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Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals

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The average human lifespan is absurdly, insultingly brief. Assuming you live to be eighty, you have just over four thousand weeks.

Nobody needs telling there isn’t enough time. We’re obsessed with our lengthening to-do lists, our overfilled inboxes, work-life balance, and the ceaseless battle against distraction; and we’re deluged with advice on becoming more productive and efficient, and “life hacks” to optimize our days. But such techniques often end up making things worse. The sense of anxious hurry grows more intense, and still the most meaningful parts of life seem to lie just beyond the horizon. Still, we rarely make the connection between our daily struggles with time and the ultimate time management problem: the challenge of how best to use our four thousand weeks.

Drawing on the insights of both ancient and contemporary philosophers, psychologists, and spiritual teachers, Oliver Burkeman delivers an entertaining, humorous, practical, and ultimately profound guide to time and time management. Rejecting the futile modern fixation on “getting everything done,” Four Thousand Weeks introduces readers to tools for constructing a meaningful life by embracing finitude, showing how many of the unhelpful ways we’ve come to think about time aren’t inescapable, unchanging truths, but choices we’ve made as individuals and as a society—and that we could do things differently.

288 pages, Hardcover

First published August 10, 2021

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Oliver Burkeman

18 books852 followers

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 4,488 reviews
Profile Image for Ryan Boissonneault.
183 reviews1,941 followers
October 17, 2022
First of all, this is probably not the book you think it is, and that’s a good thing. Rather than offering cheap “time hacks” to get more of the same bullshit done, this more philosophical work is based on two important but uncomfortable truths: (1) In the short 4,000 or so weeks you have to live, you will never be able to accomplish all the things you would like, and (2) even if you could, it wouldn’t matter in the end because, in the words of John Maynard Keynes, “In the long run we are all dead.”

This is not the most uplifting message you will ever read, but it is liberating and possibly even life-changing. When you stop trying to get an impossible amount of work done in pursuit of accomplishments that won’t really matter once you’re gone, you can start spending the short amount of time you do have pursuing things you enjoy for their own sake in the present moment.

However you decide to spend your life—and regardless of whatever fame or fortune (or not) it brings—it should be spent on things that have intrinsic value to you and not for the sake of some destination or outcome that you think will eventually make you happy. If you can’t find a way to be happy now, at this moment, you probably never will be, no matter how many to-do items you cross off your list.

One obvious criticism of this somewhat apathetic approach to time management is that, if nothing really matters in the end, there’s no longer any motivation to pursue worthwhile social initiatives. I think this could be a real challenge to Burkeman’s philosophy. Where would the civil rights movement be, for example, if someone like Martin Luther King Jr. said, “In the long run we are all dead”? Certainly it is the case that some people derive more joy and life satisfaction from pursuing projects that they do feel are worthwhile and that the outcome justifies the massive amount of work and unpleasantness required for its actualization. In situations like this, I’m not sure how well the ideas in this book will resonate.

There’s also a bit of repetition throughout the book as Burkeman repeats the main ideas I’ve described above, although he does also cover a lot of interesting philosophical ground. Overall, the book won’t be for everyone, especially for those who remain under the illusion that they will accomplish everything they want to if only they had better “time management skills.” But for those who get the main message—the idea that we should pursue the activities we intrinsically enjoy while accepting our finitude and committing to what’s most important (i.e., not material wealth or fame)—this may be one of the most enjoyable and potentially life-altering books they will read this year.
Profile Image for Misha.
72 reviews33 followers
November 11, 2021
A lovely and short book that I listened to the author read as an audiobook.

The last chapter and appendix contained some tips that I wanted to remember, so I wrote them down here. Some of it are quotations from other authors, but that wasn't as clear when listening. Sorry other authors!

5 Questions:

1. Choose uncomfortable enlargement over comfortable diminishment.

2. Are you holding yourself to or judging yourself by impossible standards? Drop them.

3. In what ways have you yet failed to accept the fact that you're who you are and not the person you think you ought to be? No one really cares what we're doing with our life. There's no need to justify your life.

4. In which areas of life are you still holding back until you feel like you know what you're doing? Everyone's just winging it, you might as well get on with it.

