Four Thousand Weeks
Four Thousand Weeks

Four Thousand Weeks

The world is bursting with wonder, and yet it’s the rare productivity guru who seems to have considered the possibility that the ultimate point of all our frenetic doing might be to experience (Location 55)

Tags: orange

more of that wonder. (Location 56)

Tags: orange

Take the daily battle against online distraction, and the alarming sense that our attention spans have shriveled to such a degree that even those of us who were bookworms as children now struggle to make it through a paragraph without experiencing the urge to reach for our phones. (Location 73)

Tags: orange

A few years ago, drowning in email, I successfully implemented the system known as Inbox Zero, but I soon discovered that when you get tremendously efficient at answering email, all that happens is that you get much more email. (Location 119)

Tags: orange

But I failed to appreciate Allen’s deeper implication—that there’ll always be too much to do—and instead set about attempting to get an impossible amount done. (Location 124)

Tags: orange

Moreover, the busyness of the better-off is contagious, because one extremely effective way to make more money, for those at the top of the tree, is to cut costs and make efficiency (Location 135)

Tags: orange

improvements in their companies and industries. That means greater insecurity for those lower down, who are then obliged to work harder just to get by. (Location 136)

Tags: orange

We sense that there are important and fulfilling ways we could be spending our time, even if we can’t say exactly what they are—yet we systematically spend our days doing other things instead. (Location 140)

Tags: orange

Our days are spent trying to “get through” tasks, in order to get them “out of the way,” with the result that we live mentally in the future, waiting for when we’ll finally get around to what really matters—and worrying, in the meantime, that we don’t measure up, that we might lack the drive or stamina to keep pace with the speed at which life now seems to move. (Location 152)

Tags: orange

Our struggle to stay on top of everything may serve someone’s interests; working longer hours—and using any extra income to buy more consumer goods—turns us into better cogs in the economic machine. (Location 157)

Tags: orange

Productivity is a trap. Becoming more efficient just makes you more rushed, and trying to clear the decks simply makes them fill up again faster. (Location 163)

Tags: orange

The real problem isn’t our limited time. The real problem—or so I hope to convince you—is that we’ve unwittingly inherited, and feel pressured to live by, a troublesome set of ideas about how to use our limited time, all of which are pretty much guaranteed to make things worse. (Location 177)

Tags: orange

And though death was a constant presence, with lives cut short far more frequently than they are today, time wouldn’t have felt in limited supply. You wouldn’t have felt any pressure to find ways to “save” it. (Location 193)

Tags: orange

There was no need to think of time as something abstract and separate from life: you milked the cows when they needed milking and harvested the crops when it was harvesttime, and anybody who tried to impose an external schedule on any of that—for example, by doing a month’s milking in a single day to get it out of the way, or by trying to make the harvest come sooner—would rightly have been considered a lunatic. (Location 214)

Tags: orange

Historians call this way of living “task orientation,” because the rhythms of life emerge organically from the tasks themselves, rather than from being lined up against an abstract timeline, the approach that has become second nature for us today. (It’s tempting to think of medieval life as moving slowly, but it’s more accurate to say that the concept of life “moving slowly” would have struck most people as meaningless. (Location 219)

Tags: orange

We can assert all this with some confidence because we still occasionally encounter islands of deep time today—in those moments when, to quote the writer Gary Eberle, we slip “into a realm where there is enough of everything, where we are not trying to fill a void in ourselves or the world.” (Location 231)

Tags: orange

As soon as you want to coordinate the actions of more than a handful of people, you need a reliable, agreed-upon method of measuring time. This is widely held to be how the first mechanical clocks came to be invented, by medieval monks, who had to begin their morning prayers while it was still dark, and needed some way of ensuring that the whole monastery woke up at the required point. (Location 248)

Tags: orange

From thinking about time in the abstract, it’s natural to start treating it as a resource, something to be bought and sold and used as efficiently as possible, like coal or iron or any other raw material. (Location 258)

Tags: orange

The fundamental problem is that this attitude toward time sets up a rigged game in which it’s impossible ever to feel as though you’re doing well enough. (Location 282)

Tags: orange

Instead of simply living our lives as they unfold in time—instead of just being time, you might say—it becomes difficult not to value each moment primarily according to its usefulness for some future goal, or for some future oasis of relaxation you hope to reach once your tasks are finally “out of the way.” (Location 283)

Tags: orange

but impossible to experience “deep time,” that sense of timeless time which depends on forgetting the abstract yardstick and plunging back into the vividness of reality instead. (Location 290)

Tags: orange

“Eternity ceased gradually to serve as the measure and focus of human actions.” In its place came the dictatorship of the clock, the schedule, and the Google Calendar alert; Marilynne Robinson’s “joyless urgency” and the constant feeling that you ought to be getting more done. (Location 292)

Tags: orange

And as long as I was always just on the cusp of mastering my time, I could avoid the thought that what life was really demanding from me might involve surrendering the craving for mastery and diving into the unknown instead. (Location 324)

Tags: orange

The universal truth behind my specific issues is that most of us invest a lot of energy, one way or another, in trying to avoid fully experiencing the reality in which we find ourselves. (Location 331)

Tags: orange

Our troubled relationship with time arises largely from this same effort to avoid the painful constraints of reality. (Location 342)

Tags: orange

limit-embracing attitude to time means organizing your days with the understanding that you definitely won’t have time for everything you want to do, or that other people want you to do—and so, at the very least, you can stop beating yourself up for failing. (Location 372)

Tags: orange

There is an alternative: the unfashionable but powerful notion of letting time use you, approaching life not as an opportunity to implement your predetermined plans for success but as a matter of responding to the needs of your place and your moment in history. (Location 390)

Tags: orange

This notion that fulfillment might lie in embracing, rather than denying, our temporal limitations wouldn’t have surprised the philosophers of ancient Greece and Rome. (Location 402)

Tags: orange

Instead, in an attempt to avoid these unpleasant truths, we deploy the strategy that dominates most conventional advice on how to deal with busyness: (Location 440)

Tags: orange

And when people start believing in progress—in the idea that history is headed toward an ever more perfect future— (Location 526)

Tags: orange

This helps explain why stuffing your life with pleasurable activities so often proves less satisfying than you’d expect. It’s an attempt to devour the experiences the world has to offer, to feel like you’ve truly lived—but the world has an effectively infinite number of experiences to offer, so getting a handful of them under your belt brings you no closer to a sense of having feasted on life’s possibilities. (Location 539)

Tags: orange

this all much more agonizing, because it promises to help you make better use of your time, while simultaneously exposing you to vastly more potential uses for your time— (Location 545)

