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

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.)