20 Nov 2022

Procrastination or productivity? How to have the time of your life…

‘The average human lifespan is absurdly, insultingly brief. If you live to be 80, you’ll have had about 4,000 weeks. But that’s no reason for despair.’

So says Oliver Burkeman in his phenomenal book, Four Thousand Weeks – all about time management ‘for mortals’. Burkeman explains that it’s only by confronting our mortality/limitations/lack of control, that we can live a ‘fulfilling and meaningfully productive life.’

It’s worth reading Four Thousand Weeks from cover to cover. But  if you’re short on time (and let’s face it, who isn’t?), then we’ve summarised Burkeman’s thoughts below…

So here are eight key things you need to know about time management, productivity and procrastination:

  1. Mastery of time isn’t possible. No matter how hard you strive, there will still be something that needs to be done – and not enough time to do it. Our culture praises putting in more time, more effort, and going ‘above and beyond’ your limits at every opportunity. But sometimes… you just can’t. And coming to terms with this is actually quite liberating.
  2. How we think about time is modern. Peasants in medieval England weren’t obsessed with achieving a perfect work-life balance. But in recent history, time has become a resource – paid for and bought by our blood, sweat, and tears. Today, we focus on gaining more time or squeezing out every last minute of the time that we do have. But is that really the right way to think about time?
  3. By understanding the limitations of time, you gain fulfilment. Our life on this earth is short – but that should be celebrated rather than feared! Face your limitations, accept them, and work within them. You’ll be far happier than if you were constantly struggling to achieve ‘everything’.
  4. By prioritising what matters most, you become a better procrastinator.  We beat ourselves up for our proclivity to procrastinate. But procrastination is a normal, human tendency. Try shifting your focus from attempting to get everything done, to prioritising what matters most. And that means limiting your projects and goals. You can’t do everything. Learn to say ‘no’ to some of the things you might want to do, and focus on the things that matter most.
  5. We succumb to distractions to avoid facing our limitations. You can’t live a life without distractions: being distracted can alert us to danger; being distracted by the opposite sex ultimately leads to procreation 🙂 But to accomplish our goals, we need to focus. Unfortunately, doing the meaningful, important stuff can make us feel uncomfortable. That’s because it forces us to face our limitations – are you really good enough to finish the project you started?. So when you settle down to focus on that important piece of work, lean into the discomfort and be hyper aware of the intense appeal of distractions 😉
  6. Be in the here and now. Life isn’t in our control, even when we wish it were. Let go of future fears and the need to plan out every last detail. Instead, be present. Doing so makes you a lot happier (and ultimately far more productive).
  7. Enjoy your leisure time. No matter what our ‘always-on’ culture tells you, leisure time is necessary! Enjoying time with friends and families or taking up new hobbies are ways to ground yourself in reality rather than stressing about the future.
  8. Practise cosmic insignificance therapy (instead of worrying about your life’s purpose). In the grand scheme of things, we are but ‘dust in the wind’ (to quote a 1970s rock song, and also the Bible). In the grand scheme of universal time, our individual lives are completely insignificant. This might seem like a terrifying thought. But it’s actually incredibly liberating. Embracing your insignificance releases you from the impossible standards you set for yourself to make your time on Earth remarkable.

‘[Here’s a] blunt but unexpectedly liberating truth: what you do with your life doesn’t matter all that much – and when it comes to how you’re using your finite time, the universe absolutely could not care less.’

You might be wondering what this has to do with what we do at Understood?

We are all about delivering a better customer and employee experience, and that starts and ends with each individual’s mindset. It is about how you live your life and what you expect to get out of it. These key ideas, these words of wisdom, are here to liberate and elevate you and help you have a better time, even at work! 

Interested in learning more about the training we offer at Understood? Our goal is to challenge and engage employees by injecting our training programmes with big ideas and actionable advice! Get in touch today.