5. How would you spend your days differently if you didn't care so much about seeing your action reach fruition?

"One lives as one can. ... The individual path is the way you make for yourself, which is never prescribed, which you do not know in advance and which simply comes into being itself when you put one foot in front of the other. ... Quietly do the next and most necessary thing." - Carl Jung

Ten tools for embracing your finitude:

1. Adopt a fixed-volume approach to productivity. e.g. Keep two to-do lists one that contains everything you want to do, and a second which contains things you're actively working on, which should be limited to a small number of items (at most ten). Or, establish time limits for your daily work.

2. Serialize! Focus on one big project at a time and see it to completion before moving on.

3. Decide in advance what to fail at. Accept that you'll do a poor job at things which you aren't currently focusing on, and that should diminish the shame of failing.

4. Focus on what you've already completed, not just on what's left to complete. Celebrate your daily achievements, since you'll never finish everything that's left. Keep a "done" list of what you've completed in the day.

5. Consolidate your caring. There are lots of problems in the world, but you only have a finite amount of attention. Pick a few causes and work towards them.

6. Embrace boring and single-purpose technology. Make your devices as boring as possible: delete social-media apps and switch your devices to grayscale. Read on a kindle instead of your phone.

7. Seek out novelty in the mundane. Avoid routines when possible, walk a new way, etc. Experience each moment in greater detail, pay more attention.

8. Be a researcher in relationships. Adopt an attitude of curiosity in which your goal isn't to achieve any particular outcome or successfully explain your position, but "to figure out who this human being is." Curiosity is satisfied regardless of the outcome. Choose wonder over worry whenever you can.

9. Cultivate instantaneous generosity. Whenever a generous impulse arises in your mind, act on it right away. Don't wait until later when you can "do a better job."

10. Practice doing nothing. Stop trying to evade how reality feels, calm down and make better choices with your time.
Profile Image for Sara G.
70 reviews38 followers
May 29, 2021
Oliver Burkeman call himself a productivity geek. As he describes it, “you know how some people are passionate about bodybuilding or fashion, or rock climbing, or poetry? Productivity geeks are passionate about crossing items off their to-do lists. So it’s sort of the same, except infinitely sadder.” His newest book, Four Thousand Weeks, is like a self-help book designed to help recovering productivity geeks recognize the emotional and mental traps laid by other books like “Getting Things Done,” “Eat the Frog,” or “The Four-Hour Workweek.” Drawing more from the field of philosophy than from time management, he systematically rebuts the arguments of Taylorist time management systems and instead provides suggestions for recreating “productivity” as a concept that encourages building communities and helping “geeks” find meaning in life.

As a productivity geek myself, I’ve been following Burkeman for a while. I’ve enjoyed his similar book The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can't Stand Positive Thinking and his occasional newsletter articles. While Four Thousand Weeks covers similar, sometimes repeating ground, I am still glad that I read every word of this book. It is the rare “self-help” book that would not have been better as a bullet point list or an article. I enjoyed slowly struggling with these ideas, the pleasant voice of Burkeman nudging me on, and discussing them over beer with my partner. I highly recommend it not just to geeks like myself but to anyone who struggles with FOMO or a classic mid-life crisis.
Profile Image for David Pulliam.
208 reviews7 followers
September 8, 2021
1. Could have been condensed into an article
2. Just read Ecclesiastes or a stoic and you’ll get the point
3. Had one good point: embrace what you’re doing and acknowledge that you won’t be able to do anything else in that moment.
Profile Image for Liong.
105 reviews52 followers
January 11, 2023
I like the title of this book, "Four Thousand Weeks". I learned a few things.

I realize that we probably have 4,000 weeks to leave in our life if we can live until age 80.

We must plan to live life to the fullest and enjoy each day.

Figure out how to spend balanced time with family, friends, at the office, and personally.

Nothing is perfect, but efficiency. Try not absent in the present.

Sometimes, we practice doing nothing like meditation.

Profile Image for Shelley.
170 reviews53 followers
September 14, 2021
I identified with this author's addiction to productivity and appreciate his attempts to cultivate a more stoic attitude toward time. He wisely encourages us to embrace our finitude and to relinquish the complete control we think we have over our existence—and our to-do lists. All to the good. But I also found something deeply sad about this book, and I think it's that Burkeman can't seem to decide whether life is completely devoid of meaning or beautifully meaning-rich. Are the minutes, hours, and days of our lives totally pointless, or of the utmost importance? I think the answer to this question has huge implications for how we use our time, and yet this tension, which runs like a current throughout the entire book, is never really resolved.

