Insights from Tara Brach, Ryan Holiday, Maria Popova, and Cal Newport | The Tim Ferriss Show | Transcription
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More than 30% of Americans struggle with sleep. And I'm a member of that sad group. Temperature is one of the main causes of poor sleep and heat has always been my nemesis. I've suffered for decades tossing and turning, throwing blankets off, putting them back on, and repeating ad nauseam. But now I am falling asleep in record time faster than ever. Why? Because I'm using a simple device called the POD Pro Cover by 8 Sleep. It's the easiest and fastest way to sleep at the perfect temperature. It pairs dynamic cooling and heating with biometric tracking to offer the most advanced, but most user-friendly solution on the market. I polled all of you guys on social media about the best tools for sleep, enhancing sleep. And 8 Sleep was by far and away the crowd favorite. I mean, people were just raving fans of this. So I used it and here we are. Add the POD Pro Cover to your current mattress and start sleeping as cool as 55 degrees Fahrenheit or as hot as 110 degrees Fahrenheit. It also splits your bed in half so your partner can choose a totally different temperature. My girlfriend runs hot all the time. She doesn't need cooling. She loves the heat and we can have our own bespoke temperatures on either side, which is exactly what we're doing. Now for me and for many people, the result, 8 Sleep users fall asleep up to 32 percent faster, reduce sleep interruptions by up to 40 percent and get more restful sleep overall. I can personally attest to this because I track it in all sorts of ways. It's the total solution for enhanced recovery so you can take on the next day feeling refreshed. And good news, 8 Sleep has launched the next generation of the POD. The new POD 3 enables more accurate sleep and health tracking with twice the number of sensors. It's just a smoother, better experience that delivers you the best sleep on Earth. At least that has been true for me. Simply add this to your existing mattress and you're all set. It is not magic, but sometimes it does feel like it. It just works. So go to 8sleep.com/tim and save $250 on the POD cover. That's 8sleep.com/tim. All spelled out E-I-G-H-T, 8sleep.com/tim. 8sleep currently ships within the US, Canada, the UK, select countries in the EU and Australia. You can also find the link in this episode's description. Hello boys and girls, ladies and germs. This is Tim Ferriss. Welcome to another episode of The Tim Ferriss Show, where it is usually my job to deconstruct world-class performers to tease out their routines, habits, etc. that you can apply to your own life and lives. This episode is something different. It's an experimental format that I am super excited about. And apparently so are many of you. It's backed by popular demand. This is an episode that scratches an itch I've had for many years now. I'm not always able to listen to every great podcast episode out there, even when they are by some of my closest friends. To answer that predicament, I decided to ask them, many of my friends, to send a top segment from their own podcast, podcasts that I could listen to, and more importantly, also share with you, my dear listeners. My team edited them together, and here we are. This episode is a compilation of roughly 15 to 30 minute clips from some of the best podcasters and also best interviewees in the world, and certainly some of my favorites. At the beginning of each clip, you will hear an intro from the host, and where to find their work and podcast. At the end, I'll also share one or two of my favorite clips from episodes of The Tim Ferriss Show. You can view this episode as a buffet, and I strongly suggest that you check out the shows included. If you like my podcast, you will very likely enjoy the featured shows in this episode. For the full list of the guests featured today, see the episodes description, or as usual, head to Tim.blog/podcast for all the details. And before you go, do you like this format? Please let me know on Twitter @tferris, T-F-E-R-R-I-S-S, and also mention /cc @teamtimferris if you remember. Without further ado, please enjoy. Greetings friends.
Tara Brach And Ryan Holiday'S Insights On Self-Awareness
Who is Tara Brach? (08:39)
I'm Tara Brock, and I've been teaching meditation primarily from the Buddhist tradition for about 45 years, and I spent about 20 of those years as a clinical psychologist. I'm also author of several books, including Radical Acceptance and Trusting the Gold. My weekly podcast of talks and guided meditations, which goes by my name, draws on Buddhism, psychology, and science, and we explore everything from how to work with self-judgments, fears, trauma, losses, to how to resolve conflicts and increase intimacy with each other, to how in these times of such global trauma and dividedness, we can be part of a larger societal healing. And in the deepest way, the weekly talks are guides to realizing who we are beyond the story of a separate and often deficient self, realizing the love and the creativity and awareness that expresses our true nature. In addition to the podcast, I lead a mindfulness teacher training program with my colleague Jack Cornfield that is thousands of participants from over 50 countries, all dedicated to teaching others the practices of mindfulness and compassion. So friends, I hope you'll visit my website. It's tarabrock.com to find information about all my offerings, including an upcoming introductory course to meditation, links to the books, and you'll find hundreds of free talks and guided meditations and other resources. Namaste, greetings, friends. A good number of years ago now, the Dalai Lama was interviewed by Network News, and the inquiry was really about happiness because that was the subject of his latest book.
How meditation allows us to be present in the moment. (10:29)
And they asked him a question, which was, what was your happiest moment in memory? And his response, he first gave that kind of now classic mischievous look and his response was, I think now. I've always loved that story because, you know, for many listening, being present here and now is not a new idea. And yet, as we know, often it's mostly an idea. You know, we're usually on our way somewhere. We're usually checking things off the list. So often we're lost in thought and thinking that the important moment of our life is we're on our way to it or it's already in the past, but it's rare that we stand so right now. This moment really matters. The gift of meditation, of training in presence is that it really allows our body and mind to be in the same place at the same time. It allows us to arrive in the one place where love and happiness and creativity and healing freedom all is possible. So our inquiry really is what takes us from presence. And if we begin to look, we're in a trance of thinking most of the time. And that trance is typically driven by wants and fears, by the sense that something's missing right now are something's wrong. And even under that, it's often, and this is usually our core focus, that something's wrong with me, with how I am, with what I'm doing, that sense of never enough that I'm in some way deficient or flawed and that failures around the corner. And the expression of that is a background sense of fear or anxiety and uncomfortableness and sometimes shame. So this will be our subject for this talk, which is how do we wake up out of this trance of feeling like there's something wrong with us?
