secret > Saving Time: Discovering a Life Beyond the Clock

About the author
Already author of the best seller ‘How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy’, Jenny Odell is a Californian writer and artist. She describes herself as attracted by new frameworks that allow us to see something new in everyday reality.

The key elements of the book
The book addresses the issue of generational burnout and the struggles of contemporary workers with a philosophical slant, framing these phenomena within a broader need for autonomy, meaning and purpose at work. The hyper-capitalist society has led us to progressively lose these elements: this is why we try to fill the gap, on the one hand by taking ‘lessons’ in productivity, on the other by taking refuge in the rhetoric of slowness to find ourselves and our creativity. 

Slowing down just to be able to run again, however, is only a cosmetic solution. For Odell, we see leisure time as an opportunity to rest, but only for the purpose of ensuring more productivity once we return to work. Even in times of rest, then, we feel compelled to ‘do something’ and let everyone know about it, as evidenced by the eagerness to document our holidays on social media. 

Picking up on the work of philosopher Joseph Piper, Odell argues instead that leisure should be an opportunity to enter a different state of mind, which can only be achieved by letting go, as when we fall asleep.

In the first part of the book, Odell relates that she came across an ’embarrassingly accurate’ description of herself while reading the work of sociologist Hartmut Rosa, who analyses the figure of an imaginary professor named Linda: the woman, despite having a stable, well-paid job, feels chronically busy, perpetually at fault, behind schedule. Odell attributes this feeling to social pressure, which makes Linda feel constantly ‘guarded’ and forces her to always appear busy and productive.

Then, in the second part of the text, the author broadens the reflection to our relationship with time, linking it to topical issues such as climate change and citing cases in which one is forced to relate to time differently than the rest of society, as in the case of those in prison.

Odell believes that a complete rejection of the ‘illusion of time pressure’ is necessary: we should try to be ‘more alive in any given moment’, opening ourselves up to the outside world instead of walking on narrow and lonely paths, and enlisting the help of meditation.

This book is worth reading for the author’s caustic analysis of the ‘productivity industry’.

Read Make Jakeman’s review on