Big takeaway point: We humans are pretty much destined to have a tricky relationship with time. I'm not sure this book makes that relationship any less tricky.
Profile Image for Lisa.
106 reviews46 followers
January 9, 2022
When I opened this book to begin reading, I wondered to myself, “Do I really need to read another book about time management?” I’ve already consumed vast amounts of information on the topic and there’s only so many ways you can manage a calendar. Turns out I didn’t have to answer this question, because this book isn’t really a book about time management advice in a traditional sense.

The overall premise is that life is finite and we’re never going to have enough time to do all the things we want to do. The author came to this realization while sitting on a park bench near his home in 2014, and it made him feel better and more in control. It appears that the idea really took hold of him, and this book seems to be his personal journey of processing this concept. The book is very much written from the author’s perspective and focuses on his relationship with the pressures of time. If you don’t share a similar background as a productivity geek or you’ve never felt much anxiety related to the passage of time, you might have a tough time with this book. Here’s a quick gauge to figure out where you land. The author points out in the first paragraph that the average human only has four thousand weeks on Earth. Therefore, only four thousand weeks of time to do anything. If hearing this immediately shakes you to your core or makes you feel queasy, you’re going to really relate to what the author is saying. If not, I suspect a lot of the examples and anecdotes are going to be lost on you.

Regardless of where I fall on the time anxiety spectrum, the fact that my enjoyment of this book seems to be really dependent on whether or not I think like the author makes this just an ok read for me based on my reading criteria. But my enjoyment was whittled away further because the book is kind of a mess. The whole book is written as a stream of consciousness that felt a bit like an existential crisis, with alternations between (a) life is too short so we just need to settle to have any chance of happiness, and (b) the world is full of hope and time can’t stand in our way. Not to mention it was just really really repetitive. You can really feel the author’s struggle with trying to make sense of his relationship with time, and the book made me feel like I was reading a personal journaling exercise at times. And in the end, it doesn’t seem like the author actually came up with a satisfactory solution to the dilemma of never having enough time, for himself or for the reader.

Next Big Idea Club Reading Selection - January 2022
Profile Image for Chrissy.
83 reviews67 followers
May 12, 2022
Thought provoking perspective of time management, with a few nuggets of wisdom, surrounded by waffle. Pretty much the opposite of "get more done" and more about accepting you won't get to do everything. We all know 4000 weeks isn't long and time passes faster the older we get, so make your choices and embrace living in the moment.
Profile Image for Matthew.
19 reviews1 follower
August 9, 2021
Thanks to Farrar, Straus and Giroux and NetGalley for an advance copy of this book. I loved it so much I have bought a copy, and plan to give more as gifts!

I’ve been a fan of Burkeman’s since his first book, The Antidote, which is a long-time favorite of mine. I loved the way Burkeman reviewed positive psychology through a skeptical lens, and somehow came out with perhaps the most useful, meaningful self-help book I’ve read yet. (I genuinely still think about that book, almost a decade later). When I learned that he had written a book about productivity, I could not wait to read it, and was so delighted to receive an early copy.

Well, it’s simply the best nonfiction book I’ve read in years. It’s provocative, entertaining, and genuinely useful. The ideas in this book will improve your life, and even if you read a fair amount of self-help and productivity, I doubt you’ve heard them before.

There are a lot of mind-expanding insights here, but the key one is that to be a productivity nerd is to feel existential anxiety. The premise of the productivity genre is that if we can just get our lives ever-more optimized, we need never face the reality that we can’t, in fact, do everything that we care about. Burkeman says we have to start by admitting defeat: our time is limited, and the future we imagine when we’ve become our most self-actualized, accomplished selves, with inboxes empty and goals achieved, is a fun-house mirror that keeps us separate from our real lives.

I don’t want to spoil too much of this book in advance, because it’s an absolute joy to read: Burkeman’s writing crackles, he has such big and original ideas, he illustrates those ideas with lively and unfamiliar examples (did you know that the Soviets experimented for decades with their own work week?! Do you know why it failed??), and he’s just so damned humane. He balances his counterintuitive ideas with practical, actionable advice, which, I can say with confidence, have already improved my productivity and mental health way more than a pomodoro timer ever did.

If you’re interested but not ready to commit, (or if like me you’re a devoted fan of Burkeman’s already!), I highly recommend Burkeman’s twice-a-month newsletter, the Imperfectionist, which you can find on his website oliverburkeman.com.
Profile Image for David.
645 reviews293 followers
December 25, 2021
Abandon hope all ye who enter here.

