New In The Brilliant Report: Why We Should Tie Ourselves To The Mast

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In the great epic poem The Odyssey, our hero Odysseus must find a way “to evade the voices of the marvellous Sirens in their flowering meadow.” He commands the sailors on his ship: “You are to tie me hand and foot and stand me upright in the mast housing, and fasten the rope ends round the mast itself, and if I beg you to free me, bind me yet more tightly.” By intentionally limiting his own freedom, Odysseus is able to avoid giving into temptation.

Those of us who work and learn with the help of digital devices face temptation all the time: not from Sirens but from email, Facebook, Twitter, blogs and (fill in your favorite web distraction here). We don’t want our attention to wander from our work our our studies, but inevitably it does—and that’s why we have to tie ourselves to the mast, limiting our freedom in advance so that, paradoxically, we’re free to do what we really want to do. Here are three ways to follow Odysseus’s example . . .

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Added 1/3/13: A reader has asked why he must sign up for my newsletter to read the rest of this post. I wanted to tell him, and you, that I always post the full text of my newsletter on my blog on Mondays (the newsletter comes out on Friday). I like to give my newsletter subscribers a special exclusive before sharing the content with the wider public a couple of days later.—Annie

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