Episode Notes

Is your to-do list never-ending? When was the last time you really felt productive? When we are constantly trying to get things off our list, the list seems to only grow longer.  

In this episode, Stephanie talks with author Oliver Burkeman about this myth of productivity. They dive into different ways to be productive and actually get stuff done. 

Links from the episode: 

Four Thousand Weeks, Time Management for Mortals, by Oliver Burkeman

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  • 6:19. The myth of productivity.
  • 20:22. The importance of rest.
  • 24:06. Resisting distractions.

Transcript

Announcer:

Welcome to The Lawyerist Podcast, a series of discussions with entrepreneurs and innovators about building a successful law practice in today’s challenging and constantly changing legal market. Lawyerist supports attorneys, building client-centered, and future-oriented small law firms through community, content, and coaching both online and through the Lawyerist Lab. And now from the team that brought you The Small Firm Roadmap and your podcast hosts

 

Zack Glaser (00:35):

Hi, I’m Zack Glaser.

 

Jennifer Whigham (00:36):

And I’m Jennifer Wigham. And this is episode four 19 of the Lawyerist Podcast, part of the Legal Talk Network. Today, Stephanie interviews author Oliver Burkeman about mindfulness and productivity.

 

Zack Glaser (00:48):

Today’s podcast is brought to you by Posh Virtual Receptionists, Berkshire Receptionists, and Lawyerist Lab. We wouldn’t be able to do this show without their support, so stay tuned and we’ll tell you more about them later on. So Jennifer I know you told me to read this book.

 

Jennifer Whigham (01:02):

I did.

 

Zack Glaser (01:03):

I haven’t yet, but it’s like you said, it’s on mindfulness and productivity. I sometimes can’t get those two things to work and play well together. When I was younger I had a counselor that was trying to get me to practice a lot of mindfulness by reading a book called Untethered Soul. And when I get too deep into that, a lot of times I think, well, what’s the point of doing anything? It’s like reading Albert Kimu is the stranger. What you wind up sitting on a couch just doing nothing cuz nothing means anything? She finally brought me around to using your values to guide you. What is it that you want people to say about you in your eulogy? What are the things that you really value? And yes, you live in the moment, but what is moving you forward are your values? And that seems to be a little bit of what is being spoken about in this book.

 

Jennifer Whigham (01:58):

Yeah, it’s extremely similar and I think when I recommended this book to you, as you know, I’m a little skeptical of productivity books even though I keep reading every single one of them. And thanks for laughing. And I picked this one up thinking, okay, here’s another productivity book. It’s called 4,000 Weeks. But it wasn’t like every book I’ve read and I think there’s a place for productivity books that give you systems. This is giving you a mindset which is very similar to what you just said. And I wanted to read a quote from it that I really liked that resonated with me and I think describes a lot of the book, which was “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 finally get to what really matters.”

 

(02:45):

And I really liked that because his take about this is your to-do lists. You will never get through them. They may not even be filled with what’s most important and you may be postponing the things that you actually really wanna do, which is easier said than done, of course, because the day-to-day gets it. But it kind of goes back to what you said, what do you really value? Also, he said something like, you need to live with the idea that there will be multiple things you wanna do. You only have a short period of time in your life, 4,000 weeks. So you’ll need to choose the things that are important. You will sacrifice some things and you will have to live with inevitable loss of not being able to do everything that you want to do. And that mindset for me, helped my productivity more than a system did, because productivity in some ways is a mindset change. You can put all the systems in place and you should, but if you don’t have that mindset change, you’re just gonna keep banging your head against the wall.

 

Zack Glaser (03:44):

You said something there of you’re never gonna get your task list done.

 

Jennifer Whigham (03:48):

No

 

Zack Glaser (03:48):

You don’t. I mean, yeah, you may be able to check off the task list that you wrote down that morning if that’s how you operate, but something is going to come up. There’s something that you could be doing, there’s something that you could always be working on. My father, when I started practicing told me that, and many people have said this, that “the law is a jealous mistress.” It wants all of your time. And so you have to figure out some way to limit that and to focus on what is important.