Hope is a curse. It's putting your faith in something outside yourself, beyond the current moment. It's that future state where your inbox is empty, your tasks well and tightly under control and your time, at last, your own to fully direct towards what gives you joy.

For the productivity minded among us, we live in a perpetual state of hope, inhabiting an imagined future where our lives are well and truly ordered and organized. We need to give up hope and simply do the work. The Germans have a word for it, Eigenzeit, the time integral to a process itself. If a thing's worth doing, it takes as long as it takes.

Aside from the Appendix at the end of the book that includes a list of 10 tools for "embracing your finitude" - tacked on as if to meet some self-help, productivity book criteria, this is more an entertaining philosophical treatise than time management system.

"Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion." Becoming more efficient only brings about more work. Your immediate email responses in the hopes of reaching inbox zero only invite further emails. Your FOMO is forgetting that your entire life consists of things you are choosing to neglect. The real measure of any time management technique, according to Burkeman, is whether or not it helps you neglect the right things.

So embrace the limits of your life. Choose to fail at things. Limit technology in favour of savouring the mundane and get good at doing nothing.
Profile Image for Renata.
415 reviews278 followers
January 13, 2022
I started this book and I was so motivated, the first..20 pages(?) were so good and I enjoyed them a lot. But after it…honestly it was like listening to men talk about why you should invest into crypto over and over again. Too many studies, too many stories, too many issues that I was thinking if this is a time management book then why do I feel like I’m wasting all my time??
Maybe it’s because I’m also on my exam weeks and I needed something more chill but this literally exhausted me.
Profile Image for Alicia Bayer.
Author 6 books179 followers
October 4, 2021
I am one of those people who constantly tries to manage my time better. I love lists, apps, charts and books that promise to help me become the kind of person who accomplishes far more. I constantly beat myself up for not doing more of the stuff other people get done. My house is never tidy, I have never stuck to any kind of exercise routine, our homeschooling has always been one part magic and two parts mayhem, our living room wall has been half painted for years, and I am quite likely to be found in the bathtub reading in the middle of the day instead of finally catching up on the piles of laundry for our large family. Right now I should be finishing the rough draft for a book I got a grant to write and instead I am here on Goodreads. So this book was right up my alley.

It turns out I'm doing a lot more right than I ever realized and I don't really want to change anymore. I've learned that there is not enough time for a fraction of the stuff I could ever do and that's okay. I've come to realize that I really like my life and I am getting done all the things that really matter to me (time with my family, foraging, canning, cooking, teaching my kids, writing books, reading books, helping people, playing, spending time with awesome people, putting out a free monthly nature magazine for kids, starting a community arts center in a 120-year-old church we bought...). It's okay that the house is probably always going to be messy and that I will probably always exercise, homeschool, clean, garden and live in great bursts and long pauses. I don't need lists or apps or ways to squeeze productivity out of every minute of my day.

Don't worry - the book does still offer some really good advice about "time management" and how to work with the time you've got. It may not be what you're expecting, but it's all really good stuff. Each chapter expands on another really insightful concept about time and the ridiculous notion of managing it, in addition to the stuff that really doesn't work like multi-tasking. It offers really good suggestions and insights, and it's just plain good reading.

I read over 300 books in an average year and there are always just a handful that are my favorites. This is definitely one of my favorites for 2021. I loved, loved, loved it.

I read a digital ARC of this book via NetGalley.
Profile Image for Rachel Grey.
88 reviews1 follower
August 22, 2021
I read this last week and have already given it as a gift once, it's that good. I very much enjoyed the notion that since there are more A-list, important, meaningful, top-rated things that we might like to do than we ever can -- since our problem is not finding the needle in a haystack but of having a haystack's worth of needles -- we will simply never do everything worthwhile, and might as well give up on FOMO and focus on what we can do.

