Time: There’s never enough of it, and it slips through our fingers. As the poet Mary Oliver asked, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
In this pair of books, a first-time author and a bestselling author offer their advice on making the most of the time we have.
In When to Jump: If the Job You Have Isn’t the Life You Want, Mike Lewis recalls landing a plum job at a major corporation after graduating from an Ivy League school. He thought he’d achieved everything he could hope for, but at age 23, he couldn’t shake the feeling that he should be doing something else.
“For twenty-three years, I had chased plainly laid out goals,” he writes. “Goals that were easy to want to chase because they were popular with the older people around me and were even popular among my own peers. . . . I felt compelled to run faster toward particular goals—at the risk of forgetting what I was hurling toward, and why.”
So did Lewis want a different corporate position, or perhaps a career switch to science or the arts? No. He wanted, somewhat unbelievably, to pursue a professional career playing squash. And he did! Lewis’ book offers practical advice about how—and most importantly when—to make a big career switch. Lewis isn’t the only one who has taken a huge, life-changing leap, and essays by these passionate risk-takers bolster this compelling book. Others who have listened to their own “little voice,” as Lewis calls it, and switched careers include a mechanical engineer who becomes a trainer, a reporter who joins the Marines and a garbage collector who now designs furniture.
I promise I like this next book for more than just its rock-solid, evidence-based defense of naps. Daniel H. Pink, who taught us the secrets of achieving high performance in his bestselling Drive, returns with another deeply researched and lively book. In When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing, Pink reveals that timing really is everything.
No matter where one lives, everyone experiences the same daily rhythm: a peak, a trough and a rebound. It may be at different times for different people (some people are night owls while others are morning people, while still another group is what Pink calls “third birds”). The trick is to take advantage of the time when you’re at your best to do your toughest work.
And that time is rarely midafternoon. Pink noted a British survey that pinpoints the most unproductive moment of the day: 2:55 p.m. Afternoon is when hospital workers are least likely to wash their hands, it’s when Danish schoolchildren fare worse on exams and it’s when prisoners are less likely to get parole.
Throughout the book, Pink breaks down the science of timing by offering what he calls the “Time Hacker’s Handbook.” These are simple tips to maximize your time, such as how to take the perfect nap. This marriage of research, stories and practical application is vintage Pink, helping us use science to improve our everyday lives.
This article was originally published in the January 2018 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.