Disentangling from self-judgment. (12:56)
How do we disentangle from the self-judgments and live our lives? And one of the stories I'll always remember a woman describe being with her mom when her mom was dying and she was in a coma. And at one moment, her mother kind of woke up from the coma and was very lucid and looked her in the eyes and said, "You know, all my life, I thought something was wrong with me." And those were her last words. And for this woman, in a sense, it was a kind of a gift because it made so clear how we can go through decades, how many moments we miss of living, of loving, of enjoying beauty when we're all wrapped up in thinking that we need to be different, that we're falling short in some way. And this is what drew me to write my first book, "Radical Acceptance," as a response to that sense of being flawed, being caught in what I call the trance of unworthiness. I remember after writing the book, I was on book tour and one stop, I was giving a workshop on this, and there was a big poster of me, and the caption at the bottom was, "Something is wrong with me." It was a great welcome to a new community there. And yet, you know, for those of you listening, if you start looking at your life, most of, you know, I mean, huge amount of self-judgment. And what we don't always realize, and this is why I call it a trance, is how much that underlying sense of not enough affects our moments, affects how generative and creative we are at work, affects our relationships, how intimate we can be, because it's very hard to be close to others if we feel something's wrong with us. It affects everything. And the Buddha said that the great suffering we experience is not realizing the truth if we are, our true nature, and being caught up in an identification with a small, limited self. And there's a story I've always loved that I think describes as so beautifully true story that there was an enormous clay statue of the Buddha in Thailand, and it wasn't beautiful, but it was loved and revered by populations that had survived over centuries of storms and battles and so on. And in the '50s, there was a long dry season. And during that time, some cracks appeared, so an enterprising monk shined a flashlight into the crack, and what came back was the gleam of gold and shined into another crack and another. And they took off what turned out to be just a covering of plaster and clay and found the largest solid gold statue of the Buddha in that part of Asia. And what's interesting is the monks say that the statue was covered to protect it during tumultuous times. And it's much in the same way that we protect our innate goodness and purity. We cover it over when we feel threatened to be able to navigate our world. And the suffering is, when we cover over with our defenses and our aggressions and so on, is that we get identified with the covering. We think we're the covering, that controlling, promoting self, and we forget who's looking through. We forget the tender, awake heart, the awareness that's looking through. You know, the essence of all sickness is homesickness. There's a suffering when we forget the gold, when we leave home. We forget what we really belong to, that aliveness and awareness and loving. We forget who we are. It becomes such a profound inquiry, you know, what leads us to forgetting who we are, to judging ourselves so harshly, to becoming so identified with the coverings. And really, we can look first to main culprit, the messaging of our culture. Our culture tells us what it means to be a respectable person, a successful person, a likable person. The primary funnel for our messages that trap us in the trans-abundworthiness is through family and caregivers. Of course, this is the domain of most psychotherapy. And it's a primary channel for the culture of insecurity and fear of failure. I mean, if you could ask what a child most wants, what a child, a young child most wants and needs, it's to be understood and loved. Yet out of their own insecurities and fears, most parents don't know how to see clearly and mirror back who this child is. Most parents are equipped to love unconditionally. So for so many, there's an experience of severed belonging, cut off from the most significant other, and really severed belonging from the not okay parts of ourselves. And the core wound, I'm not lovable, I'm not loved, I'm not worthy. This is the trance of unworthiness. The healing, the path to realizing who we are and living from that freedom in terms of the trainings of meditation is learning to bring radical acceptance, an unconditional, compassionate presence to the experience of the moment.
The meaning of radical acceptance. (19:07)
This is what helps to dissolve the coverings, to make the coverings transparent. So our light, our creativity, our love, our intelligence can shine through. Radical acceptance, really opening to the present moment. But I want to note here, the objection, most people have a fear of accepting how we are in the moment, our fears are shame. And the fears I'll never change, I'll never get better. And yet as American psychologist Carl Rogers put it, it wasn't until I accepted myself, just as I was, that I was free to change. In other words, the prerequisite for true transformation and healing is this radical acceptance, this presence and kindness with what's right here. So the rest of this exploration is how do we do that? And what I'd like to do here is introduce a practice, a meditation that weaves together mindfulness, a mindful presence with self-compassion that can really free our hearts, that can wake us up from the coverings and allow us to rest and express the goal of who we are.
RAIN: recognize, allow, investigate, and nurture. (20:24)
And the meditation is called the rain meditation. I know many are familiar with it. Rain's an acronym for recognize, allow, investigate, and nurture. Recognize meaning, see what's here. Okay, fear, just name it, name it, allow, allow it to be here, not to fight it, not to judge it, just let be. Investigate, that doesn't mean cognitively investigate, that can be a trap, it means investigate by deepening the inquiry into the body and feeling what's here, contacting it. And then nurture the last part of rain is to bring kindness to what we find. When we do that, we experience what's called after the rain, which means we start opening to our natural being, to the goal that's here, to the awareness and love that was here but covered over. Rain allows us to change very deep rooted patterning. During the pandemic, I had countless emails, people saying, "Rain saved my life." And I really understood what they meant. It's had such an impact on me. I remember when my mother first moved down to live with my husband and me, and she was 82. And she had a lot that she needed from me, a lot of what doctors appointments and mostly just needed me to keep her company some. And at the same time, I had a whole lot going on on the work and teaching front, and I started feeling increasingly stressed. And I remember one day being at the computer and I was writing a talk, it was on loving kindness. She walked into my office to show me an article and I barely looked up from the screen. And so she very graciously put it down and left, and as I looked up to see her retreating form, I had this thought, "I don't know how long I'll have her." So I decided to do the practice of rain and got quiet and the "R" recognized was a feeling, a sense of guilt and anxiety. I'm just not coming through. And the "A" allow, I just let that be there rather than adding more judgment to it. And the allow has this sense of, "This belongs, just like the waves in the ocean. This belongs." So it's really letting it be. And that allowed me to deepen my attention and begin to investigate. And I started feeling the feelings in my body, the tightness, and I asked myself, "What am I believing?" And the belief was, "I'm failing. I'm failing my mother and I'm also going to fall short teaching." The feelings in my body were real squeeze in my heart and this sense of pressure and tightness. And as I opened to it, I asked the question that really deepens investigation, which is, "What do I need? What does this vulnerable place need, this place of feeling squeezed and guilty and fearful?" And what I got was, "I just need to trust. I need to trust my love. I need to trust my goodness, my heart." And so I put my hand on my heart and this is a part of nurturing. It often makes it even more powerful. And I just gave myself that message, "Trust your heart, trust your goodness. It's okay." And as I did that, I just felt more space, felt more space, more openness. And so I stayed for a few moments and rested in a more spacious, more tender awareness that's after the rain. There was a shift. I went from this being this guilty, anxious person to this space of compassion, of kindness. And what I noticed in the days and weeks to come, and I repeated rain. I did what I call a light rain. Just I repeated it and it was shorter and very effective because I noticed when I was with my mom, I was able to be really present. I was able to really be with her and enjoy our big salads for dinner and our walks by the river. And when she died, it was a few years later, three or four years later, deep grief. Of course, I adored her. But no regrets. And I realized that rain saved my life moments with my mom. When I did the rain practice, I put my hand on my heart. I gave myself a message. And that's often a beautiful way of self-compassion to give ourselves a message that will bring some comfort and healing. But sometimes we can't. And I want to name here that self-compassion doesn't mean that we're offering ourselves compassion, that a self is offering yourself compassion. You can draw on a larger source. I worked with an avat who came back after being in Iraq. And when we explored what would help him nurture a very, very traumatized place in him, it was the love of Jesus. A man described being with the Dalai Lama and telling the Dalai Lama that his fears and the Dalai Lama said, "Just let yourself be held in the heart of the Buddha." And a physicist I was reading talks about touching a tree and feeling the nurturing there or the connection. You can call on a friend, you can call on a deity, you can call on your ancestors. I sometimes call on formless loving awareness, some larger source. What rain does when we offer ourselves attention and when we bring in that nurturing is a kind of spiritual reparenting. We're bringing the presence and kindness we need to heal. And if you're more science oriented, you might think of it that we're actually rewiring the brain with rain because it creates new neuronal pathways to feeling empowered, creative, loving, lucid. Okay friends, let's do a brief practice. We'll do what I call a light rain to give you a taste of it.
