Are You Doing What Matters Most? Reviewing “Four Thousand Weeks”
Our most limited resource is time. We all know it. That’s why one of the most popular self-help/business genres is productivity, as people share their advice and insights for how they think you can get the most done in the least amount of time.
The latest entry into this crowded field is a bit different, though. Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals by Oliver Burkeman encourages readers to stop worrying so much about how many items they can cross off in a day, and instead think about whether they are living in the moment and doing the things that matter most.
Burkeman’s book is built around an acknowledgment and acceptance of the brevity of life (the title comes from an average life span being around just 4,000 weeks long). But rather than filling us with dread, he argues this should help us feel free; that life is short means that it is impossible to do all the things we want to do, let alone all the things that we feel like we should do out of obligation, so we should not feel guilty about missing out on some things. Instead, we should make sure that we’re spending time doing the things that matter most to us, guilt-free.
Over the course of the book, he discusses several common productivity strategies as a self-identified recovering productivity geek, and digs into where they often go wrong, such as falling into efficiency traps (the more you get done, the more there is to do), or the never-ending task of “clearing the decks” to make room for bigger, more important projects (there will never be a time when you don’t have small, urgent tasks trying to distract you from what really matters), or the flaw in the famous illustration of a jar filled with rocks, pebbles, and sand (there are too many “rocks” to fit into the jar in the first place).
Ultimately, Burkeman pushes readers to embrace finitude and intentionality. Once you know and accept that you won’t be able to do everything, be deliberate about what things you do spend time and focus on. Make sure you’re really doing the things that matter most to you, and giving each task the attention it requires, rather than striving for some mythical form of “work-life balance.” If you’ve decided something is worth doing, then do it, without guilt. If you’ve decided something isn’t worth doing, or isn’t worth doing right now, then move on, without guilt.
If you’re struggling to manage all the things you want to do, or need motivation to actually do what you’ve been wanting to do for so long, then this is the book for you. Four Thousand Weeks is highly recommended, and available on Amazon or at oliverburkeman.com.