- Title: Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals
- Author(s): Oliver Burkeman
- Published: August 10, 2021 (Initially)
- Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
- Formats: Kindle, Hardcover, Audiobook
- Available: Amazon.com, Amazon.in
- Notes: Bestseller in New York Times, Sunday Times
A Quote from Chapter 1
“… the more you try to manage your time with the goal of achieving a feeling of total control, and freedom from the inevitable constraints of being human, the more stressful, empty and frustrating life gets.”
Four Thousand Weeks is a book about making the best use of time – while acknowledging that known time management techniques have not worked, and that we need to change our approach. The book makes us aware and conscious of this through multiple examples and stories.
However, the book assumes that we will look elsewhere for concrete tools and steps to identify and adopt to a new approach.
Key Messages In the Book
The book has a lot of insights, spread across many chapters. I have listed things that made a deep impression on me:
- Most productivity tips focus on how to do things efficiently – the time ‘freed-up’ gets filled up with more things to do. For example, when I am prompt at answering emails and calls, I get more of them.
- A life-span of around eighty years, converted to weeks, is slightly over 4000 weeks. After I deduct the weeks that have already passed, I have less than 1000 weeks remaining.
- And ironically, time seems to fly by faster, now that I am older.
- Life will be more satisfying when I internalize the finite nature of life, and accept my lack of control over many things. It will be good to distance from the ‘Fear Of Missing Out’. Missing out some things may make my choices better.
- Instead of blaming social media for my distractions, I may actually be wanting distractions – like peeping at whatsapp, while doing work that requires focus.
- Maybe, I tend to focus too much on the future, at the cost of enjoying the present. For example, when I visited a zoo the last time, I spent more energy clicking pictures (for the future), rather than enjoying what was in front of me.
- Tasks that I plan for often take longer than expected. However, when I ‘buffer’ the plans (like reach a meeting early), I end up wasting my time drinking coffee or doing work without access to the right information or my regular tools.
What is likely to help me:
- Keep aside time and do the things that are most important to me, even if it is at the cost of neglecting other things.
- Become aware of and know when to stop – and not aim for perfection. It is easy to fantasize about stellar performance (as a worker, life-partner, friend, etc.) – but almost impossible to achieve this.
- Focus on and eliminate things that I “need not do” and limit the items that are “work in progress”.
- Increase focus on whatever I am doing, and even boring tasks are likely to become interesting.
- Just enjoy relaxation, without linking it to potential improvement of efficiency.
- Experience life concretely, finitely and simply .
Four Thousand Weeks emphasizes that we may be focused on managing our time to the last minute. We are doing this at the cost of actually ‘living in the present’ and enjoying life. The book confirms that it’s impossible to master your time and why you shouldn’t make it a priority anymore.
I also started thinking whether penning and publishing book reviews (like this one) was the best use of the limited time that I have :-).
Here is another quote from the book:
“The peace of mind on offer here is of a higher order: it lies in the recognition that being unable to escape from the problems of finitude is not, in itself, a problem.”
Though, the book convinced me of the need to change my approach, and provided some broad directions, it did not provide readily usable processes and tools to start implementing the change. I guess, there are other books and resources designed for those aspects.
About Oliver Burkeman – the Author
Oliver Burkeman has authored many books. For many years he wrote a popular weekly column on psychology called ‘This Column Will Change Your Life’, in the Guardian. His work has featured in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and many other publications. His writing revolves around productivity, mortality, and a meaningful life.
Other books by Burkeman are: ‘The Antidote: Happiness for People who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking’ and ‘Help! How to Become Slightly Happier and Get a Bit More Done’. You can get more information about Oliver Burkeman at www.oliverburkeman.com