How we spend time is how we live our lives. I learned this when reading Momo written by Michael Ende three years ago. It is a fantastic book that I am lucky not to have missed.

Image: the book cover of Momo
Image: the book cover of Momo

Recently I started reading Beschleunigung - Die Veränderung der Zeitstrukturen in der Moderne (Social Acceleration: A New Theory of Modernity) by the sociologist Hartmut Rosa. I finished the introduction and conclusion parts, enjoyed them overall, and am reading the parts in between. I might get some messages easier if the writing style is less academic at some places, but this does not hamper the depth or the novelty of the theses of the book in any way.

Image: the book cover of Beschleuning - Die Veränderung der
Zeitstrukturen in der Moderne
Image: the book cover of Beschleuning - Die Veränderung der Zeitstrukturen in der Moderne

Hartmut Rosa argues in the book that social acceleration is the hallmark of modernity. Acceleration calls for more acceleration, which can leave people behind and leave different parts of the society, including nature and economy, democracy and politics, and family and work de-synchronized. During this process, autonomous decision making by individuals becomes more challenging and constrained because of the pressure of acceleration.

I will try to make a summary when I finish reading the book. Until then, I share a few things that I learned from other people about time, among others Michael Ende, Seneca, Paul Graham, Wolfgang Herrndorf, Ruan Yifeng, and family members, friends, and colleagues. I do not know whether there are universal truths about time. But I find the points below helped me scrutinize how I deal with time.

  1. Life is short.
  2. How we spend time is how we live our lives.
  3. Spend time with people and things that you cherish with a sense of urgency.
  4. Block time to concentrate and produce with high efficiency is limited every day: plan them cautiously and use them wisely.
  5. Allocate and handle tasks in the order of (a) urgent and important, (b) important but not urgent, (c) urgent but not important, (d) not urgent and not important. For instance, make a table or make a Cartesian coordinate to visualize them.
  6. Start the day with a block working time. Do not check any communication tools. The valuable time in the morning belongs to you, not others who write to you.
  7. Emails, chats, and other communication tools are at its best to-do lists and at its worst time waste.
  8. Process switching is expensive: keep a single thread and avoid multitasking (read: multithread-procrastination).
  9. Meeting is the last resort if every other communication channel fails. The father of a friend put it this way: Meetings are where minutes are kept and hours are lost.
  10. Things that we do not do when we are busy are likely left undone even if we are free. Things that we do despite being busy are things that we value.
  11. Be aware of the preciousness of time, and share the output of the time spent with as many people as possible.