Summary of the book The New Art of Time: Combatting Stress : Still a topical subject, at the heart of the professional, personal, or family concerns of each of us, time is, above all, our life which is fleeting, and as such, it is our most precious asset; this is what Jean-Louis Servan-Schreiber invites us to reflect on, by showing us how the misuse of our times of life prevents most of us, not only from being efficient, but especially from be happy. By making us aware of the problem, he strives to put a finger on the painful, but crucial points of our bad habits, to encourage us to learn, through his advice, in order to better control our time and find our inner balance.
By Jean-Louis Servan-Schreiber – Editions Albin Michel (January 5, 2000) – 242 pages
Note: This review was written by Catherine Billet
Review and Summary of The New Art of Time
Even if words have a meaning, sometimes their intensive and trivialized use causes their deep meaning to fade. This is the case with the word “Time”, which, in certain common expressions, can simply be replaced by the word “Life” to realize what it really means for us: taking time, saving time, running out of time, wasting time, etc. (I’ll let you do the rest) then take on another dimension. Awareness is vital because to control your time is to control your life.
A paradox of modern times, the lack of time is an almost ubiquitous complaint; the most anxiety-provoking shortage of the century. Even though social and technological developments have given us the means to have more free time, our pace of life seems to accelerate to the point where we live poorly. Only a few autodidacts have discovered the secret of organized, fluid, delivered time. The New Art of Time is a book for those who are still searching.
Chapter I – Wasting Your Time
Time slips away inevitably. Six-digit quartz digital watches (hours, minutes, seconds) remind us of this in such an oppressive way that their fashion, around our wrists, has not caught on. The haunting vision of the hemorrhaging of seconds of linear time that propels us to the end is far too unbearable for us. We prefer the concentric, smoother, and less oppressive flow of time of hour-hand watches. Yet, however you measure it, the truth is that time inevitably flies by, and that we have everything to gain in knowing how to control its use.
We quantify it, of course, but its true nature escapes us. Philosophers and scientists of all periods have debated it and still debate it today. Time may be an illusion, the promise of a backward journey, a simple point of reference or just an uncertainty which we must put up with…
Keep in mind, to put it simply, that time measures transformation and that our way of perceiving it, understanding it, describing it depends on who we are, the times in which we live, our knowledge and our culture. The only certainty is that it leaves its mark on life, reminding us that we are mortal, and that it thus places itself at the heart of all human tragedy.
Our body, our mirrors or our watches, everything that confronts us with the passage of time raises a question to us: What are we going to do with our time? Because time is an equitable resource, fully available, incorruptible, and immutable. For each of us, whoever we are, 24 hours last 24 hours. Our only power over time is therefore the use we make of it.
If we transpose time into space, the space of a bedroom for example; it is easier to imagine the importance of the way we organize our life. Imagine living in a room with delimited and non-modifiable contours; we easily understand that furnishing it with too many things (mostly unnecessary); or less, but in disorder, limits our available space. Thus, we see that filling our room with few, carefully chosen, useful, and neatly arranged things frees us up more space to live in. It is the same with time.
But if we find a way to have more storage, is it to have more space or to store more things? Today, technology allows us to accomplish more within an unchanging time frame. Thanks to technological tools, we can now do the same thing in less time or do two things at the same time with a feeling of power — which quickly turns into slavery if we do not learn to master this new power. Mastery of use never depends on the tool.
“Compared to that of our ancestors, modern time is unique [synchronous at the planetary level], rhythmic [with available time] and congested [with more and more activities].” The standardization of time leaves us no escape, no local exception, no identity interlude, no agreement to the natural time of the seasons. Unified time shapes us as much as it escapes us.
Stress arose from there, from this abandonment of control over our own time of life, to the fractional time of modern society. Working time, leisure time, consumption time — so many discreet vines, growing exponentially, which attach us insidiously and enclose us in a stressful lifestyle, preconceived for us, made to do our thinking for us. Taking back your time is then the best way to relieve this stress.
The progress of modern time has offered us more free time than our ancestors had.
