Best Business Book 2021: Pay Attention

Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for People
By Oliver Berkman (Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 2021)

For a certain type of person, just read the title of Oliver Berkman’s book Four thousand weeks Anxiety-producing. Four thousand weeks, after all, is the time most of us have on earth – if we are lucky. And, as Berkman admits, for most of us, considering how much we want to do, and want to see, and want to be, it seems like a cruelly short time. “We’ve been given the mental capacity to make almost infinitely ambitious plans, yet we have virtually no time to put them into action,” he wrote.

The natural response is to promise not to waste a single moment, to try to do everything faster and more efficiently. But in this book, the British journalist Berkman says the opposite. This is a book that is about dispelling the illusion that time is something you can successfully manage. Trying to survive as efficiently as possible, Berkman argues, is both futile and self-defeating. There is always more to do, always to complete another small task, and, conversely, the better we get to complete tasks, the faster new ones will emerge. Being obsessed with time management means trying to make more time for yourself and inevitably fail. This means always living in the future — the future when all to-do items are checked — and as a result, never live in the present. Instead of helping us clean the decks for really important things, trying to stay on top of everything means that most of our time is spent on less important things.

Although Four thousand weeks Providing lots of lessons about work, it is also the best book of the year on consumer behavior. This is not only because it has a lot to say about how the economy of attention distorts our experience, but also because it is a book about the use of the deep sense, how we To spend Our time. As Berkman writes in one of the most haunting sentences in the book, “When you pay attention to something you don’t particularly value, it’s no exaggeration to say that you are paying with your life.”

The challenge, of course, is that we live in a culture, and an economy that is virtually designed to focus on things we don’t particularly value. In the workplace, technologies designed to enable us to be more efficient and productive, often enabling quick and easy communication, in fact, make it difficult to do what author Cal Newport calls “deep work.” There is always something new that demands our attention, which forces us to toggle between tasks (or, worse, try to do different things at the same time).

The same is true, strangely, about our “leisure” time, which for many of us no longer feels leisurely. Time is a constant presence online, and the logic of efficiency — making our time as much as possible — is extensive. When you read a book on a Kindle, it does not tell you how many pages you have left, but how much longer it will take to read them. When you finish a show or movie on Netflix, you are not even allowed to watch the credits in peace – Netflix immediately queues up what you think you should watch next. In this world, any unique content is just grit for the match, and the goal is to run the match as fast as possible (think of all the people who listen to podcasts at 1.5 times the normal speed), because there is always something. Otherwise for you to see or hear.

So why do so many of us behave like we enjoy hamster stuff on a wheel? As Berkman puts it, some of it works the way social media and entertainment companies use persuasive designs to keep us hooked. But the deeper problem, he argues, is that we are caught up in the illusion of endless possibilities and in the illusion that it can never be missed. We act as if we have the earth all the time, so that we can see and do whatever we want. And as a result, we are constantly afraid of getting lost.

The reality is, of course, that there is not enough time to look at everything, to read everything, to do everything. The task, as it were, is to recognize it and make peace with it. “Once you really realize that you’re guaranteed to miss almost every experience in the world,” Berkman writes, “a lot of what you haven’t experienced yet stops feeling like a problem.” Leaving what you didn’t do, but imagine what you can do, allows you to focus more intensely on the things you are doing. As the Buddhist scholar Geshe Shaopa told his students hundreds of years ago, “do not rule over the imaginary realm of endless possibilities.”

Burkeman doesn’t pretend it’s easy. He himself was once engrossed in improving skills and he clearly still felt the pull of that emotion. Leaving the fantasy that you can be everything means giving up the possibilities, accepting the limits. (The real challenge, as Berkman puts it, is “how to make the most intelligent decision about what not to do.”) Get out Spend your time, and then follow. It can be nerve-wracking, which is one of the reasons why even when we enjoy doing something we still run away so easily on Twitter and Facebook and YouTube. Yes, those sites are trying their best to confuse us But, Berkman writes cautiously, “We voluntarily succumb to confusion. Some of us want to be scattered … we are most careful not to spend our lives on what we thought was right. “

Once you truly understand that you will miss almost every experience in the world, the fact that there are many that you have not yet experienced makes it stop feeling like a problem.

So how can you avoid this? Berkman offers practical tips: Spend the first hour of each day on the most important thing to you, do no more than three things at once and be careful to avoid the things you don’t care about, but avoid the things. The ones that you care about, since they are the easiest thing to waste time. But the real message of the book is deeper: recognize your limitations in both how much you can do and how long it will take, and build what Berkman calls active, muscular patience. In German, the word Eisenhower Describes, in Berkman’s words, “the underlying time of a process.” Whatever you want to do, Berkman suggests, you should surrender to him Eisenhower Instead of trying to make things worse. (Of course, if you explain that a project is delayed, your boss may not respond well. Eisenhower Required.)

Four thousand weeks Time or even Twitter has not rebuilt my relationship. But it has helped me to recognize the occasions when worrying about doing the next thing distracts me from what I’m actually doing, and it forces me to think more deeply about giving them the time they care about and the value the world has to me. Day. Reading Berkman’s book, I remembered a quote from Kafka: “You don’t have to leave home. Sit at your table and listen. Don’t listen, just wait. Don’t even wait, stay quite calm and secluded. The world will surrender to you freely and unmasked, there is no alternative, it will roll at your feet in ecstasy. ”

Honorable mention:

Want: The power of imitative will in daily life
By Luke Burgess (St. Martin’s Press, 2021)

Of Luke Burgess Wanting Our desires have a compelling and insightful way of being shaped by the desires of others. We don’t just imitate other people, Burgess argues; We want what they want. Burgess explains that this persuasion shapes the imitation of what we buy, where we go, and even which partners we end up with, and tries to show us how to get rid of the gravitational pull of the people around us and how to create our own. . Will

Arrived today: From the factory to the front door — everything has changed about why, how and what we bought
By Christopher Mimes (Harper Business, 2021)

Christopher Mimes Coming today For the most part, a book about the supply chain and logistics. But it is also a book about consumers, and how their unsatisfactory demand for things to become faster and cheaper has reshaped the lives of transportation systems, factories and workers. It’s a nice look at what it takes to meet our needs for immediate convenience, and it’s a book that should make consumers think about what they mean by the way they use it.

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