For those who'd rather skip the philosophy and get to the practical suggestions at the back of the book, here they are:

1. Adopt a "fixed volume" approach to productivity by keeping two to-do lists, one open-ended/infinite and one limited to a fixed number of entries, ten at most. (I do this. I use six.) You can't add a new task to the fixed list until one is completed. A complementary strategy is to establish predetermined time boundaries for your daily work.
2. Serialize. Focus on one big project at a time or, at most, one work project and one nonwork project.
3. Decide in advance what to fail at. Strategic underachievement is okay on a cyclical basis, like if you decide to do the bare minimum at work for the next month in order to focus on a temporary crisis. This replaces the constant pressure to find "balance" with a conscious, managed imbalance that may be more sustainable.
4. Focus on what you've already completed, not just what is left to complete. Keep a "to-done list".
5. Consolidate your caring. Consciously pick your battles in charity, activism and politics. Lots of things may matter but, to make a difference, you must focus your finite capacity for care.
6. Embrace boring, single-purpose technology (like e-ink readers for reading) to help resist distraction. Also switch your phone from color to grayscale to reduce distraction and attention-grabbiness.
7. Seek out novelty in the mundane. Pay more attention to every moment, rather than constantly seeking out novelty and adventure, to make life richer and form more memories without existential overwhelm.
8. Be a "researcher" in relationships. Stay curious. "Curiosity is a stance well-suited to the inherent unpredictability of life with others, because it can be satisfied by their behaving in ways you like or dislike"... true enough!
9. Cultivate instantaneous generosity. If a generous impulse arises in your mind, act on it right away instead of waiting to try to make it perfect. (This one is from meditation teacher Joseph Goldstein.)
10. Practice doing nothing. Meditate. Try to resist the pressure to constantly do things.
Profile Image for Bkwmlee.
367 reviews229 followers
October 2, 2022
3.5 stars

I’m picky when it comes to reading “self-help” books, mainly because I feel that, implicit in most books in this category, the main goal is to tell the reader what to do (or not do to) with their lives. Of course, in and of itself, there’s nothing wrong with this, but for me, it’s all about the tone and approach — I hate the feeling of something being crammed down my throat (I don’t care if it’s something good or bad for me), which is why I can’t stand books that are “overly preachy” in any way. This is also why I’m extremely wary when it comes to reading nonfiction books (that aren’t biographies or memoirs), as the tone and approach can very easily derail an otherwise good reading experience for me.

I say all this because my initial expectation going into Oliver Burkeman’s time management book Four Thousand Weeks was that it would presumably fall into the above-mentioned category, mainly because most books on time management that I’ve read over the years are written from a business angle and usually promote the idea of being “as productive and efficient” as possible at work. To my great surprise however, this book actually went the completely opposite direction — instead of encouraging people to “make more time in order to get more done” (the message I hear over and over again in most business books), this book embraces the concept that time is finite, humans are only on this earth for a certain amount of time (Burkeman uses “four thousand weeks” as a gauge) and because of that, we should face the fact that it’s realistically impossible to get everything we want to do done. Expanding on this idea, instead of obsessing over how much time it will take to do something or worrying about not having enough time to accomplish what you set out to accomplish (whether it’s a small task at work or a life goal), Burkeman advocates making the conscious (and often difficult) decision to do what matters most in that moment and accept the consequences of that decision, whether good or bad.

Many of the examples Burkeman gave were relevant to what I often struggle with, which I definitely appreciated. One personal example that especially resonated with me: I’ve always referred to myself as an “aspiring author” because my dream is to write and publish a book at some point, but given my chaotic and busy work + family life, I’ve been putting off starting that book I’ve always wanted to write until a “more opportune time” when work is less busy and family life is less chaotic (which to me, pretty much means when I reach retirement at work and my family is self-sufficient enough where I don’t have to worry about making sure their lives are comfortable). This book posits the idea that the “most opportune time” might never come, which is something I honestly never thought about until now. It makes sense though — for me, work will always be busy (especially in my field of work — which I will loosely define as “trade and commerce”…unless the world suddenly comes to a halt and stops functioning, which we of course know will never happen, I will always have an infinite amount of things to do at work) and when it comes to family life, the reality is that it will always be filled with one crisis or another (since that’s how life works) — so why not accept the fact that work and life will occur the way it does and instead of trying to “control” time (by assuming that work and family will fall into place to the point that the “most opportune time” will come for me to start my book project), just make the decision to start writing a little bit each day and go from there.

Much of Burkeman’s advice in this book actually runs counter to traditional time management advice (which focuses a lot on productivity and efficiency) that we often find in most business books. Not only that, I like how his book doesn’t just focus on work — much of what he writes about can be applied to personal life as well, which also makes it stand out from said books.

With that said, structure-wise, there were actually quite a few flaws in this book, which is what prevented me from being able to rate it higher than I did, despite finding some of the concepts personally resonant. At times, I felt like Burkeman was all over the place with his ideas, and there were moments where he seemed to contradict himself — or perhaps these moments were just him, as a former “productivity guru”, trying to work out his own changed philosophy toward time management on the page. And I also agree with what a few other reviewers pointed out — that there is a fair amount of repetition in the book, which made the reading a bit tedious at times.