 

Jennifer Whigham (04:17):

Yeah, I like that. Another thing about this book too, just a little quick subject change is it’s really funny. So you talked about AU earlier in this book he talks a little bit about Frans Kaka and the trial, which I think anybody involved in productivity who has read that understands why he would talk about that. But he calls him the worst boyfriend ever. So if you look a little bit into his life thought it can be your assignment, it’s great. It’s just a great book. It’s super funny, it’s super meaningful. It changed my life and I’m so excited that Stephanie will be talking to him and doing a much better job explaining what he’s all about than I am. But I am a little bit of a super fan. So I am very excited for this podcast.

 

Zack Glaser (04:58):

So now here’s Stephanie’s conversation with Oliver.

 

Oliver Burkeman (05:05):

My name is Oliver Burman, I’m the author of the book, 4,000 Weeks Time Management for Mortals.

 

Stephanie Everett (05:11):

Hi Oliver. So great to have you on this show. I think it’s fair to say you’re maybe a recovering productivity guru. Does that feel right? We often say I’m a recovering attorney if you no longer practice law

 

Oliver Burkeman (05:24):

<laugh>. Yeah, I mean whether I’ve ever been a guru is an interesting question, but I certainly describe myself as a recovering productivity geek, productivity obsessive. And yeah, I think I was probably trying to be a guru at certain points in that journey. And as with the official recovery movement, I think you are always getting over that rather than ever reaching a final, final conclusion.

 

Stephanie Everett (05:48):

And so you wrote this book, 4,000 Weeks Time Management for Mortals that we’re gonna dig into today. And we discovered it because Jennifer who’s on our team came to me and said, “I just read this book, it changed my life” and I have now read the book. And I think it’s fair to say it is a little life-changing I think because right from the start it’s built as a productivity or a time management book. Let’s be clear. And then you come right out and say, productivity’s a trap, we’ve got it all wrong. So tell us more about that.

 

Oliver Burkeman (06:19):

Yeah, sure. I mean I do go in on this idea that it’s about time management and productivity, partly cuz I’m sort of trying to speak to people like me and who are constantly, or I was anyway constantly fighting to try to find the set of productivity techniques or the time management systems or whatever else it is that would finally let them feel like they’re in control of everything. They’re on top of things, they’re no longer overwhelmed and sort of point out the problem with that quest. It’s not the question of not having found the silver bullet yet it there’s a problem with looking for the silver bullet. We have this tiny amount of time, 4,000 weeks is the sort of average human lifespan give or take a bit. And using it the right way, using it in the most meaningful way is kind of like that’s a hundred percent of the challenge of life. So I wanted it once to take the wind out of the sails of productivity a bit, but also kind of maximize the idea of time management. We do have to take that question pretty seriously if we’re gonna build the lives that matter to us.

 

Stephanie Everett (07:22):

Yeah, I mean I think it stems you tell me from this idea that at some point we started to see time as a resource to be used instead of, I guess before the industrial revolution you talk about there were no clocks and you just worked and you lived your day and you did things. But it was when we invented this idea of clocks and having to show up and all be at the same place at the same time where we started to shift our relationship with time and how we use it.

 

Oliver Burkeman (07:50):

Yeah, I think there’s a lot of truth in that. It’s a long process. There are obviously clocks prior to the industrial revolution, but it’s all part of a big transformation. Look, I think we’ve always wanted to transcend our mortality. We’ve always had huge difficulty with being finite mortal creatures. But what happens over the course of the rise of modernity, I suppose, is that we start to see time as one of the things we can try to use to try transcend our situation, to try to become almost like gods with respect to our time. So you have this situation where if you’re a medieval farmer, small-scale farmer and you’ve just got some cows or a few crops or something, it makes no sense to think about time as something separate that to you. You just milk the cows when it’s time to milk the cows and you plant the crops and harvest the crops when it’s time to do that.

 

(08:40):

There’s no sense of trying to line that up against a schedule and then find yourself wanting and think, well, oh, I’ve got to fit twice as many things in before this particular milestone in the schedule. That whole discussion just never gets off the ground to begin with. And I think that is a much more peaceful attitude towards time. It is also an attitude towards time that would’ve made most of modernity impossible. So there are upsides and downsides toward this, but I think that the big error that we make now is in thinking if time is a resource and we can always be making better use of our time, then there must be some way to finally make time for everything that matters. And the point I want to make very simply in the book, apart from anything else, is that there’s always gonna be more that feels like it matters and there is the time available to do it.

