[Link] Hard Times: Martin Hägglund’s “This Life” and the Pomodoro Technique

There’s a lot packed into this article; here’s some parts:

To be wealthy — to live a spiritually free life — is, according to Hägglund, to use your allotted time for commitments with which you identify, rather than in the service of maximizing capital accumulation. You do what you care about in a state of spiritual freedom. You do what you want in the little time that you have.

And:

It is unwise to try to rhetorically coerce someone into feeling coerced.

There is a risk in caring about something, of that something is your identity especially. You can get so anxious about doing it and doing it well, that when you don’t, you fail at it, feel more anxious and so on. For example:

“Precisely because [writing] is so important to me, I can become paralyzed by anxiety over the stakes and do something else instead.” To have writer’s block does not mean that you no longer care about writing. Just the opposite: writing is so important that the risk of failing to write or failing to write well is almost inarticulable.

So, making that thing more routine, almost detaching the execution of it from yourself can help:

It’s easier to write for an hour today than to write your novel today, and there’s a difference between the fruit of a practical identity and its everyday experience. Tedium, however, resists representation, which is why it’s easy to forget that unremarkable hours are at the heart of every breakthrough. A little rule can help you step outside of a vicious loop and begin.

Or, put another way: you have to trick yourself into not caring too much about things you want to accomplish. This applies to your identity as well, your sort of “reason for living.” If you focus on the failings of it, on waiting and waiting to achieve your desired state (or even daily flow), you add a huge risk: getting caught in that anxiety loop.


When talking about tech companies, I often comment that maybe they should focus less on revenue growth and more on just…existing. Building up a large valuation is part of the innovation model we have in tech. Actual profit – sustainability – isn’t really the focus. That becomes a problem for the future executive team, or, better, the large company that acquires the high-growth company. And then when you focus on share price – the valuation of a company – things get even more confusing.

That confusion, I think, comes from the huge difference that individuals have in how they think about money. Having money is what’s valuable to individuals. Furthermore, individuals don’t so much proper when they’re optimized and profitable, they prosper when they buy things, including time. A vacation isn’t a profit making enterprise: the more optimized and “profitable” a vacation is, generally the shittier it is.

Things seem to go wrong if the individual things about their own life like a business. At the very least, they limit the possibilities, perspectives, and, uh, “what is the point of all of it”‘s:

Both Tim Ferriss and the spiritually free do what they want in the little time that they have. But the spiritually free also — and this is crucial — use their time to ask themselves why they want what they want. Ferris is only free to do what he wants within a universe of options provided by the logic of capital.

Business – “the market” – focuses on flow of money, moving money from here and there, growing revenue instead of stock piling cash. Individuals are different: they benefit from stocking money and then loosing money (spending it) to convert money into other things.

I don’t know. Put in a more tradition way, businesses use profits to make more money. Individual use profits to do something. An individual who just uses their money to make more money isn’t really doing anything. As the saying goes, you can’t spend it in the grave.

Try to be more productive and you’ll feel more stressed. Anxiously running around this circle is a neat way to ignore the difficult question of what makes for meaningful work. This is why Burkeman thinks that “time management is ruining our lives.” What ought to be a tool becomes an end in itself, distracting us from “the potentially terrifying questions about how we are spending our days.” PT in hand, “you’re still Sisyphus,” he says, only rolling your boulder “slightly faster.”


There’s a quick, well, life hack at the end. Instead of just using the pompadour thing to regiment tasks, you can use it as a checkin to question why you’re even doing something in the first place:

If you approach each new interval with a question, not an answer, and god forbid certainly not a task, and if you every day ask yourself why you do what you do, and whether the excellence you’re pursuing is proper to you, and whether pursuing this excellence is worth your time…

I always find people asking “why?” tedious. “Well, first, let’s step back: what are you trying to accomplish?” is an instant bozo bit for me when I’m working with someone. In a business context, the answer is always the same: make the most money, with the least amount of spend, as soon as possible. There is no other “why” in business. An individual’s life – their “why?” – is different, but I haven’t ever figured out what that difference is, nor even how to answer the question “why?”

Original source: Hard Times: Martin Hägglund’s “This Life” and the Pomodoro Technique