A brief RAIN meditation. (28:01)
And wherever you are, you might adjust how you're sitting so that you can just know you're feeling comfortable at ease, awake. You might take a few full breaths letting your eyes close or your gaze be downcast. And you might bring to mind a situation in your life where you turn on yourself in some way. It might be in a relationship, might be at work, might be related to an addiction to a health challenge, but somewhere some situation where you land up feeling judgmental and down on yourself. Let yourself go to the most triggering moment of that. And we begin a light rain by recognizing what's going on. And you might just mentally whisper the word that most captures what's going on. It might be judgment, shame, embarrassment, fear, anxiety, anger. And then allow it. And that means in some way you're saying this belongs. This is part of the experience of the moment, letting it be. And beginning to investigate it. You know, what am I believing when this is going on? Am I believing that I'm failing, that I'm flawed, that I'm creating pain for myself or for another? And with whatever I'm believing, what's the strongest feeling in the body going on? You might feel your throat, your chest, your belly, and just sense where you feel vulnerability, where you feel tightness or activation. And you might even let your face and your posture express what you're feeling. It's a powerful way to get more somatically connected. You continue to investigate and feel right into the center of the vulnerability. And ask yourself, what do I need? You know, how does this part want me to be with it? And explore nurturing. You might put your hand on your heart, especially if you've never done it, vary the touch, so it expresses kindness. And to send some message and word that you think might be healing could be, "I care about this suffering." Or trust your heart, trust your goodness. Or "I'm here and I'm not leaving." Or "It's okay, you're enough." Whatever you sense will bring some healing, and you can have it come from an outside source, a friend, a grandparent, your dog, the trees, a deity, formless, loving awareness. Let that energy of kindness move through your hand, ride into your heart to wherever you feel vulnerable. And then the go of all doings and sense the presence of tear. Sense the shift from a flawed self to the the awakeness, the awareness, the tenderness, noticing the gold. Noticing this tender presence that's more the truth of who you are than any limiting story or belief. The more you trust this, the more freedom, creativity, love, aliveness you'll find in your life. And take a few full breaths. If your eyes are closed opening your eyes and the last part, I'm focusing on inner healing. And as we hold our own being with radical acceptance, as we practice rain and come home into who we are, that loving presence naturally extends to others. We're able to see their vulnerability and see their gold. And I've worked with so many parents, been reactive with their children, done a kind of inner rain process and much more able to see and respond to their children's unmet needs, less judgmental. And I've worked with so many people who are in conflict with partners, other people in their life. And that inner work enables us to put down blame and really communicate in a much more intelligent, open-hearted way. And it takes practice. We go into trance. We disconnect from our own loving away cart in gold. And then we're really looking through the filters of our culture, our society. We don't see others. We see their coverings. If we're in our ego, identify with our ego, that's what we see in others. So I'll share a final story that's been a real guide for me in the path.
A gift to a stranger. (34:17)
And this story is told by a minister describing a family holiday trip and stopping at a restaurant that's nearly empty. And she says she sat her son Eric, her one-year-old in a high chair. And suddenly she hears him squeal with glee. Hi there, two words he thinks are one. Hi there. His face is alive with excitement. Then she says, I saw the source of his merriment and my eyes could not take it in all at once. A tattered rag of a coat, baggy pants, gums as bare as Eric's hair, uncoamed, unwashed. His hands were flapping in the air around loose wrists. Hi there, baby. Hi there, big boy. I see a buster. My husband and I exchanged a look that was across between what do we do and poor devil. Eric continued to laugh and answer, hi there. Every call was echoed. This old geezer was creating a nuisance with my beautiful baby. I shoved a cracker at Eric and he pulverized it in the tray. I whispered, why me? Our meal came in the nuisance continued. Now the old bum was shouting, do you know Patty Cake, Attaboy, you know Peekaboo? Hey, look, he knows Peekaboo. We ate in silence except Eric, who was running through his repertoire for the admiring applause of a skid row bum. We had enough. Dennis went to pay the check and flooring me to get Eric and meet me in the parking lot. I trembled Eric out of the high chair and looked toward the exit. The old man sat poised and waiting, his chair directly between me and the door. Lord, just let me out of here before he speaks to me or Eric. I headed toward the door. It soon became apparent that both the Lord and Eric had other plans. As I drew closer to the man Eric had his eyes riveted to his best friend and leaned far over my arm reaching with both arms in a baby, pick me up position. In a split second of balancing my baby and turning to counter his weight, I came eye to eye with the old man. Eric was lunging for him, arms spread wide. The bum's eyes both asked and implored, "Would you let me hold your baby?" There was no need for me to answer since Eric propelled himself from my arms to the man's. Suddenly, a very old man and a very young baby were involved in a love relationship. Eric laid his tiny head upon the man's ragged shoulder, the man's eyes closed, and I saw tears hover beneath his lashes. His aged hands full of grime and pain and hard labor gently, so gently, cradled my baby's bottom and stroked his back. I stood awestruck. The old man rocked and cradled Eric in his arms for a moment and then his eyes opened and set squarely on mine. He said in a firm, commanding voice, "You take care of this baby." Somehow I managed I will from a throat that contained a stone. He pried Eric from his chest, unwillingly, longingly, as though he wasn't pain. I held my arms open to receive my baby and again the gentleman addressed me, "God bless you, ma'am, you've given me my Christmas gift." I said nothing more than a muttered thanks. With Eric back in my arms, I ran for the car. Dennis wondered why I was crying and holding Eric so tightly, and why I was saying, "My God, my God, forgive me." I've shared this story many times and each time it feels like a wake-up. We think society's thoughts. We forget to look past the coverings towards the human heart. And in our current world friends, where there's so much dividedness and trauma, seeing others as different, as bad, as inferior, create such violence, there's so much trance. One of the great gifts we bring to the world is the dedication to see the gold in our cells and in each other. That's the meaning of namaste. I see the sacred in you. It allows us to be part of the healing. It allows us to bridge divides and bring forward the goodness, the potential. This capacity to see gold is the blessing of radical acceptance, of learning to meet our moments with open-hearted presence. It lets us truly live from love. I'd like to close with a a short prayer.
A short prayer. (38:55)
This is written by the poet Diane Ackerman. You might sit back and close your eyes and just take it in. In the name of daybreak and the eyelids of morning and the way-fearing moon and the night when it departs, I swear I will not dishonor my soul with hatred, but offer myself humbly as a guardian of nature, as a healer of misery, as a messenger of wonder, as an architect of peace. In the name of the sun and its mirrors and the crowning seasons of the firefly in the apple, I will honor all life wherever and in whatever form it may dwell. On earth my home and in the mansions of the stars. Thank you for your attention friends. Blessings. Hi, I'm Ryan Holiday, the author of 13 Best-Selling Books and the creator of The Daily Stoic.
Who is Ryan Holiday? (40:00)
In this episode, I'm going to break down some of the most important questions that I've gathered from some of the wisest philosophers, most incisive thinkers, greatest leaders, and most awesome badasses that have ever lived. The concept was actually inspired by something that Tim taught me, Tim's love of asking questions, which change how you think about things. These particular questions that a big influence on my life and career. Also, you can check out my new book Discipline Is Destiny, the power of self-control, which is out now and you can buy anywhere books or sold. You can also buy a signed copy from me in the firstname.lastname@example.org or in person in my bookstore, The Painted Porch here in Bastrop, Texas. Who are you spending time with? Gertrude says, show me who you spend time with and I will tell you who you are.
Who am I spending time with? (40:54)
Seneca talks about spending time with people who make you a better person. My dad said to me as a kid, you become like your friends. Well, the question is, are you spending time with people who are averaging you towards where you want to go or they averaging you away from where you want to go? This is a question that can lead to some hard decisions, people that you're going to spend less time with. Who are you seeing after work? Who are you reading? Who are you talking to? The people we spend time with, are you going to make us better? They're going to make us worse or they're going to keep us exactly who we are, which is either a good thing or a very bad thing. Is this in my control? EpicTitus says this is the key question.