Why then this tenacious and consensual impression of not having any? The answer seems simple: because we do not know how to take advantage of it. “Only those who have learned to make the most of it can enjoy time“; and not only by practicing the art of true relaxation during the limited time on vacation. Because controlling your time is a global learning process. This still goes and above all through the proper use of the tools of progress. The duration, the order, and especially the moment of their use makes all the difference.
The relationships between time and money have always been ambiguous and intertwined; we give one to have the other (work and leisure), and we choose one to the detriment of the other (work and leisure). But we know that the real value of time is that which measures our lives and cannot be made up, even by playing on the illusion of jet lag.
We waste our time like we waste nature. Yet both are limited and precious resources because the quality of both depends on the quality of our very lives. And “for the quality of our time, no one will ever be more responsible than us.”
Chapter 2 – Running After Time
In the era of information and communication technologies, the same tools that save us time on the one hand devour it on the other. But is this time-consuming media time truly worth the time of reading, concentrating, socializing, sleeping and inner peace we sacrifice for it?
Although productivity has its reasons for being and is useful at work, the extreme stress that it creates easily follows us into our personal time and shapes our way of living beyond the professional sphere. It is up to us to know how to release the tension to make sure that, at home, it’s a place for well-being and healing.
Even in terms of consumption, we lack the time to think. We are conditioned by advertising, which thinks in our place about the interest of our purchases, and it is a safe bet that business done on the internet will also end up taking back the time it promises to save us.
Our cellars and attics are full of “things” barely worn or not even opened; our leisure activities are encumbered with more time of restraint and waiting than time of pleasure (cleaning your swimming pool, waiting in line at amusement parks, etc.). We succumb to the allures of futile and thoughtless consumption without realizing that, in the end, we work to earn enough to buy what we produce while working. The compulsive eaters, the insatiable, the eternally unsatisfied, we give up the quality of things in favor of their quantity; we devour time and pleasures instead of savoring what they offer us.
Essentially, an hour a day is what time constraints and futile pleasures allow us to dispose of. It is borrowed time, threatened by these desires which contaminate us and “grow faster than the time we have to satisfy them.”
“My psychotic time” a very personal play on words to evoke our multiple and successive lives in a crazy and fragmented time frame. Time for studies and time for work, the time for our pseudo-pleasures and the time of others who suck the lifeblood out of us, are all opportunities to lose yourself.
No more wire to our telephones, but a permanent, portable link which monopolizes our time and pulls us out of our every corner. A practical and reassuring tool, the laptop is a double-edged sword that you need to know how to muzzle to save yourself time.
Because we accept to be constantly disturbed, available at all times and for anything, at home or at work, we waste time finding the thread of our activity or our initial reflection. We complain of being overwhelmed by opening the floodgates ourselves. But perhaps, after all, being so busy juggling our chopped-up time saves us from having to face the real time that is fleeing?
Faced with this anguish, the wait is unbearable for us. Nourished by a schizophrenic media environment, which makes us believe that we can sow time in a sprint; our chronic impatience sells us the bad for the good, action rather than reflection; the superficial instead of deep meaning. At all levels of responsibility and stakes, we fly over things, even the most essential. Acting more to think less seems to be the motto of the century, the source; and the palliative of our ignorance. We stifle time to think so that we no longer have to think about time.
In our compressed lives, the full time of love is often the first of our times sacrificed. It too, being restrictive and choppy, cuts into conversation, attention for the other and sensuality, leaving us frustrated and guilty. Cultivating the art of loving is nevertheless cultivating the art of time. These two are inseparable.
“Stress is to time what obesity is to food”, the morbid consequence of our bad habits. The “epidemic” of stress is spreading quickly, its diseases are less visible but just as dangerous as those of obesity. It is becoming urgent to relearn how to better nourish our time, to ration our voracious hours before suffocating under their weight.
Chapter 3 – Pacing Your Time
“Vacation”: time available, time needed, during which we break our frantic rhythm. An elastic period of time where the passing of hours is afforded the luxury of being expandable, and the need to shrink with the very personal feeling that the return time is approaching. Experienced time, the duration of which depends on our own perception, no longer has a frame, it is regulated by our personal situation.