 

Stephanie Everett (09:30):

Yeah, I mean what’s stopped me in my tracks is you say in the book “once time is a resource to be used. You start to feel pressure whether from external forces or from yourself to use it well and to berate yourself when you feel you’ve wasted it. When you are faced with too many demands, it’s easy to assume that the only answer must be to make better use of your time by becoming more efficient and driving yourself harder.” And then you say, “soon your sense of self-worth gets completely bound up with how you’re using time.” And I’m sure for anyone who’s listening, that resonated so much because as busy professionals, as business owners, we tend to wrap ourselves up in how much are we getting done and we judge our success or our failure on this idea of accomplishing things. And it’s exhausting, quite frankly, cuz we can’t do it <laugh>.

 

Oliver Burkeman (10:23):

Yeah, I mean the sort of stark way of putting it is that an awful lot of us have staked our sense of self-worth, our sense that we’re doing enough that we’ve made it dependent on doing more than we ever could do, right? It’s like <laugh> this kind of perfect trap where the only way you will feel like you’ve used the day well or that you’ve kept on top of things is if you’ve done a quantity of things that nobody could ever do. And so it’s absolutely a treadmill. It’s something that we, you’re not gonna get to the end of by more discipline or more effort or better productivity techniques. And I was stuck in that mindset for years. I’m sure to some extent it’s still with me today. This idea that you sort of wake up every morning, not only needing to earn a living because of course you do, but also needing to justify your existence on the planet.

 

(11:15):

And then some of us subconsciously decide to use our productivity as the way we’re going to try to do that. And it’s a sort of built in losing battle because as I say, you’re going to end the day with effectively an infinite number of things that are still not done because there are always an infinite number of things that you could do that would be hypothetically meaningful uses of your time. So in the end, I think the answer has to be to face up to this discomfort, understand that there will always be too much to do. And actually as a result of that, kind of cut yourself some slack, realize that it is not on you to get your arms around infinity. And actually in my experience, that’s actually really empowering because it does enable you to then pour your time and attention into a handful of things that really count. It’s not a recipe for giving up in despair, it’s precisely a recipe for being energized to make the difference that you can make when you give up trying to do an impossible amount.

 

Stephanie Everett (12:16):

It strikes me if anyone’s ever taken the Strengthsfinder test that Gallup puts out, and there’s similar ones when I take that test, it always identifies me as an achiever. <affirmative>, when you read that description, it says you wake up every morning and your bucket is filled when you complete tasks and you complete more tasks than anyone. And that so resonated because I often feel like even on a Saturday, it’s like if I’m not checking things off a list, what am I doing with myself? And it’s interesting that then that survey, it describes it as one of my strengths, as one of my superpowers. And yet I think through this process, it’s discovering not so fast. Maybe we’ve got it all wrong. And you talk in the book about this idea of clearing the decks, which really resonated with me because I’m sure lots of people because it’s this idea of I’ll just get all these things done and then I’ll get to the most important stuff, then I’ll get to the things I really wanna do. And one of the things you say is we have to decline to clear the decks and focus on what really counts.

 

Oliver Burkeman (13:20):

Yeah, I mean this is passes with most things in this book, but this especially has been a big sort of psycho drama with me personally as well. There’s this very, very seductive notion that the way you’re gonna handle your day or your month or whatever is first of all to clear up all the little stuff, which on a daily basis tends to mean things like answer all the emails and deal with all the little prices. And then allegedly, you’re gonna finally get to this point where you have the time and the peace of mind to focus on the things that life is really about or that you consider to be the core value of your work. It doesn’t happen for one reason simply because the number of things that can fill up the decks is effectively infinite, right? That’s an infinite supply. So you’re not going to manage to get through it.

