Appropriate Labor

I’ve been dipping in and out of Oliver Burkeman’s Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals. It is challenging me in some important ways.

Here’s a typical insight. It comes from this interview with Burkeman but is repeated almost verbatim in the book.

I’m perpetually fighting an email backlog, but I’m more at peace about the inevitability of that than I once was. I try to allot a certain amount of time to going through email, and then at the end of that time, I say, Okay, I labored for an appropriate amount and then move on, instead of holding on to the thought that I might finally get to inbox zero.

Acknowledging both one’s efforts and one’s limits is good for one’s relationship with email, sure. I’d argue that it’s also good for one’s relationship with all work (and probably one’s soul). Squeeze, then release. Focus, then unfocus. Work, then relax. Attend to, then forget, blur, widen, walk the margin. At least for a little while.

This line of thinking-doing reminds me of a quotation from Emerson, illustrated nicely by Austin Kleon.

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