Tags: orange

The technologies we use to try to “get on top of everything” always fail us, in the end, because they increase the size of the “everything” of which we’re trying to get on top. (Location 551)

Tags: orange

the more firmly you believe it ought to be possible to find time for everything, the less pressure you’ll feel to ask whether any given activity is the best use for a portion of your time. (Location 560)

Tags: orange

since it’s often the unsmoothed textures of life that make it livable, helping nurture the relationships that are crucial for mental and physical health, and for the resilience of our communities. (Location 606)

Tags: orange

The venture capitalist and Reddit cofounder Alexis Ohanian has observed that we often “don’t even realize something is broken until someone else shows us a better way.” (Location 617)

Tags: orange

Resisting all this as an individual, or as a family, takes fortitude, because the smoother life gets, the more perverse you’ll seem if you insist on maintaining the rough edges by choosing the inconvenient way of doing things. (Location 630)

Tags: orange

Convenience culture seduces us into imagining that we might find room for everything important by eliminating only life’s tedious tasks. But it’s a lie. You have to choose a few things, sacrifice everything else, and deal with the inevitable sense of loss that results. (Location 651)

Tags: orange

Everyday language reflects our everyday ways of seeing. But Heidegger wants to slide his fingernails under the most basic elements of existence—the things we barely notice because (Location 669)

Tags: orange

Most philosophers and scientists spend their careers pondering the way things are: what sorts of things exist, where they come from, how they relate to each other, and so (Location 674)

Tags: orange

His answer is that our being is totally, utterly bound up with our finite time. So bound up, in fact, that the two are synonymous: to be, for a human, is above all to exist temporally, in the stretch between birth and death, certain that the end will come, yet unable to know when. (Location 682)

Tags: orange

I’m being borne forward on the river of time, with no possibility of stepping out of the flow, onward toward my inevitable death—which, to make matters even more ticklish, could arrive at any moment. In this (Location 692)

Tags: orange

every choice requires myriad sacrifices, and that time is always already running out—indeed, that it may run out today, tomorrow, or next month. (Location 705)

Tags: orange

On the contrary, it’s the only way for a finite human being to live fully, to relate to other people as full-fledged humans, and to experience the world as it truly is. (Location 711)

Tags: orange

Rather than taking ownership of our lives, we seek out distractions, or lose ourselves in busyness and the daily grind, so as to try to forget our real predicament. (Location 713)

Tags: orange

If Hägglund were guaranteed an infinity of these summer vacations, there’d be nothing much to value about any one of them; it’s only the guarantee that he definitely won’t have an infinity of them that makes them worth valuing. (Location 734)

Tags: orange

It is by consciously confronting the certainty of death, and what follows from the certainty of death, that we finally become truly present for our lives. (Location 743)

Tags: orange

But such experiences, however wholly unwelcome, often appear to leave those who undergo them in a new and more honest relationship with time. (Location 760)

Tags: orange

What I can confirm, though, is that if you can adopt the outlook we’re exploring here even just a little—if you can hold your attention, however briefly or occasionally, on the sheer astonishingness of being, and on what a small amount of that being you get—you may experience a palpable shift in how it feels to be here, right now, alive in the flow of time. (Location 768)

Tags: orange

Surely only somebody who’d failed to notice how remarkable it is that anything is, in the first place, would take their own being as such (Location 777)

Tags: orange

So maybe it’s not that you’ve been cheated out of an unlimited supply of time; maybe it’s almost incomprehensibly miraculous to have been granted any time at all. (Location 779)

Tags: orange

Fairly often, they still do; but the effect was worst at the height of my productivity geekhood, because when you’re trying to Master Your Time, (Location 793)

Tags: orange

But when you turn your attention instead to the fact that you’re in a position to have an irritating experience in the first place, matters are liable to look very different indeed. (Location 796)

Tags: orange

he would find himself stuck in traffic, not clenching his fists in agitation, as per usual, but wondering: “What would David have given to be caught in this traffic jam?” (Location 799)

Tags: orange

It’s a positive commitment to spend a given portion of time doing this instead of that—actually, instead of an infinite number of other “thats”—because this, you’ve decided, is what counts the most right now. (Location 814)

Tags: orange

matters most. The real measure of any time (Location 837)

Tags: orange

management technique is whether or not it helps you neglect the right things. (Location 837)

Tags: orange

Principle number one is to pay yourself first when it comes to time. (Location 855)

Tags: orange

If you take a portion of your paycheck the day you receive it and squirrel it away into savings or investments, or use it for paying off debts, you’ll probably never feel the absence of that cash; (Location 857)

Tags: orange

You get to preserve your sense of being in control of things, but at the cost of never finishing anything important. (Location 882)

Tags: orange

Once you’ve selected those tasks, all other incoming demands on your time must wait until one of the three items has been completed, thereby freeing up a slot. (Location 886)

Tags: orange

The third principle is to resist the allure of middling priorities. There is a story attributed to Warren Buffett—although probably only in the apocryphal way in which wise insights get attributed to Albert Einstein or the Buddha, (Location 900)

Tags: orange

he tells the man to make a list of the top twenty-five things he wants out of life and then to arrange them in order, from the most important to the least. The top five, Buffett says, should be those around which he organizes his time. (Location 903)

Tags: orange

actively avoid at all costs—because they’re the ambitions insufficiently important to him to form the core of his life yet seductive enough to distract him from the ones that matter most. (Location 907)

Tags: orange

learn how to start saying no to things you do want to do, with the recognition that you have only one life.” (Location 913)

Tags: orange

where a similar refusal to face the truth about finitude can keep people mired in a miserably tentative mode of existence for years on end. (Location 943)

Tags: orange

was presumably with some relief that Bauer married a banker, had two children, and moved to the United States, (Location 957)

Tags: orange

Like the rest of us, Kafka railed at reality’s constraints. He was indecisive in love, and in much else, because he yearned to live more than one life: (Location 962)

Tags: orange

On more than one occasion, in letters to Bauer, he characterized this struggle as a matter of “two selves” wrestling with each other inside him—one in love with her but the other so consumed by literature that “the death of his dearest friend would seem to be no more than a hindrance” to his work. (Location 965)

Tags: orange

committing ourselves to a single path, Bergson wrote, because “the future, which we dispose of to our liking, appears to us at the same time under a multitude of forms, equally attractive and equally possible.” (Location 979)

Tags: orange

“The idea of the future, pregnant with an infinity of possibilities, is thus more fruitful than the future itself,” Bergson wrote, “and this is why we find more charm in hope than in possession, in dreams than in reality.” (Location 985)