Nature’s time contains us, that of society imposes us, time experienced belongs to us. Nature’s time reduces us to the state of dust when it takes the scale of the cosmos. But it harmonizes us and embodies us in the reassuring beginning of the seasons. Social time constrains us. It involves us in a whole which protects and alienates us, quantifying; predefining our choices and our actions even in our spaces of freedom. However, we can also learn to master the rules of the game and allow the collective only a fair portion of our lives.
As for experienced time, it is ours. The most real of the three times is expressed in quality (too short, interminable, precious, etc.) There is a perceived, subjective time that defines our own reality. The more we fill our days with constraints, the more it shrinks. It is then the impression of fleeing time, the feeling of urgency to live, the awareness of the value of time.
If we can, in the moment, visit the past or the future through our memories or our projects, there is only in the present that we can be. Spending our time retreating into the past, or hoping for the future, prevents us from truly living the present. Our relationship to time most often depends on our education and the example of our parents. But, oddly enough, in our own way of experiencing time, we can subscribe to these models or do everything to escape them. In psychiatry, rebelling against the shackles of constraints is even a sign of good mental health.
Sometimes we handle wasted time like an unconscious language, “look at me everyone, I am important, I exist!”, the narcissistic latecomer seems to shout behind excuses. Also angry with accuracy, the procrastinator reveals to us his pathological difficulty in making a decision.
Taking advantage of the moment, of the fullness of the present, is an innate childhood know-how, a simple and intense experience that must not be forgotten. Your memory serves you as a compass when the flavor of the days is lost. The present is the unique time of life, the essential time to be, that we must relearn to live with the candor and the force of our childhood emotions.
According to our cultures, our time horizons differ. In primitive cultures, the cyclical perception of time gives little room for the future, what happened predicts what will happen. In our western societies of progress, the horizon of the future, full of promise and prospects, crowds out that of the past.
At the individual level too, the divergence of time horizons distinguishes those who project from those who look back. In the professional sphere, looking ahead is a sure bet. An internationally recognized quality to take on complexity, lead and develop. Another criterion for selecting positions of responsibility: Knowing how to appreciate the time it takes to do things. This ability to assess duration is a matter of experience and objectivity. In the workplace, it is a measure of success and reliability.
Experienced and perceived time is the only one to our measure. Since it is malleable, we fill it with our needs, our unforeseen events; our habits, but most often at random, in disorder and without thinking about it. We suffer from this time-consuming entanglement without knowing how to fix it. What if the key to our chains was in our schedules?
Chapter 4 – Rediscovering Your Time
We spend most of our time wasting it, through ignorance, fatigue, neglect, or consent. Our bad habits lead us to accomplish our tasks without pleasure, despite common sense, to always put them off until later, to confuse our priorities with those of others, to forget our personal time in the planning of the days, or to be overwhelmed.
The boredom of the routine hardly motivates us to get down to work. As long as we have a somewhat slow start, we are quickly caught up by the daily frenzy and multifaceted intrusions (emails, visits, telephone, etc.) which keep us away until the evening of our planned activities and our constructive reflections. As a result of being busy to the point of excess; of being immersed in the exciting stress of urgency, we end up believing that we are important.
In the United States, and elsewhere, overlapping studies have identified our time-stealers, [listed in the book]. Thirteen external thieves (suffered causes, external to us) and sixteen internal thieves (causes for which we are, directly or not, responsible) take equal part in the theft. While the first tendency would be to accuse external thieves as a priority, experience has shown that it is the internal ones who actually steal (often in disguise) most of our hours.
Knowing this, it is difficult to incriminate others, the system, or the organization; even if all these contribute in part, we have to bear most of the fault. However, as a result, we have the power to break our barriers. Unless, somewhere, we are more afraid of changing our habits than of risking ourselves for the better.
Because, if it is a question of revealing what we are through our actions, questioning our practices and admitting being responsible for them, it is to question our own identity. The eternal latecomer, the overwhelmed, the workaholic, have a known image; they are also the story of their faults. The stereotypical, negative recognition they get from it is better than no recognition at all.
