I’ve lost track of how many books I’ve read on time and productivity. The problem with many of these books is that they backfire. As Oliver Burkeman writes in Four Thousand Weeks, our efforts to make the most of our limited time can actually make things worse:
The problem isn’t exactly that these techniques and products don’t work. It’s that they do work — in the sense that you’ll get more done, race to more meetings, ferry your kids to more after-school activities, generate more profit for your employer — and yet, paradoxically, you only feel busier, more anxious, and somehow emptier as a result.
A year ago, I made some changes in my life in an attempt to make things more manageable. At the end of 2022, I still found myself overcommitted and feeling time-poor even though I’d tried to reduce my commitments, and even though I picked up and tried to apply at least four new books on time this year.
I was ready, then, to pick up Jen Pollock Michel’s new book In Good Time: 8 Habits for Reimagining Productivity, Resisting Hurry, and Practicing Peace. Michel is one of my favorite contemporary writers, and I try to read everything she writes, but this topic especially grabbed me given my own struggles.
First, a disclaimer about this book: it’s not another book on how to use your time better. If you’re looking for life hacks and productivity techniques, look elsewhere.
Of course, there’s a place to learn these techniques, as long as we keep them in their place. In the afterword to the book, Michel writes, “I wonder, finishing these pages, if I’ll give up on reading time management books, which enforce a strict rule for numbering time in productive units. Probably not, I admit. I’ll read them, haplessly interested in taming the unruliness of my busy life.” Some of us can benefit from learning basic wisdom principles for making the most of our time.
But that’s not where Michel is going with this book. Instead, Michel wants to reimagine our relationship with time. She wants to help us let go of time anxiety by embracing new habits like receive, wait, enjoy, and remember. Missing from these pages is any sense of hustle or pressure. Present within these pages are honest stories, biblical wisdom, and a willingness to challenge our common assumptions about time and productivity.
I have to be honest: I think I still want the hacks. Maybe that’s okay, as long as I realize they’re not the answer. I will be thinking about the lessons in this book for a while, learning to live within God’s time rather than trying to wrestle it under my control. Michel’s a trustworthy guide in this pursuit.
My Interview with Jen Pollock Michel
I was privileged to interview Michel about his book on the Gospel for Life podcast.
If you’re interested in listening to the interview, subscribe using your favorite podcast platform, or listen to the interview below.
You can also download a transcript of the interview:
- In Good Time: 8 Habits for Reimagining Productivity, Resisting Hurry, and Practicing Peace
- Counterproductive: Time Management in the Knowledge Economy