Tags: orange

concerns “settling”—the ubiquitous modern fear that you might find yourself committing to a romantic partner who falls short of your ideal, or who’s unworthy of your excellent personality. (Location 993)

Tags: orange

But the received wisdom is wrong. You should definitely settle. (Location 996)

Tags: orange

contrast a life of settling with a life of what he labels “striving,” or living life to the fullest. But this is a mistake, too, and not just because settling is unavoidable but also because living life to the fullest requires settling. (Location 1003)

Tags: orange

Or, alternatively, in a pattern that every experienced psychotherapist has encountered a hundred times, we do commit—but then, after three or four years, start thinking about breaking things off, convinced that our partner’s psychological issues are making things impossible, or that we’re not as compatible as we’d believed. (Location 1013)

Tags: orange

And not only should you settle; ideally, you should settle in a way that makes it harder to back out, such as moving in together, or getting married, or having a child. (Location 1027)

Tags: orange

that also promises to make the good times more fulfilling, too—because having committed themselves to one finite course of action, (Location 1040)

Tags: orange

The watermelon tale is a reminder, moreover, that these days distraction has become all but synonymous with digital distraction: (Location 1066)

Tags: orange

At the end of your life, looking back, whatever compelled your attention from moment to moment is simply what your life will have been. (Location 1078)

Tags: orange

This was why Seneca, in On the Shortness of Life, came down so hard on his fellow Romans for pursuing political careers they didn’t really care about, holding elaborate banquets they didn’t especially enjoy, or just “baking their bodies in the sun”: they didn’t seem to realize that in succumbing to such diversions, they were squandering the very stuff of existence. (Location 1084)

Tags: orange

It’s that the distracted person isn’t really choosing at all. Their attention has been commandeered by forces that don’t have their highest interests at heart. (Location 1088)

Tags: orange

All of which helps clarify what’s so alarming about the contemporary online “attention economy,” of which we’ve heard so much in recent years: (Location 1116)

Tags: orange

What’s far less widely appreciated than all that, though, is how deep the distraction goes, and how radically it undermines our efforts to spend our finite time as we’d like. (Location 1136)

Tags: orange

Even at the height of my dependency (I’m now in recovery), I rarely spent more than two hours a day glued to the screen. (Location 1149)

Tags: orange

Something in us wants to be distracted, whether by our digital devices or anything else—to not spend our lives on what we thought we cared about the most. (Location 1184)

Tags: orange

In fact, the more he concentrated on the sensations of intense cold, giving his attention over to them as completely as he could, the less agonizing he found them—whereas once his “attention wandered, the suffering became unbearable.” (Location 1208)

Tags: orange

Whereas staying focused on the present had made the agonies of the ice-water ritual more tolerable, it made less unpleasant undertakings—daily chores that might previously have been a source not of agony but of boredom or annoyance—positively engrossing. (Location 1216)

Tags: orange

This also makes it easier to see why the strategies generally recommended for defeating distraction—digital detoxes, personal rules about when you’ll allow yourself to check your inbox, and so forth—rarely work, or at least not for long. (Location 1262)

Tags: orange

The most effective way to sap distraction of its power is just to stop expecting things to be otherwise—to accept that this unpleasantness is simply what it feels like for finite humans to commit ourselves to the kinds of demanding and valuable tasks that force us to confront our limited control over how our lives unfold. (Location 1279)

Tags: orange

The obsessive planner, essentially, is demanding certain reassurances from the future—but the future isn’t the sort of thing that can ever provide the reassurance he craves, for the obvious reason that it’s still in the future. After all, you can never be absolutely certain that something won’t make you late for the airport, no matter how many spare hours you build in. (Location 1330)

Likewise, and despite everything I’ve been saying, nobody ever really gets four thousand weeks in which to live—not only because you might end up with fewer than that, but because in reality you never even get a single week, in the sense of being able to guarantee that it will arrive, or that you’ll be in a position to use it precisely as you wish. (Location 1359)

And it has real psychological consequences, because the assumption that time is something we can possess or control is the unspoken premise of almost all our thinking about the future, our planning and goal-setting and worrying. (Location 1364)

My point, to be clear, isn’t that it’s a bad idea to make plans, or save money for retirement, or remember to vote, so as to increase the chances that the future will turn out the way you’d like. Our efforts to influence the future aren’t the problem. The problem—the source of all the anxiety—is the need that we feel, from our vantage point here in the present moment, to be able to know that those efforts will prove successful. (Location 1367)

future. So a surprisingly effective antidote to anxiety can be to simply realize that this demand for reassurance from the future is one that will definitely never be satisfied—no matter how much you plan or fret, or how much extra time you leave to get to the airport. (Location 1373)

Our anxiety about the uncontrollability of the future begins to seem rather more absurd, and perhaps therefore a little easier to let go of, when considered in the context of the past. (Location 1379)

“Trying to control the future is like trying to take the master carpenter’s place,” cautions one of the founding texts of Taoism, the Tao Te Ching, in a warning echoed several centuries later by the Buddhist scholar Geshe Shawopa, who gruffly commanded his students, “Do not rule over imaginary kingdoms of endlessly proliferating possibilities.” (Location 1403)

Rather, a life spent “not minding what happens” is one lived without the inner demand to know that the future will conform to your desires for it—and thus without having to be constantly on edge as you wait to discover whether or not things will unfold as expected. (Location 1419)

The real problem isn’t planning. It’s that we take our plans to be something they aren’t. What we forget, or can’t bear to confront, is that, in the words of the American meditation teacher Joseph Goldstein, “a plan is just a thought.” We treat our plans as though they are a lasso, thrown from the present around the future, in order to bring it under our command. (Location 1429)

In his book Back to Sanity, the psychologist Steve Taylor recalls watching tourists at the British Museum in London who weren’t really looking at the Rosetta Stone, the ancient Egyptian artifact on display in front of them, so much as preparing to look at it later, by recording images and videos of it on their phones. (Location 1446)

It took becoming a father for me to grasp how completely I’d spent my whole adult life, up to that point, mired in this future-chasing mindset. (Location 1474)

On the one side were the gurus I came to think of as the Baby Trainers, who urged us to get our infant onto a strict schedule as soon as possible—because the absence of such structure would leave him existentially insecure and also because making his days more predictable would mean he could be seamlessly integrated into the rhythms of the household. (Location 1481)

Later, I would learn that there’s virtually no credible scientific evidence favoring either of these camps. (For example: the “proof” that it’s wrong to let your baby cry itself to sleep comes largely from research among infants abandoned in Romanian orphanages, which is hardly the same as leaving your child alone in their cozy Scandinavian bassinet for twenty minutes a day; (Location 1488)

