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Book review: Four Thousand Weeks – Time Management for Mortals


Rarely I’ve read a book with such deep engrossment.  I underlined and highlighted this book like crazy.  I got epiphanies every second paragraph.  When I reached the end, felt a bitter sense of sadness that it was over.

So I picked it up again and began reading it the second time around, reliving those realisations all over again.  Yup, Four Thousand Weeks is an amazing book.  

It’s the tagline of the book that got me.  “Time Management for mortals”.

Woah!  I’m human.  A mortal.  I have limitations and weaknesses.  No matter how much I push myself, I keep failing.  I just can’t do it all.  Don’t ask me to.  Don’t expect me to.  

Here’s an author who gets me.  Here’s someone who sees that and has a solution for me.  I instantly felt empathised.  

If you struggle with to-do lists, emails, goals, visions and weekly reviews.  You’ve got to read this book.

You see, the problem doesn’t inherently lie with to-do lists that run amok and email accounts that are highly fertile.  

The trouble is with us wanting to do it all.  Or at the very least striving to do most of it. Check off every task.  Answer every email.  Compete every Project to perfection.  Be in top shape for the next marathon.  All the while maintaining a work-life balance.   

There is simply not enough time.  We have only “Four Thousand Weeks” of existence on this planet.  That is if you live up to 80. (And if you’re above 40 like me, you’ve already used up most of it).

Yet we operate and make decisions under the illusion that we can get it all done.  If only if we work harder, have the right time management technique or better yet, the right app.  

“Denying reality never works.  It may provide some relief because it allows you to go on thinking act at some point in the future you might, at last, feel totally in control.  But it can’t ever bring the sense that you’re doing enough.  That you are enough.  

Instead, the endless struggle leads to more anxiety and less fulfilling life.”

Oliver Burkeman

Reading Four Thousand Weeks brought me to the acceptance that I will never get it all done. 

“The day will never arrive I finally have everything under control, 

when my to-do lists have stopped getting longer, 

when I’m meeting all my obligations at work & life.

When I’m pleasing everybody.  

None of this is ever going to happen.”

Oliver Burkeman

And you know what…that’s GREAT news!

Because once you squarely face the reality of your finitude.  Accept the stark limitations.  There is no longer the pressure to do it all.  Because you can’t!  Just like there’s no point fighting gravity.  It exists and just is.  

As a result, you’re free and liberated to do just what matters.  You can now make choices consciously.  Decide what to focus on and what to neglect. 

I’ve changed since I’ve read Four Thousand Weeks.  

* I recognise FOMO for what it is.  It’s the result of an illusion that I can experience it all, but can’t see how.  Instead, now I stand firm in the face of FOMO “because missing out on something – almost everything – is almost guaranteed.

* I’m less stifled by perfectionism.  I realise that perfection, idealism exists only in dreams & visions.  Once I bring a project to reality it will always be less than perfect.  It has to be.  As it’s entering a world of limitation and finitude.  And that’s okay!  In fact, it’s brilliant because now it exists.  As a result, I commit.  I make decisions.  I go ahead and make progress.

* I’m less plagued by “What if?”  I’m not regretful about the decisions I have made.  Because this is what I’ve decided.  This is what counts the most right now.  Yes, I could have chosen differently and I didn’t, which bestows meaning to this decision.  And making the best of it.

 * The highest value I received is that I now have greater confidence to say No.  No to myself.  No to others.  Without guilt.  Without regret.  I’m not totally there yet.  But I’m certainly more at peace with myself in denying requests now.  Isn’t that in itself precious?

If any of the above resonated with you, do go ahead and read Four Thousand Weeks.  I heard the Audible version of the book and it’s a delight.  Either way, not only will you be rewarded with deep epiphanies.  You will also be treated with Oliver’s dry wit that will leave you chuckling silently all the way through.

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