Is this in my control? (41:36)
This is the chief task of the philosopher in life, which is separating the things that are up to us and the things that are not up to us. And so much of the time and energy we spend in this life are on things that are not up to us, that are not in our control. It just started raining. I don't need to have an opinion on the fact that it's raining because it's not in my control. But what is in my control is what I'm going to do. What's in our control is our actions, our thoughts, our opinions. And so, the Stoic learns to tune out what's not in our control and it focuses on what is in our control. And so, we ask ourselves about everything we experience, everything we're feeling, everything we're working on, is this up to me? Or am I throwing good energy after bad? Am I beating myself against a wall that's never going to move? What does your ideal day look like? A life Seneca says is made up of days.
What does my ideal day look like? (42:25)
Annie Dillard said, "How we spend our lives is, of course, how we spend our days." What does an ideal day look like for you? How are you trying to design your life? If you don't know what a good day is like, what your ideal is, then you're just going to be working on making more money, acquiring more fame, getting more power or influence. We have to ask ourselves, is this getting me closer or further away from the life that I want? I've talked about how I know exactly what my ideal day looks like. It's a Saturday where I wake up early, I work out, I do a little bit of writing, I spend lots of time with my family, I have time to think, I haven't signed myself up for a bunch of pointless obligations or phone calls or meetings. I spend time outdoors, I'm connected, I'm present. I have to look at each opportunity then that comes along any day and ask myself, is it getting me closer or further away from the kind of life I want to lead and the kind of person that I want to be? To be or to do, this is a key question that comes to us from the great strategist John Boyd, who as he mentored young men and women in the Pentagon, would see that you can go down two paths in life.
To be or to do? (43:27)
There's a person who wants to look important, that wants to achieve a high rank, that wants to be in the newspapers or on TV. And then there's the person who wants to quietly get things done. I think it was Truman who said, it's amazing how much you can accomplish if you don't care about who gets the credit. To be or to do is largely about credit. Do you care about accomplishments? What do you care about impact? Do you care about credit? What do you care about getting things done? You have to ask yourself, am I trying to be an important person? Am I trying to accomplish important things? And this question is critical to be or to do how are you measuring your life? Hillell said, if I am not for me, who is? And he said, if I am only for me, who am I? This I think is related to the idea of to be or to do. What's motivating you? Is it external accomplishments? Or is it making a difference in this world? Yes, you have to fight for yourself, you have to stand up for yourself, you get walked all over. But if all you care about is protecting yourself, if all you care about is attention, who are you? I think about someone like George Marshall, who accomplishes so much, and perhaps his greatest accomplishment is turning down the command and Normandy. He didn't want his personal feelings to be taken into account, again, to be or to do, but also who am I for and who am I? Yes, he fought really hard to get where he was, to make a difference. But then he also knew that ego didn't matter in the end. What mattered is the team effort. There's a great expression I heard that says, if you play for the name on the front of the jersey, they'll remember the name on the back. What am I missing by choosing to worry or be afraid?
What am I missing by choosing to worry or be afraid? (45:11)
One of my favorite books is The Gift of Fear by Gavin De Becker. And he says, "When you worry, ask yourself, what am I choosing not to see right now? We only have so much in the way of cognitive resources or time or emotional energy. How are you going to spend it?" And then often by being anxious, by being worried, by taking things personally, by being afraid, we're taking our eye off the ball. And so I want you to see those emotions not just as unpleasant, but actively destructive because they are. Stuff's going to happen in life that makes us emotional, but we have to realize that we're only compounding that by acting on those emotions. Are you doing your job? This is a key question when Sean Payton was suspended from the NFL for a year.
Am I doing my job? (45:54)
He put up a big picture of himself in the Saints facility and three words. "Do your job." This is the thing I think it comes from Bill Belichick. But the idea is that everyone has a job in every moment. Sometimes that's a little job, sometimes it's a big job. But everyone has to know their job in an organization in life. You've got to ask yourself, are you doing it? I think in the end, we end up focusing on everyone else's job that are own because it's easier than doing our own. And that's why I like this question so much. Are you doing your job? And if you aren't, why not? If you are, good, keep doing. What is the most important thing to you? What do you actually value?
What is the most important thing? (46:37)
If you don't know what's important, how do you know that you're putting it first? And so to me, all the other questions of life come after you have asked and answered what the most important thing to you is in life. If you told me I could sell 10 times as many books, but it'd come at the expense of my marriage or my relationship with my kids, I'd say, screw that, right? Because I know the most important thing to me is how those things are in balance with each other. Yes, my work is important, but it's not the most important thing. You know, Seneca talks about this idea of euthymia. It says, knowing the path that you're on and not being distracted by the paths of the people who's crisscross yours, this is especially the people who are hopelessly lost. When you know what's important, when you know what you value, when you know where you're going, it makes it easy for you to ignore what doesn't matter and focus on what does matter. Who is this for? This is a question as a creator you always have to know.
Who is this for? (47:39)
Who are you making this for? I talked to so many entrepreneurs, business people, creatives who have no idea. They're just making stuff. They just hope it will find an audience. They go, "Oh, this is a book for smart people." You have to know who you're making this for. You have to know your audience. You have to know the market. You have to know human beings. This is why empathy is so important. Who are you making this for? Who are they? Where are they? What do they want? You have to know who this is for. So I always ask myself if they're making a video or putting out a tweet or writing a book, screw your hunches. Who is this for? Who are they? Does this actually matter? So many of the things we're upset about that we hold on to, that we focus on, they don't matter.
Does this actually matter? (48:20)
Not to you, to anyone at all. They just don't matter. Marcus really says, "Ask yourself at every moment. Is this essential?" This is because most of what we do and say is not essential. He says, "When you eliminate the inessential, you get the double benefit of doing the essential things better." Stephen Colbert loses his father and several siblings in a plane crash as a young man. He said what he took out of this was a question from his mother. She said, "Can you look at this in the light of eternity? Does this matter in the big picture?" Right? Because so many of the things we trivially get upset about that we focus on in moments of crisis, we get real clarity about, we realize they didn't matter at all. People matter. Your loved one is matter. Doing your best matters. Everything else is irrelevant. And yet that's where we focus so much of our time and energy. Will this be a live time or dead time? That's something Robert Greene asked me when I was thinking about becoming a writer.
Time Utilization And Maria Popova'S Daily Routine
Will this be alive time or dead time? (49:17)
I had like a year to kill before I could go do it. He said, "What's this you're going to be for you? Is it going to be a live time or dead time for you? Are you going to use every second or are you going to sit around and be passive and wait?" That came flooding back to me in the pandemic when we went into lockdown. This is going to be a live time or dead time. What am I going to have to show for this? Whether it's two weeks or two months or two years, what am I going to have to show for this period? A live time. Treat every moment like a live time because while you have it, you're alive. But after it's gone, it's dead. Now is now, can you use this time? What can you use it for? If you always choose a live time and you're always getting better, then you're always moving forward. You're not wasting time. Seneca says, "It's not that life is short. It's that we waste a lot of it. We kill time as time is killing us." And the truth is, you always have the ability to make the most of this moment. So often we choose not true because we don't ask ourselves this question. Is this who I want to be? Is this representative of the person that I see myself as, that I am trying to become?
