Book Review: "Four Thousand Weeks; Time Management for Mortals"

Time management

A few days ago, while driving in the car, my youngest son Parker asked how long it would be until we reached our destination. He let out a rather large sigh after I informed him that it would only be a few more minutes to the playground. As I tried to explain to him that this was actually a very short period of time, I had to remind myself that a 5-year-old’s concept of time is probably a little different than my own.

Let’s be honest, time does pass more slowly when you are younger. There are many things that contribute to the apparent acceleration of time as I perceive it. One being the fact that my two children are changing so much so quickly right before my eyes. But the another is that each year we live is a smaller portion of what we have already experienced. Being 5 years old is to live 1/5 of your current life. That’s a lot.  I will be 38 next year. If I live to be 80 years old, I’m about halfway there. Every year also becomes a larger portion of what’s left.

Miles Davis once said that time isn’t the main thing, it’s the only thing. I think that is why I enjoyed the book Four Thousand Weeks by Oliver Burkeman so much. The subtitle of the book is Time Management for Mortals. If you live to be 80 years old, you will have lived 4,000 weeks. Burkeman’s book is thoughtful, inspiring, and at times funny. He essentially takes up the arduous task of explaining ways to deal with the fact that we are all getting older, and time is running out:

Surveys reliably show that we feel more pressed for time than ever before; yet in 2013, research by a team of Dutch academics raised the amusing possibility that such surveys may underestimate the scale of the busyness epidemic- because many people feel too busy to participate in surveys. Recently, as the gig economy has grown busyness has been rebranded as “hustle”- relentless work, not as a burden to be endured, but an exhilarating lifestyle choice worth boasting about on social media. In reality, though, it's the same old problem, pushed to an extreme: the pressure to fit ever increasing quantities of activity into a stubbornly non increasing quantity of daily time.

Burkeman goes on to discuss topics like distractions, which are annoying only because they appear to use up our limited time. He encourages the reader to live a limit-embracing life, and to acknowledge the fact that we may never be able to get to all the things on are to-do lists, and that’s OK! The concept of busyness is broached in a way that questions it’s very meaning. Afterall, being busy can be delightful. But knowing when the line is crossed from desirable to dreary can sometimes be seen only in hindsight.

Whether you are living a life full of tasks and to-do lists or if you are entering a new phase in life where you will seem to have more time on your hands, I highly recommend Oliver Burkeman’s book Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals.