The story of a Harvard PhD will help you learn how to manage your time

can’t be the best at everything.

Thomson Reuters

Time — at least when it comes to an individual person’s life — is
finite resource
. Spend it on one thing and you won’t be able
to spend it another.

On a micro level, this is pretty obvious: If you spend the entire
morning answering emails, you definitely won’t have that project
report ready by noon.

On a macro level, this logic is harder to internalize: You
probably can’t be a top-notch mom, manager, community board
member, yogi, and musician. At least not all the time.
(And if you’ve found that to be false, please share with us your

In his new book, “Barking
Up the Wrong Tree
,” Eric Barker — who runs a popular blog by the same name as
the book — shares a story that can help readers come to terms
with those temporal limitations.

Barker shares the story of Spencer Glendon, a partner at a
big money-management firm who was a Fulbright Scholar and
got his Ph.D. in economics from Harvard.

He’s also spent much of his life battling serious illness: In
high school, Barker writes, Glendon suffered from chronic
ulcerative colitis. When he got an organ transplant, he had to go
through immunosuppressive therapy, leaving him with a weakened
immune system.

In high school, when he was seriously ill, Glendon saw a
therapist who suggested that he focus on accomplishing one thing
a day — even if that thing was simply making dinner.

Barker writes:

“Coming to terms with his illness taught him something that
almost all of us overlook: Everything we do in life is a
trade-off. Choosing to do one thing means not doing something
else. There was no way for Spencer to say ‘I want to do this’
without also saying ‘And I’m willing to give that up
to do it.'”

Barker recommends:  

“Imagine you were Spencer at his lowest point. What
would you do if you were ill and could manage only one task per
Congratulations. You now know what matters to you
lost, what should get the most hours, what should be done
first. You know where you should apply grit, and by the same
token, what you should quit.”

Everyone has limitations — in Glendon’s case, it’s his physical
abilities, but in someone else’s case, it might be energy,
attention, or time. A big key to success is working within those
limitations and being the best you can be at something,
not everything.

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