a follow-up to Watts’ Logic textbook, ha).

It’s a talk about learning as repentance, about remembering that we do not remember as we should, that we have not read or learned all we need to, and that we should identify areas where we’re ignorant/weak, then set goals and a schedule, and get to work growing and getting stronger.

Grant nails this flush between the 19:30 and 20:30 minute marks. He does not elaborate on it as much as I thought he did in the workshop talk, but, whatever. Rather than (only/primarily?) focus on maximizing our strengths, as most of the current productivity content counsels, it’s “healthy to take a broad estimate of everything we’re not, everything that we can’t, everything that we won’t.” That way we know what we need to work on.

This strategy is good for making progress as disciples, and it is also appropriate for the education/enculturation of every student. Teachers aren’t good teachers because they can see what a student is already good at, teachers are also trying to turn a student’s “can’t”s into “can”s. That teachers should be motivated examples of this, not just motivated enforcers of it, seems more than appropriate.

Related, here’s a great story (that my swim-loving wife shared with me) about a young man who keeps choosing to jump into the deep end to get better. “If I couldn’t handle not being good at something, then how could I consider myself a successful person?”

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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
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

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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

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The End of Many Books

Atomic Habits

by James Clear

This book was even better than I hoped. Plus, James Clear is from Ohio, and played baseball. Boom. 

But also the content about starting good habits and stopping less good ones is clear and promotes action and iteration (without causing guilt to metastasize). If you’ve read The Slight Edge, which I highly recommend as well, then the idea of small but consistent changes will resonate. 

Clear also doesn’t let the reader off the hook. We always do what we most want to do, and what we want to do comes from our own hearts and our identity, for which we are responsible. Any long term changes we make will necessarily require identity change. He also talks about personal limits very fruitfully, reminding us that we can’t be just whatever we wish we could be, but we can look for areas and ways to maximize who we are as God made us (emphasis mine). 

Should you read this? Yes, you should start today.

5 of 5 stars

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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

It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work

by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson

I liked 37signals from the start. I’ve used Backpack and Highrise and Basecamp, now their primary product and the company’s name. This book had some quite reasonable recommendations for not letting work become god (my words, not theirs). For more, see my wife’s helpful review.

3 of 5 stars

Categories
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