Time Surfing: The Zen Approach to Keeping Time on Your Side by Paul Loomans
I’m A Zen Monk And Spend A Lot Of Time Intensively Doing Nothing
I almost didn’t read this book, since I figured it would just be some trite ideas on time management. Okay, I was wrong--I underestimated this book. I think the author is a creative, ingenious person. I'm glad I read this book.
TIME SURFING does indeed have a ton of practical tips, such as dealing with email and using your smartphone—but don’t focus so much on those things (which are at the end of the book anyway.) These tips are useful, but they are not the real meat of the book. The real strength of TIME SURFING has nothing to do with tips on how to use your phone or prioritize your tasks. It’s bigger than that—but also more subtle than that.
Seven Big Ideas
Author Paul Loomans succinctly lists seven main topics. I call these his "Big Ideas." Here are the seven:
- Do one thing at a time;
- Be aware of what you’re doing and accept it;
- Create breathers between activities;
- Give your full attention to drop-ins;
- Become aware of “gnawing rats” and transform them into “white sheep;”
- Observe background programs;
- Use your intuition when choosing what to do.
I have long practiced the idea of #1, just doing "one thing at a time." The author provides some good basis for his point. He suggests that if you think you are doing more than one thing at a time, you are fooling yourself. Here’s why--the second task is not really getting your attention:
“One of the two activities was being carried out on autopilot, almost unconsciously. . . If we need to give our attention to both things, it means we’re sacrificing something in the process.”
I also really liked Idea #4, "Give your full attention to drop-ins." This is another idea that was new to me. Here's how it works: Instead of looking at an interruption as something bad, you focus directly on it:
“By shifting the focus of your attention, you experience the interruption as a separate item rather than as a disruption, and don’t stay suspended in between two things. . . For both you and the other person, it’s more relaxing and also more effective. . . “
So the interruption is no longer a time-waster step, but something really useful. Excellent idea; simple but powerful.
Perhaps the most graphically desribed idea is #5, the “gnawing rats." The “rats” are concerns that lie just below the surface, bugging us. Paul suggests facing these ideas directly, and “visualizing the step that’s hard for you.” You look at the issue, and create a “relationship with the problem.”
By directly facing the "rats" problem, it ceases to be something negative. Oftentimes, you can more clearly see any obstacles, especially by talking about the issue with others.
Yet another good idea is #7. I have never heard this idea before. Here’s how it works: You visualize future actions as “a dispenser filled with surprise capsules.” You don’t try to schedule a task; rather, you “let them go and trusting they will get their turn.” Think of the surprise as “one of those coin-operated dispensers filled with surprise capsules.” His idea is that your intuition does a better job of managing your time than your analytic mind. So relax and wait for the surprise!
So all in all, I found TIME SURFING to be a fun, creative read. This book contains a lot of wisdom and excellent practical tips. Some of the ideas were familiar to me, but others were brand spanking new. For most “Type A” persons, I think that “letting go” to let your intuition schedule tasks will be really tough—but I’m going to try just “floating along with whatever happens.”
Finally, I thought the illustrations by Niels de Hoog were amusing and entertaining.