Best of The Imperfectionist newsletter by Oliver Burkeman

Oliver Burkeman is a journalist and author of, among other things, the excellent read that is Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals, published in 2021. If you, like me, have read it at least twice, you might be happy to know that the author also writes a ~monthly newsletter called The Imperfectionist. It covers many of the same topics and reads equally great.

Here’s a selection of some of the recent issues that I liked the most:

  1. The Imperfectionist: Don’t feel obliged

[…] when you loosen up on the sense of obligation, you end up meeting most of those obligations anyway: you become better at meeting deadlines, keeping your promises, and so on.

  1. The Imperfectionist: How to choose sanity now

[…] striving toward sanity means “clearing the decks” before getting down to business on a project you care about, or reading another how-to book about it, while operating from sanity means “paying yourself first”, making a start even though the decks aren’t clear – because you understand that even five minutes spent Actually Doing The Thing are more valuable than hundreds of purely hypothetical hours at some point in future. (Similar advice from this article)

  1. The Imperfectionist: How to forget what you read

The final reason is that the point of reading, much of the time, isn’t to vacuum up data, but to shape your sensibility.

  1. The Imperfectionist: Systems vs. life

The lesson here isn’t that systems and techniques are worthless. For me, instead, the answer has been to keep using them, but to relate to them differently: to demote them, I suppose, from things I try to use to live life for me, to things I use to help me live my life. To treat them as the tools they are – which means I’m the one who has to decide, day after day, when it’s appropriate to use them.

  1. The Imperfectionist: Three or four hours

Just focus on protecting four hours – and don’t worry if the rest of the day is characterised by the usual scattered chaos.

Malesic writes: “I asked Fr Simeon, a monk who spoke with a confidence cultivated through the years he spent as a defence attorney, what you do when the 12:40 bell rings but you feel that your work is undone. “‘You get over it,’ he replied.”

Happy reading!