But what struck me most forcefully was how entirely preoccupied with the future both sets of experts were—indeed, how virtually all the parenting advice I encountered, in books and online, seemed utterly focused on doing whatever was required to produce the happiest or most successful or economically productive older children and adults later on. (Location 1493)

that for as long as I could remember, my days had been spent striving for future outcomes—exam results, jobs, better exercise habits: the list went on and on—in the service of some notional time when life would run smoothly at last. (Location 1501)

Worse still, it dawned on me that my fixation on using time well meant using my son himself, a whole other human being, as a tool for assuaging my own anxiety—treating him as nothing but a means to my hypothetical future sense of security and peace of mind. (Location 1512)

“Because children grow up, we think a child’s purpose is to grow up,” Herzen says. “But a child’s purpose is to be a child. Nature doesn’t disdain what only lives for a day. It pours the whole of itself into each moment … Life’s bounty is in its flow. Later is too late.” (Location 1525)

But the author and podcast host Sam Harris makes the disturbing observation that the same applies to everything: our lives, thanks to their finitude, are inevitably full of activities that we’re doing for the very last time. (Location 1532)

Yet usually there’ll be no way to know, in the moment itself, that you’re doing it for the last time. Harris’s point is that we should therefore try to treat every such experience with the reverence we’d show if it were the final instance of it. (Location 1536)

One way of understanding capitalism, in fact, is as a giant machine for instrumentalizing everything it encounters—the earth’s resources, your time and abilities (or “human resources”)— (Location 1543)

This is also the kernel of truth in the cliché that people in less economically successful countries are better at enjoying life—which is another way of saying that they’re less fixated on instrumentalizing it for future profit, and are thus more able to participate in the pleasures of the present. (Location 1549)

The Catholic legal scholar Cathleen Kaveny has argued that the reason so many of them are so unhappy—despite being generally very well paid—is the convention of the “billable hour,” which obliges them to treat their time, and thus really themselves, as a commodity to be sold off in sixty-minute chunks to clients. (Location 1558)

“Lawyers imbued with the ethos of the billable hour have difficulty grasping a non-commodified understanding of the meaning of time that would allow them to appreciate the true value of such participation.” (Location 1564)

We choose to treat time in this self-defeatingly instrumental way, and we do so because it helps us maintain the feeling of being in omnipotent control of our lives. As long as you believe that the real meaning of life lies somewhere off in the future—that one day all your efforts will pay off in a golden era of happiness, free of all problems—you get to avoid facing the unpalatable reality that your life isn’t leading toward some moment of truth that hasn’t yet arrived. (Location 1569)

that life is nothing but a succession of present moments, culminating in death, and that you’ll probably never get to a point where you feel you have things in perfect working order. (Location 1574)

John Maynard Keynes saw the truth at the bottom of all this, which is that our fixation on what he called “purposiveness”—on using time well for future purposes, or on “personal productivity,” he might have said, had he been writing today—is ultimately motivated by the desire not to die. (Location 1577)

He does not love his cat, but his cat’s kittens; nor in truth the kittens, but only the kittens’ kittens, and so on forward forever to the end of cat-dom. For him, jam is not jam unless it is a case of jam tomorrow and never jam today. (Location 1580)

He never gets to love an actual cat, in the present moment. Nor does he ever get to enjoy any actual jam. By trying too hard to make the most of his time, he misses his life. (Location 1585)

Attempting to “live in the moment,” to find meaning in life now, brings its own challenges too, though. Have you ever actually tried it? Despite the insistence of modern mindfulness teachers (Location 1588)

that it’s a speedy path to happiness—and despite a growing body of psychological research on the benefits of “savoring,” or making the deliberate effort to appreciate life’s smaller pleasures—it turns out to be bewilderingly difficult to do. (Location 1589)

The more you try to be here now, to point at what’s happening in this moment and really see it, the more it seems like you aren’t here now—or alternatively that you are, but that the experience has been drained of all its flavor. (Location 1596)

horizon. I was determined to relish the exhibition, which the next morning locals would describe as a particularly impressive one. But the more I tried, the less I seemed able to do so. By the time I was getting ready to return to the warmth of my cabin, I was so far from being absorbed in the moment that a thought occurred to me, regarding the northern lights, which to this day I squirm to recall. Oh, I found myself thinking, they look like one of those screen savers. (Location 1607)

You’re so fixated on trying to make the best use of your time—in this case not for some later outcome, but for an enriching experience of life right now—that it obscures the experience itself. (Location 1612)

A more fruitful approach to the challenge of living more fully in the moment starts from noticing that you are, in fact, always already living in the moment anyway, whether you like it or not. (Location 1623)

As the author Jay Jennifer Matthews puts it in her excellently titled short book Radically Condensed Instructions for Being Just as You Are, “We cannot get anything out of life. There is no outside where we could take this thing to. There is no little pocket, situated outside of life, [to which we could] steal life’s provisions and squirrel them away. The life of this moment has no outside.” Living more fully in the present may be simply a matter of finally realizing that you never had any other option but to be here now. (Location 1633)

Why, its members wanted to know, should vacations by the ocean, or meals with friends, or lazy mornings in bed need defending in terms of improved performance at work? (Location 1648)

De Graaf had put his finger on one of the sneakier problems with treating time solely as something to be used as well as possible, which is that we start to experience pressure to use our leisure time productively, too. (Location 1655)

Defenders of modern capitalism enjoy pointing out that despite how things might feel, we actually have more leisure time than we did in previous decades—an average of about five hours per day for men, and only slightly less for women. (Location 1671)

So they’re more prone to feeling that there are leisure activities they ought to be getting around to but aren’t. (Location 1677)

To the philosophers of the ancient world, leisure wasn’t the means to some other end; on the contrary, it was the end to which everything else worth doing was a means. (Location 1679)

The Latin word for business, negotium, translates literally as “not-leisure,” reflecting the view that work was a deviation from the highest human calling. (Location 1682)

Even the onerous lives of medieval English peasants were suffused with leisure: they unfolded according to a calendar that was dominated by religious holidays and saints’ days, along with multiday village festivals, known as “ales,” to mark momentous occasions such as marriages and deaths. (Location 1688)

But industrialization, catalyzed by the spread of the clock-time mentality, swept all that away. Factories and mills required the coordinated labor of hundreds of people, paid by the hour, and the result was that leisure became sharply delineated from work. (Location 1698)

Work, now, demanded to be seen as the real point of existence; leisure was merely an opportunity for recovery and replenishment, for the purposes of further work. (Location 1705)

So now the whole of life—work and leisure time alike—was to be valued for the sake of something else, in the future, rather than for itself. (Location 1708)

