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Oliver Burkeman: “You can’t master time… but try the Pomodoro technique.”

The core trouble in our modern relationship with time, I think – made worse by most productivity advice – is that we’ve come to see it as something we need to try to master or conquer. First, we think of time as a separate “thing” (unlike, say, medieval peasants, who’d have had no such abstract notion). Then, we feel we’ve got to make the most of it, or squeeze the most work from it, or use it to get on top of things, or do enough with it to feel a sense of self-worth. And our economic system makes things worse, making many feel as though they need to achieve this mastery simply to stay afloat.

Sadly, though, no finite human being has ever won a fight against time. We just get the limited time we get, and the limited control over it that we get. And if you spend your life fighting the truth of this situation, all that happens is that you feel more rushed and overwhelmed and impatient – until one day time decisively wins the fight, as it was always destined to do. (In other words: you die.)

To make the same point a different way: you’re not actually separate from time to begin with. You just are the sum of the moments of your days. So trying to gain a sense of control over them is like Baron Munchausen, pulling himself out of a swamp by his own hair. 

Oliver Burkeman – You don’t need to fight time

Oliver Burkeman has a gift for writing posts just the right length with just the right amount of doom and hilariousness (which is perhaps another way of saying, Truth). Recommended.

1 thought on “Oliver Burkeman: “You can’t master time… but try the Pomodoro technique.””

  1. Stu –

    Take a look at Tony Hiss’ eccentric, brilliant, off-kilter book In Motion, about travelling, the time we spend doing it, and what we do with our time. Relevant in 2010 when published, and still today.

I'd love to hear your thoughts and recommended resources...