 

(14:07):

That’s not how infinity works. And then secondly, actually, in certain ways the act of trying to clear the decks makes the decks fill up again faster. And this is true as anyone knows from in the context of email. If you get really good and fast at dealing with email, you get more email as a result because you reply to people and they reply to your replies and you know, get a reputation for being responsive on email. And it might be the right thing to do for certain people in certain professional contexts, but it isn’t a path to getting things outta the way. It’s a path to having more to do. And so yeah, then what happens of course is that life becomes this kind of permanent state of getting stuff out of the way, getting through things you don’t really want to be doing to get to this mythical time in the future when you’re doing the things that you really want to be doing.

 

(14:57):

And one of the points I’m trying to make is that you just have to decide to do the things that you really want to be doing, provided that they’re sort of broadly speaking wise things for your work and for your goals in your life. You just have to spend the first few hours of the day doing those things while knowing <laugh> that the decks are full of all sorts of other stuff, while knowing that people are clamoring for your attention or getting impatient with you, not having got back to them. And you just sort have to develop this faith that actually that is the best way, not only to build a life that is fulfilling for you, but it’s ultimately most helpful I believe to colleagues, customers, clients, to be able to do this. You can tell me how resonant or not this sounds to the life of a lawyer, but you have to have the guts to believe that you’re gonna serve your clients best by being shade less responsive to them and a shade more focused on doing the work that you’re doing for them, if you see what I

 

Stephanie Everett (15:54):

Mean. No, absolutely. I think it’s hard because we are always told you need to be responsive and you need to communicate and you need to do the updates. And I think we’ve started to shift that as you can lay groundwork from the beginning of the relationship and say, I’m going to give you the updates, but it will be at this pace, or I’m not gonna respond to every email within five minutes because I’m gonna be focused on your work. And so right, it’s like you can manage their expectations and create a place where you can do this more meaningful work and not just spend your time answering their questions on emails, which by the way is preventing you from then you’re probably saying, I haven’t gotten to it yet, or it’s in process because you don’t have the time to actually do the work. You’re responding to the emails,

 

Oliver Burkeman (16:37):

Right? Totally. And it’s like, yeah. So I know from my own experience as a client and a customer of people as well, not only as a provider of things, but if somebody who’s preparing my taxes or something or dealing helping me with some business stuff says like, look, it might be 24 hours or even 48 hours before you hear from me if you send me an email. But in the meantime I’m like saving you money. That’s a real incentive. That’s good. As soon as I made conscious of that, I would rather the people I work with not be immediately responsive if they were actually doing the things that they’re doing on my behalf or something like that. And of course it isn’t an argument for ignoring your email. There are people who maybe can do that in certain walks of life, but it’s just an argument for structuring your day a bit differently.

 

(17:27):

So what I try to do now, certainly I’m not perfect at it by any means, but what I try to do now is reserve the first few hours of the day for the core writing and research work that enables me to give any value at all anyway to the world. Then email is maybe an hour, maybe it has to be two hours later in the day and it’s just like a number of hours. It’s not like I’m gonna get through everything and be absolutely perfect with it. It’s like I’m gonna give this many hours later in the day and then I’m gonna stop. And that’s all you can do with an infinite supply of things anyway. The only argument we’re having is whether you should give one hour a day to it or eight hours a day to it. And when it starts to get bigger, the number of hours you’re you are, you’re directly cannibalizing the thing that you really do. And that brings value to things.

 

Stephanie Everett (18:13):

Yes, I love it. Let’s take a quick break to hear from our sponsors when we come back. I wanna shift slightly to another topic.

 

Zack Glaser:

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Stephanie Everett (20:22):

So we’re back. We’ve just discovered that obviously there are way too many things in life. In fact an infinite number of things we could be doing. The good news is we don’t have to try to do them all anymore. We have permission to stop doing all those things and to focus on the things that matter, which is probably the hardest part of all this. But there’s another concept you talk about, which is this idea of rest. And for many of us I think that can be difficult. So I’m curious, why should we be thinking about rest differently?