In order to most fully inhabit the only life you ever get, you have to refrain from using every spare hour for personal growth. From this perspective, idleness isn’t merely forgivable; it’s practically an obligation. “If the satisfaction of an old man drinking a glass of wine counts for nothing,” wrote Simone de Beauvoir, “then production and wealth are only hollow myths; they have meaning only if they are capable of being retrieved in individual and living joy.” (Location 1722)

Increasingly, we’re also the kind of people who don’t actually want to rest—who find it seriously unpleasant to pause in our efforts to get things done, and who get antsy when we feel as though we’re not being sufficiently productive. (Location 1729)

To rest for the sake of rest—to enjoy a lazy hour for its own sake—entails first accepting the fact that this is it: that your days aren’t progressing toward a future state of perfectly invulnerable happiness, and that to approach them with such an assumption is systematically to drain our four thousand weeks of their value. (Location 1764)

“We are the sum of all the moments of our lives,” writes Thomas Wolfe, “all that is ours is in them: we cannot escape it or conceal it.” If we’re going to show up for, and thus find some enjoyment in, our brief time on the planet, we had better show up for it now. (Location 1766)

But it was members of religious communities who first understood a crucial fact about rest, which is that it isn’t simply what occurs by default whenever you take a break from work. (Location 1771)

But if they are, it’s an absurdity well tailored to an equally absurd reality about humans, which is that we need this sort of pressure in order to get ourselves to rest. (Location 1779)

Most people mistakenly believe that all you have to do to stop working is not work. The inventors of the Sabbath understood that it was a much more complicated undertaking. You cannot downshift casually and easily, the way you might slip into bed at the end of a long day. (Location 1781)

In his book Sabbath as Resistance, the Christian theologian Walter Brueggemann describes the sabbath as an invitation to spend one day per week “in the awareness and practice of the claim that we are situated on the receiving end of the gifts of God.” (Location 1796)

As Setiya recalls in his book Midlife, he was heading toward the age of forty when he first began to feel a creeping sense of emptiness, which he would later come to understand as the result of living a project-driven life, crammed not with atelic activities but telic ones, the primary purpose of which was to have them done, and to have achieved certain outcomes. (Location 1839)

The most unsparingly pessimistic of philosophers, Arthur Schopenhauer, seems to have seen the emptiness of this sort of life as an unavoidable result of how human desire functions. (Location 1849)

There’s a less fancy term that covers many of the activities Setiya refers to as atelic: they are hobbies. His reluctance to use that word is understandable, since it’s come to signify something slightly pathetic; many of us tend to feel that the person who’s deeply involved in their hobby of, say, painting miniature fantasy figurines, or tending to their collection of rare cacti, is guilty of not participating in real life as energetically as they otherwise might. (Location 1862)

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. (Location 1866)

But that might be part of why he enjoys it so much: to pursue an activity in which you have no hope of becoming exceptional is to put aside, for a while, the anxious need to “use time well,” which in Stewart’s case presumably involves the need to keep on pleasing audiences, (Location 1883)

Yet she readily admits that she remains an appalling surfer to this day. (It took her five years of attempting to catch a wave before she first managed to do so.) But “in the process of trying to attain a few moments of bliss,” Rinaldi explains, “I experience something else: patience and humility, definitely, but also freedom. Freedom to pursue the futile. And the freedom to suck without caring is revelatory.” (Location 1892)

People complain that they no longer have “time to read,” but the reality, as the novelist Tim Parks has pointed out, is rarely that they literally can’t locate an empty half hour in the course of the day. What they mean is that when they do find a morsel of time, and use it to try to read, they find they’re too impatient to give themselves over to the task. “It is not simply that one is interrupted,” writes Parks. “It is that one is actually inclined to interruption.” (Location 1952)

“These people were talking about exactly the same thing!” she told me, the thrill of that initial realization still audible in her voice. The high achievers of Silicon Valley reminded Brown of herself in her days as an alcoholic. (Location 1971)

Perhaps it seems melodramatic to compare “addiction to speed,” as Brown calls our modern disease of accelerated living, to a condition as serious as alcoholism. (Location 1988)

Only then, having abandoned the destructive attempt to achieve the impossible, can he get to work on what actually is possible: facing reality—above all, the reality that, in his case, there’s no level of moderate drinking that’s compatible with living a functioning life—then working, slowly and soberly, to fashion a more productive and fulfilling existence. (Location 2009)

You surrender to the reality that things just take the time they take, and that you can’t quiet your anxieties by working faster, because it isn’t within your power to force reality’s pace as much as you feel you need to, and because the faster you go, the faster you’ll feel you need to go. (Location 2013)

When you finally face the truth that you can’t dictate how fast things go, you stop trying to outrun your anxiety, and your anxiety is transformed. (Location 2018)

You breathe a sigh of relief, and as you dive into life as it really is, in clear-eyed awareness of your limitations, you begin to acquire what has become the least fashionable but perhaps most consequential of superpowers: patience. (Location 2022)

In more and more contexts, patience becomes a form of power. In a world geared for hurry, the capacity to resist the urge to hurry—to allow things to take the time they take—is a way to gain purchase on the world, to do the work that counts, and to derive satisfaction from the doing itself, instead of deferring all your fulfillment to the future. (Location 2033)

In his book The Road Less Traveled, the psychotherapist M. Scott Peck recounts a transformative experience of surrendering to the speed of reality—one that emphasizes that patience isn’t merely a more peaceful and present-oriented way to live but a concretely useful skill. (Location 2087)

Peck’s insight here—that if you’re willing to endure the discomfort of not knowing, a solution will often present itself—would be helpful enough if it were merely a piece of advice for fixing lawn mowers and cars. (Location 2103)

“Either she made the very first change that came to her mind within a matter of seconds—making them eat more breakfast or sending them to bed earlier—regardless of whether such a change had anything to do with the problem, or else she came to her next therapy session … despairing: ‘It’s beyond me. What shall I do?’” (Location 2112)

The first is to develop a taste for having problems. Behind our urge to race through every obstacle or challenge, in an effort to get it “dealt with,” there’s usually the unspoken fantasy that you might one day finally reach the state of having no problems whatsoever. (Location 2117)

The second principle is to embrace radical incrementalism. The psychology professor Robert Boice spent his career studying the writing habits of his fellow academics, reaching the conclusion that the most productive and successful among them generally made writing a smaller part of their daily routine than the others, so that it was much more feasible to keep going with it day after day. (Location 2127)

One critical aspect of the radical incrementalist approach, which runs counter to much mainstream advice on productivity, is thus to be willing to stop when your daily time is up, even when you’re bursting with energy and feel as though you could get much more done. (Location 2138)

