Daily Gleanings: Thoughts from Freedom (31 July 2019)

Freedom discusses procrastination. The essay comments helpfully on different types and causes of procrastination, as well as some strategies for overcoming it.

Freedom interviews Kathleen Fitzpatrick, Director of Digital Humanities and a Professor of English at Michigan State University. Commenting on how she nurtures focus for deep work, Fitzpatrick says,

I spend that first bit of time, when it’s still dark and quiet, with whatever major project I’m working on.… And when I know there are pressing things in my email inbox, I have a very hard time keeping my attention on the long-term, slow projects that I know to be important. So the ritual I just described — making sure I touch the important things every day, at least briefly, and that I do so before anything else gets to claim part of my attention — is crucial to making sure that I can keep them moving forward.

Reflecting on knowledge work more broadly, Fitzpatrick observes, “the biggest challenge many of us face is fragmentation of our time and attention.”

For the full interview, see Freedom’s original post.

Daily Gleanings (5 July 2019)

Chris Clearfield, Andras Tilcsik, and Brett McKay discuss complex systems, their failures, and what we can learn from these failures to apply in other fields.

This discussion has a number of good takeaways. One of these relates to the concept of “tight coupling.” If you have a tightly coupled writing queue, you have one project stacked up against another with minimal buffer between or within them. Then, when something takes longer than you’ve estimated—as such things inevitably do—the tightly coupled timeline can cause you to miss or be pressed on several successive deadlines rather than being an annoyance fairly well contained to just one project.

The Rocketbook blog offers three brief suggestions for “how to refuel your motivation” for knowledge work.

Of these, I’ve found the first two especially helpful. Even a short walk can be helpful, and it’s arguably quite a bit less taxing on attention than the sometimes readier “break” mechanism offered by social media. On this, see also Cal Newport’s Deep Work, pp. 146ff.

Daily Gleanings: Attention (1 July 2019)

The Dropbox blog discusses Jenny Odell’s How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy (Melville House, 2019).

Not surprisingly, several comments in the essay have ready application to how biblical scholars relate to the attention economy. Among these are:

Actively choosing how you wield your attention is a modern-day survival skill. This is resisting the attention economy. It’s a refusal to allow the act of consumption consume your life.

Life through the filter of Instagram [or blog or Twitter posts] strips away everything that falls outside of the frame.… What you’re left with is “a product—the clean, finished version of all of these processes that are often hidden. Then the same thing happens with a person or a life, where you get these product-like moments in someone’s life. And that product is accentuated by the fact that it’s then evaluated in real time—almost like customer reviews of it.”

When we’re aware [of the forces at play in the attention economy], we don’t have to be controlled by anyone else’s idea of who we are, and there is a freedom in that. We are not our data points.

Much of the essay reminds me of the attention-renewing discipline Cal Newport describes around being able to be bored well rather than training ourselves to be constantly filling the small in-between spaces in life with consuming digital content. On this, see Deep Work, pp. 155–80.

For the full essay about Odell’s book, see the Dropbox blog.

The Freedom blog discusses the values of time tracking tools, including increased awareness, attention, accountability, and perhaps additional time.

Daily Gleanings: Avoiding Distraction (25 July 2019)

Michael Hyatt and Megan Hyatt Miller discuss how to avoid drifting along without accomplishing what you mean to.

The discussion is directed most immediately at leaders. But as with many such things, there are direct lines of application in other contexts too (e.g., those of us who need to avoid drifting off course from completing a degree or writing project).

Cal Newport discusses digital distractions and how to avoid them on the Entreleadership podcast.

Daily Gleanings: Insights from Freedom (24 June 2019)

Freedom releases Insight for Chrome. According to Freedom, Insight

is a simple plugin that shows you where you are spending your time in Chrome.

Insight tracks the time you spend on websites in Chrome, and provides a simple display so you can see where you’re spending your time. You can drill down into individual sites and see your daily time on each site.…

We’ve built Insight to be privacy-conscious. All of the tracking data is stored locally and not sent anywhere (the cloud, our servers, etc.). You can also disable tracking and hide sites, if you want to.

For more information or to try Insight, visit the Chrome Web Store.

The Freedom blog has a helpful essay on managing time (i.e., managing yourself in time) to cut through the clutter of distractions. The piece comments, in part,

Most people understand the importance of managing their time, but they’re thinking about it in the wrong way. They mistake efficiency or “busyness” for a sustainable time management strategy.

Getting things done is a crucial piece of time management — but it’s just one of many. In today’s age of infinite choices and distractions, deciding what not to do is just as important.

A solid time management strategy, then, is all about stacking the deck to make the right choices as often as possible.

Effective time management starts with a clear vision of your core goals and values. Racing through a dozen minor tasks might be less valuable than a single difficult one that’s more aligned with your vision. The question shifts from “How can I get the most done possible?” to “How can I have the most impact on what matters most?”

The essay also identifies four common productivity killers: decision fatigue, overwhelm, procrastination, and lack of efficiency. Others have made similar lists in the past. But a particularly helpful contribution Freedom makes with this piece is to structure time management strategies under each of these headings. So if you know a particular problem you have, it’s quite easy to read through the section on that problem for some ideas about how to start overcoming it.

For this outline and additional reflections from Freedom, see the original post.

Daily Gleanings (29 May 2019)

Freedom introduces Pause, a new Chrome extension that enforces a short pause before allowing you to open distracting websites. According to the extension’s description,

When loading a distracting website, Pause creates a gentle interruption by displaying a calming green screen.  After pausing for 5 seconds, you can then choose to continue to the site – or get back to work.  Leveraging behavioral science, the interruption created by Pause gently nudges you to make informed, intentional decisions about how you are spending your time.

Pause comes pre-seeded with a list of 50 top distracting websites, and you can add or remove sites from your Pause list.

Pause is apparently built to work in Chrome even if you don’t otherwise have an active Freedom subscription. For more information, see the Chrome web store.

Michael Kruger raises the question of the rootedness of the New Perspective on Paul (NPP) in modern cultural realities, akin to what is often suggested by NPP proponents against readings of Paul in the tradition of the Reformers. The main body of the post helpfully leverages Barry Matlock’s “oft-overlooked academic article” entitled “Almost Cultural Studies? Reflections on the ‘New Perspective’ on Paul.” (See the original post for fuller bibliographic information on this essay.)

On both sides of this debate, I’m reminded of Gadamer’s observations that we, of course, always encounter the past under the influence of and as we are formed by “what is nearest to us.” But at the same time, this influence is not solely restrictive but enables our engagement with and productive knowledge of the past in particular ways.

On these themes, see “Hermeneutics and ‘the Near’” and “Tradition and Method.”