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How (and why) you should practice ‘anti-time management’

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“We’re all working, but not for work’s sake,” he says. “Ultimately, we’re working for something else.” Norton came to this realization after a string of tragedies. His 21-year-old brother-in-law, Gavin, died in his sleep. His son Gavin, named after his uncle, died at just 10 weeks of age from whooping cough. His wife had a stroke, and his 11-year-old son was hit by a car.

“I was like, ‘Does God hate me?’” he says. “So, I’ve tried to spend my time creating time. How can this job free up space? How can this job support me having more time with my family or more time to travel or more time for the things that really matter, as opposed to endlessly working toward something?”

Norton calls his philosophy Gavin’s Law, which is, “Live to start. Start to live.”

Rethinking Time Management

Norton was a mentee of Stephen Covey, the time management icon and author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. “Stephen said to ‘begin with the end in mind,’” Norton says. “But he never said begin with means mind. I think, in many ways, we’ve turned goals and habits into ends unto themselves, when in reality, all these things we’re doing are meant for us to live in a different way.”

Traditional time management tools are designed to measure every drop of blood, sweat, and tears from workers, Norton explains. “[They were] never designed for freedom,” he says. “The question is, ‘Who manages my time under time management?’ Traditionally, it’s about control. Your employer controls your time. They create your schedule. They tell you what to do when and where. And, if you want to get crazy, they determine that you only have two weeks out of the year for vacation and when you get to retire.”

Norton suggests embracing “anti-time management.” Instead of being the opposite or the reverse, it’s a different level of thinking. “You control your time,” Norton says. “You decide what you want to do, when and where. You decide if you want to create space or not.”

To practice anti-time management, start by identifying “final causes.” “It’s a term from Aristotle,” Norton says. “The idea is [that] an acorn becomes an oak tree. But in real life, a lot of us are planting seeds thinking they’re going to be an oak, when they never will. Why not just plant an oak tree from the start?”

“Final cause” is the sake for which something is done. It’s not the goal; it’s the success that comes from achieving the goal. “Once you realize the final cause, you can change the decision tree around who you want to be and what you really want to do and set up from the dream instead of working endlessly toward it,” Norton says.

For example, you may want to create a table. You might make a design, hire a contractor, and build a table. “That’s great if the goal is to have an heirloom table, but what if the purpose was just to have dinner?” says Norton. “What does success look like after success? Once you understand that, you might realize you could have gotten UberEATS or gone to a food truck. In that process, steps disappear, and you get your time back because the steps weren’t necessary at all.”

“Tip” Time Instead of Managing It

Norton calls the process “time tipping”—rescuing your dream from the end of a timeline and putting it front and center. To tip time and get to the real goal of your goal, you need to get clear on the four Ps of purpose: personal, professional, people, and play.

Your personal purpose relates to the priorities that are just for you, such as health or spirituality. Professional purpose relates to your career, such as promotions or recognition. Your people purpose relates to those around you who are important in your life, such as your family. And your play purpose relates to activities that make you feel energized. Make a list of your Ps, and whenever you have a choice, ask yourself if it fits your purpose priorities.

“They become your North Star,” Norton says. “Does the action bring you closer to or fulfill one of these four goals or not?”

Stop managing time and start prioritizing attention, Norton says. “Pay attention to what you really want, then fast forward the model, going from purpose to priorities to projects,” he says. “The way you’re paid should be in alignment with what you want to be doing. Change the way you work. Change how you’re paid. Change your life. The work you choose determines your lifestyle.”

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