I’ve been thinking about time management lately because I finally got around to reading Getting Things Done by David Allen. I’d previously avoided this book because it’s cover is so ugly and because I doubted that it could teach me much, the whole thing being if not obvious at least obvious to me: organise your stuff into meaningful projects and actionable tasks. Well duh.
(I was right to have these reservations, though I found a nugget of value in the word “trusted” when Mr Allan describes a “trusted system”. This is key. You can only stop your mind working overtime, replaying and rehearsing unnecessarily, when you trust the system you’ve set up for recording and managing your ideas. Once you trust your little system to keep track of the essentials, you can flop back into lovely, proper life with all its contingency and serendipity and general fertile mess.)
I read the book because a friend thrust his old copy into my hand but also because time management is useful to understand if you want to survive through self-employment while also succeeding as a bohemian layabout. You need to use time wisely if you want to “waste” time thoroughly.
Anyway, timely Momus posts this little thing today, summing up some my own issues with productivity and time management versus life.
Because my time is valuable, I waste it. Because I waste my time I make good use of it.
A paradoxical maxim that occurred to me as I was setting out on a cycling trip, waiting for a ferry. When you’re setting out aimlessly on a trip, you have to throw away all ideas about the productive management of time. The valuable things (a photo you spot, a new shop you discover) will be contingent and haphazard. Now, I’m as Calvinist about the productive use of time as any self-employed person has to be. But I also know that, trying to be productive, one ends up in cramped habit routines that dull the sense of being alive. To save time, to master time, is to waste it. Trying to cram value into every minute ends up making my time worthless. That’s why I hate productivity and calendar apps. I need to “waste” time — by, for instance, setting out on a pointless, objectless trip — to really sense my own aliveness. I need to surrender to contingency to reach what is essential.