Change is scary. Changing your image means venturing into the void, uncertainty and instability. It is disobeying fate, facing reality, taking responsibility for your life; considering the effort, taking your place and occupying your time. No wonder given the scale and the danger of the task that some people recoil at the time of change. Of course, we are our toughest opponent.
Five self-prescribed “lethal injunctions” control and poison our lives:
“Hurry up!”, which characterizes those who only know how to work in a rush and at the last moment.
“Be perfect!”, for perfectionists who never stop preparing, checking and polishing.
“Please me!”, for those who do not know how to say no and work first for others to the detriment of their own work.
“Try again!”, for those who indulge in difficulty and who attribute to work the value of the effort rather than that of the result.
“Be strong!”, for those who don’t need anyone and want to be right through thick and thin.
Regardless of the origin of our respective preferences, we often have a hard time weaning ourselves from the harmful principles that govern our actions. Put them to the question, they will reveal their limits and their absurdity.
Chapter 5 – Mastering Your Time
We have no control over time, therefore no chance of being able to control it. By “mastering your time”, you must understand it as controlling yourself in your relationship to time.
Mastery requires knowledge, training, and confidence. The learning process begins with motivation, is maintained with will and concludes with complete interiorization.
Motivation is the first step. The example of the “masters”, through the results they obtain, the elegance of their practice, and the quality of their life, is a force that drives us.
The “masters of time” around us recognize each other: their efficiency bewilders us, their degree of precision and their quality of attention fascinate us, the serenity they exude and the cheerfulness they communicate amaze us.
To embark on the path of mastery is to know yourself better, to admit your weaknesses, to rely on your strengths, to know what you want, to decide where you are going. “You can only take control of your time if you know what you want to do with it, generally and specifically, ultimately and in stages.”
Although we deal with it from kindergarten, the practice of time is not taught in school. Its analysis, its management, its organization, the methodology of its use, its value; the appreciation of the duration of a task, for most of us, are self-learning.
To see clearly in our too crowded time, a major spring cleaning is necessary. Sweep away unnecessary routines and obligations! Seal the gaping holes that let in uninvited guests! Scrub the memory of unnecessary things! Identify and study these uses of our times, now and forever! Taking control of our lives means deciding and acting.
“Mastering time is not only a weapon against stress, but also a philosophy of life.” An integral approach which commits us to understand that whatever its imposed fragmentations, the time we live is unique and permanent, all times are ONE time: ours. But it also requires us to realize that the time of our life lasts only our lifetime and that the past hours are forever. Hence its irreplaceable value and the compelling reason not to waste it, to use it, always, in the service of better living.
Let’s not confuse stress management and mastery. “Save time, be efficient” is management language. We are talking here about mastery, a more philosophical or “spiritual” concept which imposes a distance from the problem and attaches to the path we follow in order to give meaning and fullness to our lives.
Time, like life, is essentially dynamic. It expresses successive and constant transformations. The perfect master of time takes pleasure in change; it is an explored territory that he no longer fears, his hours are docile. Whatever hero image we give him, the master of time is a role model who motivates and supports us. But we are not heroes, or even beginners, and in our ruthless world, motivation, at times, plummets.
Patience and confidence! The nutrition of controlled time begins with a period of constraints, time spent and extra work; the opposite of the desired goal. But this paradox is only a preface to better living. Have courage for freedom comes out of organization!
Chapter 6 – Giving Yourself Time
How to go about giving yourself time and living better? By organizing of course! But what else?
No recipes here, but a few avenues to explore:
- Anticipate: Time for anxiety and its consequences is wasted time. Imagining in advance the course and possible developments of an event and predicting your responses or reactions strengthens our confidence by removing the anxiety of the unknown.
- Planning: It’s planning your actions (thank God for agendas!).
- Wanting: Not vaguely, not in general, not under the influence, but personally, precisely and to the end.
- Preparing: Prepare yourself and your project is already taking action.
- Choosing: It is to decide among your many projects which one you will carry out. Then determine your own, clear, sensible, measurable goals, and prioritize them.
- Granting yourself the right to pleasure: Pleasure is the engine of your actions. Recognizing (and this is difficult) that in each of them you find a certain advantage confronts you with your contradictions, dislodges your real impediments and reveals your true desires.