The final principle is that, more often than not, originality lies on the far side of unoriginality. The Finnish American photographer Arno Minkkinen dramatizes this deep truth about the power of patience with a parable about Helsinki’s main bus station. There are two dozen platforms there, he explains, with several different bus lines departing from each one—and for the first part of its journey, each bus leaving from any given platform takes the same route through the city as all the others, making identical stops. Think of each stop as representing one year of your career, Minkkinen advises photography students. (Location 2144)

What’s the solution? “It’s simple,” Minkkinen says. “Stay on the bus. Stay on the fucking bus.” (Location 2156)

That’s where the distinctive work begins. But it begins at all only for those who can muster the patience to immerse themselves in the earlier stage—the trial-and-error phase of copying others, learning new skills, and accumulating experience. (Location 2158)

work. In many areas of life, there’s strong cultural pressure to strike out in a unique direction—to spurn the conventional options of getting married, or having kids, or remaining in your hometown, or taking an office job, in favor of something apparently more exciting and original. Yet if you always pursue the unconventional in this way, you deny yourself the possibility of experiencing those other, richer forms of uniqueness that are reserved for those with the patience to travel the well-trodden path first. (Location 2161)

Patience isn’t the only way in which it’s possible to find a deeper sort of freedom in surrendering to temporal constraints, instead of always trying to dictate how things unfold. (Location 2172)

The problem, I think, is that his lifestyle is predicated on a misunderstanding about the value of time. To borrow from the language of economics, Salcedo sees time as a regular kind of “good”—a resource that’s more valuable to you the more of it you command. (Money is the classic example: it’s better to control more of it than less.) (Location 2191)

As with money, it’s good to have plenty of time, all else being equal. But having all the time in the world isn’t much use if you’re forced to experience it all on your own. (Location 2198)

In fact, having large amounts of time but no opportunity to use it collaboratively isn’t just useless but actively unpleasant—which is why, for premodern people, the worst of all punishments was to be physically ostracized, abandoned in some remote location where you couldn’t fall in with the rhythms of the tribe. (Location 2201)

“A person with a flexible schedule and average resources will be happier than a rich person who has everything except a flexible schedule,” advises the cartoonist turned self-help guru Scott Adams, summarizing the ethos of individual time sovereignty. (Location 2212)

It’s that they come with an unavoidable flip side: every gain in personal temporal freedom entails a corresponding loss in how easy it is to coordinate your time with other people’s. (Location 2226)

For the rest of us, likewise, more freedom to choose when and where you work makes it harder to forge connections through your job, as well as less likely you’ll be free to socialize when your friends are. (Location 2228)

Or to put things slightly differently, the more Swedes who were off work simultaneously, the happier people got. They derived psychological benefits not merely from vacation time, but from having the same vacation time as other people. (Location 2235)

They suggest, he observed, that what people need isn’t greater individual control over their schedules but rather what he calls “the social regulation of time”: greater outside pressure to use their time in particular ways. (Location 2247)

On a work trip to Sweden a few years back, I experienced a micro-level version of the same idea in the form of the fika, the daily moment when everyone in a given workplace gets up from their desks to gather for coffee and cake. (Location 2252)

There is an even more visceral sense, as well, in which time just feels realer—more intense, more vivid, more filled with meaning—when you’re synchronized well with others. (Location 2284)

In daily life, as well, we fall into synchrony all the time, usually without realizing it: at the theater, applause gradually organizes itself into a rhythm; and if you walk down the street alongside a friend, or even a stranger, you’ll soon find your paces starting to match. (Location 2307)

On the other hand, there’s the profound sense of meaning that comes from being willing to fall in with the rhythms of the rest of the word: to be free to engage in all the worthwhile collaborative endeavors that require at least some sacrifice of your sole control over what you do and when. (Location 2335)

And yet the trouble with this kind of individualist freedom, as Judith Shulevitz points out, is that a society in thrall to it, as ours is, ends up desynchronizing itself—imposing upon itself something surprisingly similar, in its results, to the disastrous Soviet experiment with a staggered five-day week. We live less and less of our lives in the same temporal grooves as one another. (Location 2342)

For the least privileged, the dominance of this kind of freedom translates into no freedom at all: it means unpredictable gig-economy jobs and “on-demand scheduling,” in which the big-box retailer you work for might call you into work at any moment, its labor needs calculated algorithmically from hour to hour based on sales volume—making it all but impossible to plan childcare or essential visits to the doctor, let alone a night out with friends. (Location 2348)

The Jungian psychotherapist James Hollis recalls the experience of one of his patients, a successful vice president of a medical instruments company, who was flying over the American Midwest on a business trip, reading a book, when she was accosted by a thought: “I hate my life.” (Location 2381)

The modern world is especially lacking in good responses to such feelings: religion no longer provides the universal ready-made sense of purpose it once did, while consumerism misleads (Location 2391)

us into seeking meaning where it can’t be found. (Location 2392)

It’s deeply unsettling to find yourself doubting the point of what you’re doing with your life. (Location 2395)

This is a perspective from which you can finally ask the most fundamental question of time management: What would it mean to spend the only time you ever get in a way that truly feels as though you are making it count? (Location 2402)

the startling understanding that things could be different, on a grand scale, if only we collectively wanted that enough. “What the trauma has shown us,” Gambuto wrote, “cannot be unseen. (Location 2419)

Human civilization is about six thousand years old, and we’re in the habit of thinking of this as a staggeringly long time: a vast duration across which empires rose and fell, and historical periods to which we give labels such as “classical antiquity” or “the Middle Ages” succeeded each other in “only-just-moving time—time moving in the sort of way a glacier moves.” But now consider the matter a different way. In every generation, even back when life expectancy was much shorter than it is today, there were always at least a few people who lived to the age of one hundred (or 5,200 weeks). And when each of those people was born, there must have been a few other people alive at the time who had already reached the age of one hundred themselves. (Location 2447)

From this perspective, human history hasn’t unfolded glacially but in the blink of an eye. And it follows, of course, that your own life will have (Location 2458)

been a minuscule little flicker of near-nothingness in the scheme of things: the merest pinpoint, with two incomprehensibly vast tracts of time, the past and future of the cosmos as a whole, stretching off into the distance on either side. (Location 2459)

To remember how little you matter, on a cosmic timescale, can feel like putting down a heavy burden that most of us didn’t realize we were carrying in the first place. (Location 2469)

You might imagine, moreover, that living with such an unrealistic sense of your own historical importance would make life feel more meaningful, by investing your every action with a feeling of cosmic significance, however unwarranted. (Location 2478)

