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Book Review: Four Thousand Weeks

What is the secret to time management for mortals? Patience and control.

If you’ve felt the modern cult of busy (and perfect) productivity needs a kick, yet also crave practical advice to help keep your head above water, Four Thousand Weeks delivers.

For those who feel a lack of patience and that life is careening out of control, feel free to skip straight to the Appendix and use it to help you catch your breath. It’s where you’ll find “Ten Tools for Embracing Your Finitude” and this short list may help. However, there’s a lot more found within Burkeman’s text and if that’s all you read, you’ll miss out on the best parts of the book.

Reading Four Thousand Weeks makes it possible to gain a better understanding of how the current productivity culture came to be and understand your place in it. You’ll learn about choice, control, and patience throughout human history. It may help you gain a better awareness of how time affects us all. It is alluring to wonder why after all these technological advances we haven’t reduced our anxiety toward time. Wasn’t that their goal? Yes, and we learn why. With each new advance we try to do the impossible–control time. As processes push ever faster the question becomes: how can we be faster the next time? However, as math models prove — we can never reach zero, this attempt is an asymptotic function. It’s not wrong to try but it’s important to understand why it can never happen.

When you’re reading, don’t skip the final chapter, “The Human Disease”, within you’ll find “Five Questions to live”. Working through them can bring better appreciation that we don’t get or have four thousand weeks, but we are four thousand weeks. How do you want to use yours?

Burkeman’s book helps us to accept the reality that is the unchangeable constant known as time. He offers anecdotes and tips for learning to cope and raises awareness of various pitfalls. In the words of Jung, “One lives as one can. There is no single, definitive way.” Four Thousand Weeks is a book that can help you feel less alone as you navigate time.

Book Details

Book Cover for Four Thousand Weeks. Ivory background, serif text is left justified with subtitle "Time Management for Mortals" highlighted in yellow.  in the right corner is a play on the "atlas with globe statue", the figure is holding a clock, colored with the same yellow as the highlighting.

Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals
By Oliver Burkeman

© 2021, Farrar, Straus and Giroux

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