- Aiming for better living: Behind the utilitarian aspect of your desire to control time is the desire for better living. But what is the amount of time lost and what is that of better living in our different times of life?
In order for us to decide to change our habits and learn to master time; the promise of more pleasure for ourselves is more motivating than that of better efficiency at work. We dream of a better life, but we dare not act to change. The injunction to be useful makes us forget to be. Our pleasures are guilty with regard to our collective duty. Yet our botched, banished, sacrificed personal time is necessary and legitimate. These are times of life and making room for them in our agendas is only a reappropriation of our absolute right to well-being.
It is urgent to decide, to plan and to devote time to these times that we lack: to take care of and maintain our body, to choose and enjoy our leisure activities, to really make love, to consume smartly in complete independence, to travel and change our outlook on things, to rest and sleep to our fullest, to escape into the imagination of a book, to nurture our romantic relationships, to give ourselves to others, to play in family, to enrich ourselves through learning and creating, and to find ourselves by meditation or moments of solitude.
Without these spaces of intimate freedom; without these times of interior harmony, the Self ends up claiming what it is due; the existential crisis sets in, and it is unhappiness that prevails. Imagine, for five minutes, that you only have a few more months to live: How would you really like to spend them? Do not lose sight of these priorities and write them down now, in red, in your reminders.
The what, and the why, are pruned. We have prepared our real obligations; we have updated our shortcomings, revisited our dreams and pointed out our priorities. It remains to find the method to achieve our objectives.
An American study reveals that the “champions of success” (great sportsmen, politicians, managers, etc.) have in common four main characteristics, and two or three good habits, from which we could draw inspiration:
- They solve problems instead of looking to blame others.
- “What they do, they do “for art”, according to demanding internal objectives.
- They mentally rehearse in advance future actions and events [terribly effective].
- They take their risks confidently, after considering worst-case scenarios [to get rid of the fear of failure].”
And, concerning good habits: “They also know how to take vacations, avoid stress, not let themselves be overwhelmed by details and are masters at delegating.”
Chapter 7 – Learning Time
Jean-Louis Servan-Schreiber confesses to us that he learned time on the fly. With an acute awareness of the passing of days, he worked for years to leave, in the space of his own time, all his place in life. Trying, inventing, coordinating, confronting, were his verbs of action. Coming in contact with exceptional men, he learned that glory was often built at the expense of happiness, because, by having the exclusivity of the different times of life, it upset the balance.
“Give time to time.” Although overused, the expression nevertheless retains a deep meaning. If time is a friend, it must be given time. Anticipate, plan, prepare, are times that free up other times that are much vaster. Saving them means paying more in the end, in time, energy, money and peace of mind. We can, of course, prefer recklessness, chance, or improvisation, but this is risking difficulty, problems, and failure.
To decide alone on the use and organization of your time, if you can afford this luxury, is to keep control of your life. Our decisive hours are those that we devote to reflection, the preparation of our projects. These are the meeting periods with ourselves that we must take care to plan so as not to let them disappear under the obligations of others.
That said, an agenda is not enough to preserve our essential times; memory is also a mastery tool. Finding a ploy to not clutter it up with details and not forget anything gives us a big head start. The card system, which is practical and extremely simple (writing your ideas on cards that you then classify), is an idea to explore.
Disease of our contemporary Western societies, the lack of reliability and respect which poisons relationships, and “ruins” a reputation, most often comes from a lack of time. Missing deadlines, forgotten reminders, postponed appointments are the signs of poorly managed time, too many obligations, too many accepted tasks. Learning to say no is practicing self-defense.
Stress epitomizes a vicious circle. It is both the cause and the consequence of the lack of time. It likes to make us sprint on a treadmill when we have to stop the machine to get things straight. The anti-stress secret? Take the time each morning to meticulously organize your day plan to see clearly and not get overwhelmed. It is not a question of doing more, but of planning; of ordering your tasks, of planning a time for the unforeseen and a time for reflection; the goal is to work better, in peace and far from stress.
Another “tip” that is important for those who want to optimize their time: Analyze the past 24 hours. Taking stock of what happened, comparing reality with what you had planned; allows you to adjust the course for the following days and learn the lessons of each day.