Is this who I want to be? (50:15)
Or am I giving in to my lower self here? Am I taking a shortcut here? Am I doing something that the person that I see myself as wouldn't do? Cheryl Straits says, "You're becoming who you're going to be so you might as well not be an asshole." When you do things, you have to ask yourself, "Is this representative of my character, of my priorities, of my values, of what I said is important to me?" If the answer is no, you have to not do it. How we do anything is how we do everything. So you have to ask yourself this question. Is this who I want to be? Every interaction, every situation big or small, because it adds up in the way that nothing else can. If I could give you one more question, a last question, a bonus question to you, comes to us from Victor Frankel, who survives the Holocaust.
A bonus question from Viktor Frankl. (50:58)
He writes the amazing book, "Manswers for Meaning." He says, "We ask what is the meaning of life?" He says, "Actually, it is life that is asking us that question, and it's our actions, it's our decisions that provide the answer. Meaning is something we create from our actions, from our decisions, from our choices, from who we choose to be. These are the kinds of questions that if you ask often enough, you will provide, as Victor Frankel says, the kinds of answers that make you who you're capable of becoming." Just a quick thanks to one of our sponsors, and we'll be right back to the show. This episode is brought to you by Athletic Greens. I get asked all the time what I would take if I could only take one supplement. The answer is invariably AG1 by Athletic Greens. If you're traveling, if you're just busy, if you're not sure if your meal is where they should be, it covers your bases. With approximately 75 vitamins, minerals, and whole food source ingredients, you'll be hard pressed to find a more nutrient-dense formula on the market. It has a multivitamin, multimineral greens complex, probiotics and prebiotics for gut health, an immunity formula, digestive enzymes, and adaptogens. You get the idea. Right now, Athletic Greens is giving my audience a special offer on top of their all-in-one formula, which is a free vitamin D supplement and five free travel packs with your first subscription purchase. Many of us are deficient in vitamin D. I found that true for myself, which is usually produced in our bodies from sun exposure. So, adding a vitamin D supplement to your daily routine is a great option for additional immune support. Support your immunity, gut health, and energy by visiting athleticgreens.com/tim. You'll receive up to a year's supply of vitamin D and five free travel packs with your subscription. Again, that's athleticgreens.com/tim. What follows is a clip from my interview with the incredible Maria Popova. So, who is Maria? Maria Popova?
Who is Maria Popova? (53:01)
You can find her on Twitter @brainpecker on Instagram @MariaPopova. P-O-P-O-V-A is a reader and a writer who writes about what she reads. This is all a huge understatement. Her website is the Marginalian, formerly known as Brain Pickings, and it is included in the Library of Congress permanent web archive of culturally valuable materials. She is the author, also a figuring and the editor of a velocity of being subtitle letters to a young reader. You can find the Marginalian at the Marginalian.org. For 15 years, it has remained free and ad-free and alive thanks to patronage from readers. I am one of her loyal readers. Her work is incredibly insightful, incredibly prolific. I don't know how she does it. And if this labor of love of Maria's has made your life more livable in the past year or the past decade, consider a one-time or loyal donation to the Marginalian. Your support makes a difference and I want to see Maria as do millions of people continue her amazing work for many, many years to come. Please enjoy. Your schedule. I've read of your schedule, but I'd love to hear the current iteration of that.
What does Maria’s current day look like? (54:21)
It seems like you've had a fairly regimented schedule, which would make sense if you're putting the number of hours into reading and writing that you do. So what does your current day look like? Well, I'll answer this with a caveat. The one thing I have struggled with or tried to solve for myself in the last few years, a couple of years maybe, is the sort of really delicate balance between productivity and presence and especially in a culture that seems to measure our worth or a merit or our value through our efficiency and our earnings and our ability to perform certain tasks as opposed to just the fulfillment we feel in our own lives and the presence that we take in the day to day. And that's something I'd look at more and more apparent to me. So I'm a little bit reluctant to discuss routine as some sort of holy grail of creative process because it's just really, it's a crutch. I mean, routines and rituals help us not feel like this overwhelming messiness of just day-to-day life with consumers. It's a control mechanism, but that's not all there is. And if anything, it should be in the service of something greater, which is being present with one's own life. So without a mind, my day is very predictable. I get up in the morning, I meditate for between 15 to 25 minutes before I do anything else.
Good sleep makes everything else possible. (56:04)
What time do you wake up typically? Exactly eight hours after I've gone to bed. So it varies. Okay. I'm a huge proponent of sleep. I think when I write because what or when I guess try to think, what I do is essentially make associations between seemingly unrelated ideas and concepts and in order for that to happen, those associative chains need to be firing. And when I am sleep deprived, I feel like I don't have full access to my own brain, which is certainly I'm not unneeking that in any way. There's research showing that or reflexes are severely hindered by lack of sleep. We're almost as drunk if we sleep less than half the amount of time when normally need to function. And I think ours is a culture where we wear our ability to get by in very little sleep as a kind of badge of honor that speaks work ethic or toughness or whatever it is. But really, it's a total profound failure of priorities and of self respect. And I try to sort of enact that in my own life by being very disciplined about my sleep, at least as disciplined as about as I am about my work, because the latter is a product of the capacities, cultivated by the former. So in any case, so I get up eight hours after I have gone to bed. I meditate. I go to the gym where I do most of my longer form reading. I get back home, I have breakfast and I start writing. I usually write between two and three articles a day and one of them tends to be longer. And when I write, I need uninterrupted time. So I try to get the longer one done earlier on in the day when I feel much more alert. So I don't look at email or anything really external to the material I'm dealing with, which does require quite a bit of research usually. So it's not like I can cut myself off from the internet or from other books, but I don't have people disruptions, I guess, so anything social. And then I take a short break. I'm a believer in sort of pacing, creating a sort of rhythm where you do very intense focused work for an extended period and then you take a short break and then cycle back. And then I deal with any sort of admin stuff like emails and just taking care of errands and whatnot. And I resume writing and I write my other article or articles through the evening. I try to have some private time just later in the day, either with friends or with my partner or just, you know, time that is unburdened by deliberate thought, although you can never unburden yourself from thought in general. And then usually later at night, I either do some more reading or some more writing or a combination of the two. Got it. And so a number of follow up questions. What type of meditation do you practice currently?
Life Optimization Techniques
Just guided the pasta, very, very basic. There's a woman named Tara Brock, who she's a mindfulness practitioner. How do you spell her last name? B-R-A-C-H. Got it. And she's based out of DC and she was trained as a cognitive psychologist, then the decades of Buddhist training and living in Ashram. And now she teaches mindfulness but with a very secular lens. So she records her classes and she has a podcast, which is how I came to know her. And every week she does a one hour lecture and sort of the philosophies and cognitive behavioral, you know, wisdom of the ages. And then she does a guided meditation. So I use her meditations and she has changed my life, perhaps more profoundly than anybody in my life. So I highly recommend her. Tara Brock. Yes. And all her her podcast is free. She has two books out too. She's really a wonderful, very generous person. I will have to check that out. And see, you're listening. Then you have earbuds in when you're listening to audio while you meditate. B-R-A-C-H. Yes. And interestingly, I mean, she puts one out every week. But I've been using the exact same one from the summer of 2010. It's just one that I like and feel familiar with. And it sort of helps me get into the rhythm. So every day I listen to the exact one. Summer 2010. How would people recognize it? How does the audio start off? I think the title is, it sounds cheesy, but it is not cheesy. I think it's called Smile Meditation. And I'm sure she has repeated it in various forms through the years and other recordings. It just happens to be the one that I, you know, have on. And on my broken 3G iPhone without any internet or cell service, which I just use as an iPod. And that's on it. That's a great answer. I love digging into the specifics. So when you go to the gym then to work out, are you still using an elliptical for that?