 

Oliver Burkeman (20:54):

Wow. Yeah, I mean I think this ties into a broader question and I’ll come to rest specifically for sure. But about what I refer to in the book as Instrumentalizing, our time treating every moment of life as valuable only in terms of where it’s leading or where it’s taking us or what the future outcome of it is gonna be. And some of that attitude is essential if you wanna do stuff in the world. And some of it is probably hardwired into us as animals anyway. I’m not suggesting that we pay no attention to how we are using our time for future purposes, but there is a point at which doing that to the exclusion of all else means that you are locating the whole value of life in some time other than now. And it means that you’re sort of endlessly sort of demoting the present moment.

 

(21:45):

The only place where meaning ever really can be experienced as something that only has meaning because of a future time when you, you’re gonna find meaning if you wanna talk about it. There’s been some interesting research suggesting that culture of the billable hour is especially prone to this kind of problematic mindset. But where rest comes in is that really we get to this point where even our leisure time feels like it can only be justified in terms of a future goal. And so we all know people, maybe we are those people who are always using every spare moment to train for a marathon or to develop some skill or even just to sort of rest for the main reason that it’s gonna make us better at work tomorrow or something. And I want to make the argument that none of those are quite true rest, but really sort of true rest has to be something that you enjoy at least partly for the sake of doing it in that moment.

 

(22:42):

And yeah, I do think this is hard for us. I think as modern people, it’s true, as many people have said that we live in an economic climate and in a culture and a society that makes it hard for us to rest. But it’s also true that if you are someone who gets the chance to take half an hour in the middle of the day to just stare out the window or walk in the park or read a novel, it’s really hard to relax into doing it. Cause the flywheel in your mind is turning and it’s like, well no, I wanna use this to get through more stuff. And I do think that maybe if you can internalize a little bit that message that no, it’s always gonna be more stuff forever that you’re gonna die with a very long to-do list. Even if you live to be 150, that it does make it a little easier to stop in the midst of that cause you are no longer thinking that rest is some sort of obstacle to getting through your stuff and you begin to see that rest is actually a part of what life is all about.

 

(23:40):

I still find it really hard though,

 

Stephanie Everett (23:41):

<laugh>. Yeah. And it feels connected to another huge topic you talk about, which is attention in that a lot of what you wrote and that realm also really resonated with me cuz we’re our attention. I mean, I think the research is showing that we’re not, our attention span has decreased. We can’t stay focused on our work because social media is designed to pull it away. That is a struggle.

 

Oliver Burkeman (24:06):

Yeah, I mean there’s the question of whether it makes sense to say that our attention spans have shrunk is an incredibly controversial one and we don’t like, let’s not fit into all that research here. But I think the essence of this, which is our attention is in a sense attention is everything. Attention is life. What you pay attention to over the course of your life is just what your life will have been. If you have a problem but you never pay any attention to it, then maybe you don’t really have that problem. And on the flip side, if you have a friendship, you literally never give it any of your attention where you don’t really have that friendship. So attention is everything. And yeah, we’ve allowed this situation to develop where attention is a prime commodity for certainly social media networks and lots of other participants in the so-called attention economy.

 

(24:55):

And they don’t really have our best interests at heart, they just want us to be on site for more minutes. They just want us to be giving them attention. Usually these are advertising funded models, so they want us to be giving their attention because it, that’s what they sell to advertisers. And it’s this famous old observation that if you’re not paying for the product, you are the product. And that is a very troublesome situation, but it’s combined with this fact that distraction, it’s kind of an inner thing as well. It’s not just that these evil people outside us are trying to steal our attention, it’s that we sort willingly go along with this. If you’re working on something difficult, challenging, intimidating, meaningful, but occasionally boring, whatever it is, there’s a strong urge to go and do something else instead, perhaps involving scrolling mindlessly through terrifying news stories or celebrity gossip or people arguing with each other.

 

(25:52):

And so I think there’s sort of an inner battle to be thought here as well, which is realizing that the work that matters to us often does feel like something we don’t want to do, even though that seems paradoxical at first glance. Cause it’s kind of high stakes and you don’t know if you can do it. When I’m sitting down to write a chapter of a book, I care about that a lot, but it’s precisely because I care about it that it sort of brings up a bunch of emotions in me that would all be quelled if I just spent now on Twitter instead. Yes. So it’s you have to be willing to see that actually sometimes the desire to distract yourself can be a sign that the thing you are doing is meaningful to you.