What they really mean is that they’ve adopted a standard of meaningfulness to which virtually nobody could ever measure up. “We do not disapprove of a chair because it cannot be used to boil water for a nice cup of tea,” Landau points out: a chair just isn’t the kind of thing that ought to have the capacity to boil water, so it isn’t a problem that it doesn’t. (Location 2488)

From this new perspective, it becomes possible to see that preparing nutritious meals for your children might matter as much as anything could ever matter, (Location 2502)

Or that virtually any career might be a worthwhile way to spend a working life, if it makes things slightly better for those it serves. (Location 2504)

The reason time feels like such a struggle is that we’re constantly attempting to master it—to lever ourselves into a position of dominance and control over our unfolding lives so that we might finally feel safe and secure, and no longer so vulnerable to events. (Location 2518)

Other people hold off entirely from starting on important projects or embarking on intimate relationships in the first place because they can’t bear the anxiety of having committed themselves to something that might or might not work out happily in practice. (Location 2522)

And we chase the ultimate fantasy of time mastery—the desire, by the time we die, to have truly mattered in the cosmic scheme of things, as opposed to being instantly trampled underfoot by the advancing eons. (Location 2526)

But the deeper truth behind all this is to be found in Heidegger’s mysterious suggestion that we don’t get or have time at all—that instead we are time. (Location 2534)

“Time is the substance I am made of,” writes Jorge Luis Borges. “Time is a river that sweeps me along, but I am the river; it is a tiger which destroys me, but I am the tiger; it is a fire which consumes me, but I am the fire.” (Location 2538)

A life spent focused on achieving security with respect to time, when in fact such security is unattainable, can only ever end up feeling provisional—as if the point of your having been born still lies in the future, just over the horizon, and your life in all its fullness can begin as soon as you’ve gotten it, in Arnold Bennett’s phrase, “into proper working order.” (Location 2542)

that’s when you’ll feel in control at last, you’ll be able to relax a bit, and true meaningfulness will be found. Until then, life necessarily feels like a struggle: sometimes an exciting one, sometimes exhausting, but always in the service of some moment of truth that’s still in the future. (Location 2547)

“Entering space and time completely”—or even partially, which may be as far as any of us ever get—means admitting defeat. It means letting your illusions die. You have to accept that there will always be too much to do; that you can’t avoid tough choices or make the world run at your preferred speed; that no experience, least of all close relationships with other human beings, can ever be guaranteed in advance to turn out painlessly and well—and that from a cosmic viewpoint, when it’s all over, it won’t have counted for very much anyway. (Location 2556)

You get to actually be here. You get to have some real purchase on life. You get to spend your finite time focused on a few things that matter to you, in themselves, right now, in this moment. (Location 2560)

It’s tempting to imagine that ending or at least easing the struggle with time might also make you happy, most or all of the time. But I’ve no reason to believe that’s true. Our finite lives are filled with all the painful problems of finitude, from overfilled inboxes to death, and confronting them doesn’t stop them from feeling like problems—or not exactly, anyway. (Location 2565)

Five Questions To make this all a little more concrete, it may be useful to ask the following questions of your own life. It doesn’t matter if answers aren’t immediately forthcoming; the point, in Rainer Maria Rilke’s famous phrase, is to “live the questions.” Even to ask them with any sincerity is already to have begun to come to grips with the reality of your situation and to start to make the most of your finite time. 1. Where in your life or your work are you currently pursuing comfort, when what’s called for is a little discomfort? Pursuing the life projects that matter to you the most will almost always entail not feeling fully in control of your time, immune to the painful assaults of reality, or confident about the future. It means embarking on ventures that might fail, perhaps because you’ll find you lacked sufficient talent; it means risking embarrassment, holding difficult conversations, disappointing others, and getting so deep into relationships that additional suffering—when bad things happen to those you care about—is all but guaranteed. And so we naturally tend to make decisions about our daily use of time that prioritize anxiety-avoidance instead. Procrastination, distraction, commitment-phobia, clearing the decks, and taking on too many projects at once are all ways of trying to maintain the illusion that you’re in charge of things. In a subtler way, so too is compulsive worrying, which offers its own gloomy but comforting sense that you’re doing something constructive to try to stay in control. James Hollis recommends asking of every significant decision in life: “Does this choice diminish me, or enlarge me?” The question circumvents the urge to make decisions in the service of alleviating anxiety and instead helps you make contact with your deeper intentions for your time. If you’re trying to decide whether to leave a given job or relationship, say, or to redouble your commitment to it, asking what would make you happiest is likely to lure you toward the most comfortable option, or else leave you paralyzed by indecision. But you usually know, intuitively, whether remaining in a relationship or job would present the kind of challenges that will help you grow as a person (enlargement) or the kind that will cause your soul to shrivel with every passing (Location 2575)

week (diminishment). Choose uncomfortable enlargement over comfortable diminishment whenever you can. 2. Are you holding yourself to, and judging yourself by, standards of productivity or performance that are impossible to meet? One common symptom of the fantasy of someday achieving total mastery over time is that we set ourselves inherently impossible targets for our use of it—targets that must always be postponed into the future, since they can never be met in the present. The truth is that it’s impossible to become so efficient and organized that you could respond to a limitless number of incoming demands. It’s usually equally impossible to spend what feels like “enough time” on your work and with your children, and on socializing, traveling, or engaging in political activism. But there’s a deceptive feeling of comfort in believing that you’re in the process of constructing such a life, which is due to come into being any day now. What would you do differently with your time, today, if you knew in your bones that salvation was never coming—that your standards had been unreachable all along, and that you’ll therefore never manage to make time for all you hoped you might? Perhaps you’re tempted to object that yours is a special case, that in your particular situation you do need to pull off the impossible, timewise, in order to avert catastrophe. For example, maybe you’re afraid you’ll be fired and lose your income if you don’t stay on top of your impossible workload. But this is a misunderstanding. If the level of performance you’re demanding of yourself is genuinely impossible, then it’s impossible, even if catastrophe looms—and facing this reality can only help. There is a sort of cruelty, Iddo Landau points out, in holding yourself to standards nobody could ever reach (and which many of us would never dream of demanding of other people). The more humane approach is to drop such efforts as completely as you can. Let your impossible standards crash to the ground. Then pick a few meaningful tasks from the rubble and get started on them today. 3. In what ways have you yet to accept the fact that you are who you are, not the person you think you ought to be? A closely related way to postpone the confrontation with finitude—with the anxiety-inducing truth that this is it—is to treat your present-day life as part of a journey toward becoming the kind of person you believe you ought to become, in the eyes of society, a religion, or your parents, whether or not they’re still alive. Once you’ve earned your right to exist, you tell yourself, life will stop feeling so uncertain and out of control. In times of political and environmental crisis, this mindset often takes the form of the belief that nothing is truly worth doing with your time except addressing such emergencies head-on, around the clock—and that you’re entirely correct to think of yourself as guilty and selfish for spending it on anything else. This quest to justify your existence in the… (Location 2593)

