Confronting the limitation of time and facing hard choices

Oliver Burkeman about hobbies in his book 4,000 Weeks:

In an age of instrumentalization, the hobbyist is a subversive: he insists that some things are worth doing for themselves alone, despite offering no payoffs in terms of productivity or profit.

OK, I’m sorry for mentioning such a sensible topic as spare time. Forget about hobbies. How about having enough time for the things you have or want to do every day?

Also from 4,000 Weeks:

It can’t be the case that you must do more than you can do. That notion doesn’t make any sense: if you truly don’t have time for everything you want to do, or feel you ought to do, or that others are badgering you to do, then, well, you don’t have time—no matter how grave the consequences of failing to do it all might prove to be. So, technically, it’s irrational to feel troubled by an overwhelming to-do list. You’ll do what you can, you won’t do what you can’t, and the tyrannical inner voice insisting that you must do everything is simply mistaken.

We rarely stop to consider things so rationally, though, because that would mean confronting the painful truth of our limitations. We would be forced to acknowledge that there are hard choices to be made: which balls to let drop, which people to disappoint, which cherished ambitions to abandon, which roles to fail at.

Maybe you can’t keep your current job while also seeing enough of your children; maybe making sufficient time in the week for your creative calling means you’ll never have an especially tidy home, or get quite as much exercise as you should, and so on. Instead, in an attempt to avoid these unpleasant truths, we deploy the strategy that dominates most conventional advice on how to deal with busyness: we tell ourselves we’ll just have to find a way to do more—to try to address our busyness, you could say, by making ourselves busier still.

What is really important for you? As Burkeman says, there are hard choices to be made.

Resist the urge to be on top of everything. Accept the discomfort of unimportant things getting not done, and focus instead on what’s truly important.

Photo by Aron Visuals on Unsplash
time management focus prioritization 4,000 Weeks Oliver Burkeman

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