 

Stephanie Everett (26:33):

Yeah, no, that completely resonates and shows up in so many ways. I mean, when I was practicing law, it was often I think it goes all hand in hand. Let me clear the decks before I get to this really hard important brief that is the most important thing. But I also know it’s gonna be difficult and email feels easy. It feels like I know how to do that, but I’m really gonna have to use my brain to do this other work that’s important but also intimidating. And so when I read that, it’s often we want to be distracted, we like it because it allows us to kind of escape this thing that’s hard and that really struck a chord with me.

 

Oliver Burkeman (27:12):

Yeah, I just wanna say, I think control is another part of it as well. You’re kind of slightly out of control when you are dealing with the biggest projects in your world. You don’t have that strong confidence sense of I know what I’m doing here and I get to decide what I do. In a way it’s sort your, there’s a vulnerability involved and an interesting parallel, even though you might not think it was parallel to working on a big legal brief, is if you are either a parent or you’ve ever had the responsibility just for a few hours to of look after a two year old or a three year old, even if it’s not your own, this can feel really boring sometimes, even though not supposed to say that because obviously it’s true that spending time with children is kind of miraculous as well.

 

(27:54):

And it is, but you are totally out of control of that time. You’ve got to, with a very small child, certainly you can’t not pay attention. You can’t sort of decide that you’re going to bring this to close now and go and do something else because the responsibility is too great. And so yeah, you see people scrolling through their phones while swinging their children at the playground because that’s a similar kind of thing, right? It’s like there is not the control that we would like to have over our time when we’re doing things that kind of really matter. And so distraction is sort of a way to accommodate that emotional discomfort, I think.

 

Stephanie Everett (28:29):

Yeah. And so I guess there’s so many big, I mean, we know these things. I read the book, I was like, I know all this to be true, but you laid it out in such a great way that it does make you kind of stop and say, ah, I’m approaching this whole thing maybe a little bit wrong. And the book, you can’t even make fun of the time management hacks. But I wonder if you could leave our listeners with something of inspiration like now what do we do with all this once we kind of have this aha moment in this shift about how we think about time and our time management?

 

Oliver Burkeman (29:03):

Yeah, this is a really good question because there is a risk here I think of if I flatter myself that I’ve conveyed something meaningful in this book and then people grasp it, there is a risk of then making the mistake of thinking, oh, now this is the time management approach. I’ve got to perfectly implement in your life as a great coach. An email newsletter writer called Catherine Andrews who writes this email called The Sunday. So who titled one of them the other day? Something like Why You are Going About Recovering from Perfectionism All Wrong? And it was kinda like a, it’s a great joke, right? Because there’s a terrible tendency to people who see that they’ve been trying to do something impossible to be like, okay, now I’ve got to be perfect at not expecting to be perfect. And that way madness lies. So the first thing I wanna say is it really is on some level about being a bit kinder to yourself and trusting that that actually is a way of accomplishing more, not some sort of indulgence, but a way of accomplishing more and being kind at yourself also means not expecting to hold onto insights like this perfectly every day for the rest of your life.

 

(30:10):

But that said, yeah, there are productivity techniques that work in this context because the point is not usually the technique but the spirit in which you come at the technique. So are a good example you may be well aware of is the Pomodoro technique, which has to do with dividing your work into 25 minute portions. You can easily find more online if people don’t know about this. I don’t think this is good or bad. I think it was bad when I was using it to try to become some kind of superhuman who could take on everything and never have to say no to anything. And I think it’s good as a way of managing a day where you have a sort of much more realistic sense of what is gonna be possible and you’re focused on the most important things as a result. I think another strategy that I think is just really important, and we touched on it earlier, is this idea of paying yourself first with time, doing the things that matter the most for at least a bit of every day or every week before you turn to all the other stuff that is weighing down on you.

