This review from my Taking Readings blog certainly applies to lawyers. In fact, it applies to just about everyone. I know that when I began practice–over 30 years ago!–time management became a more acute concern as the demands of multiple cases began to pile up quickly. I often felt overwhelmed. Chandler’s book, along with the Pressfield books I reference in the blog, address these issues from a most useful perspective. Not perfectly, but with the use of calendars and processes, it should work to keep the wolves at bay. So, without further ado:
A Review of Time Warrior: How to defeat procrastination, people-pleasing, self-doubt, over-commitment, broken promises and chaos by Steve Chandler
- by Stephen N. Greenleaf
- Oct. 14, 2014
- 7 min read
This book serves as a fine companion work to Steve Pressfield’s The War of Art and Do the Work!. While Chandler focuses on the familiar theme of “time management”, both he and Pressfield focus on getting things done (and not necessarily as David Allen would have you do it). This book is pithy and easy to read. It could be shorter, and it’s no literary giant. But the message is worthwhile. In fact, in tight, short sentences, Chandler packs somewallop. His style, in addition to his quotes, tends toward the aphoristic. Accordingly, what follows are my quotes of him, his sources, my aphoristic thoughts generated by his insights, and my meta-comments [in brackets]. (I capitalize some words on my own accord as key terms taken from or inspired by Chandler.)
- Non-linear time management involves three options: Now, Not Now (but a date certain), & Never. [I think he should include a fourth: Now Later. For instance, one can use almost any Now to take out the garbage or do the dishes, but some Nows are better than others for productivity. Some tasks are Labor (Arendt), which is by nature repetitive and doesn’t need special attention. Chandler implies that all Time is equally valuable, but this isn’t so. Some, like me for instance, prefer to perform more demanding, creative tasks in the morning, with less demanding tasks—dishes, reading & answering emails, garbage, etc.—left to the afternoon.]
- Empty the Mind about the Future because the Future = Fear.
- Develop a bias for Action
- Develop a laser-like Focus like Bruce Lee or Rocky Marciano (via Joyce Carol Oats).
Joyce Carol Oats
[Yes, you read that correctly. It seems she has a thing about boxing.]
- Act as a Warrior, not as a Worrier.
- Keep your Soul alive by not seeking to Please Others. Do what you choose
- Make Time, don’t expect to Find Time.
- Thinking makes it so. We act (or refrain) based on our beliefs.
- Sustain Focus. Avoid Distraction. Use the rifle, not the shotgun.
- “We use our crayons (our imagination) to scare ourselves instead of to create.” Chandler, Steve (2011-02-14). Time Warrior: How to defeat procrastination, people-pleasing, self-doubt, over-commitment, broken promises and chaos (p. 15). Maurice Bassett. Kindle Edition.
- Use Process Goals, not big, long-term goals. [Compare Scott Adams of Dilbert fame: use Practices not Goals to create Future.]
- “Be brief. Be swift. Be effective.” (19).
- Create Now.
- “Don’t think in terms of patterns. None of this: “I always” or “I never” because those globalizing thoughts will never serve you. They will scare you and make you a pessimist.” (22).
- Start small.
- Slow down.
- Don’t over value Information. “[I]t is active creation that will produce wealth and well-being. Not information.” (27).
- Create Value by serving others.
- Incubation vs. Procrastination. Incubate but Act.
- “No valid plans for the future can be made by those who have no capacity for living now.—Alan Watts (30).
- The time warrior steals from the future. Then she pours her stolen gold—all of it—into the present moment.” (30).
- Don’t Know, Choose. Choosing is the key to Acting.
- “I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost more than 300 games. Twenty-six times I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot, and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life… and that’s why I succeed—Michael Jordan (37).
- “It really isn’t fear of failure that stops us from trying exciting things. It’s fear of the appearance of failure. It’s the fear of looking like a failure.” (37).
- Theory is good for the intellect, but action is good for the soul. It’s also good for your mental health, your physical health, and your pocketbook.—Robert Ringer (39).
- Act, then Feel. Not vice versa.
- Serve, don’t seek to Please.
- Today, like every other day, we wake up empty and frightened. Don’t open the door to the study and begin reading. Take down a musical instrument. Let the beauty we love be what we do. There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.—Rumi (49). [I have to issue a small dissent here. My reading, especially in the morning (preferably after meditation) isn’t a passive act. It’s creative. I don’t just read, I Learn. For me, reading is a very creative activity. Besides, I don’t play a musical instrument & C would kill me if I started singing in the morning.]
- Change Others through an Inspiring example.
- Be in the Moment. Don’t cling to an Identity. I’m a . . . [fill in the blank]. You can be that—or more—or less.
- The question isn’t, Who is going to let me; it’s Who is going to stop me?—Ayn Rand (57). [I haven’t “been Ayn Randed”, but I can’t argue too much with this one thing. See, I’m not going to cling to my identity as knowing her to be full of . . . “well, never mind”.]
- Create, don’t React.
