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Four Thousand Weeks: Time management for mortals

Last updated Dec 29, 2022


# What is the book about?

Our time on this earth is limited to four thousand weeks, but our commitments, goals and desires far outstretch what is achievable in this short span of time. This book is about facing our finitude and making choices to pick and choose activities that give us most happiness and satisfaction in our limited time. Reader should be aware that this book often dabbles in existential nihilism hinting that our life is so short that it is basically devoid of meaning. Instead, the takeaway really here is that time is our most valuable resource and we should treat it as such.

# Who should read this book?

If you are feeling overwhelmed with the number of things piling up in your to-do list, fueled by your commitment to work, family and hobbies that you derive satisfaction, this book gives some perspectives on how we can pick and choose things that we will get most happiness from. If you have trouble saying no, this book will help you identify that making hard choices is required to make use of our finite time. I would assume that this book is directed at at-least 30 somethings who have reached a point in their career and family where the number of obligations is too much to meet.

# Tools to embrace our finitude

# Chapter Notes

# Introduction: In the long run, we’re all dead

# 1: The limit embracing life

# 2: The Efficiency Trap

# 3: Facing Finitude

# 4: Become a better procrastinator

# 5: The watermelon problem

# 6: The intimate interruptor

# 7: We never really have time

# 8: You are here

# 9: Rediscovering Rest

# 10: The Impatience Spiral

# 11: Stay on the Bus

# 12: The Loneliness of the Digital Nomad

# 13: Cosmic Insignificance Theory

# 14: The Human Disease

Burkeman poses five questions that we can answer for ourselves to assess the reality of our finite-time situation:

  1. “Where in your life or your work are you currently pursuing comfort, when what’s called for is a little discomfort?” – you want to make sure you’re making choices that result in personal growth.
  2. “Are you holding yourself to, and judging yourself by, standards of productivity or performance that are impossible to meet?” – be realisitic in what you can do.
  3. “In what ways have you yet to accept the fact that you are who you are, not the person you think you ought to be?” – don’t prove yourself to anyone, or meet expectations set by others, instead accept who you are and what you can achieve.
  4. “In which areas of life are you still holding back until you feel like you know what you’re doing?” – you may never reach mastery on a skill you’re working on, so get started with what you have right now and do what you will with it.
  5. “How would you spend your days differently if you didn’t care so much about seeing your actions reach fruition?” – avoid being driven by results to achieve satisfaction; the journey is just as important.

# Quotes

“We labour at our daily work more ardently and thoughtlessly than is necessary to sustain our life,” wrote Nietzsche, “because to us it is even more necessary not to have leisure to stop and think. Haste is universal because everyone is in flight from himself.”

“We treat everything we’re doing—life itself, in other words—as valuable only insofar as it lays the groundwork for something else.” – in the context of instrumentalizing time.

“Our obsession with extracting the greatest future value out of our time blinds us to the reality that, in fact, the moment of truth is always now—that life is nothing but a succession of present moments, culminating in death, and that you’ll probably never get to a point where you feel you have things in perfect working order. And that therefore you had better stop postponing the “real meaning” of your existence into the future, and throw yourself into life now.”

“In order to most fully inhabit the only life you ever get, you have to refrain from using every spare hour for personal growth”

# References

Oliver Burkeman, Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2021, 1st Ed.