Overall, despite not being perfect by any means, this was a good book with quite a bit of food for thought as well as many examples that I felt could be applicable to my life. While I didn’t necessarily agree with every concept presented in this book — and admittedly, there were moments where I felt that Burkeman got a bit too philosophical, almost to the point of losing me in the process — I did appreciate the different angle to time management that he explored.

This book will mean different things to different people, which is reflected in the wide spectrum of ratings for it on Goodreads (I saw one star to five stars and everything in between). I decided to go the “happy medium” route, which I feel is most appropriate for my experience with this book. If you choose to read this one, know that your experience may be vastly different from mine and that’s perfectly okay ��� if you are able to glean at least one resonant concept from this book like I did, then it will be time well-spent reading it.
12 reviews
August 26, 2021
Some interesting thoughts, but the author repeats his main point over and over and over again which becomes tiring very fast.
Profile Image for Mayar El Mahdy.
1,530 reviews1 follower
October 27, 2021
Existentialism with a dash of self-help.

It didn't work. I'm not inclined at all to do anything after someone tells me: "Your life is meaningless, there's no actual need to do anything"

I know it is. We all know it is. Doing something = not doing anything. That's why we do stuff.

I can't stuff meaningful experiences into my life because their meaninglessness comes from the fact that they'll be meaningful one time -not the first time specifically but only once.

I think we should try to cram as much as we can of life in our time. Doing 70% of something is better than not doing anything because our lives are essentially meaningless and nothing really matters.

They are meaningless and nothing really matters, but why not do anything? What difference does it make?
Profile Image for Emmkay.
1,154 reviews71 followers
January 19, 2022
Not like other time management books at all, more of a helpful memento mori drawing on philosophy and history. I liked it quite a bit and would get my own copy to remind myself of its contents as needed. Among other things -
- The average human has 4000 weeks to live, but you could also step out the front door and die today, hey ho.
- You’re never going to get everything done so stop trying. When you pick some stuff, you’re choosing it over some other stuff, deal with it.
- We seek distraction due to discomfort, which we face even with things we really want to do.
- It’s messed up to justify leisure time as making us more productive, we should stop that. Gah, capitalism.
- In cosmic terms, we’re all insignificant.
I particularly liked the chapters on “Staying on the Bus” (radical incrementalism, patience) and “The Loneliness of the Digital Nomad,” which was fascinating about the extent to which synchronizing our time with others improves our own experience (shared leisure time on weekends and holidays, coffee time at work, etc).
Profile Image for Fin Moorhouse.
49 reviews84 followers
January 16, 2022
Some sections were 5 stars, others 2. There is at the heart of the book a terrible and important point: that you don't have so long to live, that you will only achieve a small fraction of the things you want to achieve, that you are likely living as if this isn't true. And the rest of the book is studded with similarly big and uncomfortable truths.

The mess we're in, Burkeman tells us, stems from things like commodification and late capitalism. It's the same somewhat fuzzy complex that absorbs blame for so many other problems of the day. Some of this diagnosing our mistakes in terms of big narratives about capitalism etc. strayed into 'not even wrong' territory for me — trite, unilluminating, though not obviously false.

The prescription is surprising, and it's not clear to me that it follows from the big point about finitude at the start of the book. It's a kind of resignation: if we're not going to achieve everything on out bucket lists, why rush at all? Settle down, embrace your limits, and go on lots of long walks instead of charging through your interminable todo list. And don't worry about how much you manage to achieve in your life in some absolute sense, since it's all washed away anyway in the fullness of time anyway.

Some of this was welcome, but the big finitude thing makes me think something very different. For Burkeman, work is either an unfortunate necessity, or at best a way to move up in the world. He doesn't take seriously how work can achieve things, and some of those things can be extraordinarily worthwhile for other people too. If you are lucky enough to be doing this kind of work, then why not figure out how to get more done?