Or are you are? Yes. I do sprint time-tense intervals on the elliptical. And are you? Clipper cardio. And I do a lot of weights and body weights to have to. You do, all right. But when you're reading, is that on the elliptical? Yes.
How Maria reads at the gym. (01:01:46)
And what type of device, if any, are you using for that reading? Well, I prefer electronics. So I use the Kindle app on the iPad or any PDF viewer, because I read a lot of archival stuff. But the challenge, of course, is that because I read so many older books that are out of print, let alone having digital versions, that's not always possible in case it's rarely possible unless I'm writing about something fairly new. And so in that case, I just go there with my big tome and my sticky notes and pens and sharpies and various annotation analog devices. And I just do that.
Methods of note-taking. (01:02:32)
Cool. All right. So that leads perfectly into the next question, which is, what does your note taking system look like? And how do you take notes? So for instance, you're really good at using excerpts or quotations, pull quotes. And I found myself asking as I was reading this, like, how are you gathering all this so that you can use it later? So what does your note taking system look like when you sit in the case of digital and in the case of hard copy? So with digital, it's very simple. I just highlight passages and I write myself little notes underneath each that have acronyms that I use frequently for certain topics or shorthand that I have developed for myself. But reading is really or understanding really, which is what reading should be a conduit to is a form of pattern recognition. So when you read a whole book, you kind of walk away with certain takeaways that are thematically linked and they don't usually occur sequentially. So it's not like you walk away with one insight from the first chapter, one insight from the second chapter. It's just sort of this pattern of the writer's thoughts that permeate the entire narrative of the book. And so especially if you read as a writer, so somebody who not only needs to walk away with that, but ideally wants to record what those patterns and things are, that sort of reading is very different. And so what I end up doing with analog books in particular, and it's sort of hats and systems of doing it electronically but they're imperfect, is on the very last page of each book, which is blank usually, right before the end cover, I create an alternate index. So I basically list out, as I'm reading, the topics and ideas that seem to be important and recurring in that volume. And then next to each of them, I start listing out the page numbers where they occur. And on those pages, I have obviously highlighted the respective passage and have a little sort of sticky tab on the side so I can find it. But it's basically an index based not on keywords, which is what a standard book index is based on, but based on key ideas. And I use that then to sort of synthesize what those ideas are once I'm ready to write about the book. Okay, I have to geek out on this because I'm so excited now. So as it turns out, with analog books, I do exactly, literally exactly the same thing. I usually start with the front inside cover, but I create my own index. And of course, they don't have to be an order. So you can sort of list them in any, in my particular case, in any order. I also will have sort of a two, a couple of lines dedicated to pH and pH just refers to phrasing. So if I find a turn of phrase or wording that I find really. Oh, I do that too. Oh, really? But I would be out for beautiful language. Oh, that's so cool. Okay. So there's that. And then I have, you know, like Q or Q if there are quotes. So for instance, many books will have quotes attributed to other people or just header quotes, in some cases. And so I'll have, you know, quotes, I'll just write that out and then colon. And then I'll list all the page numbers for that particular sort of category that I'm collecting in the case of quotes. So for, when you're gathering this, you mentioned acronyms and shorthand. So besides beautiful language, what are some of the other acronyms that you use? Oh, they wouldn't make sense. They're just very private. It's like too long to get into what they stand for. Is there is there one other example that you just just if you can indulge me. One that is, I guess not so much about the contents of that passage as about its purpose is LJ, which is I have a little sort of labor of love side projects called littering jukebox, right? Sure. I've seen it. It's yeah, it's awesome. Oh, thank you. But yeah, so I do these tarynx of passages from literature with a thematically matched song. And so sometimes when as I'm reading a book, I would come across a passage that I think would be great for that. And maybe a song comes to mind. And so I would put LJ next yet. But I want to go back to what you said about the external quotes, I guess the author quoting another work. I think those are actually really important. And that goes back to your question about how I find what to read. And I mark those types of things. So for the annotations that are specific to that particular book, all of my sticky tab notes are on the side of the pages. But when there's an external quote, something referencing another work, I put a tab at the very top with the letter F, which stands for find if I am not with the work or just no letter, if I just want to flag a quote from something else that I know of. And I think that's actually very important because the phenomenon itself, not my annotations of it, because literature is really, and I say this all the time, it is the original internet. So all of those references and citations and illusions, even they're essentially hyperlinks that that author placed to another work. And that way, if you follow those, you go into this magnificent rabbit hole where you start out with something that you're already enjoying and liking, but follow these tangential references to other works that perhaps you would not have come across that way directly. And in a way, it's a way to push oneself out of the filter bubble in a very incremental way. And I've often found amazing older books that were five or six hyperlink references removed from something I was reading, which I'd make it something else, or something else, which led me to this great other thing. So I think that's kind of a beautiful practice.
Seneca as a gateway drug into philosophy. (01:08:53)
Yeah, the serendipity of it is so beautiful when it works out. And I'll give a confession. This is really embarrassing, but since no one's listening, I came across Seneca. So Seneca, the younger, who's had probably more impact on my life than any other writer. Originally, because I was perusing a number of anthologies on minimalism and simplicity, and Seneca kept on popping up, quote Seneca, quote Seneca. Because it was always one word like Madonna, or, and this is going to be really embarrassing, or like Sitting Bull, I assumed that Seneca was a Native American elder of some type for probably a good, I assumed he was a Native American elder for probably a good year or two before I realized he was a Roman house like man, first, you got to do your homework, pal. Like you got to dig in. And then at that point is when I really sort of jumped off the cliff into a lot of his writings, which I've I still to this day revisit on an almost I just revisit it. His the shortness of light. So good. So it is perhaps the best manifesto. And I had hate this modern word sort of buzzword, but I use it intentionally. So the best manifesto for our current struggle with this very notion of, you know, productivity versus presence and how much are we really mistaking the doing for the being, you know, and, and, and it's amazing that somebody wrote this millennia ago before there was internet, before there was the things we call distractions today. And yet he writes about the exact same things just in a different form. Yeah, the exact same things. And the way that if I'm trying to use Seneca as a gateway drug into philosophy, I won't use the P word, first of all, with most people because philosophy smacks of I think it calls to mind for a lot of people, the sort of hottie, pompous college student in Goodwill hunting in the bar scene who's like reciting, you know, Shakespeare without giving any type of a friend. See, I completely disagree. I agree with the notion that those are its connotations today and people have a resistance. But I think that's all the more reason to use it heavily and to use it intelligently and to reclaim it and to get people to understand that philosophy, whatever form it takes is the only way to figure out how to live. Yeah. Everything else that we take away from anything is a set of philosophies, essentially. I agree. No, I totally agree. So, but I usually, if I'm going to lead people there, I try to lure them in with Seneca because I think he's very easy to read compared to a lot of, say at least the Stoics or that's actually not even fair, compared to a lot of philosophers who have been translated from Greek. Most of his writing, I believe, was translated from Latin, which tends to be just an easier jump from English. So, it's very easy to read. And what I tell people is, you know, start off with some of his letters and you'll find that you could just as easily replace these Roman names like Lucilleus and so on with like Bob and Jane or, you know, pick your contemporary name of choice and they're all as relevant now as they were then. I'm Cal Newport. I'm a professor of computer science at Georgetown University, where my research focuses on the theory of distributed algorithms.
Who is Cal Newport? (01:12:41)
I'm also, however, a New York Times best-selling author who writes about the intersection of technology, productivity, and the quest to live and work deeply in an increasingly distracted world. Now, you might know me from some of my recent books, such as Deep Work, Digital Minimalism, and A World Without Email. You might also know me from my writing for The New Yorker, where I am on the contributor staff. The clip you're about to hear comes from my podcast, Deep Questions with Cal Newport. Now, on this show, I take written questions and voice calls from my readers. They ask questions about the various theory I write about and I help them put it into practice in the messy reality of their actual lives. If you like what you hear, you can subscribe to the podcast, Deep Questions with Cal Newport, on all of the standard podcast platforms. If you prefer video, you can go to youtube.com/calnewport media. There you will find full episodes as well as clips of popular questions and segments. All right, so anyways, here comes the clip. I hope you enjoy it. Today, I want to do my first core idea deep dive. I should say my first core idea deep dive and the topic I want to do it on is time management.
Cal Newport'S Time Management System
Three properties any time management system should have. (01:14:16)
So my goal here is to give a brief summary of my thinking about time management and what that's going to consist of is let me define for you what I mean by time management. Let me give you the three principles in my writing and on this podcast, we always talk about that any good time management system should probably satisfy. And then I will briefly talk through my particular system, which we can think of as one example of a time management system that satisfies these principles. You can do something else, but you see what a real fully fledged time management system that satisfies these principles look like. And then I'm going to have a bonus fourth principle I want to talk about that debatably is not really about time management. It lives right outside time management, but it's related. So I'm going to talk about that briefly at the end. So that is my agenda for this core idea discussion on time management. So let's start. What do I mean by time management? For me, at least in the context of this discussion, I'm thinking about work. So time management and work. The way you deal with your time outside of work is a little bit different. So I'm going to put that aside. And in the context of work, I'm going to define time management to be whatever philosophy process systems or rules that you deploy to make decisions about what you're going to do right now with your time. How do you figure out it's 1226 on a Friday? What do I do next? In the end, that's what a time management system is, a way to help you answer that question in as useful a manner as possible. Now, everyone who works has some sort of time management system they're using. If you don't know what it's called, if you can't tell me the details of it, if you've never thought about that, it's just a really bad one, probably. But you still have one. One way or the other, you're making these decisions. The question is just how do we want to make these decisions? What is going to work better? So I'm going to give you the three properties, I think, any good time management system should have. I love alliteration. Long time listeners of the podcast know this. I love C's in my alliteration as long time listeners of this podcast know. So I named the three key properties here with three C's, capture, configure, control. Let's talk about these each briefly in the abstract and I'll tell you about my system that satisfies these. Number one, capture. I believe a good professional time management system needs to have some place in which you store all the information that's important to making decisions about what you need to be doing and what you should be doing.
That is trusted. It's a place that you are going to look at things that go in there will not be forgotten. These ideas get out of your head and into a system so you're not wasting brain cycles on trying to remember or keep fresh stuff that you need to do. Now, in the context of tasks, we can give credit to this idea to David Allen. So David Allen and his seminal post computer time management book, and I mean that very specifically because as I've written about before, time management goes through big evolution. So post computer's computer networks and email time management went through a big revolution and David Allen was there at the beginning. He had this idea of full capture where he said, all of your tasks should be in a trusted system that you review regularly, not in your head. He actually adapted that idea from a previous business thinker named Dean Atchison, unrelated to President Truman, Secretary of State, same name, different person who had first developed, I believe in the 1970s, this notion of full capture and David Allen expanded it. So that's really the core of this. David Allen's articulation of full capture said, don't waste mental energy remembering things. Have it in a system so your brain can be clear to actually focus on working. This also reduces a lot of stress because your brain gets stressed when it's worried about forgetting things you need to do. I generalize capture though beyond what Allen talks about. In addition to each of your commitments being somewhere you trust, I want your plans to also be somewhere your trust. So any thinking you've done about what you're working on on all sorts of different timescales, that should be written down somewhere you trust and review regularly as well. I think you often overlooked but the planning process of what's going on, how do I want to get my work done, what needs to be done this semester, what do I have to get done this week to hit this goal. That's a really important part of time management. I don't want that all on your head. That also gets captured. All right, second property, configure. All right, this is a twist that I've become increasingly a loud advocate for which is care more about how you actually organize this information that you're capturing.
I think you really need to think through once I have this information written down somewhere, where do I put it? How do I organize it? Is it in categories? Is it broken up by role? Equally important, getting the relevant information consolidated. I'm really big on this. So not only do you have a really smart organization for all the stuff on your plate, you're also gathering in one place all the relevant information. You're not searching through your email inbox to try to remember what does this mean and where are we and what do I owe this person? I'm supposed to get back to Derek about the program codes. What does that mean? Let me go through my inbox. All that should be in one place. So these are our two goals with with organize. A, that the information is organized well, where what you want to happen here, what you want to have happen here is that you can very quickly get the jostal to what's on your plate, what's due, what's not who you're waiting to hear back from. The information is put aside in such a way that it's not just a list with a hundred things. And two, all the relevant information is there. I'm not scrambling around to figure out what I need to know to do this thing. All the information is there. Control, the third property of a good time management system.
Control says instead of being reactive in your decisions about what you want to do with your time and by reactive I mean just saying, okay, it's 1223 on Friday. What do I want to do next? I don't know. Let me see what seems relevant. Let me look at my inbox. Let me look at Slack. Maybe I'll look at a to-do list and try to choose something off of it. Control says don't be reactive. Don't wait till you get to the moment to say what should I do next. Instead, be proactive. Make a plan for your time in advance that makes the most of the time that you actually have available. So you think ahead, you look at the time you have available and you say, what do I want to do with this? I'm planning the whole picture at once. I'm not waiting till the moment to say what happens next. Now on the podcast, I talk often about doing this control at multiple timescales. You'll hear me talk about multi-scale planning. This is where that actually applies. What I recommend is that you should be doing this type of planning on three timescales, quarterly, weekly, daily. So quarterly, you have a plan for what you want to try to get done that quarter. What's important? What are the big projects you're working on? There could even be daily work that you want to really emphasize. Look, I got to get my cold calls up. So every Monday, Wednesday, Friday, I spend the first hour doing cold calls, whatever it is, but you're making this plan for the quarter. Looking ahead at the quarter, is this a busy quarter, not a big quarter? What are the big deadlines this quarter? Is there a huge trade fair halfway through it? That means the first half of the quarter has to be really focused on preparing for that trade fair. You're looking at the whole picture of the quarter and at this pretty big granularity, coming up with a plan. Every week, you then look at that quarterly plan and produce a plan for the week ahead of you. Now you're doing weekly planning. When you're doing weekly planning, what you really want to do is get a sense of what's going to happen which day. Then finally, you get down to the daily scale where you say, what am I actually doing during the hours of the day? So we're in weekly planning. You were looking at what am I going to do the different days of this week at daily planning. You're saying, here's my day of a meeting here. I have a call here. I have two meetings here. Here's a time that's free. What do I want to do during that time? So multi-scale planning, I think, is the right way to think about control. You're giving your time a job as opposed to asking in the moment, what should I do next? I think any good time management system should do capture configure control. Let me talk briefly about my specific instantiation of these properties, what my time management system looks like at the moment.