 

(31:10):

So this is, again, old advice, but very simple idea, just to spend 90 minutes at the beginning of the day working on something that you incontrovertibly know is really important before you turn to all the other stuff, which may or may not be important. And there’s an appendix at the back of the book where I list a whole bunch more of these kind of specific techniques, but I still don’t think that the techniques are the most important thing. The most important thing is just like to ask yourself that question, what would I do differently today if I knew that there was always gonna be too much to do? If I knew for certain that at the end of this day I would still have an infinite amount left to do, that’s off the table that’s given, you don’t get to change that. So breathe a sigh of relief and let your shoulders drop. And now, okay, what would be the two or three things that I would be powered of having used today for?

 

Stephanie Everett (32:00):

I love that and I love the idea of the spirit and giving yourself grace. And before we hit record this morning, I confessed to you that I got up and I have a very scheduled day. There’s a lot going on and it turns out there’s a conference happening downtown that a lot of my colleagues are going to, and I really wanted to go down and see them. And I just woke up this morning with this overwhelming sense of like, oh my, what are you doing to yourself? Yes, it would be great to see those people that come from out of town. And I was like, it’s gonna make the day infinitely just harder and stressful. And so I was struggling with this, but then I finally just forgave myself and I was like, “it’s okay. You don’t have to do all the things. They’re gonna be okay with you too.”

 

Oliver Burkeman (32:47):

<laugh> like Yeah, absolutely. It’s, you put it so well because yeah, isn’t a question of having to convince yourself that those people in that conference don’t matter. They do matter, but so do lots of other things and too many things. So at least something that matters is gonna have to fall by the wayside and it won’t be because they secretly don’t matter. And then I think also putting this in terms of grace and forgiveness, we are in sort of quasi-religious territory here. People are looking for salvation through time management and there is a lot to be said for considering the possibility that you’re already okay, even if you waste every minute of today. Okay, so you’re okay in that big existential, almost religious sense. Okay, that’s done, that’s sorted now. What would be the most useful tasks to spend your hours on?

 

Stephanie Everett (33:37):

Awesome. There’s so much more that you uncover in the book. It’s 4,000 Weeks, Time Management for Mortals, and we’ll put a link to it in the show notes. Obviously one of our values here at Lawyer is to grow as people. And so I’ve started asking guests, what are you working on right now to grow personally or professionally if you’re willing to share.

 

Oliver Burkeman (34:00):

Yeah, I am just getting started on writing another book and our son is about to turn six years old. And I think that I would like to not have quite the level of existential crisis that I had writing my previous book. And I think I would like to find ways that I can learn from the substance of the book that I put together through those years, which included us son being born to get this next book written with a little less agony and more presence as a parent. That’s my challenge. Right.

 

Stephanie Everett (34:37):

I love it. Thank you for being with us today. It’s been amazing. And I mean we’re gonna be digesting all of this for a long time to come for sure.

 

Oliver Burkeman (34:46):

Oh, well thank you. I’ve really appreciated the conversation. Thank you so much for inviting me.

Announcer:

The Lawyerist Podcast is edited by Britany Felix. Are you ready to implement the ideas we discuss here into your practice? Wondering what to do next? Here are your first two steps. First. If you haven’t read The Small Firm Roadmap yet, grab the first chapter for free at Lawyerist.com/book. Looking for help beyond the book? Let’s chat about whether our coaching communities, are right for you. Head to Lawyerist.com/community/lab to schedule a 10-minute call with our team to learn more. The views expressed by the participants are their own and are not endorsed by Legal Talk Network. Nothing said in this podcast is legal advice for you.

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Stephanie Everett

Stephanie Everett is the President of Lawyerist, where she leads the Lawyerist Lab program. She is the co-author of the bestselling book The Small Firm Roadmap and is a regular guest and co-host of the weekly Lawyerist Podcast.

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Oliver Burkeman

Oliver Burkeman is the author of the New York Times and Sunday Times bestseller Four Thousand Weeks, about embracing limitation and finally getting around to what counts, along with The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking and Help! How to Become Slightly Happier and Get a Bit More Done. For many years he wrote a popular column for the Guardian, ‘This Column Will Change Your Life’. In his email newsletter The Imperfectionist, he writes about productivity, mortality, the power of limits, and building a meaningful life in an age of distraction. He lives in the North York Moors.

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Last updated November 30th, 2022