Others, and many, exist, (especially in Anglo-Saxon specialized literature) for learning to manage time at work. Their pragmatic vision of time does not call into question the philosophical principles described in this work and they can be useful to you.
Jean-Louis Servan-Schreiber takes stock here of how the application of his principles and his tools has changed in his life:
- He admits not working less, but by choice and for pleasure.
- He concentrates on the essential and no longer has the feeling of wasting his time; this aspect is, for him, the most important.
- He is no longer stressed and is enjoying life; the time he has planned to devote to his free time is lived to the fullest.
- He knows that he can still progress in this field and his research, in this sense, it fascinates him.
It ends with the parable of the pebbles [which I leave you the pleasure of discovering in the book], which shows that, in a given space/time, if we do not place the most important elements first, there will be no more room to fit them in. It is up to you, therefore, to determine what are the “big stones” in your life and to find them a special place in your time.
Chapter 9 – Time in the New Century
With the advent of the new century, dazzling progress is announced, in technology of course; but also, and above all, in biology and in the political-economic sphere. The changes they promise us will have the face of well-being, or that of alienation; depending on how we use them.
Our lives are getting longer. We will be older longer and probably in good health. The question then arises of what we will do with this borrowed time at the end of our “active life”. What will we put in our personal time that fulfils us and enriches us? Recreation? More work? Let’s take the time to think about it.
At work, the outlook is bleaker, the “high tension zones” are spreading. Stress and urgency have become the norm. Everywhere, unemployment and globalization are turning workers and entrepreneurs into fierce competitors.
Thanks to new technologies, we have more information and interactions than we can process and integrate. The reduction in working time has strayed from its initial goal and the hoped-for additional hires have turned into an infernal rate for all current employees. We now live in the realm of speed. We will necessarily have to tame it, and be careful not to confuse speed and haste to invent a livable world.
For that, it appears that the most important battle of the new century will be that of the mastery of time, with all that entails reflection, responsibility, and discernment. However, our relationship to time does not come out unscathed from its confrontation with technology.
The case of the cell phone, the perfect tool of ease and impatience, is a glaring example. Against foresight, distance, and reflection, it opposes improvisation, addiction and futility. But not only that. Like the computer, which is going wild and is importing the office to the home at the risk of devouring all that is intimate, the laptop provides us invaluable services. It saves us time and facilitates our exchanges like never before. Like the computer, the laptop, because it is portable, becomes an extension of ourselves, yet it remains a tool. A tool of which we have the use and, in principle, the control.
Mastery is not limited to the dexterity of the fingers on the keys or our surfing ability, it also applies to our receptiveness to influences and to addiction. Because the digital revolution has started and, by the fantastic powers it gives us, it is already making us almost dependent. Soon, with our eyes glued to our TV or computer screens, from morning to night, we will have to struggle to find reality, to listen to the needs of our bodies and not to cut ourselves off from direct relationships.
This hold is above all that of a system, the fantastic universe of the Internet. A hypnotic window to the world, the Internet has not finished evolving and bringing us closer to the future. But, there, in the present of the beginning of this century, navigation on the net is still long and uncertain. It will take time for us to learn to glide smoothly on its waves, and to beware of the current. A difficult but exciting journey.
The trend is for times that mix. On the one hand, “flexible” working hours creep in between our free time (irregular hours, overtime); our leisure time (work on Sundays) and compromise our projects (precarious jobs). And on the other hand, with teleworking, our personal time is losing its borders; the alternation of our working time and our intimate time is left to our free will.
The traditional divisions between the “knowing-owning” and the others remain, But the hegemony of rapid time reverses the roles a little. The privileged of the 21st century have new attributes of new skills. Thanks to new technologies, the youngest, who were born with it, are leading the way. They handle the keyboard faster than their shadow and have integrated globalization in their daily functioning and in their life project.
Let us not forget that the mastery of time, in all that it invokes of conscience and responsibility; is a salutary prerequisite for the good use of technology. With this guardrail, the author invites us to follow the three principles that he applies to live with the times, while remaining in control:
- Easy and functional equipment for the use you have of it.