- Issue is Problem Management, not Time Management. Deal with a Project or Challenge, not Time.
- We love to solve problems—if they’re not ours.
- Problems of Time are often problems of Emotion (Feelings).
- Complete. Finish strong. Keep a “killer instinct”.
- Unfinished Projects become Worries that become Energy Vampires!
- Completion Creates Energy. Procrastination drains Energy.
- Don’t Feel like doing It? Do It!
- In the face of suffering, ask “How can I help?”, not “How to do I feel?”.
- Not “How do I survive this [catastrophe]?”, but “How do I use this?”.
- Warriors make friends of deadlines, which seem (and sound) so ominous.
- “The human brain is a magical bio-computer. It sends us energy when we send it something clearly inspiring. But it drags us way down when we feed it something that is negative or depressing. The key to all of this is that we send it.” (88)
- “The breakdown of language foretells the breakdown of results. Always. . . .[If I don’t keep a commitment] I have misused the word commitment, and language no longer means anything. So now anything I say is just noise that conveys no power at all. My language can no longer make anything happen. It can still be descriptive (it can tell you how I feel, it can describe the past) but it can no longer be generative (it can’t make things happen). . . . [A] commitment is something you keep, no matter what.” (90).
- What gets measured gets done.
- Emerson has written many wonderful essays on [acting] and one of the things he said is “Do the thing and you shall have the power.”(110)
- “Creative people need some kind of structure. . . . Paradoxically, the best creativity comes from working with the most structure you can possibly impose on yourself.” (114).
- “What do I feel like doing right now? That is the worst question I could ever ask myself during my workday. On a weekend that’s a fine question. “What do I feel like doing? I’ll watch a little baseball, I’ll play the guitar.” That’s fine, but in my workday, the feeling question is the worst question I can ask myself. The best questions are: “What do I want to produce?” and “What structure would guarantee that?”. (115).
- Create your own Urgent.
- Skip Willpower and simply Choose to Begin.
- Begin—to begin is half the work, let half still remain; again begin this, and thou wilt have finished.—Marcus Aurelius (121).
- “Why do I want my lack of action to be about a “thing” inside me I don’t have? The answer is this: I would rather find and identify some defect in myself than take that first step. Isn’t that the easier, softer way to live? Identifying flaws and defects all day?” (122). [Pressfield names “the thing”: Resistance. But whether you name it to overcome it or you simple ignore it to overcome it, the only weapon that can work is Action. Do, do, do.]
- “Whatever it is you are not doing, notice that you are choosing not to do it. There’s no defect in you! There’s the opposite of a defect. There is, instead, a power. A power to choose. Choose to, choose not to, same power. Always power.” (122-123). [My only quibble is that some people fail to recognize that they are making a choice (always making a choice) and therefore don’t exercise the conscientiousness or self-reflexivity necessary to realize what’s going on. I think that this requires a great deal of self-awareness. If not, why would Chandler have to teach this? Why would piles of books have ever been written about the Will and Willpower? (I know because I’ve read a lot of them.) Why would we worry about weakness of will? What if the choice is do or not do, such as whether to eat a Twinkie when you’re hungry? What if “not doing” is the best choice, then the default “Do” will fail us. We see weakness of will (akrasia) all of the time in ourselves and others. We discount the future hyperbolically. We make a choice—and we know damn well that we’ll later regret it. St. Paul and St. Augustine and others after them weren’t addressing a non-existent problem. So, grading as the Chinese might, I’d say Chandler is about 60% right on this issue.]
- Love what you’re doing, whatever it is. [Can be challenging.]
- “The perception you have of anything is always what drives your feelings and your actions and your thoughts.” (133).
- Great things are not done by impulse, but by a series of small things brought together.–Vincent van Gogh (141).
- Fear is the absence of Love, as dark is the absence of light.
- “Live Now, Procrastinate Later”: great title (Robert Holden).
- “I experience a stressed-out feeling whenever I think about the deadline for a creative project. But my stress comes from having that project be in the future. Non-linear time management doesn’t allow that line that stretches into the future. Because the linear thought process always produces stress. Unreasonable stress.” (175).
- “You can create the future—through process-goal-setting and achievement—without living in the future. Just like studying a map before you go somewhere. Or looking at a menu before the meal. You don’t walk on the map. You don’t eat the menu. Once you’ve created your goal and project you set the future aside.” (182).
- “All creativity emerges from inquiry.” (188).
- “Thought always comes before a feeling and causes the feeling.” (196). [A key component of Stoic thought per Richard Sorabji.]
- Perseverance is not a long race; it is many short races one after another.—Walter Elliott The Spiritual Life (202).
- Stop lying to yourself.
- Aristotle: “Whatever we learn to do, we learn by actually doing it. People come to be builders, for instance, by building, and harp players by playing the harp. In the same way, by doing just acts we come to be just. By doing self-controlled acts, we come to be self-controlled, and by doing brave acts we become brave.” (206-207).
Let’s stop here. Lots of excellent ideas and perspectives. A fine and lasting tonic.