How Cal implements this system. (01:23:36)
So for capture, there is where I actually store the things I need to do. I use Trello, which is a task board software system. So it gives you a visual metaphor for cards on a board arranged vertically in columns. I use Trello to keep track of tasks and commitments. And I use Google Docs to keep track of plans, the plans I have about various things. So Trello is where all my tasks are. Google Docs are where my plans live. So that's where in multi-scale planning, my quarterly plan lives. That's where other plans live. Jesse and I, for example, have a Google Doc where we have our plans for the podcast, etc. Trello for tasks, Google Docs for plans. In addition to the stored systems, you have to have the capture tool. So the tools you use to capture things during the day on the fly that will then get later moved into those storage systems. Now for me, I use two main ones. I have my time block planner. I am in a lucky situation where I was able to design and publish my own planner. So you can obviously find out more about that at timeblockplanner.com. But that planner has for every day and page in which you can capture stuff. So I capture stuff right in that planner. On my computer, I also have a text file on my desktop. I call it workingmemory.txt because I think of it as an expansion of my actual working memory. And I use that when I'm on my computer to capture things, especially when I'm cleaning out my email. I can just type much faster than I can write and I capture all sorts of notes in this document. I work through ideas on the document. It really is like an extension of my working memory. So a lock gets captured in there. If I'm in a meeting on Zoom, things are popping up I have to do. I'm writing it probably right there in that workingmemory.txt. At the end of every day, I do a shutdown. My planner even has a box I checked. It says shutdown complete that indicates I've done my shutdown. As part of that shutdown process, I look through everything in that planner, everything in workingmemory.txt and I get it into one of those more stable systems. It goes on the Trello or I update my Google Doc. So those things get pushed back down to zero. They're temporary tools to capture and then they get moved into the more stable systems. The one addendum I should add there is the calendar. Obviously some of these things are appointments so that goes right to the calendar. All right, configure. I mentioned I use Trello for my task. The way I actually use Trello is I have a separate board for each of my different professional roles. I keep a separate board as a writer, a separate board for example as a teacher, which I keep as a separate board as a researcher, etc. Those are then split up into columns. There's a few standard columns that every one of these boards have. I typically have a column where I put tasks on there that's called 2B processed. It's a pretty complicated thing I need to do and I don't quite understand all the details of it but I don't want to keep track of it in my head. But also, it's five o'clock and I'm shutting down. I don't have time to spend 20 minutes figuring out what does this mean? What are the actual actions here? I'll just throw that in the 2B processed column. I usually have a column on each of these boards for waiting to hear back from. If I've sent someone a note and I need information from them and that information is critical for me to keep making progress. I like to put a card on my Trello board under waiting to hear back. It says, "Here's what I'm waiting to hear back from and here's what I'm going to do once I get that information." I don't want to remember that in my head. I put it on there. I typically have a column for things I'm working on this week. I'll typically have a column for, if they're specifically persistent initiatives within that role, I'll give it its own column so I can really quickly see for this thing I'm working on. What are all the different things that need to be done? There's a researcher that might be a column for a paper we're preparing for publication. In my administrative role at Georgetown, there might be a column for a search committee that I'm on. Here's the relevant tasks. The time that I really get into and clean this up and look at it and move things around and check in on it is when I do my weekly plan. Once a week as part of my commitment to configure, I really go through these systems and I update it once a week when I'm building my weekly plan. There's also when I'm reviewing the Google Docs that capture these other types of plans that are going on and update them and remind myself what's on them. The weekly scale is when I'm really getting my hands dirty. Throughout the week, I'm just throwing stuff into here at the end of each day. Each week I really go in and clean things up. Finally, as control, I already talked about multi-scale planning. I think it's the best way to do control. You could do it other ways, but I do, for me, it's semester instead of quarterly, but semester, weekly, daily planning, semester plans in a Google Doc, weekly plan. I actually type it up in a text document and print it out, and I keep it with me in the back of my time block planner. I'll update it and reprint it as I need to throughout the week. Then for my daily plan, I'm time blocking. Like I talked about, here's my day. Let me block off everything on my calendar. Here's the time that remains. What do I want to do during that time? Let me look at my weekly plan to remind myself of what my big picture plan is for this day. Then I'm blocking off actual hours of time and saying, "Here's what I'm doing here. Here's what I'm doing there." I fill in all that information. I do that right in my time block planner, but you can do this in any type of notebook. There's a whole video at my site, timeblockplanner.com that walks through the details of how time blocking works. That is how I do the daily piece. You put those all together. There's my commitment to control. Stepping back, capture, configure, control, you do those three things, you're going to be making smart decisions about what you want to be doing with your time professionally.
How this system will benefit you. (01:29:47)
I know people get concerned. They say, "Well, I might be injecting too much structure into my life and this is going to make my work life more rigid and I'll be less creative." I call nonsense on all of that. Just because you're in control of everything doesn't mean you need to schedule every seven minutes of your time like a crazy person. When you're in control of your time, you can now start to make decisions like Thursday afternoon starting at 12. I want to do no work. I'm going to go to the woods and just think about this problem I'm working on. When you're doing capture, configure, control, you can do that with confidence because you know what's on your plate. You've cleared out that time. You know things aren't being forgotten. You made sure that you had time on Wednesday to catch up on things. People need to hear about Thursday because you're in control. You can aim that control at more breaks, more free time, more creativity, less stress. You can significantly, like a lot of my listeners do, reduce the amount of time it takes for you to get your normal workload done. Because you're in complete control of things, move it into certain days and keep whole days free to basically do phantom part-time jobs. There's a lot you can do that makes your life more interesting and creative and less stressful once you have an intentional way of making these decisions about what I want to do next with my time. All right. Now I promised you a bonus property that arguably has to do with time management, arguably it's something different.
Extra Time Management Tip
A bonus property: Constrain. (01:31:17)
So I'll just mention it briefly. And that is constrained. So circling this whole idea is how you figure out what gets on your plate to be managed in the first place and how you actually manage that work. I'm just going to plant the seed here because this is a bigger conversation. But we need to be very careful about how we decide what we say yes to and what we say no to. We would really like to avoid the situation where we have so much work on our plate that, yeah, we can control it and be organized about it, but we still don't have enough time to get it done. We want to avoid that situation. So having clear rules in place about how do I decide what I let on my plate? That's really important. Processes is the second thing that I think is really important when it comes to constraining, you know, figuring out how do I want to do this work? The stuff I let on my plate, can I put a process in place that will reduce the footprint this has on my schedule? There's a lot of different things this can mean. And again, because we're just seed planting here, I'm just going to very briefly skim the surface, but there may be automation you're doing here. You know what? We have to produce this same client report every week. I don't want to just send emails back and forth and kind of figure it out at the last minute. Here is our process for doing it and you figure out a whole process that's the same thing, the same things happen at the same times every week. You can rely on it. You've taken that burden off of your planting system to have to figure out from scratch. For small questions and back and forth, you might push that all towards office hours. Three days a week for one hour, well publicized, I'm in my office, Zoom is on. Come to that office hours if you have a small question for me. Come to that office hours if there's a little bit of information you need. Come to that office hours if there's something we can figure out in two minutes, a back and forth. And when people bother you with an email or slack like, "Hey, what are we doing again about this?" or "Can explain to me again what this thing means?" Just say, "Yeah, come to my office hours." These type of processes are all about reducing what it is that you actually do have to manage with your capture, configure control system. You want to simplify that, simplify what's on your plate, simplify how the things around your plate are executed. The easier you can make the planning version of yourself's job, the better you're going to do at your actual job. All right, so let me summarize it there. That is my thinking on this core idea of time management. Hey guys, this is Tim again, just a few more things before you take off. Number one, this is "Fibilit Friday." Do you want to get a short email from me? 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