- Do not give in too quickly to the temptations of novelty; take the time to choose and compare equipment before purchasing; progress improves with testing.
- Do not necessarily renounce good old habits under the pretext of technology; if your manual methods give you complete satisfaction, keep them; until you find something better.
Conclusion of the book The Art of Time
The choice of “The Art of Time” as the title of the book is obviously not the result of chance. As the theorists of art, the ancient Greeks retained five elements to qualify a work of art: order, balance, contrast, unity, harmony. These timeless attributes can be applied to time and “make the result really our work”.
Thus, in relation to time, the order qualifies organized time, balance qualifies the fair distribution of our multiple times of life, contrast designates their alternation, unity recognizes them as a system where each time feeds on the other, as for harmony, it cannot be described, it is experienced, “it is both the proof of mastery and its reward.” What the art of time promises is the creative realization of oneself and that of one’s projects.
Beyond practical advice, The New Art of Time has the main objective of “helping us to internalize the rules, the flow and the value of our time.” On our path to mastery, the art of time guides us, step by step, towards the art of living.
Conclusion on “The New Art of Time” by Catherine Billet
Much more than a practical method, The New Art of Time is a “philosophical” guide that reminds us of the deep meaning and ultimate goal of mastering time: better living. Those who expect ready-made solutions to apply will be disappointed. And so much the better, because they will find more in it: An analysis of the evolution of the century which remains relevant today, an uncompromising look at your own contradictions and enough to push your own reflection further to find your own remedies.
Written in 2000, The New Art of Time dates a little in its references but has lost nothing in terms of relevance and still hits us hard to give cause for reflection. The heartfelt cry from Jean-Louis Servan-Schreiber reverberates across our current events like a distant and prophetic echo. In 13 years, we have understood nothing and solved none of the problems of time. As with ecology or social inequalities, we did not want to see the obvious or take the risk of change, and the problem got worse. Time is still running out (more and more), and we control it so poorly (more and more), that we are seriously thinking about making the elderly work longer in order to pay for youth unemployment.
But, if I leave my criticism there, I in turn fall into what seems to me to be the flaw of the book: the one-sided vision, and a little “cliché”, of our uses of time. Of course, The New Art of Time has a warning function, and the author talks about our “time sickness”, emphasizing what goes wrong is therefore legitimate and necessary. But there are some rather easy “scary” images, like screen junkies or zombie consumers. Another flaw (interesting for a book on organization): It is a bit “muddled”, for my taste; with random back and forths on certain ideas, which I find; as a result, a little redundant.
The New Art of Time is a book that claims its time. Each chapter sparks new thinking. As I read, I was thus led to take stock of my personal practices, my own perception of time, my fractional times, and their repercussions on the quality of my life, on my bad habits, on my needs, or not, for more time and on my motivation to change. I am well aware that the integration of concepts, the maturation and the decision to act, the development of my personal strategies and “the entry into mastery”, will also require, as indicated in the book, the time for their fulfillment. Reading it seriously is a first practical application.
The New Art of Time is also a book that invites debate because it raises questions; we talk about it around us and the exchange is always fruitful. So, welcome to the dance!
What I learned from The New Art of Time is not ultimately original or new; but it is essential (and it is good to repeat it): Lost time cannot be made up. Our ability to live better depends on the use we make of our time. To be master of one’s time is to be master of one’s life.
Strong points of the book The New Art of Time:
- Identifies the essential substantive issues behind a seemingly practical organizational problem.
- The New Art of Time is more useful than a cookbook; it leads us to ask ourselves the real questions.
- With a sincere and spontaneous tone, we can clearly see the man behind his ideas.
- The fact that, 13 years later, the analysis of the problem is still relevant today; and still as relevant as ever, shakes our conscience and alerts us to the urgency to act.
Weak points of the book The New Art of Time:
- Some clichés, which show a somewhat reductive view of things.
- The New Art of Time has repetitions, back and forth, between similar ideas, which give an impression of déjà-vu.
- Frustrating “hooks”, which give us hope for a practical answer; when rather we get a “what to do” than “how to do”.
- Some ideas lack depth (but the theme is so vast to explore…).
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