With this perspective, the finitude thing made me think something like: clearly lots of things are very important, but I only have a few thousand weeks to do anything about them. If I focused on only a few things, I could help make a large and worthwhile difference — but only if I ruthlessly prioritise (i) which things are most important to do, and (ii) how I can spend my time on them. And then, every now and then, it might be appropriate to feel a sense of quite profound urgency about achieving the most important or wothwhile things I can achieve, before the clock runs out. Since you can't do everything, Burkeman tells us to chill out. But why not the opposite?
Profile Image for Sebastian Štros.
63 reviews2 followers
March 23, 2022
I honestly hope that this book will be the most impactful book I have read in my first half of twenties. The book puts work into perspective. It argues against ceaseless instrumentalization of time (I need to spend time doing x so that I get/be at y), hustle culture (hobby should make so money.. otherwise why do it?) and the general productivist ethos which sees rest and paradise in the future, a future we may never live in.
Also: the book is guided by Heidegger?!! Like what self-help book is guided by non-banal explanation of Heidegger?:)

Though the writer is more a journalist than philosopher and this has some consequence on the coherence and cosistency of the different claims, that should not be taken as a weakness. The power of the book is precisely its simplicity in radically commenting today’s nature of work, time management and attention.

I am adding this book to the books I reccommend to everyone. It will be in a good company with Sapiens (Harari), Behave (Sapolsky) and now 4000 Thousand Weeks.

Go for it!
Profile Image for Nigeyb.
1,182 reviews253 followers
January 8, 2022
I really like Oliver Burkeman, so when a friend recommended Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals (2021) I need no extra persuading.

Life is short. If you live to be 80, you have just over four thousand weeks. Whilst seeking new ways to be ever more efficient, we are less inclined to connect our daily struggles with the most pressing time management problem, how best to use our four thousand weeks.

Drawing on a range of sources, both ancient and contemporary, Oliver Burkeman provides another insightful, readable, funny, practical, and even profound guide to time and time management. Forget trying to getting everything done, it's never going to happen and attempting will most likely leave you unfulfilled. Oliver Burkeman's suggetions are fascinating and is well worth reading. I listened to an audio version but have decided to buy a hard copy too. It's that good.


Profile Image for Simon.
12 reviews455 followers
January 13, 2022
I first encountered Burkeman's writing through his article on free will in The Guardian. It was so well researched, nuanced and eloquently written that I was shocked to find out that he wrote regular columns about being a productivity geek and published self-help books. That says a lot about what I think of self-help authors in general, after all, I always feel slightly embarrassed picking up books in this genre.

Coming back to Four Thousand Weeks, I would describe the book as meta self-help. It's not really about one productivity system or a list of time management hacks. Instead, it draws attention to the transitory nature of life and how we are never in really control, no matter how perfectly we draw up a plan. Truly embracing this uncertainty is liberating because we stop trying to master and control time, which is a huge source of anxiety especially in modern life. When you try to summarize the main idea of the book in a sentence like this it sound very cliché and banal but Burkeman does a marvellous job of helping his readers viscerally gain this insight in his book.

Personally, I am totally guilty of craving the sense of total control in my life (which is why I read self-help books obviously). I probably procrastinate and indulge in distractions more than the average person because I hate the uncomfortable feeling of things not going according to plan or not turning out as well as I hoped more than the average person. This is all well documented in psychology of course and it's something I knew before reading this book. I was also familiar with the wisdom of Eastern spirituality through books and meditation. What this book made me realize was that I have been looking at these two ideas as two separate battlefields. In other words, I have been guilty of meditating to become a better meditator rather than applying those insights into how I view and live my life.
Profile Image for Toby.
97 reviews6 followers
November 5, 2021
Repetitive and banal self-help content. “Our time is limited, accept that” is the repeated refrain. This should have been a blog post. I finished the book with hope that it would turn around, but ultimately did it so my review would be fair. My strong recommendation is to avoid this book completely and read some classics instead: Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius, etc.

The voice is like a generic TedX talk. The author sets up exaggerated straw men to make points seem more punchy. For example, he claims people see time like a resource but it isn’t actually a resource like money, because time isn’t really yours. It could be taken if your boss calls you in for an urgent meeting, or you die. Well, your money could be stolen or lost in a bad investment. How is time as a resource really different from money as a resource if nothing is certain?

If you plan too much, you’re wrong because planning doesn’t create certainty. (Who actually thinks plans convey complete certainty? They help define you a path, and often they work. Sometimes they don’t.) Then in the next breath, if you don’t plan you’re also wrong. It feels like the “gate keeping” subreddit. Perhaps saying “find some balance between planning for the future and appreciating the present” is not edgy enough to sell a book?