4. In which areas of life are you still holding back until you feel like you know what you’re doing? It’s easy to spend years treating your life as a dress rehearsal on the rationale that what you’re doing, for the time being, is acquiring the skills and experience that will permit you to assume authoritative control of things later on. But I sometimes think of my journey through adulthood to date as one of incrementally discovering the truth that there is no institution, no walk of life, in which everyone isn’t just winging it, all the time. Growing up, I assumed that the newspaper on the breakfast table must be assembled by people who truly knew what they were doing; then I got a job at a newspaper. Unconsciously, I transferred my assumptions of competence elsewhere, including to people who worked in government. But then I got to know a few people who did—and who would admit, after a couple of drinks, that their jobs involved staggering from crisis to crisis, inventing plausible-sounding policies in the backs of cars en route to the press conferences at which those policies had to be announced. Even then, I found myself assuming that this might all be explained as a manifestation of the perverse pride that British people sometimes take in being shamblingly mediocre. Then I moved to America—where, it turns out, everyone is winging it, too. Political developments in the years since have only made it clearer that the people “in charge” have no more command over world events than the rest of us do. It’s alarming to face the prospect that you might never truly feel as though you know what you’re doing, in work, marriage, parenting, or anything else. But it’s liberating, too, because it removes a central reason for feeling self-conscious or inhibited about your performance in those domains in the present moment: if the feeling of total authority is never going to arrive, you might as well not wait any longer to give such activities your all—to put bold plans into practice, to stop erring on the side of caution. It is even more liberating to reflect that everyone else is in the same boat, whether they’re aware of it or not. 5. How would you spend your days differently if you didn’t care so much about seeing your actions reach fruition? A final common manifestation of the desire for time mastery arises from the unspoken assumption described in chapter 8 as… (Location 2633)

By contrast, the individual path “is the way you make for yourself, which is never prescribed, which you do not know in advance, and which simply comes into being itself when you put one foot in front of the other.” His sole advice for walking such a path was to “quietly do the next and most necessary thing. So long as you think you don’t yet know what that is, you still have too much money to spend in useless speculation. (Location 2670)

A modified version of this insight, “Do the next right thing,” has since become a slogan favored among members of Alcoholics Anonymous, as a way to proceed sanely through moments of acute crisis. But really, the “next and most necessary thing” is all that any of us can ever aspire to do in any moment. (Location 2674)

A time traveler from an ancient Hindu civilization would have no difficulty recognizing our era as part of the Kali Yuga, that phase in the cycle of history when, according to Hindu mythology, everything starts to unravel: governments crumble, the environment collapses and strange weather events proliferate, refugees pour across borders, and diseases and dubious ideologies spread across the world. (Location 2687)

The world is already broken. And what’s true of the state of civilization is equally true of your life: it was always already the case that you would never experience a life of perfect accomplishment or security. And your four thousand weeks have always been running out. (Location 2728)

instead, feed tasks from the open list to the closed one—that is, a list with a fixed number of entries, ten at most. (Location 2764)

A complementary strategy is to establish predetermined time boundaries for your daily work. To whatever extent your job situation permits, decide in advance how much time you’ll dedicate to work—you might resolve to start by 8:30 a.m., and finish no later than 5:30 p.m., say—then make all other time-related decisions in light of those predetermined limits. (Location 2767)

Following the same logic, focus on one big project at a time (or at most, one work project and one nonwork project) and see it to completion before moving on to what’s next. (Location 2774)

You’ll inevitably end up underachieving at something, simply because your time and energy are finite. But the great benefit of strategic underachievement—that is, nominating in advance whole areas of life in which you won’t expect excellence of yourself—is that you focus that time and energy more effectively. (Location 2783)

Since the quest to get everything done is interminable by definition (here), it’s easy to grow despondent and self-reproachful: you can’t feel good about yourself until it’s all finished—but it’s never finished, so you never get to feel good about yourself. (Location 2796)

Social media is a giant machine for getting you to spend your time caring about the wrong things (here), but for the same reason, it’s also a machine for getting you to care about too many things, even if they’re each indisputably worthwhile. (Location 2807)

Once you grasp the mechanisms operating here, it becomes easier to consciously pick your battles in charity, activism, and politics: to decide that your spare time, for the next couple of years, will be spent lobbying for prison reform and helping at a local food pantry—not because fires in the Amazon or the fate of refugees don’t matter, but because you understand that to make a difference, you must focus your finite capacity for care. (Location 2813)

You can combat this problem by making your devices as boring as possible—first by removing social media apps, even email if you dare, and then by switching the screen from color to grayscale. (Location 2820)

Meanwhile, as far as possible, choose devices with only one purpose, such as the Kindle ereader, on which it’s tedious and awkward to do anything but read. (Location 2824)

Childhood involves plentiful novel experiences, so we remember it as having lasted forever; but as we get older, life gets routinized—we stick to the same few places of residence, the same few relationships and jobs—and the novelty tapers off. (Location 2831)

Young explains, is to pay more attention to every moment, however mundane: to find novelty not by doing radically different things but by plunging more deeply into the life you already have. (Location 2837)

The desire to feel securely in control of how our time unfolds causes numerous problems in relationships, where it manifests not just in overtly “controlling” behavior but in commitment-phobia, the inability to listen, boredom, and the desire for so much personal sovereignty over your time that you miss out on enriching experiences of communality (chapter 12). (Location 2844)

when presented with a challenging or boring moment, try deliberately adopting an attitude of curiosity, in which your goal isn’t to achieve any particular outcome, or successfully explain your position, but, as Hobson puts it, “to figure out who this human being is that we’re with.” (Location 2847)

Indeed, you could try taking this attitude toward everything, as the self-help writer Susan Jeffers suggests in her book Embracing Uncertainty. (Location 2852)

act on the impulse right away, rather than putting it off until later. When we fail to act on such urges, it’s rarely out of mean-spiritedness, or because we have second thoughts about whether the prospective recipient deserves it. More often, it’s because of some attitude stemming from our efforts to feel in control of our time. (Location 2858)

“I have discovered that all the unhappiness of men arises from one single fact, that they cannot stay quietly in their own chamber,” Blaise Pascal wrote. (Location 2867)