Cynical take that Richard Brandon has a kite surfing hobby because it helps his brand as a daredevil. What if the guy just likes kitesurfing? It’s a fun sport!

It feels like the author wrote this to work through some personal issues, and maybe that will help people in a similar place. To experience the northern lights so impressive that the locals commented on it, and to only feel “looks like a screensaver” is so deeply sad.

This book really did not land for me.
Profile Image for Graeme Newell.
166 reviews43 followers
April 12, 2022
What a wonderful and delightful book this turned out to be. When a friend recommended that I pick up this book, I anticipated that it would be another "get more done" cliché about better organizing, optimizing, and prioritizing. What a delight to find that this book was exactly the opposite.

The unending stream of "success porn" that clogs up everyone's social feed has all of us feeling that if we haven't won the Nobel Prize, cured cancer and finished up our PhD by next Thursday, we’re living a worthless life. The constant message of "you're just not trying hard enough" has all of us living this exhausted existence where we neglect most everything because we are so incredibly scattered.

That's why it was so refreshing to find a productivity book that encourages us to stop trying so hard. We're never going to get it all done and we are never going to check all the things off our to do list. Burkeman takes a delightfully counterintuitive approach, showing us that life can be amazingly fulfilling if we consciously choose to put fewer things on our to do list, and really enjoy time doing unproductive things.

After reading this book, I was able to take a deep breathe, acknowledge that I'm doing enough and relax a little. That was a great feeling.

Burkeman’s writing is so delightfully casual and approachable. It's less like a book and more like a conversation with a friend. The author reads the audio book and he is an amazingly gifted reader. Listen to this book if you get the chance.

I got so many great insights out of this book. It's my favorite so far this year.
Profile Image for Victoria.
543 reviews
August 23, 2021
The reality and philosophy of our limited time and its management. It is a quick but deep read. I listened to the audio version narrated by the author.

My favorite section was his insights regarding the pandemic, he calls the "Great Pause." It forced us to see what matters. He challenges his readers to consider carefully their return to normal:

"But I beg of you. Take a deep breath. Ignore the deafening noise and think deeply about what you want to put back into your life. This is our chance to define a new version of normal. A rare and truly sacred, yes sacred, opportunity to get rid of the bullshit and to only bring back what works for us. What makes our lives richer, what makes our kids happier, what makes us truly proud."
Profile Image for Diana Pojar.
150 reviews105 followers
January 2, 2022
Really enjoyed this one and compared to other time management books, I really felt this one presented things in a new perspective— it’s not about becoming more productive, but mostly about accepting that we’ll never be able to do all the things, but instead doing only the things that matter or are an actual priority for you and your finite time in this world.

Listened as an audiobook and works really well in this format too
Profile Image for Marija S..
380 reviews27 followers
September 1, 2021
I firmly believe that a clock may be the most dangerous invention humankind has stumbled upon and that we are caught in a rat race of our perception of time as a resource. This book spoke to me in a way I needed to hear on how to put an end to the impossible task of getting everything done in an optimal way and then cramming more stuff in the schedule, while procrastinating with the important things. Also on how to just be happy with what is (and why).

This is one of the most important books I've read not only on time management but also spirituality, connection with the nature and universe, meaning of life (a big one, heh?), also for escaping perfectionism and the habit of not living in the present moment.

An eye opener in many important ways. A must read, together with The Power of Now by E. Tolle.
Profile Image for Pooja N Babu.
30 reviews25 followers
October 9, 2021
This book is not a conventional productivity or a time management self-help book. It's more about the limited time we humans as mortals have on this planet, the realization of this finitude, and how to make better use of it by choosing and doing things that matter to us - be it trivial or insignificant - so that we can try to live the life we want to live as best as we can. It's deeply philosophical and eye opening. It is also very eloquently written that I controlled very hard not to underline every line of the book. This is the kind of book that I would definitely want to come back to every few years.
Profile Image for Oleh Bilinkevych.
235 reviews48 followers
July 8, 2022
Книга не про те, як продуктивніше використовувати свій час, а про те, як в погоні за успішністю не втрати зв’язок зі світом і не перетворитись у бездушну машину, яка рухається експонентою здобутків.
Цілком очевидна річ, яка чомусь досі стає відкриттям для багатьох.
Profile Image for Carlos Martinez.
322 reviews189 followers
October 1, 2021
Another year, another self-help pop-psych type book for my shelves. Some quite useful ideas, lots of fluff.
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